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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Handworks 2015: Where Rhetoric Fails must tell the tale.

One of the highlights of my year was attending Handworks 2015 in Amana, Iowa.  I'm late to the party as far as writing about Handworks is concerned.  If you have followed any other bloggers, then you know that they have all been unfailingly positive, even giddy, in their coverage of the event.  Well, I'm here to add, unnecessarily, that they are all correct in their praise.

The physical environment of the main exhibition venue is a real barn, replete with straw bales and, of course, no air conditioning.  The Barn combined with an excited press of humanity at every booth is a recipe for an electric atmosphere.  I tried to get pictures without the crowd in them, which in hindsight was silly, I guess, because the number and quality of pictures are low.

Again I will complain about my lack of a real camera and apologize for the quality of the photos.  There are a lot more pictures that didn't even make the cut of even my low standards for this post.

My first stop was to see Chris Vesper.  I've been teasing him via email for several months to make an infill aluminum square--he has no intentions as of Handworks 2015 of indulging my request.  I say 'tease', but I really do want one and would buy an aluminum infill square in a heartbeat.

I spent some time with Jeff Miller both days of the event.  Jeff really likes sharing what he knows.  He has a lot of insight into all major aspects of woodworking:  power tools, hand tools, and the all important business side.  If you are not acquainted with Jeff, I highly encourage you to look into what he has to offer.

Next to the little guy from down under (Chris Vesper) was Blue Spruce Toolworks.  They really have a lot of nice looking stuff.  By all accounts I've heard/read, it is very high quality, too.  I only own one of their tools so I can't really comment from a personal perspective.

In a different exhibit hall--the name escapes me--was Mary May, renowned wood carver, and Mike Siemsen's School of Woodworking.  I've gushed about Mary May before, so I won't repeat myself here.

Mike Siemsen's school is about 8 hours away by car from me so theoretically, I can take a class there some day.  They have a lot to offer, but so far the funding has not been present to take formal woodworking classes. Sigh.  They were doing a 'live' build of a Nicholson workbench over the two days.  I took a bunch of pictures of it, but for some reason they all were washed out.  Here are the three photos that came out well:

I missed an opportunity when I stopped by the Philly Planes booth.  The Kilted Woodworker, Ethan Sincox, was staffing the table at the time.  I only recently made the connection when I read his account of Handworks.  I've been toiling away at woodworking alone for years now.  It is about time I reach out to other woodworkers to expand my horizons.  A cold call email is a tough way to break the ice.  Oh well, there will be other opportunities to end the isolation, I'm sure.

I will be doing dedicated posts to other aspects of Handworks.  I'll have a lot of time on my hands starting in August after I go under the knife for my shoulder again.  My hope is that I'll be able to catch up on all the draft blog posts in the queue.


  1. Handworks was great! Would've liked to have met you there, it was really nice to meet a whole lot of people I've "known" for years (though I certainly missed a few). Chris Vesper's tools are amazing, and he's a pretty nice guy too. It feels awkward the first couple of times, I've found 100% of woodworkers (out of ~10) thus far have been very happy to get a cold call (Chris was one of them). If you are ever in the Champaign-Urbana area let me know.

    Sorry to hear you are having shoulder issues, I've been going through similar for the last year, though thus far I haven't found the solution, but it sure does limit shop time.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Jeremy! I'm about 80 miles North of you, actually. I'll be at CU Woodshop's 2d annual tool rummage sale in August (the 1st., I believe). Last year I won a hand turned pen door prize about 10 minutes after I walked in the door; use it almost every day.

      Hopefully, I'll see you there. Feel free to email (address in profile) any time.

      I know there are woodworkers around me; the tough part is finding them. :)


  2. I hope to see you there as well. I probably won't be there 'til around noon, which surely means I'll miss the "steals", still last time I got a couple of small things and nice to run into the right type of folks to chat with.