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A Review Of Handworks 2015

June 12, 2015

I don’t think I mentioned yet how my trip to Handworks 2015 went! I mean, I chatted it up a bit before the event, but I never wrote about it once I got back, did I? Let’s put a slight delay on the continuation of the beading tool collection and get that out of the way then, shall we?

Handworks 2013

Handworks 2013

To properly begin, I need to go back about two years to Handworks 2013. I showed up in Amana for two days of hand tool immersion at the first Handworks, but after spending a few hours chatting with people and buying the few bits of woodworking contrivances, I was… well, I was bored. I spent some time exploring Amana and eating some great food, but for some reason I didn’t hit on the social vibe of it all very well. Maybe I was having an off week or something.

To that end, when I heard that my friend Phil Edwards was going to fly over from jolly ol’ England to set up a booth at Handworks 2015 for Philly Planes, I contacted him and told him I wanted to help. This was partially because I genuinely wanted to help my friend; it was also because of my experience at Handworks 2013. I wanted to go back to Amana, but I wanted to have something to do there, as well! I wanted to be a part of the experience, not someone looking at it through the storefront window.

So a few weeks before the show, I received several boxes of marketing materials, planes, and marking gauges from England. I asked Phil if he wanted me to open them and sort through everything to make sure it had all arrived safely, but for some reason he thought that wouldn’t be necessary. I pleaded, but he was persistent with his reply. I managed to not accidentally open even one of the boxes, much to my own surprise.

On the Thursday before the event, I drove up with a car load of Phil’s wares and met him and his assistant, Steve, at the exhibitor’s barn. Er… actually, I showed up at the barn and found out where the booth was supposed to be, but Phil was nowhere to be found. And apparently Steve was with him.

Instead, I chatted up David Barron, who had the booth next to us, and Dave Jeske, who was on the other side of David Barron. And I watched Patrick Leach unload box after box (after box after box) of tools on the other side of Phil’s booth location. (Going home with any money in my pocket was going to be a true test of willpower this time around.)

Eventually (two hours later?), Phil did show up. They’d gotten lost driving from Chicago. They had a GPS, but apparently someone set it to a Southern accent and they couldn’t understand a word she was saying.

Ok, I might have made that up.

But what else could it have been? I mean, how can you get lost in Iowa? You basically have four directions you can travel, right? Every road is either North/South or East/West. And you can see your destination from miles away, so you know which one of those directions you should take!

I suspect it was really just culture shock (sunny weather and straight roads) caused them to require extra refreshments.

The Philly Planes Crew - Phil, Ethan, and Steve

The Philly Planes Crew – Phil, Ethan, and Steve

In any case, they eventually made it and we set up shop, preparing the tools for the show and hanging up a banner of sorts where it was guaranteed to hurt someone, should it ever fall. I even got an official name badge to wear! Later that evening, we got to attend a vendors-only viewing of that one tool chest everyone was so excited about.

I didn’t take any pictures of the Studley chest, myself. I bought the book. And the print (13 of 100, for anyone keeping score). Narayan takes much better pictures than me. Instead, I started taking pictures of “the Studley stepladder” over in the corner.

The Studley Stepladder

The Studley Stepladder

I had four people ask me what I was taking pictures of. “The Studley stepladder, of course,” was my response. It always took them a moment to realize I was joking.

A little bit later, I was talking to Raney Nelson and mentioned taking the pictures of the stepladder and the response I got from people. He said, “Dammit. That’s so good _I_ should have done it.” I’ll take that compliment, Raney.

The next morning, prepping for the woodworking masses, Phil handed me a 1cmx2cm piece of wax-saturated cloth and a can of Renaissance Wax and asked me to polish the smoothing planes. I stared at the “wax applicator” and cocked an eyebrow in disbelief, but since he didn’t appear to be joking, I did my best with his British version of “micro” fiber cloth. Then I used the shoe polishing cloth from my hotel room (yay for free hotel stuff!) to buff them out until they shined. I was so fond of his minimalist wax applicator that when I got home, I threw out the (apparently incredibly large) 12”x12” cotton cloth I’d been using for 10 years and replaced it with a bit of scrap flannel from some old pajamas…

My tiny British wax applicator on its premier voyage...

My tiny British wax applicator on its premier voyage…

At 10:00 on Friday morning, the doors opened and woodworkers of all shapes and sizes poured in. Right away, I began taking questions about Phil’s marking gauges. And I answered them. Correctly, even. And made some sales! Phil and Steve were amazed at how comfortable I was at selling his wares. Knowing the product is part of it; the other part is being able to comfortably chat with complete strangers – I had both things going for me.

Occasionally Phil would unlock my chain and let me wander around. I suspect it was so he and Steve could download pirated movies using my Hotspot access I’d set up for him to handle credit card transactions. They both feigned ignorance on that account.

There were so many great hand tool makers there, and I tried to get pictures of them all, but… these two English blokes kept jumping into frame at the last moment, acting like they were buddy buddy with everyone…

Two English Guys With Robin Lee

Two English Guys With Robin Lee

Two English Guys With Matt Bickford

Two English Guys With Matt Bickford

Two English Guys With Dave Jeske

Two English Guys With Dave Jeske

Two English Guys With Peter Galbert (they even followed me to the green woodworking tent apparently)

Two English Guys With Peter Galbert (they even followed me to the green woodworking tent apparently)

Seriously, guys? I just wanted a picture of the Hoff!

Seriously, guys? I just wanted a picture of the Hoff!

Couldn't even get a picture of the crowd without these two guys jumping into the picture...

Couldn’t even get a picture of the crowd without these two guys jumping into the picture…

I kid, of course. That is Mike Hancock and Alex Primmer from Classic Hand Tools, a UK on-line purveyor of woodworking tools of the finest quality. They came to Handworks to experience the event and to meet face-to-face with all of the US vendors whose tools they sell in the UK. Mike asked me if I would follow them around and try and take some piccies of them with the tool makers and I was happy to assist. If you ever see Mike at a show, be sure and buy him a beer, as he is the reason why we can buy Auriou rasps again. Better yet, buy him three…

While on our photo-taking tour, Mike claimed he had a thirst of the most urgent nature, so we made our way to Amana’s only brewhouse for a pint. Or three. They poked fun at me when I balked at the third beer. But it was in their best interest as I was the only staff photographer! So I took one for the team and drank it. If the last pictures of the day are a bit blurry or not quite framed right, you can blame the Brits.

At the end of the second day, we packed up shop and went down the street for drinks. Knowing the Lie-Nielsen crew was going to show up at some point for dinner, we graciously held a table in reserve for them. After they showed up, we left. But before exiting the parking lot, one or more British citizens in our party smeared melted chocolate candy bars all over Deneb’s rental car, laughing hysterically as they did it.

Deneb, before the chocolate incident

Deneb, before the chocolate incident

Having driven very far away at that point, to go to dinner in Cedar Rapids at a then-undisclosed location (for fear of LN Retaliation), we waited for the call. True to form, Deneb called and shouted the joys of finding said chocolate through Alex’s mobile (on speaker). A bit later, I got dropped off at my hotel and packed my bags to leave early the next day.

As I was leaving the hotel on Sunday morning, I climbed into the elevator, holding an unrolled Print #13 from Narayan’s limited edition run, with none other than Roy Underhill.

Roy Underhill being Roy Underhill...

Roy Underhill being Roy Underhill…

I’ve met and bumped into Roy several times over the years, so I don’t quite have the star-struck eyes that some seem to have when meeting him. We chatted a bit.

Roy (nodding at the print): Thou shalt have no idols…
Me: Oh, I’m putting this up in the shop with that blue poster tack stuff.
Roy chuckled.
Me: The plan is to try and hit it with kickback from the tablesaw.
Roy laughed.
Me: Actually, I lied. I sold my tablesaw in January. So I’m just going to throw offcuts from my benchhook at it.
Roy (laughing again as he stepped off the elevator): Take care.

I made Roy laugh, so I consider that a successful conversation. Hopefully he appreciated having a quick chat with someone who didn’t ask him to sign something or ask him a woodworking question or go on with the adoration one does as they meet their idol.

After loading my luggage and print (that I won’t REALLY throw offcuts at or hang in the shop with blue poster tack, Narayan), I went to get in the front of my car, only to find melted Twix bar all over my door handle. And on the windshield.

Oh, those funny Brits. But no worries, mates. I have a four year old. I travel with wet wipes at all times.

If you want to read Mike’s Review of Handworks 2015, you can check it out here. If you have any sort of appreciation for proper English humour, you should definitely check it out. He had me in tears. And once I got over the pain of the “lily white legs” comment, I saw there were some funny bits in there, too.

The Brits - Steve, Alex, Phil, and Mike

The Brits – Steve, Alex, Phil, and Mike

Now don’t get me wrong, I loved being able to see the Studley Tool Chest in person. It was the experience of a life time. But the most important things I’ll take away from Handworks 2015 are the new friendships I made and the friendships that became RL (instead of just being digital). At the forefront of this list is the people I spent the most time with all weekend – Phil, Steve, Alex, and Mike. I had such an awesome time with these guys. Mostly, it was great to never have to explain a joke because they completely understood my humour (possibly not a good thing, come to think of it).

It felt good to be at Handworks with a purpose this time, helping Phil out at his Philly Planes booth and helping Mike and Alex get photos with their vendors. It made this trip 100 times better than Handworks 2013. Hopefully I can work with all of them again in the future in some capacity. Maybe as the US liaison of Classic Hand Tools, yay, Alex and Mike?


(P.S. By the way, Steve and Alex… we redheads have long memories. And, as a Taurus, I dutifully hold a grudge for life. One of these days, I’ll make it to the European show. Best hope you have wet wipes in YOUR cars when I do. Cheers!)

4 Comments leave one →
  1. nombre7 permalink
    June 12, 2015 7:07 pm

    Now I remember why I hate WordPress. Rewriting….

    I am bitter about not being able to go. Was gonna be the first time. Well, sorta bitter. Instead of a barn full of sweaty mens, I was in a small Pennsylvania town filled with highly attractive young ladies. And drinking beer in a Belgian Cafe, drinking Belgian beer and eating mussels. So there’s that. But I did arrange everything and buy my ticket to The Exhibit. $25 down the drain….

    The philosophy for Handworks fits in exactly with my (beginner) mentality, and I was so looking forward to going. Well, there’s always next year.

    Good write-up.


  2. samdesocio permalink
    November 17, 2015 10:26 am

    Handworks was a gift from my wife. It was an amazing and fun time. I wish I was able to actually meet more folks.


    • November 17, 2015 10:49 am

      Glad you had such a great time, Sam! Maybe I’ll see you next time around!


      • samdesocio permalink
        November 17, 2015 12:05 pm

        I hope so. The fact that its every other year is a great way to get lots of return visits.


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