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The always popular Hand Tool Olympics competition will be held in the Marketplace at Woodworking in America West, taking place in Pasadena, California, next weekend, Oct. 12-14 at the convention center. Four skill elements will make up the Olympics and everyone attending the event is invited to participate. The Pasadena Hand Tool Olympics is being organized and hosted by the Modern Woodworkers Association.

The four competitions include crosscutting a board, rip-sawing a board, using a jointer plane to square and straighten a sawn edge, and, finally, cutting through-dovetails joining two boards. Prizes will be awarded for each event. Event winners will be based on a combination of time and accuracy. A second winner for each event will be selected in a random drawing from those competing in the event.

But the Hand Tool Olympics is not just about demonstrating one’s skills, it’s also a skill-building opportunity for woodworkers who may not have the sharpest hand tool skills. The Modern Woodworkers Association members running the Olympics are there to teach skills in addition to organizing and scoring the event. The competitions will be held on Friday (Oct. 12)  and Saturday (Oct. 13) between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. The Marketplace hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days and features dozens of exhibitors showing, demonstrating and selling a wide array of woodworking tools and equipment.

Prizes for the Olympics winners are spectacular. For the dovetail competition, each winner will receive a dovetail saw, one provided by Lie-Nielsen Toolworks and the other by Rob Cosman. For the edge-jointing winners, Lee Valley/Veritas is providing bevel-up jointer planes. For winners in the sawing competitions, restored vintage handsaws from Ron Herman will be presented.

Woodworking in America is an event put on by Popular Woodworking Magazine. Much of the event/conference is woodworking education based. Dozens of classes are held on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and are lead by many of the country’s top woodworking authorities. Conference registrations are either for the entire weekend or a single day.

On November 2, 3 and 4, Woodworking in America moves to greater Cincinnati, Ohio, area for another skill-building weekend of classes, the Marketplace and the Hand Tool Olympics. The event is held at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center in Covington. For this event, Mike Siemsen’s School of Woodworking and the Society of Period Furniture Makers host the Olympics adding two additional events, cutting a tenon and boring using a brace and bit. Stay tuned for more details on the Cincinnati WIA including the Hand Tool Olympics there.

– Steve Shanesy

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Showing 4 comments
  • gauchowoodworking

    I am upset that finally when WIA is in my backyard (Pasadena, CA) and will go through one of my favorite design schools (Greene and Greene), I am working and stuck at my cabin in Colorado … Sadly I will miss this great event.

  • Dean

    Steve, I have not attended a WIA event. Maybe next year. However, I did have a question. I couldn’t help but notice the saw bench in the picture. It only shows a portion of it, but is it designed only for the hand tool Olympics? Are there additional pictures somewhere? Thanks Steve.

  • renaissanceww

    The hand tool olympics is easily the most fun you can have at WIA. It is a good opportunity to get first hand instruction from some great woodworkers too. For those of you that want to practice, I put together a page with a series of videos prior to the event in 2009. It is a little dated but nothing has changed with the events,

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