Woodworking in America - hope for the future
(the view from the 15th floor)
It has taken until today to really recover from Woodworking in America (WIA). My voice was in the worst shape - I talked Joe’s ear off on the drive there, we were up until after midnight each night talking to lots of old friends and new ones. And then talking Joe’s ear off on the way home again. My list of accomplishments on Monday - 2 coats of french polish and putting everything away. Actually... that is not entirely true - there were a few other things to do - more on those later.
(the view out the other window. Not sure how I feel about this building...)
There were several highlights of WIA - curiously - they are somewhat related.
I have been a fairly avid reader of Peter Galbert’s blog for some time now. It is always extremely well presented, well written with a good mix of his personality and technical information. Not to mention his work is amazing. I learn something in almost every post. So when I heard that Peter was going to be at WIA this year, I was thrilled. Then when I saw that he was set up directly behind me - all the better. I took several ‘breaks’ to wander around the corner. Peter was not home on my first visit - but this allowed me to meet Tim Manney and Claire Minihan. Caleb James was also there, but for some reason, we did not get a chance to talk too much. Next time for sure.
Tim gave me a demonstration and lesson on using one of the adze’s he made. Like all great tools - it looks simple, but is actually fairly complex. I knew nothing about it, but he was a very good teacher. He showed me what it is used for, how to hold it and then a demonstration. I was pretty slow to catch on - I tend to be cautious when using new tools and techniques, but started to get the hang of it. I started wondering how it would have worked on curly walnut.
Claire makes travishers. Beautiful travishers! They are graceful looking and graceful to use. I had never used a travisher either and Claire gave me a similar lesson to the one that Tim had given only a few minutes earlier. I caught on to this tool a little quicker and found myself returning a few times to keep practicing.
But here is the thing that really got me. Each of their tools have something special to them. Little touches that go beyond what is needed from a functional standpoint, but these touches are vital to the tool. They let me know they care deeply about the tools they make. On the adze - where the handle meets the head, there is a wonderful little curve with a radiused chamfer. This does not need to be there - but it is unexpected and beautiful.
The chamfers that Claire uses have a very similar effect. She could have just rounded the edges over to keep them from feeling sharp, but instead she chose to use chamfers. I am not sure if chamfers are more work than rounding something over - but the impact is huge - it sets her work apart.
Peter’s chairs are like this too - full of little touches that make his work ‘his work’. At the end of the day on Saturday - when we were all somewhat delirious, I sat in his rocking chair and immediately started to relax. It only took a few minutes until I was feeling the arm rests and all the tactile qualities he had put into them - it was fantastic.
When I returned to my room, I was met with yet another little touch.
Housekeeping did not need to do this - but it was a perfect reminder that there is someone who was looking after me in my room and they clearly take pride in what they do. It was very much appreciated.
On Saturday evening, there was a planemakers dinner and I found myself sharing the stage with Tom Lie Nielsen, Robin Lee, Raney Nelson and Scott Meek. I think we were all a little nervous about it, but Megan did a fantastic job of leading the discussion and the hour and a half flew by. It was really quite fun and did not turn into a technical discussion about bevel up or bevel down, the different types of blade material or who makes ‘the best plane’. We talked about way more important things - namely - where is woodworking going and how can we engage with younger people. One of the attendees pointed out that most of the hair color in the room was white or grey - there were not too many young people at the show. It was Scott Meek who had the most positive response to this issue (curious that he was the youngest person on the pannel:) - he has observed that there are lots of people involved with the maker community - most of them in their 20s or 30s and are not focused on any one particular type of skill - they just want to make stuff. If their interest turns to woodworking then great, but at the end of the day, the most important thing is they are learning to use their hands and to make things. This subject has come up in conversation quite a bit lately - at the conference I attended a few weeks ago and on the phone with friends and colleagues from coast to coast. Sadly - none of us pointed out Tim or Claire or Caleb. Or Ben (who celebrated his 30th birthday at the WIA) and his girlfriend at Tools for Working Wood. These are all people in their 20's and 30's who are totally committed. Committed to exceptional work and to making beautiful things. My apologies for not pointing these people out during the planemakers dinner.
I did not return home empty handed from WIA either. My friend Richard was kind enough to turn a few handles for me. I love my LN Boggs spokeshaves, but grew increasingly frustrated with the fact that I could not tell them apart when they were sitting on my bench. It may seem like a little thing, but when you are working and reach for a tool - it really sucks when you grab the wrong one.
So Richard offered to turn 2 new sets of handles so I could tell them apart. One is handled in African Blackwood and the other with ‘Mystery Rosewood No.1’. I managed to find a small off-cut in the very small scrap box that was just big enough for these 2 handles.
They now sit on the rack waiting patiently for the next project. Thanks for the beautiful job Richard.
The other item was the Drawsharp. When I re-handled my LN drawknife, Jameel sent me an email telling me that he and Peter were working on a drawknife sharpening jig. He said it was going to be wicked - and he was right.
And once again - this product is full of little touches - starting with the packaging. They really hit it out of the park with this one. A round metal tin with a beautifully designed label.
You open it up and it keeps going. The owners manual/instruction sheet, the green tissue paper and all the parts neatly bagged inside. Peter, Jameel and Father John - very nicely done.
The assembled drawsharp. Do yourself a favour and watch the video on how this work.
Oh, and one other final note on ‘touches’. Sadly - I missed out on Lost Art Press’s recent book, “To make as perfectly as possible, Roubo on Marquetry”. At one point on Friday, I wandered over to the LAP booth and took a look through the sample copy. I am not overly interested in marquetry, but this book commanded my interest. The presentation of the book is stunning - oversized and glorious. The physical appearance of the book is stunning, but it is the typography, layout, use of space and color that did it for me. It has been a very long time since I have seen or held a book this perfectly designed inside and out. My highest compliments to the folks at LAP and Wesley Tanner - the designer of the book.