Wow! It’s been a week since returning from Woodworking in America 2011 and I’m just starting to recover. After 4 straight days of early mornings and late evenings at the conference, followed immediately by a full week of work (I got exactly 3 hours of sleep last Sunday before having to get up for work at 5 AM last Monday morning), I needed a weekend to sleep in and do nothing. Now that the coffee is starting to help again and I am beginning to think clearly, I can recount some of last weekend in Covington.
I spent most of the weekend at the Hand Tool Olympics booth helping out with the events, and teaching hand tool skills when requested. Some folks were serious about picking up a few pointers while others just wanted a laugh. In all cases, folks had fun, which is the whole point anyway. I think we may have even planted the bug in a few new woodworkers as well. For me, it was great to meet so many of the folks who read the blog and watch the podcast face-to-face. I think getting to connect with all the friends I’ve made through the site and past events is probably the best part of the weekend. I regret that I didn’t get to spend more time chatting with a lot of the other exhibitors and attendees at the event (Adam Cherubini and Larry Williams come immediately to mind because the booth always seemed to be mobbed whenever one of them stopped by), but I guess there’s always next year.
One of the highlights of the show had to be the 4′ frame saw that the guys from the Minnesota chapter of the Society of American Period Furniture Makers brought with them. To say the least, the saw was impressive. Holding this saw, it is near impossible not to grunt at least a time or two. It is a near copy of the veneer saw from the plate in one of Roubo’s volumes, with the only difference being the width of the saw blade. With a 4′ long web, filed at about 3 teeth per inch, the saw simply devoured anything in its path. The billet that was set up for sawing was 10″ thick, and the saw had no trouble moving 1/4″ to 3/8″ per stroke. When allowed to work without outside influence (other than moving the saw of course), the saw tracked dead straight. My friend Dean and I managed to saw off about a 1/16″ thick sheet once I got the hang of the saw. If you tried to force the cut or steer the saw however, it didn’t respond so well. Using this saw will definitely teach you to let the saw do the work and not force the cut. In addition to the obvious resawing tasks, I can see a saw like this being extremely handy for efficiently ripping 12/4 and 16/4 stock for large turnings and furniture legs.
For most attendees, the classes were the reason they were there. I didn’t get to sit in on many, but the few that I did were worth the wait. Chuck Bender’s talk “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” was a great discussion on design and what makes one design work well while another not so well. I didn’t agree with him on everything (mainly the historical importance of the column orders in designing furniture), but for the most part, I think Chuck was spot on and gave a fantastic talk. The pieces he brought with him only served to help drive his points home and solidify what can be accomplished when we stop over thinking things and simply start working with the wood. By letting our own eyes tell us what looks good and what does not, we are free to explore the craft in our own way and not be bound by some one else’s “rules”.
The other talk I got to sit in on was Adam Cherubini’s talk on nailed furniture. I’m not going to say much about this class right now, because I have too many thoughts about the subject, and this post has gone on long enough. However, what I will say is “Finally!”. Adam’s topic was a subject that, in my opinion, has been needed for a long time. In a craft full of perfect dovetails and lighter than air shavings, building fine furniture with nails seems like a complete antithesis. It was eye opening for some, somewhat intriguing for others, and perhaps even a bit controversial in the eyes of a few. However, it is a subject I have great interest in and want to expand upon in a future post.
All in all, the conference seems to get better every year. I’m already looking forward to next year’s event. Start planning now!