The 2016 Lie-Nielsen Open House was the first show I’ve attended as a vendor. Consequently, the experience was entirely new and exciting and even a bit surreal for me. Joshua and I arrived early Friday so we could get our fairly elaborate display set up before the tent filled in with other demonstrators. We’d worked out the most efficient method of setup back at the studio, but here I found myself distracted by everyone else trickling in with their wares. Whoa, look at those planes! How much for that saw? I just spotted Peter Follansbee (the legend)! Tom Lie-Nielsen shook my hand. I may never wash it again.
Focus, Mike. We have work to do.
I don’t want to embellish too much, but the show was amazing. The knowledge, enthusiasm, and interest shared at our booth by visitors and other vendors was phenomenal. I truly wished that I could have recorded those conversations, as many of the folks we talked to have probably forgotten more about working wood than I will ever know.
After closing on Friday, several axes appeared during dinnertime. I don’t think that there’s a better icebreaker than a good Swedish double-bit, especially when the fine people at Lie-Nielsen constructed a log backstop and throwing range for us. In what is certainly the highlight of my very young axe-throwing career, I managed to stick a bullseye on my first toss. I should have walked away at that point, but suffice it to say I didn’t quite measure up to that standard again. It was a roaring good time.
I was blessed to meet some of the most talented and knowledgeable craftspeople out there over the weekend, and was blown away by the common traits of openness and humility that they all shared. These were not stodgy know-it-alls or self-proclaimed masters. These folks love to learn, to share knowledge, and to revel in the awe that comes with creatively working wood. As we all stood around a bonfire of rejected Lie-Nielsen tool handles on the last night of the show, with lightning on the horizon and rain starting to fall, I realized that this community, these people, are what it’s all about.