Tue 29 Mar, 2011
Tags: Announcement, Tools, Woodworking, Workbench
As a kind of annual spring trek my brother Clark and I visit the Woodworkers Showcase woodworking show presented by The Northeastern Woodworkers Association. It is held each year, usually the last weekend in March, at the City Center, Saratoga Springs, New York. Next year it will be March 31st and April 1st. Mark it on your calendar, because this show is the best woodworking show you will find.
The show is not just for woodworkers, but anyone who appreciates art and fine craftsmanship. This year my daughter Summer, her husband James and James’ parents, Don and Ellen attended. None of them are woodworkers but they loved the furniture pieces, guitars, bowls and generally the artwork and craftsmanship.
This year there were 40 free lectures and demonstrations ranging from hand carving to turning. I attended two 17th Century Carving lecture/demonstrations by Peter Follansbee (www.peterfollansbee.com) and a turning demonstration by Lulia Chin Lee. There were numerous other lectures and demonstrations by Ernie Conover (planes and dovetails), Tom Wetzel (Windsor Chairs), Bob Van Dyke (mortise & tenons with a router), Bill Sterling (crafting acoustic guitars), Dave Mobley (inlays with a router), Chris Schwarz (tool chests), Lyle Jamieson (goblet turning), John Grossbohlin (the scrub plane), Chris Walker (marquetry the French technique), Sheila Bergner Landry (scrollsaw), Barbara Nottke (beginner’s scrolling), David Nittmann (airbrush color expression), Alan Craft (bandsaw setup and techniques) and yours truly (SketchUp).
The majority of the displays are by hobbyist woodworkers. In fact the large display room is restricted to hobbyists. None of the woodworking displays are for sale, keeping that portion of the show a display only for art exhibition and appreciation. Professionals are relegated to a rather narrow and short display area called Featured Exhibit. This year’s featured exhibit was Grand Workbenches, although there were a couple of other pieces in that area. The makers of the benches each gave a one hour talk on their design and construction. Notable among them were Chris Schwarz and Lie-Nielsen.
Most pieces displayed at the Saratoga Showcase are of new or contemporary work. But at this year’s show there was a restoration project the caught my eye. It clearly has a story much deeper than the display can tell; a story of a love between a husband and wife.
Patricia Betterly, wife of Jack Betterly a jeweler, restored the roll top desk pictured in the poster shown left. The restored desk was on display shown right. It is one of the finest restorations I have ever seen. I was unable to look inside, but judging from the outside the amount of care and love put into this project was truly impressive.
This desk is apparently used daily in Jack’s shop for the repair and restoration of timepieces and jewelry. A close-up picture is shown at right. A small motor sits behind it and drives an adjustable pulley to control speed. The bed, headstock, rest and tailstock are like any you might see on a larger lathe. I would love to have seen what the turning tools look like. I was so curious that I went on-line and found a You Tube video on the basics of using a clockmaker/watchmaker/jeweler’s lathe. Apparently the motor is about 1/12 horsepower and the tools are a stubby version of those we woodworks use. Except for the size, this lathe would look right at home in my shop.
In addition to woodworking displays there is also a large room for tools, machine and materials exhibits and sales. Lie-Nielsen and Lee Valley are always present as are many others. Hardwood suppliers are in attendance with some of the finest figured woods you can imagine.
I never miss this show. Of all the shows I attend this is by far the best, especially the hobbyist’s pieces. Everything from chairs to lathe turned hats, period highboys to toys and musical instruments to benches are all on display; all crafted by some of this country’s best woodworkers.
The setting is Saratoga Springs, a beautiful and small early colonial settlement. Saratoga played a major role in the Revolutionary War. The Battle of Saratoga sealed the fate of British General John Burgoyne’s army in the American Revolutionary War, and is generally regarded as a turning point in the war. Saratoga boasts the most beautiful and oldest race track in America and The Travers Stakes is the oldest thoroughbred horse race in America. Saratoga Springs is where President Ulysses S. Grant spent his final days while writing his memoirs and bathing in the springs to nurse his failing health. The Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) is a cultural seasonal outdoor theatre that hosts summer theatre groups to pop artists. There are numerous and excellent restaurants and hotels in the city.
If you have never attended this show and live in the greater area make sure to see it next year. Even if you live a distance from Saratoga, NY, plan a vacation. Take in The Woodworkers Showcase along with a car tour of central to northern New England during sugaring season. I promise you won’t regret it. Let me know if you attend next year and would like to connect to talk all things woodworking.
For more information on The Northeastern Woodworkers Association or the Woodworkers Showcase visit www.nwawoodworkingshow.org. You might especially want to view the 2010 Showcase Winners at http://www.nwawoodworkingshow.org/2010awards/winners10.htm.
Note: All pictures in this post were taken by me and are of pieces on display at Woodworkers Showcase 2011. None are my pieces. However, I did examine them critically and can vouch for their excellent craftsmanship.