|Getting ready to open for the day|
One of my objectives for the past few years has been to attend the biannual European Woodworking Show (EWS) in Essex, UK. Essex is the land of thatched roof cottages and Knights Templar lore. The biggest event on the woodworking calendar took place last week in one such location. This event was the model for Handworks in the U.S. which is also housed in a somewhat newer (220+ yrs old) collection of barns in the Iowa countryside.
|These hand-hewn rafters have held|
up this roof since 1225
The EWS takes place in a collection of barns built by the Knights Templar in the early 1200’s and attracts exhibitors from the world over. The fun Chris Vesper from Vesper Tools in Melbourne, my good friend David Barron from Southampton, Vic from Lee Valley/Veritas, Ron & Linda from Hock Tools, and Dave Jeske and his wife from Blue Spruce Toolworks to name a few.
|The Main Barn at Cressing Temple (c.1225)|
|Picture from the barn rafters of the hand tool group|
This was also an opportunity to meet some folks from Europe I have come to know online over the years. I had a wonderful chat with Bill& Sarah Carter (Carter Planes), who has made a couple of very nice tenon saw-back planes for me in the past; at 76 years Bill is able to draw (and hold) a crowd with his storytelling. Phil Edwards from Philly Planes is a fun guy I met at Handworks and asked him to make me a small wooden plane from some special material. He did not disappoint! He had a lovely little smoother made from curly, spalted boxwood.
I even had a personal demo on hand-stitching a rasp by the man himself Michel Auriou.
In addition to the stalwarts in the business there were some new entries making hand saws and infill planes; trying to make a go of it in the hand tool world. I spent quite a bit of time talking to a fine young man in the booth next to Chris Vesper; Oliver Sparks started out as a cabinet maker and is making the transition to a plane maker and had a few of his planes there for all to see. I can see he is developing his own design language and an evolving signature look, which I think is important to have. Oh yeah, and the planes were very well executed and function perfectly; as an owner of a couple of planes from some of the finest contemporary makers in the world, I think I know how quality should feel.
|Oliver Sparks Collection|
While the main barn was filled with some of the best hand tool makers on the planet, this was a very large event. Another barn was setup with Woodturning demonstrations of a skill level I have not seen before; some very unique pieces and lots of tools and equipment designed to turn logs into long wispy curls of wood.
Another barn was home to carvers and a carving competition which made it very difficult to choose who to vote for.
Outside tents had lots of tool sellers, many of which relieved me of a few pounds (the spendy kind, not the jiggly kind), and various crafts from a few luthiers to wood carvers to a traditional Japanese woodworker working in sock feet to make a small table.
|Watanabe making a small table for eating on.|
There were lots of interpretive displays with period costumes demonstrating the techniques of very early woodworkers. One well-built gentleman was turning rough logs into beams all by hand, with only axes and captivating story-telling to boot – I spent too long watching chips fly from a very large chestnut tree.
Another period display involved a passionate bow maker dressed in 14th century attire and demonstrating the many subtleties of material and construction in the tactical weapon of choice in antiquity. He had a display of arrows he has researched and built using techniques from the Stone Age to the 18th century. Yes very interesting, but his wife warned me not to wind him up or I would be there for the day!
|All you would ever want to know about arrows!|
|Very passionate medieval bowmaker.|
This trip was one I am glad I had made, it was all I expected and a bag of chips (and a Diet Coke). Getting on the train back to London to work was a rude awakening from a simpler time and place I wish I had experienced first-hand – with indoor plumbing of course…