This past weekend, I finally had the chance to do something I’ve been wanting for the past 3 years-attend Woodworking in America, the annual conference put on by Popular Woodworking. Held just outside Cincinnati in Covington, KY, this has been the go-to woodworking conference for a few years now and after all the hype, I wasn’t going to miss out this year. I started out early Thursday morning-I had an 8 hour drive ahead of me and there was no way I was going to miss that night’s meetup with all my pals from the Modern Woodworkers Association. I pulled in around 4:30 and was almost immediately able to hook up with my friends from the MWA, Tom Iovino, Dyami Plotke, Kyle Barton, Sean Wisniewski, Chris Adkins and others. The pre-meetup meetup and the hotel’s free happy hour was a great way to start the evening, as I got to meet more of the folks I had only met through Twitter, Google+ and other online venues.
From there, we all worked our way over to the Keystone Bar & Grill just a few blocks away. It is hard to describe one of these meetups until you actually get to go to one. Every one who attended (not just this meetup, but the whole conference in general) is friendly, welcoming and approachable. I had a great night matching faces to the online personas, and meeting new ones at the same time. The night even ended up having 2 “You had to be there” moments-the first being what can only be described as a closing time discussion that gave rise to the phrase “Why are you here?”, one that surely will live on in subsequent years to those who witnessed it. The second should be known as The Rude Awakening. A good hour after returning to the hotel, we all got the wake-up call of a lifetime when around 1:30 or so we were evacuated because of a potential Fire Emergency. After we all dutifully slogged our way downstairs and outside (yes, some in PJ’s), all the woodworkers seemed to gather around each other again and shared some laughs until we were allowed back in. It seems towels with oil on them don’t get along with dryers very well. Go figure.
Anyway, Day one began in Roy Underhill’s TIMBER! session, where he took a 7 ft. long Tulip Poplar log down to a 4″ x 8″ beam, doing it only as Roy can-with a mix of humor, history and death-defying stunts. After all, the log was perched on 2 saw horses, which in turn were on a raised, kind of shaky platform. Damn.
Later on, it was on to Megan Fitzpatrick’s dovetail class. As I am a newbie to this stuff, this was just what I needed. Dovetails don’t have to be perfect, and there are creative ways to fix mistakes. After this, I headed down to the marketplace for the first time to do some scouting for purchasing later on. After a while, a bunch of us headed out for a gourmet lunch.
Most of the rest of the afternoon was spent in the Marketplace, looking at more tools and figuring the best way to distribute my budget. After a little of that, I found Tom, Chris and Dyami from @MWA_National setting up to record their podcast in the back of the Marketplace, and hung around long enough to capture some good-natured ribbing from Marc, Matt and Shannon of @WoodTalkShow fame.
From here it was on to the Online Woodworking Roundtable, where the host of the above mentioned podcasts along with a few other notables from the online community got together to discuss how they got their start online and how to get more folks involved to help spread the word. Overall, a great session and one they should bring back next year to continue the discussion. As usual, Tom was his usual shy, retiring self, so ill at ease in the spotlight
When all this was over and we had a few moments to catch our breath and take stuff back to our rooms, we hopped on the Trolley to head over to the Hofbrauhaus in nearby Newport for more energetic woodworking talk, very good food and beer (served in convenient 1 liter glass steins!), and more polka music than I’ve ever heard before. Overall, a great time with some great people.
Well, I just realized that this post is starting to ramble on a bit, and I haven’t even gotten to the rest of the weekend yet! Thanks for taking the time to stop by and take a look! I’ll try and post more as I have a chance.