I went to Iowa and all I got was this Incredible Community

Or: The Handworks 2017 round-up

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And just like that, Handworks 2017 is over, and I’m back in the UK feeling quite jetlagged. After nearly 12 months of build up, the event itself flew by at breakneck speed. Given that the show covered five separate buildings and featured over 50 demonstrators, it would be nigh on impossible to give an exhaustive account of the show (not to mention that I covered the event for Furniture & Cabinet Making so need to attempt that herculean task for the magazine). Needless to say, the tools were shiny, especially Konrad’s planes, which I finally got to try for the first time, and the Studley reproduction was eye-wateringly beautiful. Seeing new tools unveiled by Veritas, Blue Soruce Tool Works, and Texas Heritage, and a sneak preview at something else which has not yet been publically announced, was very cool. But what really struck me throughout the two days, and what I had flown out for, was the sense of community.

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I’ve known Chris (of Sterling Tool Works) for 3 years, but Handworks was the very first time we met in person. Many thanks to Chris for letting me hang out on his stall and sell OtW tees.

I’m only one participant, and I am looking forward to reading other accounts of the event over the coming days to see how others experienced the event. But for me the real highlight was the warmth, friendship, cameraderie, and inspiration demonstrated by everyone I spoke to. I’ve written a lot about community in the past two years, but nothing had prepared me for the experience of meeting so many good friends in person for the first time, for seeing plenty of old friends again, or for the generosity of spirit in action. Thank you to everyone who stopped by to say hello and introduce themselves.

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Jason Thigpen (of Texas Heritage) is another longstanding friend I’ve been waiting years to finally meet. He has a strong line in headgear.

Events like these always result in opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise present themselves. On Friday I gave an impromptu talk on selecting backsaws at the Bad Axe Tool Works stand thanks to a very kind invitation from Mark, and that night got to play an incredible resonator guitar by Mule Resonators over beer (one of Matt’s guitars needs to become a permanent fixture in my life). Chatting to Megan resulted in a possible article for Popular Woodworking next year, and I have also started to knit together the strands of an ambitious article which I hope will consolidate and expand upon some of the themes I’ve been writing about for the past four years, and which is set to feature contributions from some significant craftspeople – more on this as it starts to come together. A personal highlight was Jameel Abraham of Benchcrafted (who by the way is the nicest guy imagineable) asking me to put some OtW decals on the sublime tool chest he built with Chris for PopWood last year. And where else but Handworks can you turn around at breakfast to find Jim Tolpin and George Walker standing behind you in the coffee queue?

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Jim McConnell is my favourite woodwork blogger, and a good friend to boot. Beer was quaffed, yarns were spun, memories were made.

Although it is bittersweet to leave Amana (for me at least – the Apprentice still has a beard phobia which meant that Handworks wasn’t the most comfortable time for her), the good memories and strength of community, will continue to inspire me in my ‘shop for months to come. Some of the same faces will be at the European Woodwork Show in September, and while another Handworks is never guaranteed, I am sure that future events will continue to bring us together.

I can’t possibly hope to mention everyone in this blog post that I spoke to over the course of the two days, but here are a small selection of the hundreds of photos I took,

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With Megan Fitpatrick, who is just as entertaining and erudite in person as in print.

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It was great to finally meet Nancy Hiller after months of chatting on Instagram.

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Mark Harrell is a dangerous man – everytime he makes a new product money disappears from my bank account. Top chap.

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I’ve known Anne (of All Trades) for years, but this was the first opportunity we’ve had to catch up in person. Great times.

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Does the Kilted Woodworker need any introductions? Ethan is one of the most generous and community minded people I know.

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This guy definitely doesn’t need any introduction. But he’s been a damn fine friend and mentor over the past 3 years.

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With Vic Tesolin. There’s a 98% chance that Vic cracked an offensive joke immediately before this photo was taken, during it, or straight after. I wouldn’t change that for the world.

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Jameel Abraham of Benchcrafted – the nicest guy. Thanks to him Handworks happens.

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Konrad Sauer and I first spoke when I was researching the Karl Holtey article for PopWood. His planes are sublime.

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Saint Roy!

 

John and Janet Switzerland – the loveliest people you could hope to meet, and great craftspeople to boot.

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With Jenny Bower (who I interviewed for Furniture & Cabinet Making a couple of months ago) and husband Nathan.

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The Baby Anarchist’s Tool Chest built by Chris and Jameel, now sporting OtW decals.

 

7 thoughts on “I went to Iowa and all I got was this Incredible Community

  1. It was so great to meet you in person, Kieran! And F was as excited about the British coins as he was to give you some reclaimed American Chestnut.

    Glad you made it back home safely. Looking forward to the next time we get to meet up!

    Cheers,

    Ethan

    PS. Thanks for the kind words.

    I think I got some sawdust in my eye…

    • Hey Ethan

      Glad F enjoyed the coins – next time a £2 passes through my hands I’ll post it out to you so that he can complete the set! Thanks again for muling the ruler to me, and for the wonderful Chestnut – I will have to think of a special use for that timber.

      Hopefully see you at the next Handworks (if not before).

      K

  2. This event was really something special and exactly for the reason you state, community. It’s funny that an event that only looks like a marketplace on paper, really has more to do with hanging out with friends than it does high pressure sales pitches (though I’m sure lots of money exchanged hands) It was really nice getting to know you better in person.

    • It was great to meet you too, Jeremy! Thanks for asking me to participate in the podcast interview.

      The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that organising Handworks is an act of great service to our community. Hopefully we’ll all have a reason to meet in Iowa in 2019.

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