Sunday, July 17, 2011

Lie-Nielsen 30th Anniversary Open House

A beautiful summer day in Warren, ME.

Saturday, I went to the Lie-Nielsen 30th anniversary open house, in Warren, ME. It was a gorgeous day, barely a wisp of cloud in the sky, though quite warm. I had been to the 25th anniversary open house in 2006, where I bought my first Lie-Nielsen tools, a pair of small joinery saws and a dowel plate.

This was a good buying trip, too, since after 5 years I finally stepped up and bought a #4 and #7, as well as a small shoulder plane and set of saw sharpening files, and the Steve Latta DVD on federal table inlay. Thanks to my dear wife for letting me buy them, I know she loves me! While I've tuned my old Stanley 4, 6, and 7 reasonably well, there's no question that the LN's just work better every time I've tried them.

One of the things I like about the Lie-Nielsen events is that they bring in a number of other small tool vendors and schools, plus well-known guest demonstrators. This is a chance to try out some great tools and watch some highly-skilled woodworkers. I've learned never to pass up a chance to watch someone who's better than me. My apologies to those I've overlooked here.

Ron Brese with his custom infill planes. The mass of these planes imakes them oblivious to the wood, they just float across, producing feathery shavings. Unfortunately, they exceed even my expanded budget. and

Bob Van Dyke of the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking. He gave me some excellent tips on fitting tenons, and told me about an upcoming class Steve Latta will be teaching on federal table building. My neighbor down the street, Freddy Roman, whom I met through SAPFM, is an instructor for CVSW.

Garrett Hack. I had him autograph an article in one of my books, under his autograph from the 25th anniversary open house. I also put in my request for a design book of some sort. I love his work, full of fine, subtle details. Are you listening, Taunton?

Peter Follansbee demonstrating 17th-century carving. I had met him when he did a demonstration for the NE chapter of SAPFM in May. He told me he follows Close Grain on the aggregator. I don't have any books or articles by Peter, so I had him autograph my copy of Drew Langsner's book Green Woodworking under Drew's autograph, since he's taught at Drew's school. and

Christian Becksvoort demonstrating dovetailing. He doesn't saw out the waste, he chisels up the top 1/16th-inch chip or two, similar to making half-blind dovetails, then makes a deep chop with the chisel slightly undercutting. He repeats on the other side, which completes the chop through. A quick cleanout of the corners with a sharp Murphy knife, and it's done. Wait a second, Murphy knives are made 3 blocks from my house!

Jameel Abraham with his Benchcrafted products, using his tiny miter box for slicing inlays. He showed me how he works with the geometric inlays featured in his article in the April, 2011 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine. These are just beautiful, and once you have a few shapes, you can form them into complex repeating patterns. He looked at my CloseGrain logo T-shirt and said, "Is that your blog? I know you!" Cool! and

Upstairs in the classroom, it's hand tool heaven. Multiple benches set up, with plenty of LN tools and demonstrators answering questions and showing people how to use them.

Kevin Drake, of Glen-Drake Toolworks, whom I had also met at the 25th. I use his Tite-Mark gauge all the time.

Raney Nelson, of Daed Toolworks, and more infill planes that just glide across the work. and

Matt Bickford's molding planes. He showed me a set of ogee bracket feet he had made with the large pair of #13 hollow and round on the left end of the row. and

Pat Megowan, an Oregon furnituremaker working as a demonstrator for LN, left, and Konrad Sauer. Pat is trying out one of Konrad's magnificent Sauer and Steiner infills. I went through his whole set, making pillow-filling shavings.; and

Pat was particularly helpful when I was trying out the LN 4's and 7's. He critiqued several details of my plane handling and gave me some important tips. In particular, I was using too much downward pressure, especially on the toe of the plane, and too much arm motion, not enough lower body. He set the 7 for a heavier cut and had me work on putting more body into it, saying, "Imagine how fast that tires you out if you use too much arm motion." These are the kind of fine details that make it worth paying close attention to others more skilled than I.

I also had a nice conversation with a lovely young lady named Emily who turned out to be a boat-builder. I don't have a picture of her, which is just as well, because everyone would be emailing me asking for her phone number! I told her about my daughter's school project building Harry Bryan's dory skiff, and Harry's email about it. It turned out she knows Harry, and had seen him a couple weeks ago at the Mystic Wooden Boat Show.

And speaking of Harry, there was an organization there featuring boatbuilding, the Compass Project, which bases a youth development program on building and rowing. The wooden kayak they had on display? A Harry Bryan design. Naturally, I found that out as a result of telling them about my daughter's project. Yes, the proud father on the loose!

The day ended with a lobster bake, catered by the Narrows Tavern in Waldoboro, ME. This was the best lobster I've ever had! They also had clams, which were also the best I've ever had, and I'm not normally a clam person.

My wife and I were joined for dinner by Duane, the fellow who had been the first to respond and get me one of my first interviews when I was laid off back in December. He's another hobbyist who works near me in the same industry.

The guys from Narrows Tavern pulling the lobsters out. They baked them in seawood on a steel plate elevated over a small fire. Hot work on a hot day!

Setting out the plates of lobster, clams, and corn. The seaweed was not part of the meal.

Actually, the day hadn't quite ended yet. Timber framer Steve Chappell and his three sons were working on a small replica of the roof and cupola structure on the LN building. They had been at it all day, and worked past dinner to complete it. It was full of intricate, precise joinery, like a giant puzzle hewn from the raw timbers.

I bought a copy of the new 2011 edition of Steve's book, A Timber Framer's Workshop: Joinery, Design & Construction of Traditional Timber Frames, and had him autograph it. This is spectacular in breadth, full of details of design, construction, and engineering. I'll probably never get to build a timber-frame project, but I'll know how!

Steve paring the shoulder of a tenon with a large framing slick.

Closeup of Asher Chappell paring another tenon. The precision fitting was beautiful, because everything had to come together at once.

Tait Chappell paring off the point on the tenon of a rafter. Ok, that's probably not the right term, but I haven't read the book yet!

The base fitted in place.

Rapid progress on assembly once all the trimming and fitting has been done.

A tough crowd: all the LN demonstrators, including the Australian LN distributor (who knows Derek Cohen, whom I follow on several woodworking forums). How's that for a little pressure?

Setting rafters from the four corners. Tom Lie-Nielsen watches in the background at the end of the building.

After some final adjustments, the structure is complete. It should also have a cap, but they didn't have time for that.

A note of travelogue: my wife and I spent the night at the lovely Craignair Inn, at Spruce Head off the main road from Thomaston. Breakfast was an excellent frittata and tomato on English muffin, with blueberry and orange muffins on the side.

How about waking up to this every morning? The view off the porch outside the dining room.

We stayed in the vestry building.

I'm looking forward to the 35th!

1 comment:

  1. What a treat... next time you go, ask them about opening up a West Coast location for those of us thousands of miles from the mothership!


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