Well, I’m back from Woodworking in America, 2010. Kudos to the gang at Popular Woodworking and their support staff for a bang up job organizing and running the whole shebang. A lot of information, a lot of laughs, and a few revelations.

The keynotes speakers were Roy Underhill and Frank Klausz, the Batman and Robin of the WW field (although I won’t say which is which). Not only did they give that presentation together, but their classes were in the same room, and they stuck around to offer commentary from the sidelines, drawing from a long history. (They met when Roy was giving a demonstration and Frank, unbeknownst to Roy, decided his chisel wasn’t sharp enough and surreptitiously gave it a quick once over!) One of the facts that came out during the speech was Roy’s reason for starting the Wheelwright’s Shop in the first place. He was (and still is) concerned about the depleting resources of the planet, and views traditional woodworking techniques as the future, not the past. The one session of Frank’s that I did make sure to see, was his presentation about chopping mortises by hand. He borrowed a trick from Roy and used a piece of plate glass as one side of the mortise so you can see the mortise being chopped, sort of like an ant farm. I managed to get some video of that. I think my favorite moment comes in part 2, where Frank’s chisel goes past his layout line, and Roy quickly zooms in to show the slip.

One of the more entertaining (and educational) speakers was Chris Schwarz. I saw four of his sessions on grinding tools, the router plane (one-toothed sex monster), planing impossible woods and scraper planes. He has a sarcastic side that jibes with my sense of humor well. After making disparaging remarks about the knarly piece of walnut I brought as a planing challenge (we were able to handle it even with my Millers Falls #10 after a couple of adjustments, although the infill plane he had was so much nicer to use), he used in the next sessions as his demo wood for scraping planes.

One big revelation came in Marc Adams‘s session on Sharpening and Using Chisels and Card Scrapers. His way of using a card scraper is like nothing I have ever seen (apparently its more common in Europe). Instead of flexing it and pushing, you pull it flat at an extreme skew, just barely off of parallel. This produces a different kind of shaving, but does an incredible job without leaving the typical scoop.

The only minus I would say (and others were talking about it, as well), was the back to back scheduling of many of the sessions. While they had originally stated that there would be some hands-on time after each session to work with the instructor and ask questions; many of the sessions had to clear out of the room to make way for another session scheduled right after. I think making the conference a full 3 days, and spreading out the sessions might have helped. That also would have left more time for the Marketplace, without feeling so rushed.

But…I did manage to make time to spend a bit down in the marketplace. Aside from the usual suspects offering new tools, there were a few dealers of vintage tools offering some amazing wares. (Just to see that many infill planes for sale is a treat, even if I wasn’t ready to spend That much!) I picked a few vintage tools to add to my arsenal.

Above you can see (clockwise from top) a Spears & Jackson tenon saw, Stanley 720 1/4″ paring chisel, English brass and ebony mortise gauge, and an unknown maker scraper plane, with an original I. H. Sorby toothed blade. (That’s going to come in very handy surfacing acoustic guitar tops!) I did buy some new stuff as well, but that’s not as fun as the vintage tools.

Next time, I may have to swing an infill plane. Somehow.

So many tools, so little (time) money.

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