Chris Schwarz's Blog

The André Roubo Dinner at WIA

For me, the highlight of 2010’s Woodworking in America conference was The Feast of André Roubo, a dinner held high above the city of Cincinnati. And I was not alone. One attendee stopped me as I was leaving the feast to tell me this:

“I’m not interested in history, old stuff, André Roubo or old texts,” he said. “But that dinner was the most interesting and cool thing I’ve seen in a long time.”

The reason the dinner was such a hit was because we paired up Roy Underhill, who gave an emotional, sad and fascinating presentation on Roubo’s death, and Don Williams, who is spearheading the translation effort of Roubo’s 18th-century woodworking masterpiece: “L’art du Menuisier.”

This year, Roy and Don will be back for the second feast, which we are jokingly calling “The Annual Meeting of the Roubo Society.” There is no society (yet). The feast is at 6:30 p.m. on the Saturday night during Woodworking in America.

The feast will again be held at the Metropolitan Club in Covington, Ky. – it’s across the street from the Northern Kentucky Convention Center. The club is a bit swanky, so you have to wear pants. But don’t let the whiff of swank scare you off. The club is cool. You get to stand above the entire Ohio River Valley at the top of a skyscraper, watching the rivers snake through the city.

The adult beverages are good. The food is excellent – probably the best food of the conference.

But the entertainment is the reason to come.

Roy promises a presentation about Denis Diderot’s dressing gown. Huh? Diderot was a contemporary of Roubo, and he was one of the authors of an groundbreaking encyclopedia of the trades (which is still in print!).

And Diderot’s dressing gown is important to the overall story of Roubo and the current hand-tool renaissance. I cannot really say more.

And Don has spent the last year immersed in the physical and mental world of Roubo. He has been building the tools and jigs outlined in the text and put them to use in his shop. Though Don has been in the trades his entire life, he describes several of Roubo’s tools as “life changing.”

Oh, and I’ll be speaking as well. I’m going to fill everyone in on how the publication of the first volume of “To Make as Perfectly as Possible” is coming along.

I can tell you this much: These translations are going to become landmark books. And you don’t have to just take it from me. Everyone who attends the feast will receive a handout that samples some of the cooler stuff that Don and his team have unearthed.

So come to the dinner. Be a part of woodworking history. And buy me (and Roy) a beer.

You can register for the conference here. The dinner is an extra $50.

— Christopher Schwarz

14 thoughts on “The André Roubo Dinner at WIA

  1. yelkereb

    Is anyone recording this stuff? We live in an amazing time when the musings of someone like Roy can be captured for posterity but I fear that often economic/legal forces prevent it. These presentations are likely to have meaningful historical value, and the production value is of pretty low importance, so long as you can hear what’s said and see the speaker not much else is needed.

    Just wondering, its highly unlikely I’ll be able to attend but having the opportunity to watch the proceedings at some point would likely be time well spent. As it is, it feels at least like, much of this extemporaneous history from our time is being made ephemeral when it could be persevered with minimal effort.

  2. TCBound

    I’m of (nearly) the same opinion as John Cashman, and Fred West, I hate getting dressed up and my knees look like they were made up from spare parts…from Odd Lots! So the kilt is out!
    Unfortunately, my wife and I will be traveling out of state and I won’t be able to go to WIA this year. Will the “handouts” from the Roubo dinner be available to the masses later?

  3. archae

    Once again, I will be unable to attend WIA. And Chris’ description of the “Feast” makes me wish for some HP magic so I could be in two places at once.

    Are there any plans to record presentations? Or at least publish a transcript (probably not the same since both are so entertaining)? Certainly others not able to attend would be willing to buy either or both items. Perhaps this could be a perk of joining the yet to exist Roubo Society.

  4. Jameel Abraham

    I missed last year’s Roubo Feast, and I’ve been kicking myself ever since. I can’t count how many people came up to me Sunday and told me how much of a doofus I was for missing it. Not so this year. I’m going!

    1. Fred West

      Jameel, I will take over the kicking of you in case you are tired. I can’t wait for this dinner. Megan, I have my skirt but no one, including my dogs wants to see me in one. :o

      Fred

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