Thursday, October 31, 2013

"Woodworking in America 2013" - I was there!!

After wishing I could be there for the last few years, I have finally done it!

I went to the "Woodworking in America 2013" Conference/Event (WIA) in Cincinnati, Ohio in October. What a joy it was to be there too! I was one of many hundreds of woodworkers present, but other than an Adelaide boy who lives and works in the USA now, I was the only Australian as far as I know.

Imagine it... Two and a half days of non-stop woodworking talk, demonstrations,  tools and activity. Bliss. Even more blissfully, there were hardly any bods selling power tools and machines in the "Market Place". The focus was pretty much on hand tools there. Fantastic second hand and antique tools for sale, new tools from the many boutique saw makers, plane makers, and other tool makers that the USA woodworking community can support. Timber, gadgets, books, and paraphernalia for all things wood. There was even the Hand Tool Olympics going on in there all day too.

Day 1, I started the morning going to a demonstration by well known woodcarver Mary May, who was demonstrating "Carving life into leaves".
Mary May shows us how to do it.
I then went to the session by Peter Follansbee on "Carved spoons". I have been following Peter's blog for about 3 years now, and have his book from last year and it's forerunner. Mr Follansbee, you have been partly responsible for my getting fired up about wanting to do green woodworking over the last couple of years, which is why I am here at WIA and more! It's all your fault!..Thankyou.
Peter expounds on why the commercial cheap wooden kitchen spoon is symbolic of all that is wrong with the world.
With deft axe work, Peter hews a spoon from a crotch of fruit wood.
Roughly shaped by axe, now for the knife work..
Nice spoons, Peter!
It was so nice to meet Peter, to hear and watch him demonstrating, and to learn from him. Afterwards  I quietly presented him with a nice Spotted Gum carving mallet (Eucalyptus maculata) which I had made and brought to him from Australia as a gift to thank him for getting me going on this green woodworking journey.

Next I spent some time at the Marketplace, including participating in the Hand Tool Olympics - a great experience which gave me many ideas for the Perth Wood Show and other events next year. I salivated over the piles of antique tools for sale, and thought of my colleagues in the Hand Tool Preservation Society of WA, back home in Australia. I bought a very beautiful folding drawknife, with a patent date of 1896 on it. I'm no collector, though - I would be using it all the next week!
SO many beautiful old drawknives in one stall alone! Patrick Leech's stall.
How about a rebate plane?
Later that afternoon Peter Follansbee was doing another session - this time on "17th century carving". Another one I didn't want to miss. Fantastic to be there and see the sequencing for doing the relief carvings. He is such a full bottle that he could rattle off which pieces in collections had these carving patterns, where in New England they were probably made, and the probable date range the piece was made. It was a delight to be in the audience.
Carved frame and panel components from a 17th century style chest.
Demo board on how to create the patterns.
Very nice example of more complex 17th century decorative carving! 
The simplicity and technical skill in the 17th century woodworking he does has been inspiring to me.

I could only really fit in 3 sessions! there were another 23 over the day that I could not get to in the overlapping schedule!!  We all had some tough decisions to make, but I was a happy as a pig in mud...

That evening was the big dinner for all the WIA delegates/participants. Peter Follansbee was the keynote speaker. That was OK by me, and once again Peter oozed knowledge and valuable insights.
It had been a full day. I arrived back at my hotel like the cat who got the cream.

Day 2. I began the day going to the session by Christopher Schwarz on "Joinery planes: Sharpening and Use", which also involved a potted history on the tools. Very informative and nice at last to hear Chris. I have been following his blog for several years, and corresponded with him a number of times, so it was nice to meet him at last.
Chris holding forth on planes.
The next session I went to was Roy Underhill's  "Meet the mystery mallet". Having run his poplar TV woodworking show for over 30 years, "The Woodwright's Shop", Roy is an accomplished entertainer as well as an incredibly knowledgeable traditional woodworker. Lots of fun but also very informative. Great to be there, and a taste of things to come for me, as I was already booked in to attend one of Roy's Woodwright School 5 day classes directly after the WIA.
How is this possible?.
Roy shows us how it's done
 The third session I did that day was with Peter Galbert: "The windsor chair, from log to living room"
Once again, this fed right into my yearning for all things green woodworking:  Peter demonstrated the making of many parts of the windsor chair, including riving and hewing the arm from a log and then steam bending it right there before our eyes. He made it look so easy! A very informative session too.
Peter took us on a fantastic chairmaking journey.

That evening I was at "The Planemaker's Dinner", where the speakers were a panel of boutique plane makers. Very interesting stuff.
The lack of training and reduced pathways for kids to get into woodworking generated some discussion and comment in the room. This was not the first time I had heard these discussions over the weekend. There seems to be a general consensus that   woodworking ("Shop" as it is called here) is disappearing from schools and getting dumbed down too.
Hey, this area is my specialty!! That night I wrote an email to one of the WIA organisers, suggesting that they should get me back next year to run sessions on how to get kids into woodworking. I think I have lots to offer here.

Another full-on day.Somewhere in there I also returned to the Market Place and participated again in the Hand Tool Olympics.At both of those dinners I got to sit with some really nice guys.There was much chewing of the fat to  be done... It's a shame that I couldn't attend the other heap of sessions there was no time to do.    ...Hey, I was very happy with my lot for that day though.
One tiny portion of the market place.
So many beautiful old carving tools for sale!

Day 3 was a half day, just the morning. I went to Chris Schwarz's "Tool boxes and benches from home centre materials". Which was a lot of fun and kind of fits in with my bent for recycling packing crates  (in preference to going to the big green hardware stores in WA).
It's a kind of "woodworking for the common person" sort of approach. Great stuff.

That was it! WIA 2013 was over.

I was so glad to get there after having wistfully looked at the programs on the internet for several years each time it came around. What a privilege and a pleasure to actually be there. Hand tool woodworking is so huge here in the USA, compared to Australia...

It was an event worth travelling across the world to attend.  A great networking opportunity, a chance to meet the people whose blogs I have been following, a chance to make new friends, and a chance to learn so much. What more could I ask for?

I'd come all this way from Australia, so I was going to make the most of it.
My woodworking adventure in the USA had just begun!!

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