Tag Archives: Christopher Schwarz

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!

WIA11 Seminar Impressions

17th Century Joinery, Peter Follansbee

I am a hybrid woodworker: I use power tools and handtools. I like to think I have balance in my force. I won’t run tiny pieces over a power jointer, nor will I start my projects by wandering into the woods with an axe and handsaws. Both power tools and hand tools are awesome, and have their place. I was interested to see Peter Follansbee (whom I’ve never seen speak before) talk about 17th Century Joinery. I was expecting that a lot of his talk would be similar to the Lost Art PressThe Jointer and Cabinet Maker. Peter took us further back in time though, and I wonder if the trend will continue. Should I expect to see “Woodworking in 50,000BC with Ook-Ook the Neanderthal” next year? I enjoyed the class overall, and here were my key takeaways:

  1. Peter doesn’t use a pencil. Sharp things make lines.
  2. He splits his own logs, and works them when they are fairly green. He doesn’t worry about cracks or splits from cross-grain stresses very much.
  3. He rarely uses a saw, and mostly splits wood to free boards from logs, then planes the boards on the face side if necessary.
  4. He uses a saw to create tenon cheeks, then splits those too
  5. He pins his mortises, and they are rock-solid. He makes his own pins for tenons with a chisel and straight-grain oak.
  6. He tells you to throw a lot of things away. Basically everything invented after 1699 I’d imagine.
  7. His beard is epic. ZZ Top epic.


12 Rules for Traditional Tool Chests, Christopher Schwarz

The Schwarz has moved on from benches, and is now organizing his tools. Based on the work he did collecting data for The Anarchist’s Tool Chest, he’s put together a set of guidelines for building a tool chest. I’ll be building a hanging tool cabinet soon, so I thought some of these ideas would apply. From what I could summarize I think the twelve rules are:

  1. Paint it, but not on the inside or bottom
  2. Nail on the bottom so you can replace it*
  3. Nail on battens that you can replace*
  4. Don’t cram things in, use space
  5. Keep the saws off the floor of the chest*
  6. Stack the molding planes blades against the side, facing down so the blades don’t fall out
  7. Build it light and strong
  8. Don’t French your tools into nice tight little places, it’s less flexible
  9. Be able to get to your tools in one hand motion
  10. If it doesn’t fit, you don’t need it
  11. Sliding bins: 3, or 2, or 4
  12. Opposing dovetails hold it together

*These rules are necessitated because of wet floors that would rot wood and rust metal.

And special rule 13: Benjamin Seaton’s tool chest is a bad example, because Benny didn’t do real work.

Overall these were good guidelines, but I’m not sure how many help me with a wall hanging cabinet. If you have some good links, please share them in the Comments section below.

The Contrarian Cabinet Maker, Steve Shanesy

This was a very open-ended discussion. Steve was basically making the point that there really are no rules in woodworking. If people tell you that you should only use hand tools, they’re wrong. If they tell you that you should only use solid wood, they’re wrong. If they tell you always cut pins first, they’re wrong. He showed an example of a drawer made for shop furniture from Baltic birch with metal drawer slides, rabbet joints and stapled together. He also showed an antique drawer with dovetailed sides, a solid raised panel bottom, and one screw holding the bottom in to the drawer through an elongated slot to accommodate seasonal changes. Both are correct. Because the discussion was so open-ended and freeform, I struggled staying engaged.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Chuck Bender

With George Walker not in attendance, this session covered design and the classic forms. He had great examples of ball-and-claw legs ranging from the very straight and vertical, to the very curved. All were appropriate, but just not for the same piece. Chuck took us through his slide show, and we identified the leg on the piece in the Bender Leg Curviness Scale. I didn’t think the very curvy legs would look correct, but in some cases they were perfect. Here’s a refresher on the class forms:


Tradition Improved at Lie-Nielsen Toolworks, Thomas Lie-Nielsen

This was very interesting to me, for a few reasons. First, I was able to listen to one of the great toolmakers describe how and why he got into tool making. I like that his tools are made in America, and he also showed a “How It’s Made” style video showing manufacturing processes in place at Lie-Nielsen today. And he hinted at tools that are coming soon.

Thomas Lie-Nielsen is clearly an expert in tool making and the engineering and science required to be the best. He discussed the properties of brass and steel including discussing powdered steels, carbon content, and hammering the slag out of iron blooms. Thomas also runs a business and discussed the challenges of running a business in a small town, finding and managing labor, and ensuring quality remains consistent. For example: there is one person at Lie-Nielsen that does the final shaping of all saw handles, because that guy is just the best at it.

Watch the video below, but know that it’s incomplete without Thomas’ commentary.

What tools did he say are in the works? I’m not sure I can share that, so I’ll respect that the information he shared is confidential.

Limericks for Popular Woodworking

There have been a lot of editorial staff changes over at Popular Woodworking Magazine lately. Glen Huey is transitioning from Senior Editor to contributing editor. Chris Schwarz is leaving his role as Editor to pursue woodworking and his publishing company Lost Art Press.

These are all big changes at my favorite woodworking magazine. In this modern age of digital publications choking out traditional magazine and newspapers, Popular Woodworking has thrived.

Despite these changes, I’m confident that Popular Woodworking will continue to thrive. Although the roles and titles are changing all three will still be involved with making Popular Woodworking and Woodworking in America conference great. All these changes seem to be on good terms, and the magazine is healthy from a business perspective.

Megan posted a T. S. Eliot poem as a comment  to Chris’ Lost Art Press blog:

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.”

~ T.S. Eliot

Chris however wanted something more salty:

Unless it begins:

“There once was a whore from Nantucket…”

It ain’t poetry.

So, if it’s salty limericks he wants, let’s give it to him. Post your woodworking related limerick in the comments.

A jointer down in ol’ Kentuck
Threw down his pen, and exclaimed “oh f-ck!”
Tom the plane-maker said,
“build ’til you’re dead!”
So he loaded his tools in his truck


A bodger from fair Tennessee
Worried his skills were too rusty
He closed down his Mac book
picked up an old French book
And discovered they were still trusty

Thanks Steve, Glen, Chris, and all everyone else at Popular Woodworking for great contributions to the craft.