Working together at Woodworking In America - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Working together at Woodworking In America

 In Arts & Mysteries Blog, Woodworking Blogs

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.


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Showing 6 comments
  • Andrew

    I just wanted to share with you evidence that I actually did learn something. I needed to cut out a shallow square into the face of a block. I used the chisel technique learned in your session and it worked beautifully in the hard maple.

    Thanks again for the session and for all your work. As a hand-tool woodworker I’m always trying to learn or figure out for myself, how to solve problems with just my hand tools, and any time I can skip some steps on the learning curve by learning how someone else has already figured it out, all the better.


  • Bjenk

    Just a short thank you for your passion. You started me down this road and what a beautiful adventure it has been. My shop is filled with old tools only and my skills have rocketed. I am still amazed at how your teaching has deeply touched me even though we have never even met.


  • Mack McKinney


    I too learned "in a vacuum." My dad started me out, but after I moved away from home I really began my tutelage, and like most, much of it was probably Norm and Roy, plus gobs of books. I alternately feel like a competent woodworker and then a newbie, even after 35+ years. The beginning of mastery, I think, is being able to identify where the holes in your knowledge base are; you were able to provide that service to me. Without the community that WIA provided, that would not have happened for me. I’m excited about pursuing the older methods of the art and mystery of woodworking, largely due to your chisel clinic (I’m hoping Santa will swing by Gramercy Tools for me!)

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge and undying humor with us!

    Mack McKinney

  • Joe Rasnack


    Your bench setup in the Market Place was probably my favorite part of the Conference. I spent several hours watching and learning and even skipped a class to stay there. With all the hands-on classes filling up so fast, many of us didn’t get a chance to actually work wood. Your bench area definitely made up for that. It was fantastic to see you be so interactive with everyone and let people work with you just practicing various skills. Also, your class on setting up a hand tool shop was great and I will be be experimenting in my shop with some of your ideas. Thank you for all your hard work and sharing.

    Joe Rasnack

  • Larry Chenoweth

    I too was at the event and observed you at work and have read your articles. From a woodworker who has the desire and appreciation of hand tools but not all the skills yet, it is encouraging to experience proffesional woodworkers such as your self so willing to share your knowledge and skills. There are many out here like me that desire to learn the ancient and sometimes long forgotten woodworking skills. My experience at wood stores and woodworking events has been that most woodworkers both pro’s and hobbyist’s are happilly willing to share what they know and learn what they don’t. This reemergence of hand tool use is a positive change for woodworkers. As more and more of us learn the skills you teach we will be able to hand them down to the next generation. Thank you for the contributions you make to this craft.

    Larry Chenoweth

  • Rick Gayle

    Adam–I’ve enjoyed your articles in Popwood and your blog from the first, and even though I didn’t get to discuss woodworking with you at the conference, I observed your work for about 45 minutes while you were working on a leg. It was great just to watch you work in person. You have no idea how many woodworkers whom you have inspired. Keep at it and thanks!

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