Fine Woodworking Live Logo

Fine Woodworking Live August 2-5 SUNY New Paltz

You know I’m a big fan of Woodworking in America, it is a great time away from the day job, focused on woodworking with other woodworkers. I’ve been to two of them so far with the first one was focused on skill building and making connections. Last year was about renewing those connections and getting some special tools. I had a blast and learned a lot. It was a great time.

This year Woodworking in America is splitting into two shows, the traditional venue in Cincinnati, and a new location in Pasadena California. At first, my reaction was mixed: I’ll miss the guys who attend the Cincinnati show when I’m in Pasadena, but I’m excited for a shorter and cheaper flight.

Now Fine Woodworking mixes up the whole situation again with their announcement of Fine Woodworking Live August 2-5 at SUNY New Paltz.

Fine Woodworking Live Logo

Fine Woodworking Live

Will I Be There

I’m not sure I’ll attend Fine Woodworking Live, but we do have friends in New York that are getting married – so we might be in that area anyway. If I’m in town, I’m attending. There isn’t a mention of a vendor area, but that wouldn’t stop me from attending anyway. However I’m currently planning to attend only one show: Woodworking in America in Pasadena.

Justifying Three Shows Per Year

After reading the post and some comments over on The Woodwhisperer’s site I am convinced that this is a good thing, and an opportunity to grow the woodworking community. To me it says a lot about the resurgence of woodworking to see Popular Woodworking believe that they will have enough attendance for two shows, and for FWW to believe that they believe they’ll still get enough attendees to justify their own, competing show. The business decision makers and sponsors behind these shows wouldn’t go for it if they didn’t believe they had the attendee numbers to justify three shows in one year. That’s awesome, and I hope all these shows are successful.

Top Speakers and Interesting Topics

After looking that the schedule for Fine Woodworking Live, I’m excited about the sessions. I don’t know if the format will be similar to other shows, but the speakers they have lined up and the topics they will cover are genuinely interesting to me.

After a quick look, the top topics for me are:

  • 5 Ways to Bend Wood with Michael Fortune
  • Essential Workbench Jigs with Matt Kenney
  • 40 Years of Woodworking Tricks with Christian Becksvoort
  • 7 Steps to Beautiful Boxes Instructor with Matt Kenney

Making New Connections

Last year at Woodworking in America, one key topic of discussion was “How to Save Woodworking” it’s been an ongoing theme with Christopher Schwarz and was the subject of a banquet dinner at Woodworking in America 2011. We’ve been encouraged to start blogs, bring others into the craft, and work hard to educate consumers about the benefits of working with local woodworkers.

Woodworkers have taken that task head on, creating the Modern Woodworkers Association, rebooting #Woodchat, and launching Get Woodworking Week.

Get Woodworking Week

Get Woodworking Week

So, although I’m still bummed that I won’t see all the Cincinnati Crazies, I’m excited to meet new woodworkers, encourage them in the craft, and bring them into the community. Overall these three shows will collectively reach more people, and that’s great for woodworking and those that support it.

Woodworker Showcase

An opportunity that Popular Woodworking and Fine Woodworking are uniquely suited to help with is to open their shows up to the general public to help educate and increase demand for locally made furniture. These shows could have woodworking showcases with pieces for sale; they could advertise to and educate consumers; and have targetted business, marketing, and sales seminars for woodworkers.

For there to be resurgence of woodworkers, there must be demand for the products we woodworkers make, and Popular Woodworking and Fine Woodworking could help small woodworkers with that through their shows.

Here’s an excerpt of an earlier post I made on the subject:

Consumers are buying more locally and responsibly produced products in many areas of their life. Families attend farmers markets, buy handmade goods on Etsy, pursue organic food and fair trade coffee, and buy electric cars. They do this even when the products aren’t necessarily better, they do it for two other reasons (in my opinion). 1. The product is more authentic, and 2. the product is more responsible. People in Seattle worry about the carbon footprint of the California grown tomato. No really, they do.

It’s hard for me to explain what I mean when I say a product is more authentic. I guess the best example I can give is that authentic means that someone with real skill actually touched the product. Think Adele vs. Katy Perry, or The Gap vs. a hand-knit sweater. Responsible I think is easy – no one buys a Prius because it’s fast, sexy, or good looking. It’s a very ugly, slow, and uncomfortable car. People buy a Prius because they want to be responsible. They may tell you it’s for the economics, but I don’t believe them, especially those that paid a premium when they were in short demand.

So I think the position that woodworkers need make clear with consumers is that locally produced custom handmade solid wood furniture is better quality, but it’s also authentic and more responsible. When customers know that the wood for their piece was hand selected, shaped, joined, and finished by your hands, a warmth is imparted on the piece. You can enhance this by including them in the design, bringing them along to pick out the wood, and blogging in detail as you build the piece. It’s kind of like ultrasound pictures for a baby in the womb, only in this case the baby is their furniture and the womb is your shop.

You can also have conversations with consumers about the responsibility of your product. Use FSC certified woods, safe finishes, and build your product well. Explain to them about mass produced furniture being built from trees that shouldn’t have been harvested in the first place being shipped by the container full across oceans, cite examples of toxic finishes found on foreign made products, and help them understand that your product will never fall apart and end up in a landfill. And of course stand by your product if it does need repair.

Call To Action

So, if you’re a woodworker and you’re going to attend a show, great! But don’t spend too much time lamenting that you might not see all of your woodworking friends at the show. Be excited that our craft is growing, be outgoing and open and meet new woodworkers, and encourage them to continue in the craft. Let them know about all the resources that are out there: Twitter, #Woodchat, Wood Talk Online Forums, Podcasts, Blogs, The Woodwhisperer Guild, and The Hand Tool School, the Modern Woodworkers Association, and other resources. Get their contact information, and follow-up with them. Answer their questions, and introduce them to others. Get cheap VistaPrint business cards containing this information, and hand them out.

Go Be a Woodworking Ambassador!

5 thoughts on “Fine Woodworking Live August 2-5 SUNY New Paltz

  1. Furnitology

    Matt: you wrote:

    “An opportunity that Popular Woodworking and Fine Woodworking are uniquely suited to help with is to open their shows up to the general public to help educate and increase demand for locally made furniture. These shows could have woodworking showcases with pieces for sale; they could advertise to and educate consumers; and have targetted business, marketing, and sales seminars for woodworkers.”

    For the 2nd year we are doing this in Boston under WoodExpo. We specifically gear WoodExpo to the attending public with the mission of educating the buying public specific to building the craft. The show takes place within the New England Home Show. Please acknowledge this fact!!!

    Individuals that are followed within the woodworking community have attended as exhibitors; Rob Bois and Morton for example, yet you do not acknowledge WoodExpo.

    The fellow woodworkers putting this 4 day event on are volunteers doing our best to get the word out.

    Demonstrations at this years WoodExpo will be done by Allan Breed, Chuck Bender, Tom McLaughlin, Peter Turner to quickly name just a few. Breed just completed a demonstration at the Met and Bender is a standard Pop Wd presenter.

    I’d appreciate your acknowledging WoodExpo leading this showcase to educate approach not Pop Wood or FWW.

    Thank you……….Neil

  2. Rick Waters

    Lots of constructive criticism follows:
    Wow! I’ve got to say, I’m extremely disappointed in this article.

    You talk about the 3 shows that FWW and WIA are putting on this year, but not a single mention of the many more woodworking shows nationwide that go on each year. Ranging from the small (hundreds in attendance) local shows that actual guilds and clubs participate in, to the international shows, like the annual WoodExpo in Boston (10,000+ in attendance annually).

    Focusing on the WoodExpo, specifically because it is near and dear to me, it has always addressed many of the concerns in your original article: local craftsman, quality goods, responsible consumerism and responsible use of materials. The WoodExpo is 4 years old now and boasts the participation of many of the revered industry experts that you’ll never see at an extremely commercial show like WIA.

    Want to speak about being responsible? Fine, what about the charge for attendance to the WIA shows? A few hundred bucks, right? The WoodExpo is part of a larger convention, open to the public over a 4-day weekend, where the charge for admission is $12 a day ($9 if you pre-order online).

    Not enough? Well, I can’t speak to exact figures of what is being charged of vendors at WIA for booth space, or how much is going to the WIA Instructors/presenters/Special Guests, but I can tell you that the organizers of the WoodExpo do everything out-of-pocket, and the industry experts, exhibitors, Special Guests are there out of the love of the craft, and to genuinely connect with the public, as well as educate potential custom furniture consumers. If they were in it for the money, they’d probably go to WIA.

    For the past 4 years the exhibitors at WoodExpo get a chance to show their handcrafted furniture and accessory creations FOR FREE. No Charge! This is unheard of! No one does this! They get their work critiqued by the likes of Phil Lowe, Alan Breed, and other top experts. You’ll not find that opportunity at any other woodworking/furniture show in the world.

    Yet, because this event is not sponsored by a big name magazine, with outdated ideas and ideals, the WoodExpo gets little notice from the ‘Internet Crowd’. Frankly, I’d be surprised if this comment is actually posted.


  3. Matt Gradwohl Post author

    Hey Rick and Neil,

    First, of course I’m going to post your comments. That’s what the comments section is for. Within reason, I’ll approve any comment. My only rule (thanks Marc Spagnuolo) is “don’t be a jerk.” And neither of you guys are jerks.

    I have limited exposure to the WoodExpo perhaps that’s because I’m not in New England, or there isn’t a corporate marketing machine getting the word out, or that I’m not dialed in to the right information and sites. When I searched on twitter today for #woodexpo I found five tweets. I did learn a bit about the WoodExpo through a recent conversation with Rob Bois during a Google+ hangout. After my conversation with Rob and after reading Rick’s comments, the WoodExpo sounds great and is exactly the kind of thing I think we need nationwide. A WoodExpo national tour would be fantastic, and a Seattle area show would get my support and volunteer hours.

    I also didn’t mean to ignite a WoodExpo vs. Fine Woodworking Live vs. Woodworking in America vs. Every Other Show vs. Guild Shows debate. As far as not mentioning all the other shows around the country, that’s just impossible and that wasn’t the goal of the post. I didn’t mention AWFS Fair, or The Woodworking Shows either. Today Darrell Peart told me about a new (to me) show focused on Greene & Greene in Pasadena, the Craftsman Weekend. I’m not aware of anything like this in the Seattle area, but I hope there is (or soon will be).

    My post was a commentary on two competing magazines scheduling competing shows and how (ultimately) it’s a positive statement, and it’s good that they are reaching more people. I also wrote that I wish they would do some of the things Rick describes about WoodExpo. I think I struck a nerve when I said that the magazines were “uniquely suited” which may come off as a negative ding against WoodExpo and that wasn’t my intention. I do think that those magazines could use their marketing muscle and expand their shows to include a showcase of goods created by woodworkers. They could also get the word out about WoodExpo and similar shows. In the case of Fine Woodworking, they could use their other magazines, like Fine Homebuilding, as tools to inform customers about the benefits of working with local woodworkers. Remember that one of the key points I made is that for woodworkers to be successful, there must be a demand for the things woodworkers make. Increase the demand for quality furniture designed and built by woodworkers and you increase the number of successful woodworkers.

    Am I concerned with the vendor fees at the other shows? No. This is the way vendor spaces work at shows in many industries. If the vendor doesn’t want to pay the fee for a spot, that is their choice. If they decide the show is worth it, they’ll pay the fee. Woodcraft makes the choice to buy a vendor spot at Woodworking in America, Rockler doesn’t. Laguna does, Grizzly doesn’t. Etc.

    Am I concerned that I pay an attendee fee to go to the show? No. I would pay a fee to attend a class given by those instructors, so I’m not offended that I pay to get lots of instruction at the shows. Would I be happier with a free show? Of course.

    Rick, you mentioned that “the WoodExpo gets little notice from the ‘Internet Crowd’” and I have to agree that’s true, but not because of “outdated ideas and ideals.” I think the internet woodworking crowd is all about providing quality woodworking information for free. There are pay sites, but those pay sites also have free or ad-supported content. I think the WoodExpo gets less buzz on the internet because it isn’t marketed by a magazine that is sent to thousands of homes every month, and in general there is less buzz coming from WoodExpo for the woodworking blogging community to spread about WoodExpo.

    I’m now a bigger fan of WoodExpo and I’ll do my part to get the buzz out. To do that, myself and other bloggers will need content. Please feed us links, articles, photos, etc. I’m now following @WoodExpoUS on Twitter.

    WoodExpo 2012
    Reconnecting the Maker and the Buyer
    February 23-26, 2012
    Seaport World Trade Center
    Boston, Massachussetts

  4. Rick Waters

    I’d like to thank you for your response. Though I think there still is a deeper issue here, I believe you are correct in that much of my disdain lies with the woodworking related magazines and their reach/influence, not with you and your blog.

    Thanks again,

  5. Rob Bois

    Sorry to be late to chime in her, but I’m on vacation right now with only spotty Internet access. I may have some unique insights here, as was mentioned above I have attended and participated in the WoodExpo the past few years, and have also attended the Woodworking in America shows as well (I think it’s safe to say I am one of the “Cincinnati Crazies” referenced above). From my perspective, I have met and made some great friends and connections at both shows. In fact, I wouldn’t even attend Woodworking in America if it were not for the marketplace and the great network of woodworkers I that attend. However, beyond that the similarities end. WIA is all about teaching woodworkers new techniques, selling them new tools, and general education of woodworkers. The Wood Expo on the other hand serves a much more important audience in my mind – the consumer. Last year, I spent four straight days talking to consumers almost non-stop. I did actually get some follow-on business out of the connections I made, but more importantly I got to meet with and educate the buying public about hand made furniture. Sites like are helping to some degree, but in large part there is a real lack of appreciation among most of the public about hand-crafted furniture.

    I really don’t think that Fine Woodworking or Popular Woodworking really care too much about educating the public about the craft. They are really just targeting the woodworking audience, and most of the articles and web content are really geared to hobbiest woodworkers, not professionals. So the Wood Expo is one of the few events specifically targeting the buyer. I wish there were more, but and maybe there is an opportunity to organize something on the West Coast as well. But in Matt’s defense, the buzz right now is all about the splitting of the two WIA shows and the addition of Fine Woodworking’s show, and he’s just covering what lots of woodworkers are already talking about right now. After all, this blog targets woodworkers, and Matt does great work.

    I have nothing against the woodworking shows as all – they are a great opportunity for me to network with lots of great friends, but with smaller broken up venues I’m much less likely to attend. However, you can bet I’ll be involved in the Wood Expo for as long as guys like Neil, Rick, Eli, Bruce, and Tommy are willing to keep coming back. I will definitely do my best to promote the event (it’s already up on my web site at and have recruited Dyami Plotke of the Penultimate Woodshop ( to make the trip up from New York to cover the event. Hopefully we can get some good online coverage in addition to meeting a lot of folks in person.

Leave a Reply