Sunday, August 23, 2015

Lie-Nielsen Open House 2015


Mary May roughing out carving blanks using the double-overhand throw method.

It's been a busy summer and I'm a little behind posting about events!

Friday and Saturday July 10-11 I had the honor of representing Popular Woodworking Magazine at the Lie-Nielsen Open House in Warren, ME. I was promoting my Popular Woodworking University online video course Intro To Hand Tools, doing open demonstration of various skills.

The guest of honor was Roy Underhill, one of my heroes and the source of a great deal of my woodworking knowledge. He was a huge attraction, as entertaining as ever. Someone joked that he drew a crowd just tying his shoe.


The one and only Roy Underhill. I'm the grinning fool on the right.

There were a number of other demonstrators present as well from several parts of the country, even a blacksmith from Wales. The attendees were just as geographically varied. This has become quite an event, a major happening in the woodworking community!

At my workbench, I had a a number of tools from the course spread out, with a TV suspended in the background looping the silent trade show trailer for the course. On my small portable Underhill workbench, I had a stack of PWM issues for people to take and a display of my Underhill books and DVDs, plus a flyer on the course and copies of the tool list.


My main workbench and toolbox. Tom LN said he liked my caution sign.

I like to make these demos very hands-on. My standard questions to those who stopped to look were, "Would you like to try any of the tools? Can I answer any questions for you?"

I had enough specialty planes laid out that most people could find something to pique their curiosity. This invariably led to 20 or 30 minutes of ad hoc demonstration and use, with spectators drifting in and out.

One of the great things about all the Lie-Neilsen events is that it's an engaged, motivated crowd. Not like a typical trade show where the attendees avoid eye contact with the vendors. People are eager to watch and talk and try things out. Most offer a handshake as they leave the bench.

The demonstrators and vendors were in two venues, a giant canopy erected in the dirt parking lot, and in the classroom above the machine shop.


Rory Wood with his display of fine domestic and exotic woods.

Next to me under the canopy was Rory Wood, of Rare Woods USA, in Mexico, ME (www.RareWoodsUSA.com). I had never met him before, but I knew him as the legendary "Mexico wood guy" from numerous references on woodworking forums. He's well known as the go-to source for fine and exotic hardwoods in large and small quantities, large and small sizes, shipping all over the world.

He had a display of spectacular domestic and exotic hardwoods. He runs a full-service operation, importing whole trees from all over the world. He has full milling and storage capacity, and a huge inventory of 508,000 board feet of these woods, over 165 different species.

I was particularly interested to hear that he had quartersawn beech, the wood of choice for making wooden handplanes. While not as exotic as many of the other species he stocks, this stuff is very hard to find. I'll definitely be placing my order. He said he also has big thick beech slabs suitable for building workbenches, as well as a variety of fine luthiery woods and turning and musical instrument blanks.

Reading the blog posts on his site gives some appreciation of the insane logistics he has to go through to get this stuff to us. Global shipping over land and sea, customs, pest control, and dealing with crazy weather. Thank you, Rory!

This is a spectacular resource for woodworkers, a mother lode source that helps drive many other small businesses.

If you're not sure where Mexico is, it's centrally located between Norway, Paris, Denmark, Naples, Sweden, Poland, Peru, and China, Maine.


Joshua Klein.

I finally got to meet Joshua Klein, Klein Furniture Restoration. He's in the process of putting together a new annual publication, Mortise and Tenon Magazine. He calls this the magazine he would like to read. I'm really looking forward to it.


Chairmaker Peter Galbert with some of his beautiful Windsor chairs.

Peter Galbert had a nice collection of Windsor chairs set out. I got an autographed copy of his new book, The Chairmaker's Notebook. I haven't had a chance to look it over thoroughly, but what I did get to see was excellent.


Carver Mary May sharpening a gouge.

Mary May was demonstrating carving and preparing for an upcoming class at Lie-Nielsen. She has a nice series of DVD's, and was telling me about her online school and videos.


Nic Westermann and Lie-Nielsen's Deneb Puchalski forging an axe head.

Blacksmith Nic Westermann had come over from Wales especially for the Open House. He demonstrated forging a magnificent axe (similar to the ones in this post on his blog). He used a small portable gas forge. That thing sounded like an F-14 afterburner lighting up every time he started it.


Travis Knapp selling workbench appliances.

Travis Knapp, who sells at the RareWoodsUS eBay store (not to be confused with Rare Woods USA above in Mexico, ME, which is where Travis gets his materials), had turning blanks, mallet kits, and finished items such as Moxon vises in a variety of exotic species. He also had some beautifully restored eggbeater drills.


Texas Heritage Woodworks selling tool rolls and aprons.


Matt Kenney, Fine Woodworking editor, working on a series of beautiful small boxes.


Crafting a pine coffin at the Center For Furniture Craftsmanship booth.


Luthier Patrick Sebrey with beautiful hand crafted guitars.

I missed getting pictures of a couple of benches, including Bill Forbes, a happy LN customer, who was building a standing cabinet for his fly rods with his toolbox full of LN tools. My buddy Burt Ouellette was with him, selling his cutting-style marking gauges.

I forgot to take my camera when I checked out the classroom, so I don't have any photos, but there were a number of excellent folks there.
  • Daniel Schwank of Red Rose Reproductions was demonstrating his beautiful wooden planes. My favorite was his new panel raising plane. This did a magnificent job of finishing off a stepped, raised field panel after roughing down the chamfers with a jack plane.
  • Isaac Smith of Blackburn Tools had his huge Roubo frame saw and a collection of magnificent backsaws for sale. I have one of these frame saw kits, I just need to take the time to build the frame; stay tuned for further information!
  • Tico Vogt of Vogt Toolworks was demonstrating and selling his Super Chute shooting boards.
  • Matt Cianci, The Sawright, demonstrated saw sharpening.
  • Christian Becksvoort was building a small Shaker cabinet. He had a beautiful miniature tall cabinet in cherry on display.
For more photos, see the Lie-Nielsen Facebook album on the event.

You'll notice I say "beautiful", "magnificent", "spectacular" a lot. That's only because it's true. Everyone here from Tom Lie-Nielsen on down is a dedicated craftsman, pouring their heart and effort into what they make. These are inspiring design, materials, and workmanship, reflecting long investment to develop their technical mastery.

Friday evening after closing for the day and dinner, the Lie-Nielsen employees and the guest demonstrators got together for some axe throwing competition. We were using full size double-bit axes and throwing tomahawks, with a 2'-diameter log round screwed to 2x4 legs for the target. I think at least one axe handle needed replacement afterwards. A couple of people managed to stick the target.


Roy throwing a tomahawk.

Saturday night was the lobster dinner. They made a 20' campfire ring, piled on seaweed, 250 lobsters, nets of steamers, and more seaweed. The fire was partly fueled by a front-loader bucket-full of rejected plane handles and blanks, must have been a year's accumulation. One of the employees called it a Viking funeral.

Roy finished off the event by showing us the latest LN prototype, Excalibur, the 2-foot long "one and done" single-stroke dovetail saw (which just may have been forged from a fallen meteor on April 1), followed by a dramatic reading of Homer's Odyssey, in which our hero must brave the Sirens' song while avoiding the lands of the Normites and the CAPSLOCKS.


The LN beer taps. Would you like Block Plane Pale Ale, or Bench Chisel Lager?

We stayed at the charming Le Vatout Bed and Breakfast (pronounced "va-too") just down the road in Waldoboro. The highlights of our stay were the excellent breakfasts cooked by Dominika, and Linda's sprawling gardens. They make the property seem much larger.


Deep in the back garden at Le Vatout.

I asked Linda if this was permaculture, and she said it was hugulkultur (pronounced "hoogle-cul-tor", German for "mound culture"). The permaculture book I'm reading, Gaia's Garden, describes this as the practice of mounding logs and wood debris, covering with greens and topsoil, and planting on that. One of the main advantage is that the wood acts as a sponge to retain moisture.