I had a great time at Woodworking In America. In the picture above, fellow A&M author Dean Jansa (DEC06) tried out my new chisels while I sketched a picture of the raised panel door that inspired the techniques in the Old School Chisel Use Clinic. This picture symbolizes what WiA was for me; a chance to work with woodworkers from around the country.
With the exception of the sharpening clinic (I lectured us into oblivion), I got a chance to interact with woodworkers one on one, sharing my tools and approaches to woodwork. Some have said since that they wished these sessions were shorter or longer, more or less focused. All understandable criticisms. For me, it was just fun to be together. I got to see where each woodworker was in his journey, and watch him progress, sometimes in a manner of minutes. While it was clear to me that my methods were unfamiliar to most, the woodworkers I interacted with were quick studies, and to a man, were able to adapt to new techniques or direction quickly. I was impressed.
In the marketplace, I set up a high tech booth for demonstration, which I manned at every free moment. My booth featured a hi-def video projection system (and a wireless sound system that I decided against using), to give anyone who was interested a front row seat. I demonstrated my technique with a wide variety of saws including my 4′ frame saw (which didn’t work too well), roughed a cabriole leg out of large block of maple (I thought it was bass when I started), and demonstrated the use of fitting planes available to colonial craftsmen (some of which were available for sale elsewhere in the marketplace).
And while I enjoy working with other woodworkers, it wasn’t all work and no play. I hosted the shows only “dovetail saw shoot out”. I offered (insisted might be more accurate) woodworkers the chance to try a number of different dt saws. Though I don;t think it was obvious, I tried to guide woodworkers’ techniques to make some of the more aggressive saws feel better. I also challenged all “comers” to try their hand at “Beat the Master”, my light-hearted game whose goal is to saw a thinner and more uniform slice of end grain than I can. This game was joined by a group of nobodies: Joel Moskowitz, Tom Lie-Nielsen, Jim Blauvelt, Harrelson Stanley, Dave Jeske, Mike Siemsen, Ellis Wallentine, and Rob Lee. I was hoping to get someone you’ve actually heard of, but those folks were too busy teaching classes that afternoon. Besides, I think I can take Schwarz.
Like many of you, I work alone. Worse still, I work wood in a manner that is uncommon at best. More still, I learned in a vacuum, having never taken classes and with only a few books and my tools to teach me. This has been a struggle and very likely an unnecessary one. It’s just great to compare notes with other woodworkers. Though I didn’t get to attend any clinics or lectures, I learned a lot just chit chatting with woodworkers around the breakfast table, or watching guys work at my bench. I don’t know if there will be another Woodworking in America Conference. But if there is, I really recommend you attend. We all have so much to learn from each other and it’s just plain nice to work wood together.