More on the US Baltimore Show

The Real Woodworking Campaign continues here in the US.

Being here in Baltimore at the Woodworking Shows makes me ever conscious of the need for much greater levels of educational input for woodworkers, and not just new ones either.  I demonstrated all day yesterday and indeed the day before on the hour every hour and then when I was finished we all talked around the bench until the the next masterclass. For the hundreds of people who came I was able to demolish the myths and mysteries of woodworking in some great measure with most people commenting that they never knew that you could do so much with a #4 hand plane – the one I bought on eBay a few weeks ago and posted of on my blog two weeks ago. The same is true of handsaws and chisels, sharpening, and using the tools and so on. It’s amazing to me how needful we woodworkers are and how minimalist we are in hand tools altogether these days.

Significant trends need reversing and we are all important to this.

Two things very apparent at the US show – no children and not many women woodworkers. The key reason I personally now conclude for this is that woodworking today is a predominantly a machine manufacture and NOT a craft. I feel that I have been too tolerant of machine exponents and that the Real Woodworking Campaign may be more critical than I even thought in reestablishing craft workshops for future generations.

The aisles were indeed full all through the day and we had a phenomenal attendance that never waned one bit. But then neither did the booths selling routers and router bits and dovetail jigs and salesmen selling a zillion things we woodworkers supposedly need to make a box like the one I made on YouTube here.

Massive sales drives

I stand and listen to the salesmen who sell their tools, equipment and machines and i wonder in amazement how gullible people really are. People were spending hundreds of dollars on stuff they didn’t need or better should i say they didn’t need until the salesman started his pitch and then they suddenly couldn’t live without. As if a dovetail jig is somehow going to launch you into the realms of being a master of anything.  You see people don’t believe that they can cut a dovetail and it’s all based on past failures, what salesmen tell you and how well a presenter is at a woodworking show. The tragedy is everyone can cut a hand-cut dovetail.

Oh, well! We must persevere.


  1. Paul, it was great to meet you in Baltimore yesterday, and I appreciate you being so courteous to my children.  What you say about the absence of kids is so sadly true.  I knew that it would be, but I was still surprised by how few of us there were (with children) there.

    Your presentation was great.  The kids all came home excited to learn to make spatulas, cutting boards and picture frames.  Of course, some of them want to jump straight to dovetails, but we’ll go about it line upon line.  We picked up your course and we’re going to use it as the basis of our homeschool craft program.  I personally would like to develop my skill to the point I could make a living with real woodworking, and I’d like my children to be confident and skilled as well.  One of these days we’ll make it up to NY for a class (we’re from south PA) or I’ll take Linda across the water to visit your castle.

    Couple of questions I didn’t get to ask at the show:
    – I’m looking for a good quality, inexpensive set of bench chisels.  Are there any around that you would absolutely avoid?  And do you have any experience with the Czech chisels (Narex) that Lee Valley is selling?  Unfortunately, Aldi doesn’t sell chisels in the US market.
    – I’ll ask my other question over on your dovetail saw post.

    Thanks for all you’re doing and your perspective on the craft.

    1. It does seem that Narex are well made. I am always looking for fineness in a chisel with enough robustness to take stress and strain of leverage and malleting. I must admit that my Marples chisels hold up to both. I have the old English-made Marples, still available on eBay, not the newer Irwin, which are Asian made. I also like the older Marples with Boxwood handles. You can also get these on eBay individually or sets sometimes. These are the best of all and usually cost around $10 a piece.

  2. I would love to see more kids get involved with woodworking. There’s a great age between 10 and 12 where they’re very open to learning new things, and they’re starting to develop the strength and coordination to handle tools (as long as the tools are sharp and responsive). There are a few years around age 13 where they’re less receptive (ask any parent!), but then around 15 they pick back up, but starting to have a more adult perspective and maturity. I saw this repeatedly as a Boy Scout adult leader. With well-tuned tools we can show them what they can achieve and encourage them to work through problems. Making shavings in various forms is a great way to show them how much fun it can be.

    I see that you’ve added my blog to your blog roll! Thank you very much!

    1. You know you have to know that boys have a certtain aspect of their teen years where there is quite simply an undeveloped sphere yet to become useable to them. This synapse isn’t even there yet so we often expect something of them that cannot happen until this develops and it doesn;t develop until it emerges. Patience is i=essential during this time because it isn;t something they can do anything about and as it isn’t there. Suddenly it happens and bingo, they are racing ahead.

  3. The thing that I found the most disappointing about the show was the lack of hand tool vendors. Lee Valley was there but from what I understood, you had to order from the show and then it would be shipped to you. If I was playing with a plane for 20 minutes and had the cash in my pocket, I’d want to be able to take it home with me. Woodcraft’s stand had even less stuff so I wonder why they bothered. I almost bit on a set of the new stanley sweetheart chisels but I figured I’d see if I can find some real marples and not the rubbish ones that are sold now.

    I would have brought my kids with me but I figured they’d get bored quickly and then be pestering me to go home. As it turns out, apart from hanging around with Paul and watching his demos I got pretty bored there myself. It’s a pity Shannon didn’t have a booth especially as it’s in his backyard.

    Maybe NL could have a sales stand next year with Aldi chisels and ebay found planes and other goodies. I’m going to email the show organisers to ask if they can get more hand tool people involved.

    1. I think mainly it’s an economy thing. Many vendors pay the show organiser to transport their booth on to the next show and then fly the staff in free from the encumbrance of shifting stock. they are very efficient at shipping in the goods though and Lee Valley Veritas have it down as far as customer service.
      I have tried to minimise any commercial aspect of my presence at the shows because that is such a small proportion of what I am there foe. It’s the RXC that counts for me.

  4. Hello, Mr. Sellers. My name is Scott Kidd. You may not remember me but I was the young guy who had a few questions for you after the show towards the end of Sunday in Baltimore. Believe it or not, I have another question for you which I hope you have the time to answer. I have an opportunity to get a old school house slate chalk board. Do you think that it would be good enough as a flat surface for flattening tools? Or is slate not reliable? Thank you for your time.

    1. Scott,

      I would think the slate would be too heavy/fragile to be useful( I might be wrong though). It would probably be much better (and cheaper) to go to HD or Lowes and look for a 12×12 or 16×16 floor tile and check it for flatness with a straight edge.

      1. Hello Scott,

        Flatness is the key in general. Plate or float glass works well for flattening and an old granite slab can be used too. If the slate is flat that will work but slate is not particularly resistant to wear. Though technically you will not be abrading on the surface itself, it may surface fracture under the pressure caused by the motion of flattening. That said, there is no loss in trying if the slate is indeed dead flat.
        Tiles are quite cheap to buy and they do last for years so you may want something you can use on a more regular basis as sole flattening is not a one time event. Soles wear down, especially on narrow edges, so think longterm.
        Thanks for the question,


  5. These are my suggestions only, Paul may have better ideas.

    From what I recall Paul saying on the dvd/book a flat bottom spoke shave will do 90% of the work you need one for. I would suggest looking on the bay or somewhere like
    You’ll find plenty of shaves available for a fraction of the Veritas set. I like Veritas but I don’t always want to pay that much.

    You’ll find plenty of gouges online and I believe Paul suggest a quite wide concave one as a good all around starting point.

    Card scrapers are pretty cheap so you can buy one from wherever you like, just don’t forget to get a burnisher for it.

    1. I actually think that the Veritas flat bottomed spokeshave is about the best on the market dollar for dollar. I have tested them over 5 years at least and they seem always to work without resistence. On fine work, which is what most people are using them for if they are following my course, this spokeshave is the one to get. If money is an issue in that you simply don’t have the money for one then get a Stanley or a Record #151 on eBay and work on it until it functions well. They are easy enough to get right. I will do a blog on fettling one to help everyone. Not much to it really.
      Gouges too, I think if it’s a money issue then tru secondhand. Problems do occur with secondhand tools and the key one I come across regularly is people burn the steel on grindstones and then abrade out their mistake. You get the tool and the iron has been softened. Every time you sharpen the tool it dulls in seconds and you are back where you started. So there are advantages to buying new too.

      1. I just ordered a Stanley 151 made in UK along with a 5 1/2 jack today so I look forward to reading your fettling post.

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