Periods that entail a lot of change (like say, moving where you live, for example) really upset the routine.  I left Italy in a state of woodworking homeostasis.  As I built up my handtool workshop from nothing, I had a power-shop to fall back on… experienced help there to learn from… and an easy supply of wood (from the experienced help) to feed to my projects.  This is probably a major contributing factor to my lack of motivation lately; I just don’t know where to turn to.  Online has been the best idea I can come up with.

In my world-wide-web quest to find a good hardwood supplier, I stumbled across a site advertising a Wood Fair nearby.  The timing was right, since it took place on the following day.  So I saddled up the ol’ motorcycle (why a motorcycle, you ask?  I can’t bring home big purchases if I’m on the bike… it limits the spending) and was off this morning to check it out… and hopefully gain a starting point to finding a decent wood supplier.

I was greeted by an open-air concession ground.  I made my initial round quickly amongst the tents, making mental notes of where I wanted to stop for more detail once I took a tally of the place.

an English Wood Fair

The majority of the Fair consisted of carvers and turners trying to sell their wares, neither of which I foster a huge interest in… wares-wise, not skill-wise.  I tend to see a lot of carved or turned pieces as tchotchkes (which means “clutter that distracts from clean unadulterated space” in the Snakeye Dictionary).  Don’t read too much into my meaning though: both of those skill sets are invaluable when used to complement furniture or other showcase pieces.

There were, however, 3 stands that I did spend a lot of time at during my second go-around:

RAMaking Contact, a plane expert:

Rich Arnold caught my eye right away for two reasons: he owned some immaculate old wooden hand planes, and I saw what appeared to be an Anarchist’s Tool Chest (only built well before it was known as the Anarchist’s Tool Chest) holding his tools.

We talked about both.  Though he doesn’t sell the tools (he just collects them), Richard is an invaluable resource to ask about old planes and tools.  The tool chest in the background was his grandfathers (if I’m not mistaken) and preceded the Schwarz edition by almost 200 years, even though it exhibited almost all of the design features of the Schwarz edition.  I guess it just goes to show you that Chris truly did his research before penning his tribute to industrial defiance.  It interests me because I have the wood cut, shaped and set aside in my workshop to build this exact tool chest.

Richard then pointed me to an old tool reseller that was in my neck of the woods:

Iles ToolsConnection #2, a tool manufacturer:

The Old Tool Store was represented with a stand of tools both old and new.  There was something familiar with the proprietor’s name, and then it dawned on me: I had seen Ray Iles’ tools on Tools for Working Wood (a website store I frequent)!  I spent a while talking to Ray.  It turns out he’s only a 5-minute drive from where I live!  And not only does he make chisels, draw knives and drawbore pins, but he also makes plane irons as well (which works for me since I’m starting to dabble in making my own planes).  Moreover, his heart is in old tools, so I also have a vintage tool supplier five minutes away, which beats the shit out of Ebay.

Ray gave me the name of the guy he buys hardwood from, but called the guy from the next stall over to confirm (or see if he had any better suggestions for a supplier):

Connection #3, a chair builder:

Peter Tree did, in fact, confirm that he buys good hardwood boards from the same supplier (who is probably two minutes down the road from me, who would’ve guessed?).  But even better, Peter lives about 25 minutes from me and has strayed from carving and turning tchotchkes to producing pieces that were more in line with my interests:

Peter-Tree-Chairs

Chairs.  I’ve actually been in hot pursuit to build 3 chairs now… I just haven’t worked up the guts to try them on my own (not to mention I have three other unfinished projects in the queue).  So, my 3 4 future chair builds:

MorrisHal Taylor RockerAncient Irish Chair

And the 4th is the Welsh Stick Chair (like the ones you see in the picture from Peter Tree’s work above; I prefer the Gothic one with the point).  The Welsh Stick Chair came about as a conglomeration with Brian over at Toolerable and Jonas over at Mulesaw: to meet up at some point, start a Welsh Stick Chair together, finish it at our places and blog about it while doing it… call the joint-project a “chair off.”

Regardless, I talked to Peter to see if he would be willing to take me under his wing (for a small fee, of course) so I could have a way of learning other than by DVDs.  I’ve never been to a woodworking class, but I think this will be even better because I get a 1-on-1 weekend-by-weekend apprenticeship with Peter to learn and build whichever chair I want.  This experience will be incomparable.

My point: this post is all about making connections.  Don’t be shy; seek out woodworking events (like Woodworking In America or European Woodworking Show or the like) and network with people that love the hobby like you do.  You never know when you’ll be reinvigorated… or when you’ll reinvigorate someone else.  From this one trip, I’ve found a tool expert I can rely on, a tool maker and supplier that’s five minutes from my house, a master craftsman that I can apprentice under, and a local wood supplier that they pointed me to.  I couldn’t have asked for a bigger “Win.”

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  • Brian Eve

    Nothing like meeting up with a few like minded folks to get the ball rolling.

    I have an interest in making a Morris chair one of these days, too. Also perhaps a Roorkhee. Guess I need to get in the shop.

    • Your find of the European Wood Show for me was a touchdown, by the way. I’ve already bought the tickets at since you pointed me to it. But everyone I talked to at this Wood Fair said the EU Woodshow is where it’s at! 3 weeks and counting for that one.

  • Mike Winslow

    Glad to see the motivation coming back… you do good work.