Friday, November 15, 2013

The Woodworking Show in Portland, OR this weekend

Today was the first day of The Woodworking Show at the Expo Center in Portland, Oregon.  I attended two years ago but it was not held last year.  I had mixed feelings about attending but went for a particular reason:  to talk to people in the Lee Valley booth about a significant purchase I was thinking about and to try out several tools I am considering.  It was a good decision as I decided to make the big purchase, which I will write more about later, and bought the Veritas Dual Marking Gauge:

I have never liked the Crown Tools rosewood dual gauge I have because I can't mark accurately with it and I like the Veritas single wheel gauge I have, so I wanted to try this one. I was able to make accurate marks on both end grain and long grain so it was a must have. They offer free shipping if you order at the Show.

I really like to try out tools before I buy them and this is the only opportunity I have to try Lee Valley products.  They have excellent people in their booth who are very knowledgeable.  Charles and Kelly were extremely helpful. To share one example, a number of prominent woodworking educators, Chris Schwarz and Paul Sellers among them, have commented that the fence on the Veritas plow plane tends to slip, causing the groove to go off line.  It has happened to me only once and I was reluctant to adopt the solution often recommended:  use adjustable pliers to tighten the knurled brass knobs!  Charles was aware of this issue, told me it never happens to him and thinks it is because he always uses an auxiliary fence.  A light went on for me and I think this makes sense.  The fence on the plane is quite small and if you get your groove slightly off perpendicular, it can likely generate a lot of lateral force on the fence as the groove gets deeper.  I am anxious to try an auxiliary fence and I'll bet it will resolve the issue.  I think the plane will work better with it anyway.  Charles puts a rabbet along the bottom outside edge of his auxiliary fence for his index finger to ride in and also emphasized that you should only push forward on the tote without attempting to steer with it at all.  I have learned this using the plane, but reinforcement always helps.  This is what I like:  a high quality maker who isn't in denial and can solve problems.  I have seen Lee Valley and Lie Nielsen do this repeatedly at shows and I really respect them for it.

As for the rest of the show, meh.  In fairness, I think power tool woodworkers have a different reaction.  About one-third of the exhibitor space was taken up by Peachtree selling a lot of products that don't interest me.  Maybe another third was a variety of vendors hawking gadgets and gizmos for powered routers.  The final third consisted mostly of vendors selling other power tools and accessories, but it included booths for local woodworking and carving clubs, lumber yards, etc.  It is essentially a carnival atmosphere with a cacophony created by thousands of woodworkers and many demonstrators with wireless microphones.  The classes were not generally of interest to me and a definite step down from two years ago, but I think this may be specific to the Portland show and not necessarily to the shows in other cities.  An exception was Roland Johnson of Fine Woodworking who gave two interesting presentations, one on designing cabinet doors and another on restoring vintage planes.  An awareness of how our eyes see things is definitely useful in designing projects and he had a series of doors to demonstrate the validity of his observations.  I am generally familiar with the latter topic and thought he did a good job;  one thing I hadn't heard before was his recommendation to get the frog to seat firmly by using valve grinding paste and rubbing the loose frog back and forth on the rails that support it.

I also wanted to thank Roland for the time he spent with me two years ago when I was in the process of buying a premium bandsaw. Roland absolutely knows bandsaws inside and out and I highly recommend that you read what he has to say carefully if you are in the market. I found his advice and insight invaluable when I was buying mine.


  1. Hmmm . I was thinking about going, but decided that my time would be better spent actually doing some woodworking. Sounds like it was a good idea to stay home. Thanks for the report.

  2. I agree about the show. Totally lame. Not at all worth the $12 admission and $8 parking. Other than lee valley there were no hand tools. The guild had a nice set-up though.