I’m working REALLY hard getting ready for Woodworking in America Pasadena. I think PW has given me a great opportunity to share 18th century woodworking with woodworkers on the West coast, whom I feel typically don’t get good access to anything 18th century.
Years ago, I suggested a “Colonial Williamsburg Road Show”. Essentially, taking the craftsmen from Wmburg on the road to do what they do for people all across our great country. I think it’s a cool idea that didn’t and probably couldn’t happen. And while I don’t work for CW, never have, and don’t even consider myself in the same league as the craftsmen there, I think this is my opportunity to try my idea out. I’m giving 3 talks and I plan to focus each on exploring 18th c work.
Like my articles, my talks usually have a couple different subjects intertwined. One such talk we’re calling “18th c Tips and Tricks” will be my counter to what I see as increasingly industrialized hand tool woodworking (i.e. tools that work on auto-pilot). I’ll try to present the nature of 18th c woodwork as I understand it. Of course this will be wrapped in what I consider to be practical everyday tips and tricks. I don’t like to repeat myself; the last thing is want to be is boring or repetitive, so don’t expect gems like “measure twice cut once”. In general, I see 18th c work as high level conceptual approaches manifest in the tiniest of details, like the shape of a marking gage pin. Conical, right? Not in my shop.
My latest struggle is how much to prep. I’ve been working every free minute for at least 6 weeks. Each year I try to do better than the last. And I essentially built a piece of furniture in front of an audience last year. This year I’m bringing more primary source documents into my presentations. My goal is to reproduce documented period work (in Moldings with Hollows and Rounds). But at what point does the effort to adroitly demonstrate work become self aggrandizement? Though I hesitate to criticize, I think I’ve seen such demonstrations. I’d like to think all demonstrators start off with the goal to educate. But when a dovetail cutting demo (for example) leaves an audience with little more than “wow”, I think someone screwed up.
I really prefer the demos we see at the conference in CW. The craftsmen just work, things don’t always go as planned, and we get to watch as a fellow mortal works his way out of problems. Woodworking is not a competition, but I can’t help feel validated in such circumstances. I think that’s helpful. Will I not sharpen my planes? No of course I will. But I’m not bringing back-ups. If we chip an edge or something goes wrong, that’s real life. I’ll bring stones and we’ll talk about what to do when that happens. So while I’m not preparing to fail, I am preparing to handle failures. The goal is to bring you the best possible presentations. See you there!
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