I spent some time this past weekend at The Woodworking Shows in Columbus, Ohio. First off, trekking to the show is much better now that Columbus is an hour and a half away (as opposed to the 7 hours it took to get there when I lived outside Philadelphia). The second thing that struck me about the show as I arrived was the size of the crowd. It was huge.
Because this was my first time at the show as something other than a vendor or educator, my take was completely different than in years past. Sure there was the usual banter with Bob Jevons (who informed me his web site is currently down but you can find his 3D squares at retailers everywhere…Google it) and Rich Wedler, but I got to see the show in the same way you see it when you attend. I got to sit in on a class from my friend Jim Heavey and got to poke around at all the tools.
The part I liked most was seeing a bunch of new vendors. Sure I enjoy seeing the core vendors who’ve been part of the show for years but it was refreshing to walk in the entry and see a big Powermatic/Jet display. I also enjoyed spending time in the Arbortech booth getting lessons on how their new products work (look for a tool review of some of their products in an upcoming issue of the magazine). It was great to get to look at the Guhdo saw blades and the new Silky Japanese style saws (which are nice enough that I came very close to purchasing one even though I am a devout western saw user).
I had fun playing around with the left handed version of Lee Valley’s Veritas shooting plane (for my review of the right handed version click here) and checking out Grex‘s pinners and the latest from Bosch. To me this is one of the greatest benefits to attending The Woodworking Shows when they come to your area; you get to handle the tools. You also get to talk to people who know the tools and in many cases designed them.
The other major change I saw in the show is the amount of education. There were more classes than ever at the show. Since Bryce Beerman (the new owner of the show) took over two years ago there’s been a marked uptick in the quantity and quality of educational programs. When combined with a rise in the number and diversity of vendors, it’s no wonder the crowd seemed larger than any in recent memory.