2005 Woodworker’s Show in Milwaukee

My wife threw me out of the house on Sunday, and actually encouraged me to go to the Woodworker’s show here in Milwaukee. I was only able to go for about two or half hours, but the show wasn’t very large and I wasn’t planning to attend any of the classes or seminars.

Over all, I felt the show was much smaller than I remember it being in prior years. I also don’t even think that the deals that were offered seemed particularly good. Maybe that’s a sign that the economy is improving. Either way, there wasn’t much to tempt me. It looked like the perimeter of empty space around the edges of the show was quite large in comparison to other years where I’d swear the show went all the way the walls. I know the show is a roving show that is held in lots of areas, so it may be totally different in your area.

In general I like the show. It’s fun to go look and see products that perhaps you’d never seen anywhere but on a catalog page. The demonstrations are also a hoot. I remember the first show that where I actually looked at the demonstrations. It was the demo for the Kreg pocket screw jig. The same thing was running through my mind over and over again: â??They’re sure making this look easy, I bet when I get home this thing will work nothing like they’re showing.â?? Well, a pocket screw jig is a pretty simplistic device and there’s not much to really go wrong with it, and sure enough it worked when I got it home. It’s a very handy tool. I don’t use it that often, but when I need it, it works very well for what it does.

There are two things that always get some of my attention at the show, because I keep trying to convince myself I need one: Mortising jigs, and Dovetailing jigs.

Every time I see the Leigh FMT mortising jig demonstration, I swear I’ll have the money to buy one by the time the next show comes around. It hasn’t happened yet – the thing is expensive – but the jig is just so extremely impressive and is so very nicely finished in comparison to most jigs out there. They even mortise and tennon two matchsticks together â?? that’s a tiny joint. The sad part is that even if I bought one, I’m not really sure how much I would use it.

I did have a chance to look at something that kind of caught my eye in the little booklet they send you before the show and that was the mortising jig from Trend. It looks like a copy of the Leigh FMT, and it is, although it’s built to a lower standard . I didn’t get a chance to see it demonstrated. but looking at the jig closely and noticing that a couple of the screws that looked like they were frequent adjustments were already getting stripped out, I wasn’t that impressed. It’s about 1/3rd the cost of the Leigh it’s surely more affordable, but I’m not sure it’s solid enough to be reliable. I haven’t had a chance to see one in action, though.

When it comes to dovetailing jigs, there are really two choices: The Leigh and the Akeda. The Akeda and Leigh dovetail jigs come at the same problem from opposite corners. Leigh’s philosophy is: If you can adjust it we’ll let you adjust it. Even if it doesn’t really need to be adjusted we’ll let you adjust it. We’ve got more adjustments than you can shake a stick at. If there’s some aspect of this dovetail joint that you don’t like, don’t worry — there’s an adjustment. Akeda’s point of view is totally opposite: If you can adjust it, you can miss-adjust it. Therefore, you can’t adjust it you can’t miss-adjust it and that is superior to any adjustment. We’ll manufacture the thing to the proper tolerances in the first place, so that you don’t have to make any adjustments.

My reason for wanting a dovetail jig go more to the practical aspects of joint strength than the creative aspects of creating beautiful dovetails. If I want to create beautiful dovetails, then I’ll probably cut them by hand, because then I’ll be able to make the pins extremely narrow, which is a very difficult thing to do with any dovetail jig. In the end I think a probably end up with the Akeda. One jig that I always expect to see but never do is the WoodRat. I know it’s a European tool, sold primarily in Europe, but if you read the web page it looks like a pretty nifty tool. The fact that it mounts on the wall is attractive.

I noticed the folks from the Lee Nielsen Toolworks were there. They had a very nice little booth, and as always, their tools were a joy to hold and behold. Someday, I will own one of everything.

Later on, I went and looked at Dado sets at the Freud booth. I finally decided that, based on the Fine Woodworking’s review that I would stop my practice of only buying Forrest saw blades and pick up a Freud set to replace my aging Delta set. The Dial-a-Dado looked like just the ticket and the fact that it has the arbor washer. built right in tells me that I’ll probably be able to get a wider dado with that set than I would with a normal stack.

I will also watched a demonstration of Norton water stones over at the TWC booth, which was interesting. I ended up buying a set. I’ve been a diamond hone man for long time because they don’t have to be flattened, but as a sharpening addict I was bound to get water stones eventually. After a brief trial I have to say those water stones are very, very fast — faster than diamond in my experience. I think I might stick with diamonds for just touch-ups and times when I just have just one tool to do, but when there’s enough to make it worth the mess water stones are the trick.

This year I left with only a dado set and some sharpening stones â?? not as much as some years, but with the baby on the way I’m sure shop time will be limited.

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