This weekend the wife and I took a little road trip to Cincinnati to attend Popular Woodworking's open house. This was a two day grass roots event that didn't cost anything to attend. Which is great, because this means I can spend more on tools! It had what you would expect from a woodworking event; demonstrations, tool vendors, question and answer sessions. The staff of Popular woodworking did an outstanding job. Every booth was buzzing with activity.
I think many of us follow Chris Schwarz's blogs and articles. It was great to he and the other staff work...and plays. The staff were very open and allowed people to browse though their tool cabinets and fondle their tools. Ever wonder what Chris stashed away in this tool chest? By the end of the day one had to feel a little sorry for Chris. His bench is in a corner. All day onlookers had him pinned in front of his bench asking questions. One had to smile when Chris asked, "What time is this thing over?"
At one point on Saturday there was what Chris joking says will be an annual event, "The Beating Of The Planes." Sort of a woodworkers "running with the bulls." This is where they take some of the cheap over seas planes and place them on an anvil and smack them with a hammer. One of planes that was made of cast iron actually exploded.
There was a discussion about some questionable business practices of Woodcraft. They have released a line of planes called Woodriver. It was mentioned that you could tell the over seas manufacturer's had taken a Lie-Nielsen plane and machine off the logo and made a cast from it. Woodcraft says they were copying a Bailey design. This seems unlikely. As Chris points out, the shape of their block plane is a Lie-Nielsen design, Stanley never make a block plane shaped like that. Word was passed to Tom that their was a Woodriver plane bashing session at Chris's bench. He bolted back to get involved. Tom took a close look at some of the Woodriver planes. Seems they may have copied his tools but had to cut corners to make the tools cheaply. Instead of the solid castings there would be two or more pieces spot welded together. This was evident when the hammer was hit and parts went flying. I think everyone there was a upset that Woodcraft would sell such a product. This seemed to a direct effort to put Lie-Nielsen out of business. It won't work, but it was an effort never the less.
In many ways this weekend was somewhat more informative that the Woodworking In America Conference. WWIA was more of a series of lectures. The speakers didn't have time to speak with everyone individually. This weekend was a great time to just pick the brain of the staff or tool makers. If I had a complaint it was that I missed some of the vendors/speakers that were absent; Mike Wenzloff, Adam Cherubini, Bridge City Toolworks, etc. This was a great time and I hope that Popular Woodworking Invites us all back next year.
PS. I seemed to have left the open house a little heavier than when when I arrived. So expect some new tool reviews and even a dvd review.