The best reason to attend the Woodworking in America conference is to meet people. Here’s an abbreviated list of some of the woodworkers I met during my two days at the conference. (Sorry, very few pics. I was too busy talking and listening.)
Peter Follansbee–I showed him a mortise gauge I made after I saw one like it on his blog, and he complemented my work.
Megan Fitzpatrick–She showed me pictures of a custom-made plane her co-workers had given her. It had a cat inlaid into it. My wife is trying to talk her into setting up a kids’ corner in the WIA Marketplace next year.
Patrick Leach–I spent a lot of time browsing all the vintage tools he had there. I bought a fine Disston backsaw and a Stanley 151 spokeshave from him. My wife and I learned a lot about old tools just by standing around listening to him interact with the other customers.
Wilbur Pan–We talked Japanese tools, and he showed me what to look for in a high-quality Japanese chisel. We also got to talk about teaching, and about having our kids in our shops.
Isaac Smith of Blackburn Tools–We talked saw files, and I showed him some pipes I made. Now he’s thinking about making a saw handle out of briar wood. I really want to see him do it–it would make a fantastic saw absolutely stunning.
Tommy MacDonald–I overheard him order three shots of espresso over ice at Starbucks. That explains a lot.
Jim Bode–My wife and I hung around his booth of vintage tools for a long time, and she bought a bunch of carving gouges from him. He sells vintage tools in very good condition.
Tim Manney–Tim is a talented Windsor chair maker and tool maker who works with Peter Galbert. I tried out a reamer and a gutter adze he and Peter designed. The tool that really caught my attention, however, was the travisher. It’s an absolute pleasure to use.
Among the other people my wife and I spoke with were Ron Hock, Dave Jeske, Chris Schwarz, Mary May, and of course Roy Underhill. Now these people are no longer just names, photos, or avatars, but genuine people with whom my wife and I share a genuine passion: woodworking.
On Friday afternoon, I was asked to participate in a roundtable discussion about online woodworking communities. I was there representing WoodNet. Some of the other participants included Ellis Walentine from Wood Central, Wilbur Pan of Giant Cypress Blog, Matt Vanderlist (pictured above with Wilbur playing tug-of-war with the giant plane) from Matt’s Basement Workshop, Shannon Rogers of Renaissance Woodworker (Matt and Shannon also do The Hand Tool School), Marc J. Spagnuolo of The Wood Whisperer, and several other woodworkers who have a strong online presence.
We talked a lot about how different formats–print, video, podcast, blogs, and forums–appeal to different kinds of people, and we found that these formats do not really compete with but complement each other. We also discussed the reasons for putting this information online to begin with. Naturally, many are looking for step-by-step instructions or for inspiration, but the biggest draw is the sense of camaraderie and community.
No longer is must a woodworker remain isolated in a shop with only the occasional magazine or catalog dropping in to visit. Amateur woodworkers can now gather online around forums, blogs, and websites, where they swap information and talk about their successes and–crucially–their failures.
And that’s why we came to Woodworking in America, too.
Edit to add: Highland Woodworking has posted a full list of the roundtable participants here.