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This weekend is the Woodworking America Conference in Ohio. I highly recommend you go. Yes the sessions may be sold out. But having attended the last two, I can tell you there’s a lot going on in the Marketplace that will be worth your while.

The people in the marketplace include some of the most knowledgeable folks in our craft. Their infomercials include more solid woodworking information than most books and videos on the subject. And that fact that you can ask questions and take test drives makes this by FAR the best buy in woodworking education.

Like other sorts of demonstrations, (I’m thinking of Colonial Williamsburg) you’ll get out of the Marketplace what you put into it. My advice is to get involved, ask questions, and try your best to annoy and needle the presenters. If you want to continue asking questions, making the presenters late for their sessions, at least volunteer to carry stuff!

Sometimes what you learn isn’t what you might think. So I have a few suggestions of topics you might want to ask different folks in the marketplace and a couple recommendations for folks not to miss. Remember; Since these folks are top notch, WIA uses them to teach so they won’t always be available. Give yourself all day at least to ensure you get to see and chat with everyone. You won’t be sorry.

Larry Williams makes hand planes. He may not be excited about revealing every step he uses, but he’s a fantastic source of information on practical heat treating, metallurgy, and sharpening. Want to know what grinder stone to buy? I’d ask Larry before you let Joel talk you into something.

One of my favorite woodworkers in the whole world is Chuck Bender. Chuck knows 18th c furniture inside and out. Chuck is THE guy to ask about basic 18th c structures. He’s recently been accepting students to his Acanthus workshop. Find out what classes Chuck is offering and make suggestions if he’s not offering what you are looking for.

Dave Jeske, of Blue Spruce Tool Works makes the only thin bench firmers made today. Thin chisels were once the norm. Ask to take one for a test drive. Everyone else there probably will as well so you’ll have the chance to check the edge retention of the tools Dave makes. I think Dave underestimates the capabilities of his chisels. I use similar chisels for all my chopping needs and I think the design is superior. But try it yourself and see what you think. Just ask him for tapered octagonal handles instead of those polished crank handles he puts on them!

In my opinion, LN’s Deneb Puchalski (the “c” is essentially silent, poo-HOW-ski) is the gold standard for woodworking infomercials. Deneb’s presentations are clear, concise, and impressive demonstrations of virtually anything you want to do with a hand tool. Each demo is as much a ww class as it is a demonstration of LN’s beautiful products. Ask him anything and he will demo it. I think these guys (LN) and the folks from LV are of the opinion that if you are into woodworking, it’s not if but when you will be a customer. So they are more than generous with their time. Take them up on it. (Just don’t elbow your way in front of the guy with his credit card out.)

Don’t miss the SAPFM booth and my friend Mike Siemsen. Here’s the story on the Hand Tool Olympics: There’s an old family tradition that wherever there are 2 sail boats, there is a race. My brother Steve has always had a good natured competitive spirit when he worked. He and I would race to see who could change a car’s brake pads the fastest for example. This was part of my family’s tradition of craft. Doing it quickly, silently, and perfectly was the goal whether it was landing a sail boat, or cooking dinner, or building something. In other families, the boys wrestle or play one on one basketball. We built or fixed things or drew pictures. It was all about craft in my house.

One year, many years ago, I brought some hand tools I had made to the Designer Craftsmen show. After the show I invited several furniture makers (including Chuck Bender) to my booth to see my tools and try out my saws. One of my favorites was a cross cutting back saw with what was then, a dramatically thin .025″ saw plate. It was a beauty. So all of us practiced cross cutting scrap wood I had brought for the purpose. Steve was there and quietly took his turn, but instead of mildly cutting off a hunk, he sliced a VERY thin uniform unbroken slice, from the board’s end. The gauntlet was thrown.

Wherever I demonstrated after that, I would challenge woodworkers to see if they could “Beat the Master”, by cutting a thinner more uniform slice than I could. It seems pointless and stupid, but in the context of a hand tool shop, it’s an excellent skill and a good lesson. In a normal shop, cutting a board to length is a simple matter of marking and pulling a trigger. But in a hand tool shop, planing end grain is not a great solution to removing 1/16″ from a board. But you can do this with a hand saw if you are very skilled. So what seems trivial in a shop with power tools, can not be taken for granted in a shop without them. It’s a powerful lesson, hidden in a silly, typically raucous game. Readers of mine shouldn’t be surprised by my inclusion of double meanings. I learned from the best.

At the first WiA, we played a rousing game (or 12) of beat the master. During one such game, I held my video camera (projecting its hi-def image on an 8′ movie screen) while the likes of Rob Lee played along, carefully sawing end grain. In the crowd was Mike Siemsen and Dean Jansa, woodworkers I only knew from SAPFM’s web forum. Mike is a great guy and I think “Beat the Master” inspired him. He took the basic idea and made it better, adding new events, creating the Hand Tool Olympics. He’s gotten folks to donate prizes and has worked very hard organizing it.

Let me sum up this long story this way: Go to the Marketplace to shop. Go to the Marketplace to learn. Take part in the Hand Tool Olympics. It reflects a decades old tradition in my family (competing in craft) and a ton of work by Mike and Dean who’ve gone to tremendous effort building saw horses and bringing tools a great distance. Don’t stand there like a knucklehead with your hands in your pockets, holding your LV bag, willing to watch but not try. If you stink, Dean or Mike or some new friend will help you. <br.
Think of it like a free hand tool clinic. Stay and cheer on our brothers and sisters (yes, we have sister woodworkers-don’t assume they are someone’s wife). Nothing you see in the WiA marketplace is as strong a reminder that we are a community. We learn from each other, inspire and help each other, and grow together. Go and take part. It all happens in the WiA Marketplace, the best kept secret in woodworking.


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Showing 11 comments
  • Gary Roberts


    Hear! Hear! My byword(s) is(are): Buy what you need for the job, not what you might need in the future. That said, I recently hauled a Camry load of tools out to auction, all of which represent box lots I shouldn’t have bid on, tools I don’t need, tools I never will need and tools I wonder why I bought them in the first place. True, there are tools I bought as the price was right and I figured I could make a few bucks on them someday.

    As I trim down the tool load, it’s interesting to see just what I keep for my own use, because they are pretty or peculiar and what I divested myself of in the process. A set of Marples crank neck chisels was amongst the "never used, not needed" category.

    I wonder what Mssr’s Moxon, Felibien, Roubo and Holmes would have said?


  • Auguste Gusteau

    Adam, doing it through a blog, through a blog comment, through a forum, through a magazine and face to face are all different matters.
    Anyway… Why do you sponsor the supermarket of futility?


  • Adam Cherubini


    "It seems a good place where you could say directly to industry and potential buyers: "you don’t need this, you don’t need that"."

    You say this like I don’t actually do precisely that! I don’t know how much of my work you’ve read, but stick around a while! I speak/write my mind. I try not to be rude. And it’s never my intention to offend or injure. But if you ask me whether I think a 2 handed dovetail saw is a good idea or not, I’ll let you know.


  • Mike Siemsen

    I have to give you a bit of the credit for the Hand Tool Olympics. You asked me why SAPFM didn’t have a booth in the Market Place and why there weren’t more opportunities to get our hands on tools. Glen Huey got on board right away with the planning and prizes and several people helped me design events that we could time and judge in a manageable way. It has been great fun to encourage, coach, and sometimes heckle, the many woodworkers that have competed in the HTO. I also must give credit to the many woodworkers that have stepped up to run the HTO during WIA, it takes 6 of us to keep it going. Dean Jansa has been a great asset to me through all of this as has Jim Van Hoven. I hope that you can stop by for some lessons from Dean and the rest of the crew, and I look forward to seeing many of you at WIA, stop by and say hello and make some sawdust!
    Mike Siemsen

  • Auguste Gusteau

    It seems a good place where you could say directly to industry and potential buyers: "you don’t need this, you don’t need that".


  • justin ashley

    Adam, will you be in attendance? Oh, and I’ve been meaning to ask, (off topic) are you a tool-and-die maker for a living? Not very many people know what and EDM is…


  • Adam Cherubini


    Yes I can think of several things to avoid at WiA! I would skip the anvils. Only buy anvils that are too heavy to lift.

    Skip anything with the name "miracle" on it such as "Miracle honing Oil", "Miracle rust eraser", "Miracle saw tooth rejuvenator", I would skip all of those.

    Glues with names you can’t pronounce, glues with names that sound like medical conditions beginning with words like "acute" such as acute cyano-urethane". You don’t need those.

    If you are talking to Joel and he tells you "Adam hates this, but I think you’ll love it" I would just turn around and walk away. He’s about to sell you a marking gauge with 6 arms or some other such nonsense.

    Any planes from guys like Ron Brese that are unidentifiable. If you have to ask what it is or does, I’d skip it. Ron makes a plane called a "low angle jack rabbet drill saw plane" (no he doesn’t). He’ll try to lure you by asking questions like "Do you prefer ebony with your brass or box wood". That’s a trick. Ron makes nice planes but his low angle jack rabbet drill saw plane only has 1/2", 3/4", and 1" auger bits and you have to watch the new "Transformers" movie to figure out how to change it from one thing to another.


  • Adam Cherubini

    Thanks Dean. You guys really do a great job. Mike talks about "coaching" as opposed to teaching woodworking. I love that approach. For the most part, most guys can pretty much figure out how to saw and plane wood. It’s not rocket science. But a couple tips from an experienced hand can make a big difference.

    I’m not sure I know the whole story about what you did or how big a role you played developing the HT Olympics. Feel free to add to the story. What I like about this story is that it isn’t abut one man’s vision. It really is a community growing together. We often hear about the "community" of artists we now call "The Impressionists". I think what we are doing isn’t entirely different.


  • Vic

    Hi Adam,

    I couldn’t find a "contact me". I wanted to let you know your link to Tom Fidgen’s site is the old one. His new site is located here >>

    Next year I will dole out the money for the crazy flight prices to get to WIA. I’m feeling very left behind this year.


  • Steve Kirincich

    Any suggestions regarding the tools I should not buy while attending WWIA?


  • Dean Jansa

    I’ll second Adam’s calling to come and learn in the Marketplace!

    Adam, stop by the Olympics, I promise I’ll help you if you stink too! 🙂


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