Archive for the 'WIA2008' Category


When Woodworkers Get Together

I recently had a recording opportunity with Rick Waters and Erik Pearson; names that sound remarkably like the co-hosts of The Sawdust Chronicles podcast (I really wish I would have thought of that name!)  The experience was a great one — I had the pleasure of describing my “rustic” shop (that’s what they call it in the country, a city-dwelling friend of mine would have described it as a “ghetto-shop.”)  I was given permission to vent my spleen on Galootdom, and helped Rick discover the joys of making a Stanley No-7 usable.  The experience reminded me of somewhere I’ve been before…hmm… Oh, Yeah!  Berea, Kentucky – the Woodworking in America conference.

There just isn’t any doubt; woodworkers as a group are the nicest, most supportive group – as a group – that I’m aware of.  And the funniest — laughter is inevitable.  I’m convinced that Star Trek:TNG got their idea of the Borg from woodworkers (“You cannot resist.  You WILL be assimilated.”)  Beats the heck out of school; “You WILL be marginalized.”

Every Friday my junior high school held lunchtime “dances”; where a about 200 acne-infested, geeky boys whose greatest talent lay in tripping over their own feet would sit on one side of the gym and the girls whose teeth looked like they had emptied out the nearest Ace Hardware sat on the other with the juke box playing, “It Never Rains in California” (that would be the original Albert Hammond version, if you need the context).  One might get similar imagery for getting woodworkers together — I have no hard data to prove this, but I would think that a higher percentile of woodworkers compared with the general population would tend to be introverted because much of the work is done holed up in our shops, working alone — only with coffee and doughnuts rather than Reese’s and Twizzlers.


Again I remain impressed at the collegiality, warmth, and sense of comradery from these two guys whom I count as friends!  Where else can you go and forget about social strata, politics, and other anthropological detritus?  Not even the Church practices such liberty!

Thanks, guys, for such a great time!  I’m sorry the tree that came down and cut the power to all of the little town I dwell in had to end things abruptly, and I’m looking forward to a return visit!

Why don’t we do this stuff more often?

You can find The Sawdust Chronicles on iTunes or wherever quality woodworking podcasts are sold near you.


WIA Wrap-up… Not Yet!!

I lived in Jessamine County, Kentucky, a mere hour from Berea, Kentucky for 6 years (whatever town in Kentucky you are in, to sound local you need to add the word “Kentucky” after it.  Practice with me now: Berea, Kentucky.  Good!)  Each of those 6 years, spring and fall, I experienced sinus infections.  I presume the spring sinuses were based on allergies from pollen flying around, and I expect the fall ones were caused by leaf mold.

It’s fall.  We were in Kentucky.  I have so much I want to talk about with you guys, but I can’t because I sound like I’m under water.  Just be patient… in a couple of days I’ll have some more great content from Berea to offer you that are nostalgic already, and my perspective for those of you that were unable to make it.  In the mean time, I wish you all thin, wispy shavings!!


Episode 2b — Woodworkers ARE strange people

You can take the title different ways, but I have a specific “way” in mind. Over the last couple of days, I have rubbed elbows with (in no particular order) Adam Cherubini, Chris “The Schwartz” Schwartz, Roy “St. Roy” Underhill, Frank Klausz, Brian Boggs, Mike Dunbar, Robin Lee, Thomas Lie-Nielsen, Joel Moskewitz, Mike Wenzloff, Clarence Blanchard, Glen Huey, Robert Lang, John Economaki… the list could go on. I’m not dropping names here. I want you to understand the caliber of people giving presentations, demonstrating their products, and offering their knowledge. In some industries this would predictably be enough for significant competition of its own. In our community, it makes for great camaraderie. I had the opportunity to speak with each of the names above, some at length. Why would any of these individuals need to talk to me? They don’t of course, and yet a number of them earnestly desired to speak at length with me. How cool is that? I continue to assert that woodworkers of their very essence tend to be the nicest people as a group and as individuals, always ready to teach or to learn equally, and certainly share always.

This morning (Saturday, 15 November 2008) I had the chance to hear a presentation by Adam Cherubini on Western chisels, particularly those of Moxon’s period and slightly later, up to perhaps our revolution. Adam has found evidence that the Galoot of the period, of English/Colonial persuasion, would startlingly position a chisel over two fingers of the left hand (they were all right handed then, weren’t they?) and under the other two fingers, steady the chisel with the right hand, and provide forward thrust with the inner part of the shoulder just below the clavicle. He also made an interesting case for having a chisel handle that tapers from narrow at the metal to wide at the top—providing you with a better grip.

Next up was my first hands-on clinic: chopping mortises with Frank Klausz. Frank was, as usual a very clear and effective educator in communicating his way of chopping mortises. I’ve made probably hundreds of mortises and tenons, many of them by hand. My usual MO is to bore them out and pare them with chisels until they are cleaned up. Part of my reason for doing so is that I do not own a set of mortising chisels, and until this morning I never wanted to subject my Sorby’s to chopping. I was sort of on the hook, however, and realized I was starting from behind as we all tried to implement Frank’s teaching. Knowing that I was pretty severly handicapped by my equipment choices, I wailed like crazy until my hands hurt and my back hurt and I had to complementary mortises chiseled on my “table leg” (poplar blank.) Then, using my crispy Independence Tools saw (predecessor to the LN saws,) I did a pretty fair job of cutting out the tenon. I fitted them with just a slight cheek paring, and then realized I didn’t leave any reveal on the leg. Sigh. I didn’t let Frank see the final.

Over lunch, I had the opportunity to sit with Craig Stevens of the Woodworkers Resource and to meet and talk with Robin Lee of Lee Valley Tools. Robin and I were able to compare notes on racing sailboats on Lake Ontario.

I’ve noticed that woodworkers tend to have well-defined senses of humor. My first stop this afternoon was supposed to be a comparison of Frank Klausz, Mike Dunbar, and Roy Underhill’s personal methods for cutting mortise and tenons. I say “was supposed to.” We got one of Frank’s immaculately logical and carefully didactic instructions on how to properly cut this joint at the top of a table leg which is joined by two skirts. Mike showed us how to bore and pare a mortise using a variety of bits—auger, spoon, and center. Roy showed us the besengue, talked about the history of certain tools, and usual antics. The thing is, the other two joined in the mirth with their keen wits, and once again my sides hurt. I think I’m so fatigued because we’ve spent our entire trip laughing.

From there, I attended another hands-on clinic offered by Adam Cherubini and Roy Underhill. Once again, despite his indefatigable knowledge, St. Roy deferred to Cherubini. Our task was to implement the chisel holding techniques of the colonial joiner. One of the biggest learning points: make sure your bench is situated at the right height for you. My bench was not.

This evening we were treated to a Barbecue supper which was very good. Topping it off were words from Steve Shaughnessy (Publisher of Popular Woodworking,) Chris Schwartz, Thomas Lie-Nielsen, Robin Lee, and the keynote speaker, Roy Underhill. Roy had us all rolling in the aisles with laughter from stories of historical truth to fantastic fiction (YOU look up the Appalachian Hoop Snake.) He topped it all off with a letter from a disgruntled Grandmother he is supposed to have received chiding him for not wearing his safety glasses and taking proper safety precautions while handplaning. You know how this letter went… it started out very politely, thanking her for her kind letter, and wound up with suggesting that she and her fictional grandson Timmy watch that guy who comes on TV after him “where the only thing not electric in his shop is his personality!” Roy finished with a Charismatic Preacher imitation calling each of us to police the young and raise the moral standards of woodworking; ”’Own a skil saw? Spend a month in jail!” on every 7-11 and Quick Pantry in the country!” He finished with a shout, “LET’S TAKE A BITE OUT OF NORM!”

Amen, Brother, Preach it. Well, he OUGHT to preach it… he’s St. Roy!


Episode 2A — Arriving in Berea, Kentucky

It’s 1994 or 95.  (Or so, I can’t actually remember.)  I’m living in Jessamine County, Kentucky, working in the campus library as I finish my master’s degree, when one of my computer-savvy friends mentions a fairly new “listserv” that he has run across, called the “Old Tools Listerv.”  Of course, I’ve been a woodworker since I was a kid, so I have to check this out. Before long, my vehicle is sporting a bumper sticker that declares, sm-galoot“There’s no tool like an old tool.”  I’m running all over central Kentucky hunting old rusty hand planes.  I’m on the internet using terms like “Normite” and “St. Roy,” referring to special tools as “crispy,” and turning out wooden projects as a “Neanderwoodworker.”

Hi, my name is Mack, and I’m a Galoot. (“Hi, Mack…”)

Well over a decade later, and I’m listening to the whine of a Ford diesel as my wife and I logo1soak in the beauty of a rich central Kentucky autumn; there is still enough color in the trees to take your breath away.  I’m a little bleary-eyed for the memories flooding back, I had forgotten how much I loved this area of the world and how much fun I had had here. And we were both anticipating how much fun the Woodworking In America conference is going to be.


Boone Tavern


Warren May's Showroom

We found our hotel, got checked in, and decided to brave the campus of Berea College.  I’ve been to Berea before, and had an idea of where the Boone Tavern and Warren May’s shop/showroom are so I’m feeling like it’s homecoming (almost) for me.   We find the alumni building, and register easily.  There’s a slight mix-up in Liz’s registration for the big Welcome Event, but the efficient WIA staff quickly and cheerfully fix that.  (These are GREAT folks, my friends.  WIA needs to give them all raises.)  We take our name badges and info, turn around, and there’s a woodworking bookstore being set up behind me, strategically placed to remind me of the tight budget I’m on.  I think that reminder might be a VERY good thing.

After snagging a free copy of Woodworking Magazine I glance around and spot, lurking against a wall deeply involved in his copy of said magazine is Matt Vanderlist… Lumberjock and podcaster extraordinaire.  We both use a strange internet program called “Twitter” which lets you post one-sentence blogs throughout the day, so we strike up a conversation that sounds like old friends meeting in person for the first time.  That’s because we are.  Soon there’s a circle growing that includes us and a number of other woodworkers and woodworking podcasters and “Twitter crowd” that are connecting.  My wife is thinking this sounds like “White Christmas” when all the old Army buddies are getting together on the train platform.  And then two things happen in such rapid succession it’s hard to tell where one began and the other left off.

Chris Schwartz sees Matt and greets him.  Geez… I know someone who knows someone important!  And right after that, we notice that Chris is with Roy Underhill…  I’m removing my hat because St. Roy is in the area!  And then I realize two things: I know someone who knows someone who knows someone that EVERYONE knows from TV, and that everyone here is going to be just as cool—we are all WOODWORKERS! This is going to be a tres cool, bonerific, crispy, shameless-shill weekend.  I’m proud to be a Galoot!

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