WIA Midwest 2012 – The Classes

After a couple of weeks to reflect, this is the first of several posts to review Woodworking in America 2012 – Midwest, which took place in Popular Woodworking’s backyard of Covington, KY. Today we’ll look at one part of what makes WIA the “ultimate woodworking weekend” – the classes.

Due to things we’ll discuss in yet-to-come portions of this review, I didn’t attend as many classes at this WIA as I had in previous years. Thankfully I feel like I finally have a grasp on which things I personally will get the most from, unlike my class selection at the first WIA I attended back in 2010.

On Friday the first class I attended was Adam Cherubini‘s talk on Moulding Planes.

Adam discussed the use of hollows, rounds, and rabbet planes, along with some history on mouldings and how they were produced in period shops. Throughout the talk he was working on actually using the tools to stick a short crown moulding. I really enjoyed the talk and Adam’s presentation style.

Later in the day I caught the tail end of Jeff Miller‘s Furniture Design talk (along with Andy Brownell, who manages to sneak into the foreground).

I managed to catch the first half of the talk on Saturday morning. Overall it was a really good discussion of Jeff’s methodology for going from inspirational spark to finished piece. It was a lot like Michael Fortune’s design class from two years ago, but Jeff had a more personal touch, giving specific examples of his pieces going through the process – such as the chair above and stool below:

My Friday afternoon classes finished with Paul Schurch‘s Veneering & Inlay class. I had’t given much thought to veneers, let alone marquetry, in my work – but I have some thoughts about an inlayed design I want to put on my bench‘s leg vise chop, so I was intrigued enough to check out this class. On the surface, marquetry seems very like a highly technical and difficult to do – at least it did to me. If you listen to Paul talk about about it for more than 20 minutes, you’ll be convinced you could paint the Mona Lisa with veneers!

Saturday morning started off with me catching the first half of Jeff Miller’s design talk (see above). Once I had heard all of Jeff’s talk, I moved over to catch the second half od Keith Bundy’s Finials, Pulls, Knobs, & Tool Handles talk. It was nice to see the Ohio Valley Woodturners Guild step up and provide some turning classes at WIA Midwest. I don’t own a lathe (yet), but I know that turning is something that will get its hooks into me, so I appreciated this new subject being presented at WIA.

After lunch I went back to another Jeff Miller class – this one titled “Working Smarter.” The talk was a synopsis of Jeff’s recent book “The Foundations of Better Woodworking.” There were a ton of great quotes/snippets from this talk:

And arguably the most important quote

I was on the fence about whether or not I wanted to get Jeff’s book, but after this class it’s definitely on the list of books to pick up.

Sundays at WIA are condensed, with only two time slots for classes. First up I had another turning class, this time it was “Bowls & Platters” with Dale Miller. As I look at what I would turn (did I mention I envision falling head over heels on love with a lathe?), I imagine making a lot of bowls. I’ve had possible bowls blanks for over two years without yet owning a lathe! Dale did a good job explain his processes for how he turns bowls, as well as some other techniques one could incorporate. Note to the PopWood brass – bring back turning to next year’s event!

My final class for the conference was Chris Schwarz‘s Furniture of Necessity. This talk was a working preview of his next book where Chris talks about the common forms of furniture that seem to pervasive and defy proper dating, due to their ubiquity. Chris talked about wanting the community’s feedback on these forms and has published his plan for a six board chest.

Overall there were plenty of great topics being covered, including a few that I didn’t have time to attend. The level of instruction was great and is just one of the reasons why I recommend attending Woodworking in America if you can.

WIA 2012 Midwest – Day 0

A few quick thoughts and pictures to whet your whistle for WIA 2012 Midwest this year.

I arrived in the middle of the afternoon on Thursday. After getting checked in to my hotel and the conference, I met up with Tom Iovino of Tom’s Workbench at the manager’s reception at the Embassy Suites. We sat down for a couple of drinks as a few old friends joined us as they arrived – Dyami Plotke of the Penultimate Woodshop, Ian MacKay of the Woodcanuck’s Blog, Sean Wisniewski of the Corner Workshop, and even Frank Klaus had a few drinks with us to discuss his retirement!

Before they locked up the convention center for the evening, we helped setup the Modern Woodworker’s Association booth in the marketplace. Of course Tom had to use that access to “test” the strength of some of the other booth setups:

We had a small reception/dinner with some attendees who were in town early, along with Mike Siemsen & the folks from his woodworking school who run the Hand Tool Olympics.  Mike had us beta-testing the unofficial 7th event of the Olympics, Nageltreffen.

It may look like nothing more than driving a nail into a board, but taking only single strokes with the hammer starting on the board and using the cross pein end of the the tool (!) makes it a lot more difficult – as did the adult beverages.

So far we’re off to a good start of the conference!

MWA – Mid-Atlantic Chapter Inaugural Meeting

If you’ve been keeping up with the woodworking blogosphere over the last year, you’ve likely heard of Chris Adkins‘s brainchild, the Modern Woodworker’s Association. The MWA’s mission:

Today there is a vast amount of information that can be found online through woodworking communities, forums, blogs, and other social media such as Twitter and Google+.  Through these online connections, woodworkers learn from one another and build camaraderie with fellow woodworkers.  In a sense, we all belong to a woodworking club, the online woodworking club. The Modern Woodworkers Association is a place for the online woodworking community to reinforce our online connections and create personal ones in local gatherings in many regions across the country.

The MWA sprung out of what is now the Atlanta chapter. Since that time, chapters have formed on Long Island, Tampa Bay, Boston, and Seattle. Today I’m announcing the first meeting of the Mid-Atlantic chapter of the Modern Woodworkers’ Association.

There is a ton going on around DC and Baltimore the weekend of May 5th, so our first chapter meeting will be a scheduled double-header.

  • Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event at Exotic Lumber in Gaithersburg, MD – Lie-Nielsen will let you get hands on with their tools Friday 10-6 and Saturday 10-5. Also demonstrating will be Chuck Bender of the Acanthus Workshop, attempting feats like cutting Bermuda dovetails in cardstock! Attendence is free.
  • Fine Furnishings Shows at the Maryland State Fairgrounds north of Baltimore, MD – The Fine Furnishings Show is a great show where many local(ish) makers are displaying the great things they are crafting. It is a great place to get inspiration, see what’s “current” in furniture, and rub elbows with people who are living on our hobby. Tickets are $10 for a day or $15 for any two days. The show is Friday 4-8, Saturday 10-6, and Sunday 10-5.

The plan is to meet at Exotic Lumber at 10AM Saturday morning for the open of the LN event. Hang out, play with some great tools, sort through rooms full of lumber, and try to leave with money still in your pocket (efforts in futility). From there, those who are hitting both events will drive the ~45 minutes up to Timonium for the Fine Furnishings Show. The plan is to meet at the show at 2PM.

If you can make either event (or both) it would be great to connect offline! See you in Maryland.

My Pseudo-Decision to Become a Galoot

(Editor’s Note: A recent change has conspired to keep me here in DC instead of moving. Thank you everyone for the input nonetheless! – SJT)

For someone whose first major woodworking tool was a Craftsman table saw,

the decision to become a galoot is not made lightly. I haven’t come to this place in my woodworking because of some zen connection with a plane or dovetail saw, nor am I doing so to pimp Shannon‘s Hand Tool School. Actually, I’ve come to this decision simply because I’m moving. I’m not just moving across town for more shop space, but my real job has me hopping the pond over to Germany for the next couple of years. As much as I love my table saw, bandsaw, 8″ jointer, and 15″ planer, I just don’t think I’m going to have the floor space (or the shipping weight allowance) to bring those toys tools back and forth across the Atlantic.

If there is one place where hand tools completely dominate their powered bretheren, it is in size. In a box that would hold my bandsaw, I could fit every plane, saw, chisel, etc that I own a few times over – so this first decision is pretty much a no brainer. (Sidebar: It would seem perfect timing to take Chris Schwarz’s tool chest class in Germany in June, except I would still have to get my hand tools over there first!) I plan on bringing most of my hand tools with me, but that leads me to one big question:

What should I do with my large power tools? I see 3 possible options:

  1. Sell all of them and buy new ones when I get back to the states
  2. Store them for the ~3 years I’ll be overseas
  3. Some combination of 1 & 2

Right now I’m leaning heavily towards #1, with a speck of #3 sneaking in every couple of times I debate this with myself. What are your thoughts? If you had to “let go” of your power tools for a few years, would you sell them or store them? Let me know in the comments!

A Different Kind of Greene (& Greene) Woodworking

A few weekends ago I made a journey up to cozy Manchester, CT for quite the woodworking trip. The day started off quite well, with traffic allowing me to get from Northern Virginia through New Jersey in a scant four and a half hours. It then took me two and a half hours to get half way across Long Island.

The geographically inclined amongst you are probably wondering why I made Long Island part of my drive to get to Connecticut, especially given its lack of roads north over the sound. The answer is quite simple – a quick visit with Dyami Plotke of The Penultimate Woodshop. The etymologist in me knew I was going to like Dyami from the moment I saw the name of his blog and I confirmed that fact at last year’s Woodworking in America conference. It was a short visit for dinner and a little time to check out his shop (top) and the bastard wall cabinet progress (bottom):

That detour proved a nice appetizer to the weekend. For my final destination I made my way over to the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking for Darrell Peart‘s Greene & Greene Details I Workshop. Darrell usually teaches in the Pacific Northwest and hasn’t made it further east than Indiana prior to this opportunity. When Darrell first announced the class last fall, I registered as soon as CVSW had the forms on their website. The two day class works through constructing a sample piece that incorporates several classic Greene & Greene details from his book.

The sample is effectively the corner of a table that features:

  • Blacker brackets
  • Breadboard construction
  • Exposed ebony spline
  • Proud ebony plugs
  • Cloud lifts
  • Leg indent detail

This class started off on a great note, where Darrell spent a couple of minutes introducing himself then stated he teaches & learns best by doing – so we got right to making some sawdust. The first detail we worked on was the leg indent detail.  This was one of the few times I was able to get a few action shots during the workshop. In this picture is another great part of this workshop – I knew some of the other students! Pictured below (from left to right) are Mike Morton of M. Scott Morton Furniture Design & Construction, Nik Brown of the Digital Woodworker, and my balding head:

About 30 hours after these pictures, after a lot of routing, sanding, and polishing – we had each created one of these:

If you are interested in the steps for each of these details, pick up Darrell’s book or seek out one of his classes. I would say that the class gave me two things – 1) A hands-on approach to see how each of these details is created, with instruction that extends what is in his book, and 2) the confidence to know that I can make things like this. Hopefully Darrell will be back out east to teach his Details II class!

Woodworking in America, Scrap Swap Details

Thursday morning I’m getting in the car to drive from DC to Cincinnati for this year’s Woodworking in America Conference. [/excited] Judging by the posts across the woodworking blogosphere, I’m not the only one excited!

Along with the official schedule, I’m planning the Great American Scrap Swap. Check out that original blog post for the idea behind the swap. We’re planning to have the swap start at 5PM on Saturday, which is after the last scheduled class and before The Feast of Andre Roubo. As for the location, that is still a little bit in flux. I’ve asked Megan Fitzpatrick if we can use Room 6 at the conference center (pretty please, Megan?), because the last class in that room on Saturday ends at 3PM.  Given how busy she is right now with all the last minute preparations, I’ll be happy to get an answer from her Thursday night when I see her at the Preview Party.  If Room 6 isn’t an option, we’ll find a corner somewhere in the convention center. This will happen!

Beyond the instruction available and tools for sale [/drool], one of the big reasons I’m excited for WIA is the chance I’ll get to meet all the other woodworkers I’ve come to know via the internet. I don’t use a picture of myself for any avatars here or on twitter, so if you’re looking for me:

If you need to shout across a room to get my attention “Torch” is probably the most unique moniker to use and it’s something I do respond to in public. “Steve” and “Taylor” will also work, even if they end up turning more than just my head :-). If you do see me at any time during the weekend, please come up and say hello. I hope to see you at the conference and at the Scrap Swap!

UPDATE: We’ve settled all the details. The Scrap Swap will happen Saturday at 5PM – in the marketplace behind the tool museum. See you there!

The Great American Scrap Swap

If you followed the most recent Wood Talk Online podcast, there was a bit of a shock as Shannon Rogers (The Renaissance Woodworker) blasphemed suggested that he needed to rid himself of a lot of exotic scraps that were cluttering his workshop. In the chat room after the recording, I offered to drive up I-95 to relieve him of such problems ;-)

Actually, I’m sure that many of us woodworkers have some “interesting” scrap pieces that we are holding on to “for that perfect use” some time down the road. Whether it is due to procrastination, familiarity, or other unfinished projects – we never seem to get to using our scraps. Despite this, it doesn’t stop us from coveting the highly figured or colored scraps that others are hoarding saving.

To solve both sides of the issue, I propose that at next week’s Woodworking In America conference we hold the first Great American Scrap Swap. The idea is simple – a bunch of us will each bring a few of the scrap pieces we have lying around, set them up for all to see, then walk away with a few different pieces.

I’d like to keep this as simple as possible, so we’ll figure out most of the logistics there. Here are a few guidelines I was thinking of:

  • How ever many scraps you bring, that’s how many you get to take
  • No smaller than a pen turning blank
  • No larger than a sheet of paper
  • The quality of the swap is directly proportional to the quality of the scraps you bring (i.e. Don’t bring flatsawn red oak)
  • Not too many scraps per person – I don’t how many is too many, but it’s probably near 10

So what are your thoughts? Good idea? Have any suggestions – let me know in the comments.

Southern Hospitality

A couple of weeks ago I had a three-day training class down in Charlotte, NC. My wife decided to make a vacation out of it and picked me up when the class was done, from which we drove to the Asheville area to visit some friends in the Blue Ridge Mountains. This gave me two different woodworking tales to take from the long weekend:

1)In Pisgah Forest, NC I got this chance to meet local cabinetmaker John Dillon of Wood Crafters, Inc. John’s shop is in a barn that actually dwarfs the small house in front of it. In the center of the shop are two old Powermatic table saws, one with a single blade and the other dedicated to the stacked dado blade. The saws sit at opposite corners of a large work surface so that the out-feed support of one table is actually the right wing extension of the other saw.  The other large tool I noticed in the shop was a really old, 18″ General band saw. 

The feature of John’s shop that most caught my eye was the wood. Racks of wood. Shelves of wood. Wood in piles. Wood in the barn lofts. Wood under tarps outside. John had thousands of board feet of all kinds of wood: maple (spalted, figured, and otherwise), cherry, chestnut, pine – and that was just what I noticed.  As it turns out, living in the Blue Ridge Mountains has a few advantages if you’re a woodworker. Mainly, he gets almost all of his wood for practically free.  He doesn’t have a large plot of land that he’s clearing; people bring wood to him!  Most folks who know him (it is a small town) will bring him whole tree trunks that they have cut down – for free!  All he has to do is pay a guy who has a portable saw mill (similar to a Wood Mizer) who makes those trunks into boards for about $0.30 a board foot.

The thing that kept me from leaving fully green with envy was John’s graciousness and generosity. There I was, some kid (relatively) wandering around his shop while he’s trying to complete a beautiful cherry cabinet for a kitchen commission he was building – yet he took time to talk to me, to answer and ask questions. He was also extremely giving person, as he asked if I had room in my car to take a couple of pieces of wood home with me.

A cross-section of a spalted log:

and a plank:

of amazingly figured maple:


While we were talking, he had asked if I owned a draw knife (I do) and mentioned that he was curious about getting one. With a couple of quick searches on eBay and a few weeks for shipping gave me the opportunity to return the kindness he showed me:

2) If any of you are on Twitter (follow me!), you may have noticed Kari Hultman of The Village Carpenter tweet a link to a new blog about workbenches: Bench Vice. The author of Bench Vice (and Wood Therapy) is Tim Williams, a woodworker in the Asheville, NC area. Some readers may notice that Tim is the designer of the Joinery Bench that Chris Schwarz blogged about a few months ago. When he’s not building his own pieces or teaching at the Asheville Woodworking School, Tim gives free demos at Asheville Hardware – a local Rockler reseller.

The weekend I was in the area, Tim was giving a demo about hand planes. By the time I got to the store, Tim was well into tuning a block plane that one customer had brought to the demo. After some time lapping, sharpening, and the other fiddling Tim had explained how to make a $40 block plane perform like one that cost five times as much – which is what that gentleman now possessed. Tim ran the whole gamut of bench plane topics: what the numbers mean, how they are different, what order to use the planes, etc. After a while, Tim and I started talking about benches: his Joinery Bench and how it came about, my plans for a bench, and his love for twin screw vises.

Those serendipitous trips made for a quite a wonderful weekend – and that was all before the actual vacation part!