International Wood Collectors Society meets in Alpena this week
ALPENA — How much wood could a wood collector collect if a wood collector could collect wood?
Ask Dennis Wilson, president of the International Wood Collectors Society.
Wilson, of Alpena, has collected about 6,500 species of wood. That may seem like a lot, but when you learn that there are over 64,000 species of wood in the world, it comes in at just over 1%.
Wilson and others like him will meet today through Thursday at the APlex, as Alpena, for the first time ever, is hosting the International Wood Collectors Society Annual Meeting. Members will be showing and selling their wares this week at the APlex, where a variety of auctions will be held, as well as hands-on wood turning.
While the society has just 598 members, they come from all over the world, just like the wood they collect.
“The APlex is a showcase facility, and I think it’s going to put Alpena in a very good light,” Wilson said. “With everybody coming here.”
The event was supposed to happen in 2020, but, as with many other events, it was canceled because of the pandemic.
He expects people from abroad, including Australia, New Zealand, Europe, and Canada. He also expects to see members from all over the U.S., including Oregon, Texas, Florida, Virginia, and from all over the Midwest — Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin, Kentucky, and more.
Wilson and society member Gary Jones talk about different types of wood like many men talk about sports teams. They’re pretty excited about wood collecting and woodworking.
Wilson is a longstanding member of the society, with 43 years under his belt.
He started out his career as a wood pattern maker.
“Even in high school, I was interested in woodshop,” Wilson said. “I enjoyed shop class. So I’ve had a longstanding interest in it.”
Working with different species of wood is Wilson’s favorite part about the craft.
“I love working with different species and different kinds of wood,” he said. “I love cutting up and making all kinds of knickknack things out of all different types of wood.”
Just collecting it brings him joy.
“I want to have a sample of all the kinds of wood I can get,” he said. “Very, very few people are interested in wood collecting anymore. When the society started in 1947, most of the members were botanists or dendrologists,” which means wood scientists.
He said most of the members are woodworkers or woodturners. Wilson is primarily a collector, while Jones likes to both collect and make tables, counters, stools, bowls, and many other types of home items from the different types of wood he discovers and collects.
Wilson likes the different ways each specimen looks and feels, and the density, and so on.
He spends a lot of time in his xylarium, which is a room that contains a wood collection. His wife, Tamara, is supportive of his wood collecting hobby/lifestyle.
“They come from all over the world,” Wilson said of his specimens. “Whenever I travel, I take … reference books, a saw, a hatchet, a couple of Army duffle bags. Check all that stuff through there, and I am out looking for wood.”
For more information, visit the IWCS website at woodcollectors.org.