In Chris Schwarz Blog, Schwarz on Workbenches

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When we select our instructors for our Woodworking in America conferences we look for craftsmen who have devoted their lives to woodworking and who are willing to share that knowledge with the world at large (believe it or not some people still keep secrets).

We also pick the people from whom our magazine’s staff would like to learn woodworking.

As a result, the instructors for our Hand Tools & Techniques conference (Oct. 2-4 in Valley Forge, Pa.) are people at the top of their field, or are rising stars who we think you should meet. Many of these instructors are people I’ve been dying to meet since I started in the craft. Here are a few of my favorites:

Toshio Odate: Personally, I cannot believe we convinced him to travel to this event and speak. I’ve spoken with him on the phone (we’re publishing a couple articles from him in 2010), but I’ve never met him in person. If it weren’t for Odate, I don’t think that Japanese tools would be so popular in the United States. His landmark book, “Japanese Woodworking Tools: Their Tradition, Spirit, and Use,” is the gold-standard in the field. His teaching and writing have influenced tens of thousands of woodworkers. And we’re asking him to speak on a topic that rarely gets touched upon in the Western media: Japanese planes.

Peter Follansbee: This guy is an infectious disease. He made me fall in love with 17th-century furniture and joinery. His research, furniture and writing (check out his blog) have profoundly influenced the way I look at wood, tools and processes. He’s working on a book right now about his work that I think will catapult him into the limelight. Honestly, if you don’t know squat about early American furniture, you are missing out on one of the most interesting and lively styles around. Look for me in the front row of his lecture. Also, Follansbee is going to be demonstrating joinery in the Hands-on Bench Rooms. Bring your ax.

Ron Herman: Unless you live in Ohio, you probably haven’t heard of Ron Herman. He’s a general contractor with Antiquity Builders of Ohio and has been working by hand professionally his entire life. He has forgotten more about saws than I know. In fact he lives and breathes saws and is an evangelist for sharpening and using these tools. I don’t want to say too much about him here because we’re going to do an entry on him later. But let me just say that he is larger than life, unbelievably skilled and is someone you need to get to know.

Roy Underhill: I got to spend several days with Underhill last year and I can tell you this: He is the real deal. He’s not some tarted-up semi-skilled hack who looks good on television. He is a man who has devoted his life to hand craft. He reads Andre Roubo in the original French. He is most likely the best woodworking teacher alive today. And he’s nice enough that you’d trust him with your kids. There’s a reason we call him St. Roy.

Charles Bender: A short look at Bender’s portfolio will make you do one of two things: put down your chisels and take up tiddlywinks, or it will inspire you to try to achieve a small percentage of what he’s built. I’ve never seen such a far-ranging portfolio of work. And the number of authentic pieces Bender has built is staggering. He’s now starting to share what he knows in the pages of Popular Woodworking and at his school, The Acanthus Workshop. He’s a tireless researcher (ask him about his book collection) and has more than book smarts , he’s built just about every piece of furniture imaginable.

I’m going to cover some of the other demonstrators in the coming week, but you can get a short look at their bios on our Woodworking in America web site. If you are on the fence about this conference, let me try to give you a push. These instructors are going to both transform and transfix the attendees (us included).

– Christopher Schwarz

P.S. Now is the time to register. We’re offering $40 off the admission price until Sept. 9. After that, the price goes to $375. Click here for details on the different pricing packages available, including single-day passes.

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