Fellowship at Fine Woodworking Live

Mike and I got back last night from Fine Woodworking Live 2017 in Southbridge, Mass. We had such an amazing time catching up with and meeting a few new woodworkers that we look up to so much. The show was Friday through Sunday with several presentations each day.

With the possibility of my wife delivering our third baby in the next few weeks, Mike and I decided to take separate cars in case I needed to head home early. The drive down was a nice quiet before the storm of endless faces and fellowship. We arrived Thursday night at our super sketchy Days Inn hotel so that we’d be ready to set up at the conference center the next morning. Fortunately, that first night was relatively quiet, unlike the drinking parties and rampaging woman in the hallway the other two nights. For the record, I would not recommend the Days Inn in Sturbridge, Mass.


Friday morning, we set up our usual booth display with the portable Nicholson bench, chests of tools, and the barn board backdrop. We always get comments about how elaborate it all is. Truth is, although it is a full display, we’ve got it down to a science and can pretty quickly take it down when we need to thanks to the cordless drill and Torx screws that hold it together. Ben Strano at FWW took great delight in busting us using a (gasp!) power tool to assemble the display! It caused quite a stir on their Instagram account. “The industrial revolution consumes another soul”, one reader commented! Ha! We woodworkers have a zany sense of humor. Good catch, Ben!

In all honesty, just like at Woodworking in America, I was a bit nervous about bringing my atrociously utilitarian Nicholson bench to such a high-class woodworking event. I mean this is “FINE Woodworking” after all! I’m comfortable with the bench because it looks like (and I treat it like) all the surviving pre-industrial benches I’ve seen. Your workbenches are tools meant to be worked at. If you need to nail something down, do it. If your saw nicks the edge, so be it. If you’re planing boards, it should be rough (toothed), not smooth. (I’ve never understood why anyone would want to try to plane a board on a bowling alley benchtop.)

Almost no one gave me crap about it. Everyone I talked to seemed to appreciate the logic and at least respected it as practical and having historical precedent. My friend, Garret Hack, did razz me a bit, though. He told me I should lightly break the front edge of the bench for our visitors because that would be a lot nicer. I laughed at the idea of the broken edge improving the bench and warned him not to look at the underside because it was a little rough. There was a lot of friendly banter all weekend - the exact kind of humor Mike and I appreciate.


Vic Tesolin's presentation

There were a lot of woodworkers to interact with. We got to spend an especially long amount of time talking with Vic Tesolin and Peter Follansbee over the weekend. I look up to these guys so much and so it was an honor to spend all that time visiting and comparing notes. We chatted with Vic about tool texture and about not being precious about your work. We talked pole lathes, wooden planes, homeschooling, and a lot more with Peter. This event was exactly what editor Tom McKenna envisioned for us all: fellowship around woodworking.


One of Peter Follansbee's presentations

Al Breed trying out Mike's crooked turning saw

Everyone was super busy and there were so many people to see and visit with. There were many people I got to chat with but wish I had more time. It was great catching up with Al Breed, Wilbur Pan, Steve Latta, and Andrew Hunter. Al even tried Mike’s maple crook turning saw and said he was impressed! That is high praise, indeed! It was wonderful to finally meet Tom McKenna, Mike Pekovich, Ben Strano of the FWW crew. Tom told us they definitely plan on doing it again next year.  We are both looking forward to it.


Thank you again for inviting us, Fine Woodworking! We were honored to be there!

- Joshua


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