July in this part of Maine means a number of summertime traditions: watching fireworks as subtle flashes and muffled thuds through thick fog, avoiding the massive Bar Harbor crowds, and finding the first of the ripe wild blueberries. It has also meant woodworking festivals, specifically, the legendary Lie-Nielsen Open House. People came from all over the world as Tom Lie-Nielsen opened his shop and factory for visitors, and he invited vendors (some of whom you might even think of as competitors) to showcase their wares. The event culminated with an evening lobster bake, bonfire, and keynote by some woodworking celebrity – Peter Follansbee, or Chris Schwarz, or Thomas Moser. But that event hasn’t happened since 2019 (although we are holding out hope for next year).
A new gathering is taking place this year, in the tiny town of Mercer, Maine, a couple hours from here. Organized by Never Stop Building, a design studio specializing in traditional joinery and Japanese techniques, as well as Mokuchi Studio in Oregon, the Maine Japanese Woodworking Festival looks like it’s going to be a blast. It will feature Kezurou-Kai handplaning competitions, workshops on everything from timber framing to using traditional Japanese tools, an evening barbecue, and more.
But registration is limited, and closes on July 3rd. If you’re in the area (and by “area,” I mean within 12 hours' drivetime), you should sign up! Come meet some new people, learn new techniques, and leave inspired. After all, it’s summertime – that’s what it’s all about.