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At the 2008 Woodworking in America , Hand Tools & Techniques conference in Berea, Ky., one of the first areas to sell out was the hands-on sessions. These sessions were very popular for a couple reasons. First, most attended the sessions to gain the valuable insight from the speakers , and well you should. But in addition, those in the hands-on sessions had a chance to bring tools from their shops to get guidance on techniques from saw sharpening to bench grinding to plane use. And suggestions from these speakers dealing with tool setup proved invaluable to attendees.

Something we often hear about the upcoming WIA , Hand Tools & Techniques conference in Valley Forge, Pa., is how there are no hands-on sessions. Well hold on , there are hands-on sessions at the 2009 Woodworking in America; you just don’t need to register for individual sessions to make use of them. All you need to do is attend the conference.

Each speaker has scheduled sessions in our Hands-on Bench Room in which you bring in your tools (and we’ll have some tools there, provided by exhibitors) to discuss techniques and/or how best to setup your tools. You can get your questions answered by the speaker and you’ll have the opportunity for expert guidance to fine-tune your woodworking skills. Does this sound familiar?

We’ve taken the best of both worlds , a full line of hands-on sessions with no chance of getting closed out during registration , and packaged it so all you have to do to take advantage of these sessions is be registered for and attend the conference. You can walk into one of the two equipped Hands-on Bench Rooms and soak in the speaker’s years of experience and expertise (plus we’ll have additional experts on hand). And it’s entirely guided by questions from you and other attendees. We can’t make it any easier than that.

Now here’s the interesting part of a setup such as this: While at the WIA , Furniture Design & Construction conference, some of these sessions were attended by two or three people only. Most attendees were running from session to session without taking advantage of these clinics. I personally sat in a session with Jerry Grant, the curator of the Shaker Museum and Library, and talked about Shaker furniture , from paint mixtures and colors to Shaker furniture collectors , with one other attendee. For more than 40 minutes, I had the opportunity to ask anything I wanted about Shaker craftsmanship. The information I picked up was incredible.   

With the same arrangement at the Hand Tools & Techniques conference at Valley Forge (plus Benches for hands-on demonstrations), you can listen as Toshio Odate explains the correct technique to accurately use Japanese planes and gain insight to other Japanese tools. You can have Peter Follansbee show you how to properly hold your carving chisels as you learn about 17th-century methods of work. Or how about standing shoulder to shoulder with Don McConnell and Larry Williams as you discover how to sharpen hollows and rounds, and discover what you might be doing to sabotage your sharpening efforts?

This kind of personal attention cannot be bought , at least not for the cost of a conference admission that, by itself, provides invaluable information about hand tools and woodworking craftsmanship. If you haven’t registered and made plans to attend this conference, why not? This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

– Glen D. Huey

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