And a Few Thoughts on Woodworking in America 2012 – Pasadena

October 16, 2012 § 6 Comments

I attended Woodworking In America because I had never been, and I worried this west coast show was a one-time thing. I had a great time, and I certainly hope it comes back next year. I know that for the vendors having the two shows just three weeks apart made it tough. I’m sure it was easier on the planning and logistics for those organizing the events to have them closer together. But for the rest of us having them in different seasons (one in the spring and one in the fall) might be a better option. But as I said, I have no regrets on going. Here are some random thoughts on the convention:

  • Roy Underhill in person is the same, genuine personality you see on TV. His energy and exuberance are limitless. And a short session with him is like sitting just off-camera at one of his shows – complete with himself drawing blood. I think every woodworker should try and meet him at least once in their life.
  • I probably learned more about hand planes in ten minutes of talking to Deneb Puchalski at the Lie Nielsen booth than I have learned in the last two years.
  • Yeung Chan is an absolute inspiration. When he finished the Making Your Own Simple Hand Tools class, I wanted to run home to my shop and start making things.
  • Some folks said the marketplace was smaller than WIA shows in the past (i.e. those in Cincinnati). I have no point of comparison. I enjoyed it, but if I walked in off the street and paid $10 I’m not sure how I would have felt.
  • The most well represented demographic was older white men. Not as bad as walking into a VFW establishment, but still pretty bad. (And a very unscientific estimate put the male to female ratio at 25:1.) It does make me wonder about the future of the craft.
  • The Lee Valley plow plane is one sweet tool.
  • I put a rough estimate on Chris Schwarz autographing things at 50 (and I contributed to that number).
  • A few of the best lines I heard:
    -“I was a much better woodworker in low-definition” – Roy Underhill
    -“Don’t try that tool unless you intend it buy it” – Deneb Puchalski, while smiling at someone who is about to try out their No. 51 Shoot Board Plane. (This is one $500 tool I have no intention of buying. After pushing it through a block of walnut a few times, I will admit that it gave me pause…)
  • When you listen to professionals like Chuck Bender and Gary Rogowski, you are struck by how much they have simplified woodworking.
  • I didn’t understand the Hand Tool Olympics. Each time I walked by it was four guys in blue shirts talking to each other.
  • The internet amateur woodworking community (bloggers, forum regulars) knows far more about the latest tools than most professional woodworkers. And that’s not a knock on professional woodworkers. It just shows you where their attention lies.
  • Chris Vesper, I wish you nothing but success. Your tools are without peer.
  • By far the strangest thing at the entire conference was the Forearm Forklift Straps booth at the marketplace. And they were the only ones that annoyingly tried to hand you something every time you walked by. I can only assume they crashed the place and nobody noticed.
  • Lie Nielsen took some of my money. I wasn’t the first time and it won’t be the last.
  • I like Festool tools. I own some and will continue to add more to my arsenal. But that booth at the marketplace was weak.
  • The Laguna bandsaws have ridiculously low tables.
  • The breakfast and lunch “food” that was included in the registration was predictably terrible. The food at the Saturday night dinner with Roy was good, however.
  • Rob Campbell (The Joiner’s Apprentice), it was great talking with you. The next round is on me.
  • I have this aversion to checking bags now when I fly. That limited my purchasing options, especially when it came to books (heavily discounted) and small, sharp things.
  • Conference centers present a challenge. They need to have the space to adequately hold lots of booths and people, but they are largely devoid of character. I wonder if some vendors and speakers would benefit from a more intimate setting.
  • The audio-visual was quite good most of the time. The visuals were entirely dependent on the camera operators. Some were obviously experienced with a camera in their hands; others needed a little more practice.
  • It was fun watching William Ng take long continuous shavings from the edge of a board with a Japanese plane. I’ve seen it dozens of time on film but never in person.
  • In each session, the speakers had to talk and instruct while standing on clear plastic sheeting. I guess it was there to protect the floor or something, but I can’t imagine a worse surface on which to try and move around and do woodworking.
  • Mary May is a true pleasure to watch. Just based on one of her sessions, I think I will try her online school (when I get some carving tools). In her ball and claw foot class, Adam Cherubini was in the audience and ended up discussing the history of the furniture as she carved. It was a great combination.
  • It was quite interesting to pick up and examine Adam Cherubini’s tools. But I think we would see a lot more hand tool related injuries if we put that striking knife in the hands of every woodworker.

§ 6 Responses to And a Few Thoughts on Woodworking in America 2012 – Pasadena

  • Brian says:

    It’s funny, from the vantage point I had, it didn’t seem to matter if he “was a better woodworker in low-def.” Sometimes you really get caught up in the whole cult of personality!

    • Eric Bushèe says:

      His self-deprecating humor aside, it’s remarkable how many techniques he can blow through in such a short amount of time, whether it’s high-def, mid-def, or low-def.

  • I wish I could afford to go to either of the WIA events. I’ll just have to get the ambiance through all your post..

  • Eric,

    I haven’t seen Adam Cherubini’s striking knife. What makes it so dangerous?


    • Eric Bushèe says:

      Hi Chris,

      Adam’s striking knife can be seen here. My comment there was mostly tongue-in-cheek, but it’s that pointy end that scares me. Adam mentioned this in of his sessions, as people often ask, “Aren’t you afraid you are going to poke your eye out?”. He admitted that as he gets older and his eyesight gets worse, he needs to get closer to things. So picture yourself knifing in a line, then bending down to get a closer look, and… Seriously, though, we have lots of things in the shop that can harm us. If you had this tool I’m sure you would quickly learn how to avoid its bite. Still, if I had one I think I’d put a plastic or wooden guard on the pointy end.

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