Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sin City Woodworkers meeting and AWFS thoughts

This week has been a little crazy. The big woodworking show was in town most of the week, and the fifth meeting of the Sin City Woodworkers was held on the first day of the show. One of our members - Dennis Patchett of DEP Woodworks shared his sharpening techniques, proving it doesn't take a lot of special equipment or a great deal of time to achieve a sharp edge on a chisel.

After sharpening some of his tools, Dennis proceeded to carve some small floral header blocks in minutes, much to the surprise of the group. If you click on that picture above, you'll get a much better view of some of the carvings Dennis brought to show the group. The apple with the "bite" out of it was my favorite, but that (carved) rose in the (carved) vase was pretty awesome, too.

Dennis is laid back and very humble about his work, but his linen fold door panel is really an amazing piece. I hope Dennis will give another demo in a future meeting to show us how he lays out and carves one of those. They really add something special to a piece of furniture.

The day after our meeting, I headed out to the AWFS show. That's the the Association of Woodworking and Furnishings Suppliers, and it's held every other year here in Las Vegas. The past two times I've attended, the crowds have been huge, and each exhibition hall requires a full day of walking. Not so much this year.

That doesn't mean there weren't some pretty cool things to see. But I did notice a general pissyness from many of the tool and hardware reps, probably from the poor attendance. They were probably thinking of all the things they could be doing (craps? golf? strip clubs?) rather than standing around talking to two people an hour at the show. Other attendees might disagree, but I found the sales reps to be generally crabby. Hey, I'm sorry you're not selling a $200,000 CNC machine to everyone who walks into your booth. How about just smiling and establishing a good relationship with some of the woodworkers, so that they'll think of your tool when the economy rebounds and they're ready to start buying again?

But maybe that's just me being silly.

There were some standouts, and even though attendees weren't allowed to take pictures, I made a few notes about some of the cooler products.

Schaub and Company
had an amazing line of hardware, with mother of pearl and jeweled accents. If I ever build a wine cellar, I know what pulls I'll be using on the doors and drawers.

A long time ago, a designer told me that pulls are like the jewelry we add to a piece, and that's really true. I've gone through phases in my life, where I either love jewelry, or I hate it. But this new hardware by Schaub is pretty sweet.

Green building materials are starting to pique my interest. So walking in the door of the show and seeing a huge showcase of green building materials offered a chance to see a good selection of showcased products. My favorite? Hands down, the bamboo sink.

It was stunning, and their website shows a lot more products that their booth didn't even mention, like dinnerware (bowls and plates) as well as some great smaller pieces, like cutting boards, chopsticks and much more. I've got a design or two rolling around my head for building with Plyboo. Silly name, great sustainable product. Even better, it's gorgeous.

As much as I complain about my Dewalt tools, they had a nice new TrackSaw, perfect for trimming doors, or cutting on the jobsite. However, I have to say that although I loved their product, Festool has a similar (and probably better) product, for right around the same price.

I've been burned by Dewalt tools too many times - short battery life, poor engineering, broken parts - and their customer service sort of sucks. So it'll be a while before they win me back with any of their tools. But if you do any on-the-job cutting, you should definitely investigate these track saws. Awesome.

Speaking of Festool, I know their Domino joiner isn't new, but if you've never seen what it does, check out this link and watch the video. Sweet tool. If I ever decide to build chairs full time, I will use this system.

There's a local drawer shop here, I've heard good things about them, and finally got a chance to meet the owners, Scott and Lana. Their booth was very nice, and they had some good examples of what they build. I love buying local, and the next chance I get, I will be using their drawers.

If you read any popular woodworking magazines, or watch woodworking shows on TV, then you undoubtedly know about Kreg and their pocket hole jigs.

I finally broke down and bought one of their jigs, the Kreg Jr. I'm working on a couple of small projects that will assemble much eaiser with pocket screws than any other method I normally use. Call me stubborn, I'm still not completely sold on the idea of pocket screws in fine furniture, but I'm open-minded enough to see their value. It only took me twenty+ years!

One last mention - there is a well known hardware company that debuted a really slick automatic drawer opening system. Worked perfectly and seemed fairly easy to install. But two things stand out in my mind - their sales reps at the booth were idiots, both in their condescending remarks, and their overall bored attitude with the whole show. Honestly, the products were great. The support for them? Not so much. Sorry, but I'd rather not mention them. If I'm spending $300 for drawers that open at a touch, I want someone to act like they care if I ask questions about their products.

Makita and Laguna had some smoking hot deals - and on the last day of the show, I noticed several "SOLD" signs on some of their larger pieces of equipment. Quality always sells. And their salespeople were nice. Huh! Go figure.

Once again, there was a student furniture building competition called Fresh Wood, and the entries were outstanding. My buddy Larry and I thoughtfully inspected the entries, and voted for what we thought built the best piece. A couple of days later, we went back to see which pieces had won. This is a great competition, and the level of expertise even on the high school level is very impressive. Those kids are building pieces I wouldn't even attempt now!

That's all for now. I'm off to try out my new toys...

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