Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Woodworking in Canada

This weekend I was fortunate enough to be able to assist with the Lie-Nielsen Tool Event in Sidney, BC. While being only 35 miles away from my home in Port Townsend as the crow flies, this crow cannot fly and so instead it takes a few hours by car and ferry, and then some time as determined by the friendly (we hope) immigration and customs officials.

Arriving Thursday afternoon, I met with Jeremy Tomlinson, the Canadian rep for the company. I had met him before at the Wooden Boat Festival, but it was quite enjoyable to have some more time learning about his fascinating background and career. With Jeremy, a very simple question can turn into a 30-minute long answer, and this is a good thing. I was introduced to the order-placing process and some of the business practices of the company, and then we set up the event space. Sadly I was too busy to take a lot of photos, but you have probably seen this stuff before... a few workbenches to test tools upon, a sharpening station, an order desk, and of course the glorious racks of demo tools, each tuned up and ready for the public to test-pilot.

The Event took place at West Wind Hardwood, a small family-run business. There is a cliche in the US about how nice Canadians are, and it is well-founded! These folks were utterly gracious in hosting us, even as we had to take over their flooring showroom for a day. Lots of fun getting to know the staff there, as well as perusing their stash of hardwoods and antique tools. If I had not taken a passenger ferry with just a backpack to haul my stuff, I would have been sorely tempted by some of their figured maple!

We also took a moment to check out the Lee Valley store. While I have seen their catalogs for years, I had never been to one of their shops. Very interesting! They keep most of the good tools behind glass, so it is not all that easy to get a feel for them, but the employees are helpful enough with questions. Of course while walking between islands of tools, one is confronted with all the weird and wonderful impulse-purchase items that Lee Valley is so skilled at sourcing. Their gardening section would probably lure me in if I lived nearby.

The Tool Event went smoothly, lots of happy customers. One of them went ahead and put together a complete dovetail joint while "trying out the chisels". I made a quick tenon to demonstrate how the shoulder planes are used. A young woman came in and learned to flatten a board with a handplane, and was giggling nonstop about how fun it was. Another fellow came in to outfit his shop with all the basics... I envied him!

Of course everyone enjoyed trying the #51 shooting plane, although nobody purchased one. We can all dream...

I was happy to learn that the Lie-Nielsen plow plane will be out soon. Photos of it are stunning! It has a much improved depth stop. I was told it will be $225, and include a 1/4" iron with others available later.

Personally, I came to the conclusion (after much repeated trial) that I might really prefer a #8 jointer to my familiar #7. Time to start saving up!

I had such a good time that I might also go to Vancouver Event. This will be held at the Roundhouse, where Mr. Tomlinson teaches his woodworking classes. I am eager to see the space after hearing about it. What a great asset to the Vancouver area!

I've been to a handful of these Tool Events and I have to continue to highly recommend them. Even (or especially) if there is no intent to purchase a tool, the wisdom and inspiration available is priceless, and free!

I must also tack on a photo of the West Wind shop dog, Ruby. A troublemaker, for sure, but such velvety ears make up for many a sin. Any guesses on her heritage? Her master was not sure. I have my guesses, but who knows. She is larger than she might look in this image; at six years old, she was about as large as a dog could be and still have you wanting to pick her up. The perfect "big dog in a small package" as far as I am concerned. I look forward to seeing her, and British Columbia, again.


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  2. I would guess Rudy to be a beagle/boxer aka boggle. I have a boggle looks much like Rudy. About 25 lbs and 15" high at collar, slight under bite.