Like most woodworkers, I’ve been to my fair share of woodworking shows. I’ve bought the $5 router bits that fell off a truck. I’ve been wowed by the Sham Wow. I’ve eaten too many cheese fries.
So here’s a word of advice: The best all-around woodworking show I’ve attended is the Northeastern Woodworkers Association Showcase in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. I’ve attended this show twice, and I’m bummed that I can’t make it this year.
What makes this show special? The association has really found the right balance of education, inspiration and commerce. You can easily spend two days at the show soaking up a ton of information. Here are some details of the show, which runs March 28 and 29.
Education: Except for the time they hired me to demonstrate, the Showcase brings in real top-shelf demonstrators who are running lectures the entire weekend. This year you can meet (and learn from) W. Patrick Edwards, a brilliant and talented marquetry expert. Also, Jim Tolpin, one of my favorite authors. Adam Cherubini will be there to talk about period woodworking (let’s hope he brings along some of his saws and chisels). And turner Molly Winton.
But that’s only some of the education offered at the Showcase. In past years, the members have set up booths where volunteers were demonstrating carving, turning and a whole host of jigs and fixtures.
Inspiration: Almost one-third of the floor space at the Showcase is devoted to displaying the work of the members. There are hundreds of pieces to look at, everything from casework, to canoes, to guitars, to pens turned from corncobs. Some of the work is done by beginners; others is done by people with extraordinary skills. I spent about six hours browsing this area of the show.
Commerce: The show floor is great. There are lots of local and national vendors. Lie-Nielsen and Veritas have been there. JapaneseTools.com. DMT. Several local lumber dealers. Plus guys selling vintage tools.
Ah, two more things: If you go, be sure to check out the bar attached to the hotel restaurant. It has , hands down , the best selection of Belgian ales I’ve ever seen (except for one place in Philadelphia where I spent a bleary evening with Cherubini).
And finally: Saratoga Springs is beautiful. It’s a charming old town in a bucolic setting. The main street is dotted with excellent shops and restaurants. In other words, your family will be glad you took them.
For more details, check out the event’s web site.
– Christopher Schwarz