The first-ever FWW Live, as it happened
Fine Woodworking Live has been a long time coming, and finally, it was here. We loaded workbenches and tools into the Student Union at SUNY New Paltz, checked the closeup video cameras and projection screens in each classroom, put the beer on ice, and then saw the cars start pulling in from points far and wide, and off we all went.
At the opening night reception, I pointed to the words on the back cover of our 25th anniversary issue, “Working Alone but Sharing a Passion,” and share we did. For three busy days, attendees from as far as Israel, Brazil, Germany, and Malaysia had a ball meeting each other, flipping through iPad portfolios, filling their notebooks with invaluable info, and having a laugh.
They rotated through power-packed seminars where Steve Latta took apart classic pieces to unlock the fundamentals of construction, Rollie Johnson took apart flea-market hand planes to show how to easy it is to turn them into top-notch tools, Michael Fortune demonstrated five amazing ways to bend wood, with steam rising, air pumping, laminates flexing, and on and on.
There was plenty of time between sessions to chat with one’s woodworking heroes, eat good food, hang out with the demonstrators from Lie-Nielsen and Lee Valley, and make new friends. We’ll be sending all attendees a contact list including all their fellows who were willing to share info.
And if that wasn’t enough, there was entertainment. Almost 100 people showed up for game/music night. At one point, we had people from all corners of the globe singing House of The Rising Sun, with the amazing Rollie Johnson filling in on mandolin. And I got my butt kicked at billiards by a guy 30 years my senior.
One of the big hits of the weekend was “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly,” an all-conference morning session where our so-called masters of the craft risked their reputations by showing the biggest clunkers of their career. We cracked up at Steve Latta’s “curb furniture,” Rollie Johnson’s giant chicken feet, Mike Pekovich’s diving board table, and the capper, Michael Fortune’s unintentionally fecal salt and pepper shakers.
And FWW-groupie Nick Offerman, from NBC’s Parks & Recreation, both charmed and alarmed the Saturday-night banquet crowd with original songs written for the show, like “I Chalk the Line,” and edgy excerpts from his college comedy tour. Let’s just say I’ll insist on a full preview from next year’s entertainer! Click the video below for his loving and hilarious homage to the presenters.
In the end, I heard rave reviews for the whole experience, with valuable feedback for next time (no more turkey bacon). Fine Woodworking Live finally happened, taking people who work alone and giving them a wonderful opportunity to meet each other and share their passion for the craft, recharge their woodworking batteries, and just have fun.
I hope a few of you will post a comment below to share your experiences.
My undying thanks to all the presenters, food-service workers, camera operators, special guests and everyone who made this amazing event happen.
The core of the event was live woodworking demonstrations. After making a blade for his scratch stock, Garrett Hack offers a closeup of the tip.
The vendor area was packed between classes, with showgoers getting lessons and advice from the experts at Lie-Nielsen and Lee Valley.
Michael Fortune demonstrated five ways to bend wood, in 1-1/2 hours! To stay away from the sprinkler system(!), we headed outdoors for steambending.
At the all-conference design seminar, FWW authors showed their best work and their most hilarious misfires. Here Michael Fortune describes his greatest success, his No. 1 chair.
But maybe the best thing of all was people who normally work alone having a chance to make priceless connections and share a passion.
The bookstore was filled, the name tags ready, the vendors waiting, and the folks started rolling in.