Friday 25 October 2013

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...)

The show itself was great fun. How could it not be - I had Ron Hock across from me, Raney on the side and Horizon wood beside Ron. I am glad Horizon sold all the 70 year old Cherry early - it was getting really tempting. There was a steady stream of people stopping by to say hi, to see and try the planes and catch up from where we left off last time we visited. It was very casual and many conversations wandered into non-woodworking. It was great. 

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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved trying out your planes at the show. Being one of the younger people in the room, I know why some people worry about the future of the craft. On the other hand, there were a lot of young folks at the online community roundtable discussion, so I think there's hope.

25 October 2013 at 11:49  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks for your comments Steve. I took a quick look at your site and loved it! Seeing your kids involved in making things was fantastic. I am planning on being in the shop with Riley and maybe Lucas this weekend to work on some cutting boards. There is absolutely hope and seeing your blog further confirms it.


25 October 2013 at 11:59  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm on the younger end of the woodworking crowd. I considered WIA, but between the registration fee, the hotels, and sorting taking care of my 2 year old, it just was not going to happen.

Some positive points...

I do some woodworking at the local park district. The "students" are a good mix of ages, from ~20-70, with the bulk right around 30.

At Handworks, there was a good spread of ages. Same thing at the local L-N traveling roadshow.

I've considered joining MWTCA, but it seems they keep "old-man" hours. Just no way I'm going to get to something at 7am in a remote location. 7am is when I'm desperately wishing my kid back to sleep.

I would not be too concerned about the ages at WIA. I think the money and time involved skew the population toward the retired. :-)


25 October 2013 at 18:01  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hey JB,

thanks for your comments. If I may be so bold as to ask - how are you connecting to others in the woodworking community? Are you able to find others who are in a similar boat to you - young family, limited time etc? It was not that long ago that I had a 2 year old so I know what it is like. I would love to hear how you are connecting with people - maybe your experience can help the rest of us change our patters to allow for more inclusion.


25 October 2013 at 18:57  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not bold at all.

I do have a good crowd of friends who are in similar boats - jobs, young families, limited budgets. Honestly, much of that connecting is due to luck.

I've connected with other local woodworkers via online forums - mostly OWWM and woodnet, and at the park woodshop(s). I'm lucky enough to be a short drive to ArnFest (owwm crowd) and will go there, coming home at night. Slav's CATS is also a good time. (and I can head there after the 2 year old's bedtime!)

I'm also lucky enough to have a half dozen woodworking friends within a 15 minute walk from my house. And many more <30 mins driving. All of whom are <40 and most under 30. I found some of these friends via the park shop, some by chance buying things off craigslist, some via CATS, and some from online forums.

One thing that struck me this evening at the park shop. Many of the online wooddorking forums have a serious "conservative" tenor leaning almost tea-partyish. I personally get pretty turned off by _any_ politics mixing with my hobbies. I wonder if that tenor keeps younger folks from engaging more??

Anyhow. I don't know of any silver bullets. I do know that having folks who are interested, and motivated enough, to open their shops are an awesome resource.


25 October 2013 at 23:52  
Blogger Christian Braithwaite said...

Hello Konrad-

I'm a long time reader of your blog - and an avid woodworker with hardly any time to do it. I recently moved to Southern Nevada, and I sold all of my tools as I'm hoping to upgrade, and buy new and better tools as I need them.

I have found there is a pretty healthy woodworking community where I live, and I am taking steps to participate.

As I suspect with many others in my demographic, I have a difficult time allocating resources (mainly time and money) to being as active as a woodworker as I want to be.

I'm grateful for your blog. Your planes are absolutely beautiful, and expertly crafted. I certainly hope to own one someday. In addition, your personal work (home renovations, etc.) are phenomenal as well.

Thank you for doing what you do - you've certainly inspired me with your work.



27 December 2013 at 00:28  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hello Christian,

Thank-you for the very kind comments on the blog and the work. If this blog has been inspirational in anyway - that is the best reason for me to keep plugging away at it.

Really glad to hear that you have connected to the woodworking community in Nevada. Are there any clubs or groups that have regular meetings or gatherings? Those are always great to make friends who you can share materials, tools and processes with. I have many local friends who are a great extra set of hands or people to go scouting a wood stash with. At the end of the day - have fun with your woodworking.

Best wishes,

27 December 2013 at 22:14  

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