Woodworking In America 2012...Part 1

I have finally done the impossible.  I managed to persuade my wife and daughter to come with me on an entirely woodworking-centric getaway weekend.  This may be the first step down the slippery slope that my wife has long feared.  My woodworking addiction has now spilled over into our vacation time.  Their accompaniment, however, has allowed me the pleasure of enjoying my weekend nearly guilt free!  Cincinnati offers them loads to do while I sip from the vast font of knowledge spewing forth from the mouths of the masters (get my geek on in woodworking classes).

Friday morning I walked over to the Northern Kentucky Convention Center (it is in the running for the lamest name for a convention center in America) from our hotel and proceeded to promptly stand (for almost ten minutes) in the wrong line for registration.  This was mostly due to the fact that I was, for the first time in a long time, so excited about something I couldn't concentrate on what was happening around me.  I almost knocked over Mr. Roy Underhill on my way into the convention center and then walked past Mr. Don Williams chatting with Mr. Adam Cherubini on my way to the elevator.  Like some kid at Disney Land seeing Mickey Mouse in person for the first time, I wanted to run over and say "I know you, you're famous!"  But, of course I did my best impersonation of a sane person and just kept walking.

I took a quick perusal through the marketplace (vendor alley) and it didn't take long to realize that the vendor section of this woodworking show was small, really small.  Some of this was likely due to the decision to have two WIA conferences this year as it is a strain on some of the smaller companies to have to travel to two venues on almost opposite sides of the country in such a short period of time.  I was disappointed not to see The Wood Whisperer or Benchcrafted, but once I attended my first class I immediately understood what this conference is really about.  This weekend is not about the marketplace (although it is definitely a sexy perk), it is absolutely about the classes and learning new skills targeted at making one a better woodworker.

The Amazing Mr. Charles Brock,
A Gifted Chairmaker
No Introduction Needed, Bad Axe
Like A Chorus Line

Boxes Full Of Potential
Every class I took throughout the weekend was taught with the enthusiasm and energy that is only found from someone who really loves what they are doing.  All of the instructors at the conference were willing to answer questions (no matter how repetitive and mundane) and chat about their passion after class, or in one case as I observed, in the bathroom.  Not one of the instructors I encountered ever carried an air of arrogance, every single one was approachable and completely willing to share.  The people who know me well, also know that I am a big fan of sharing.  My personal belief is that the only way hobbies like woodworking and toolmaking will continue into the future is if people are willing to share their experiences and knowledge.  Mr. Chuck Bender made a great point in his string inlay and edgebanding class to this effect.  He said (and I paraphrase/summarize poorly) that many of the old masters of these tasks have died and taken their years of knowledge with them, and unless others are willing to seek the knowledge required to perform these tasks they will be lost to the ages.  Fortunately, a few of these experienced craftsmen have begun to teach in person, on DVD, with downloadable videos and with books.  Nothing (in my humble opinion) can compare, however, to the benefits of learning something in person.

Mr. Ron Herman's Understanding Wood Class...A WINNER
On Friday I took Ron Herman's (certified wood nerd) "Wood ID" class.  This guy may have changed my life, but more on that another time.  This class threw me for a loop, as I found out after the class stared that it was actually titled "Understanding Wood."   I was expecting a class on species identification, but what I got was so much better.  He did mention some basic tricks to identify general species, but he went into much more detail on wood selection, storage, grading, and even a little insight into the millwrights trade.  He littered the class with little gems of information like storing lumber the way it grew as a tree, crown (top of the tree) end up and stored vertically when possible.  This method allows moisture to escape properly and may help reduce things like checking and splitting.  I also took his "choosing and sharpening handsaws" class which is the life changing moment I spoke of earlier.  I have been sharpening handsaws for myself and others for quite a while now(there is always more to learn!), but when Mr. Herman got into re-tensioning, re-tempering and handsaw design, he answered several critical questions I have had for for a while that I just couldn't get from a book or pamphlet.  Hopefully, some day the stars will align and I will have the opportunity to take a blacksmithing class at his shop.

The Beauties Of Wood Nerdery
I took a ton of classes this weekend, however, they will have to wait their turn for a summary here (more posts to come).  I will say that Friday night I attended "The First Annual Feast Of The Ribald Society Of Old Moxonians."  Puns intended.  This was worth every penny in entertainment value alone.  The entire evening was tongue in cheek jabs at woodworkers given mainly by Mr. Underhill, whom never misses the opportunity to entertain a crowd.  There was an "adoration of the one true skirt" which consisted of being anointed on the forehead with a piece of leather and some mutton tallow by Mr. Schwarz and his daughter, and then dubbed by Ms. Megan Fitzpatrick and/or Mr. Underhill with a hilarious 3 foot dovetail saw (a one stroker?).  There was a banishment of puns which involved hurling marshmallows at people reading horrible woodworking puns (think "I'm pine-ing for a good piece of ash"), and the reading of the Apocrypha of Joseph Moxon.  In summation, it was a lot of fun - in an uber-nerdy woodworker kind of way - and I will definitely be attempting to attend next year.  And with that, I'll see yew later.

So Formal!

Mr. Underhill Getting The Party Rolling

One Of My Table-mates Getting "Anointed"

At Least We All Felt Ridiculous Together...


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