If you haven’t been able to break free to attend one of the Lie-Nielsen hand tool events, here’s what you’re missing out on. I spent the weekend in Cincinnati at the tool event at the Popular Woodworking headquarters. Notice the piles of chips and shavings on their nice carpeting. It’s pretty much like that at every bench. Some is from expert demonstrators and quite a bit is from attendees who were encouraged to test drive the tool of their choice. I did a little of both myself. I went down with a group of SAPFM (Society of American Furniture Makers) who demonstrated a variety of traditional techniques. I had a few antique joinery planes, a tongue and groove set and a moving fillister that I brought along. The same comment came out of the mouths of those who tried out the fillister, “Where can I get one of these?”
I traded places and tried out Andrew Lunn’s Eccentric Toolworks saws at his workbench. This went against my better judgment as now I have a bad case of rip saw lust. As always, I kept an ear open as Deneb from Lie-Nielsen poured out information on hand planing technique. Even though I’ve been using planes for nearly thirty years I came away with several new tricks to improve my work.
Another reason I love these events is to talk design. Toolmakers themselves, I find eager to talk about design and I get the sense that it’s one of the most enjoyable parts of what they do. With interest I listened to John Economaki from Bridge City Tool Works talk about his design process and how he uses some cutting edge technology to go from print to prototype. He’s the first person to share something about electronic drawings that really piqued my interest. He explained that the ability to stretch and manipulate curves on a sketchup type medium allowed him to explore ideas in a way impossible with paper and pencil. That conversation spawned others about how to visualize ideas in a drawing. All, even John admitted that at some point in the process you have to hold the part in your hand to see how it feels, or in the case of a furniture part, hold a leg and look at it from several vantage points to see if you have nailed it. Even an excellent photo or film sequence no matter how crisp, will not reveal the same essense that our eye perceives in person. Make it a point to get to one of these shows if you haven’t already. It feels pretty good to make piles of chips on someone else’s carpet.