The Northeastern Woodworkers Association show review

The crowd

Firstly, the crowd was indeed enthusiastic throughout the day and many inspired woodworkers swelled the aisles during my demo’s. I demonstrated every hour on the hour and without doubt this was the most receptive group of woodworkers ever. I was not a scheduled demonstrator so freedom was mine. I spanned many areas of working wood and emphasised my concerns about dumbed-down woodworking in the many spheres I encounter in today’s woodworking world. I am so glad to be here.

One really negative issue that does seem predominant even though I felt this to be truly a woodworker’s show and not the usual woodworking machinery show, is the shortfall with regards to children and young people attending. With so few here, and this being a different show than the norm, I was surprised to see that there were almost no children here. I mean, perhaps a hundred or so throughout the day. This is the direct result of TV’s presentation of New Yankee woodworking and such like throughout all those years and a lack on the part of real woodworkers to present the case for solid handwork as a viable and dynamic necessity. The next generation was left completely out of the loop with macho–man commando woodworkers wearing the gear and presenting the ‘let’s-get-this-job-done-and-get-it-done-yesterday’ image. Old ways of woodworking was never represented as anything but boring and slow. Today, we see the demise, the big-boy toys presented by Bosch and Dewalt, Makita and dozens of others won their crowd to make woodworking inaccessible to young people and thereby an adults-only craft. At one time a CNC router company was offering a free CNC router for each school in a batch of schools to see if they would like to present this as an alternative to woodworking in public schools. They thought that by this they could persuade young people to accept as the standard the CNC-guided machines as the way forward for today’s woodworking. Ease and safety were the two primary factors coupled with digital technology to give it modern acceptance.

This show was different than others I have demoed at. There was a good mix of presentations by supply companies together with organisations who presented everything from rare woods to Sam Maloof chair kits and wood finishes and finishing to shooting boards, timber-framed buildings construction and much more. I thought the show was well organised in general and for a volunteer run event they could give most professional organisations a run for their money.

It was great to get to meet so many of you yesterday. Thanks for stopping in. If you get by today you will not be disappointed.

6 comments on “The Northeastern Woodworkers Association show review

  1. Mr. Sellers,

    I was one of the younger people there — I was the fellow with the khaki pants and braces (I believe that’s what they’re called in the UK, rather than suspenders, as we call them here) who kept coming back for your presentations. I wanted to thank you for what you did there: while Roy Underhill proved to me that hand tool woodworking was a possibility, it was you who showed me that it was also a thing that a person like me with limited means could take up.

    I have often felt that there is a certain level of advertising gimmickry, even with hand tools — that manufacturers like to claim that things are impossible without their specific, special tool. It also seems that many hand tool woodworkers like to cultivate a sense of mystique in their work that prevents people like me from learning how they do things. Watching you, listening to you, I felt that beautiful and functional woodworking was something I could actually accomplish, and that the tools to do it were not beyond my reach in both skill and price.

    So thank you. Yesterday was one of the most affirming moments of my life, because it proved to me that craftsmanship is not dead, not a thing of the past, and that it is something that I can pursue. That the hunger I feel to work with my hands and body and mind is a valid thing. If this is what the Real Woodworking Campaign is about, count me in.


    Mark Nelson
    Age 25

  2. Thanks for promoting hand tools and woodworking – I thought your demos were a breath of fresh air amid the noise and smoke of the power tools!  I have some old hand tools and want to learn more about their use, care and how to sharpen/set teeth on old saws and planes – then to ues them. 

  3. Paul,
    I attended the show last year and was quite pleased with it, but sadly couldn’t make it this year due to work.  I’m quite sorry to have missed another chance to meet you.

  4. Mr. Sellers,

    I have been a part of NWA since its inception 21 years ago and indeed have been show chairman among other jobs.  Durning those 21 years we have tried a large number of things to both involve youngsters and promote their attendance with parents.  This year the two largest efforts were the Toy Factory and the Pen Turning.  While we will certainly continue each of those areas neither they nor their predecessors have been especially successful in bring young people to the show.

    A couple of years ago Doug Stowe was at the show.  You may know that his special interest in involving youngsters in woodworking.  While he was encouraging there really were no concrete (wrong medium) steps that we were able to take.

    Any suggestions you might have on things we could do at the show that would involve young people and would, perhaps, encourage parents to bring their children to the show “next year” would be appreciated.

    • I thought that that might be the case. Tother we will make a difference. I can help I am sure. My book tackles the problem from a different perspective in that it reestablished those aspects of woodworking we have lost to machines.

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