Sunday, December 5, 2010

The “Not So” Big Show

I attended my second Woodworking Show on Sunday.  We’d never had them visit us in New Mexico, so the two that I’ve been to have been here in Minnesota.  Last year’s show was held in Minneapolis and was smaller than I was expecting.  I had been reading online over the past few years how the economy has had a big impact on the show.  Every year fewer vendors and fewer woodworking personalities are attending.  The trend must be continuing...this year’s show was held in Shakopee, MN and was smaller than last year’s.  It didn’t keep me from spending a few bucks, but it would have been nice to spend more time at the feet of some woodworking masters.  I was done within a few hours and heading back home before the doors closed.

These shows used to be a great place to see the latest and greatest from the tool vendors.  Now there are just sponsorship banners posted for many of the big tool manufacturers, but no representation or demos.  I was even surprised to see a consolidated tool booth…DeWalt and Delta/Porter Cable sitting right there on the same table.  No Ridgid, Rikon, Triton, Jet or Powermatic, and none of the big tools from anyone.  I would have loved to leave a few drool marks on the new Unisaw or handled some of the Lie-Nielson or Veritas planes.

Here’s a shot of the loot I did escape with.  Not pictured is a 16” Carter Mag Fence, for my band saw, that will be shipped in the next few weeks.

 I was very impressed with the Carter guides and stabilizer at last year’s show, but opted for a Keller-style dovetail jig as my big purchase.  I was glad to see the same crew back again this year and even attended their band saw set-up class.  Along with the fence I purchased the Carter Guide System and the Stabilizer.  I’ll save the details for a future write-up in which I’ll upgrade and fine tune my band saw.  I will say that I’m excited to get this installed and tuned so that I can start tackling some band sawn boxes…another good cold weather project that doesn’t require as much room as furniture pieces.  During the demo, the presenter whipped out a band sawn box, with a drawer, in less than five minutes.  It was pretty slick, even though he moved back and forth between two band saws.  While browsing I did look for any shop heating solutions…sadly none were there.  They sure could have used them though.  I sat in on a talk from Jim Heavy, of Wood Magazine, and it was a little chilly on that side of the venue!

I picked up a few small things (brass striking hammer, center measuring ruler, fine rifling rasps and some profile sanders) and a special show edition of the GRR-ripper by Micro-Jig.  I’ve been cutting more smaller, finer detailed pieces on the table saw and wanted to invest in some increased safety and accuracy.

It looks more complicated than it really is prior to assembly.

Thirty minutes later I had the whole thing put together.  I will probably almost never use it like this, but here it is with all the extra accessories attached that came with the show special package.

That extra green piece is a replacement leg for cutting very thin stock…an eighth of an inch wide, down to a sixteenth if I’m willing to trim it on the table saw.  I’m already kicking around several different project ideas after seeing the demo of this jig at the show.  I’ll put together some action photos and a write-up on the GRR-ripper when I use it on a future project.

All in all, the 35 minute drive was worth the trip.  I already knew that I wanted a set of Carter Guides and the Mag Fence, and that the show special would be better than ordering direct.  I was pretty disappointed though that the show was even smaller than last year’s.  I’ll have to keep an eye on the Show’s website for details of next year's outing.  If it doesn’t look much different from this go around, I’ll probably pass.  Strange to hear myself say that after years of whining about never getting the show down in Albuquerque.  I noticed that a few of the other cities had longer lists of vendors and speakers, so perhaps some “strategic” travel will be in order next year.  Of course, having my lovely bride witness how quickly band sawn boxes can be made when a guy has two band saws could make the local show worth our while.


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