More on the North of England Woodworking Show show

As Phil and I drove the coast road from North Wales to England and Harrogate yesterday the sun was bright all the way. We didn’t really know what we could expect since the new North of England Woodworking Show show owners took over the show and so there was a heightened sense of awareness that something new was about to happen.
DSC_0110One thing that was evident was the aisles were very full, but there was still room to manoeuvre to see the wares everyone brought to market. Funnily enough it wasn’t the big-box companies that were full but the littler box companies and that was so very refreshing because these people are the very ackbone of what Britain has always been about. Britain’s economy
DSC_0124Visiting with different people who stopped us in the aisles was very helpful and getting direct feedback on our Woodworking Masterclasses and YouTube videos made us want to go back and make more. Everyone made us very aware that we were at last addressing the issues surrounding craft conservation, woodworking training and much more. You may well recognise these two from their contribution to the forums. They have both been to my classes at the New Legacy School of Woodworking in Penrhyn Castle and have been very supportive of our work though the years. We all enjoyed catching up on news as we ate lunch together .
DSC_0205 Entrepreneurs are around everywhere and most often they are very much behind-the-scenes people that get the work done but are indeed seldom seen. I dig for them and I loved the entrepreneurial spirit with some people I found there. Jane is co-owner of of all things a rocking horse company called Rocking Horse Shop and has herself pioneered a Yorkshire enterprise producing top notch rocking horses and kits for woodworkers to build their own too. They ship everything worldwide from their workshops so if you want to build that heirloom piece contact them and they will give you everything from step-by-step how-to’s to the fully painted and harnessed Black Beauty.DSC_0202
Picking up some tools and some wood for a modest amount, and that included some Lignum Vitae and some more ebony for the upcoming star making videos as our Christmas star making offering in a couple of weeks, I was soon satisfied. Lignum is hard to come by but it’s the hardest known wood in the world. I wanted some for plane soles and other hard-wear areas for tools. I also picked up some lime for carving when we do the chip carving videos next year.
DSC_0145Tony’s booth at Antique Tools is always fascinating and I discovered some very nice looking riffler rasps there. DSC_0134I am about to test them out so I will let you know how they are. The price was certainly right for a hand stitched riffler. I think that Phil was most impressed by the secondhand tools but we picked up other stuff from the general tool and equipment suppliers.
DSC_0154Information in an information age can be hard to come by and so talking to reps and business owners proved truly invaluable and guess what! It was refreshing for me not to feel one ounce of pressure to buy. I spent much time with Record Power looking at some of their machines and equipment and I was impressed with the progress they have made over the past few years and what was really helpful was the knowledge of the industry Health and Safety they were up to speed on.
DSC_0192Of course anything without a plug on it and that didn’t need charging except three times a day grabbed most attention from me and from Phil.DSC_0193 I can see a router or a water-bath sharpening rig just about anywhere, but watching a travisher and spokeshave in the hands of an expert is always fascinating. I wish that there had been some more real woodworking demonstrations going on and dare I say it less woodturning, but there is no doubt watching Reg Sherwin and Stewart Mortimer at the lathe is always fascinating and 20 minute well spent.
Not too sure what people see in routers run by computers but I must say that they are better now than ever before. Parts are a bit like watching paint dry but Phil gave it a shot before I moved him on to better realms. But, that said, this is just another industry diversification and that’s an interesting move we’ve seen over the years.
DSC_0161This lady, Margaret Garrard, didn’t just talk about her turnings as some were wont to do, she talked and turned through to a beautiful ornament and people were glued to her dextrous skill the whole time through; and that included me. I was impressed.

DSC_0280And another creative artisan, Michael Painter, not to be missed, has much fine work to look at. Few carvers reach this standard.
DSC_0143There was definitely a greater presence of younger people at the show which I was glad about. They were looking at and handling the different hand tools and that was great. A Design and Technology teacher stopped me and thanked us for the work we were doing in trying to steer educationalists toward developing hand skills again. he lamented the sad loss he had seen through the years and I encouraged him that we were making a difference and that I had a whole series of articles coming together for woodworking with young people that would help in the future.
DSC_0130I ran into the Ashley Iles range of tools at the show. The bevel-edged chisels looked really nice and I may get a set to try them out more fully at the bench. In terms of metal fineness at the edge of the bevel they had it. The handles felt nice to and I always like to see real brass ferrules. Very nice product. Now when I got to the Narex booth I was disappointed in the massive size of their new handle shape. They are great for their rasps, but not for chisels. Even my hands found them too large. I like their other model handles the best. I was glad to get my hands on them but they need to get back to the design table on that one.
DSC_0118Lunch at the shows can rarely be described as a culinary delight and paying through the nose is to rub salt in the wounds of hunger, but at this venue you get the best of the best for about £8 including freshly brewed coffee and porcelain mugs and plates and proper non-throwaway silverware. DSC_0121The Yorkshire Cafe had it down. Hot and tasty food and as close as you could ever get to home made desserts as you can get. I had their Steak & Ale pie and steak fries with peas washed down with hot coffee and the whole thing was delicious. I wish that all show venue cafeterias could reach this standard and the staff paralleled the quality of the food. In all the twelve shows I demoed at this year this was the best food ever.


  1. I did spot you in the cafe eating lunch but thought it rude to interrupt while you were eating. I agree with everything you have said above. Thanks for all your videos they have brought my woodworking skills on no end. Thanks Paul and your team!


  2. Hi Paul

    Great article, just got back to Chester from the show in Harrogate, what a great weekend. It was great to see and talk to so many craftsmen, so many highlights like talking to the guys at the old tools store and purchasing a classic tyzack 19 century 14″ tenon saw for £15 which I can’t wait to try out in the workshop tomorrow, talking to chris tribe, looking at all the woods from Lincolnshire woodcraft, and meeting so many new people. It would have been great to meet and have a chat with yourself and Phil, maybe next year…. Woodworkers are such a friendly bunch 🙂

  3. Paul,

    Sounds and looks like you had a great show over there. Thanks for posting the photos. One day maybe there will be shows dedicated solely to hand crafted methods leaving the machinery out of them. Why not? Computerized woodworking is for the soul less after all.

    I watched computers slowly relegate the sign writing/making industry I belonged to into a narrow and dull art form where hands on design and creative applications have now been virtually lost. Layouts, lettering, painting, gold leafing and carving were hand taught techniques when I began. You could tell who made what in a given locale by the individual style of the artist and uniqueness of their work. With the exception of some photo digital printing processes, today’s vinyl graphic artists produce work that all looks as though a single and not too talented individual has generated it.

    With wood signs we went from hand carving, to routers, to computerized CNC machines. No one is trained in hand methods anywhere in the sign industry anymore that I am aware of, whether in the UK or here in the US. Even wood itself has been replaced by dense foam board products. There were many reasons behind these changes and not all were bad, but individual creativity at the end of the day has been the real victim in what has occurred. The connections between the brain the eye and the hand cannot seem to function anymore without a machine’s involvement in the process.

    The sign trade will perhaps never recover what has been discarded, but happily the traditional methods of the wood working arts and trades are definitely recuperating thanks to the efforts of yourself and others who are dedicated to their preservation. The innumerable ways in which wood as medium can be worked and made into useful items and applications, with even a small amount of hand tools that you teach, resonates in a big way. Your teaching method recovers the apprentice system that was done away with under Reagan and Thatcher and that is a really big deal. There’s a lot of little boats out there trying to find the shore’s of knowledge Paul, and you are a lighthouse guiding them in. Keep that light burning.


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