Back 30 years ago when I started green woodworking by making chairs with Alexander etc there were few places to buy new tools. Woodcraft, Garret Wade & Frog tool in Chicago were it, if I remember right. Maybe a few other smaller outfits.
Things are different now. Since then there has been a huge growth of high-quality tool makers and sellers. Last year when I went to the Woodworking in America conference in Valley Forge, PA I was astounded at the quantity & quality of tools available. Almost all out of my budget, yet I did manage to lighten my wallet some as a result of that conference.
One great way to see, use & learn about some of these tools is to attend one of the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Events. I went to one the other day at the Furniture Institute of Massachusetts, a school in Beverly, Massachusetts run by Phil Lowe. http://www.furnituremakingclasses.com/ Phil’s resume is a long one, readers of Fine Woodworking will know him by his articles and videos going back twenty years or more. He formerly taught at North Bennet Street School, ran the furniture program there for quite a while. For the 17th-century fanatics, it was Phil who restored the missing moldings on the front of the Pope cabinet for the Peabody Essex Museum. One of my favorite parts of visiting woodworker’s shops is how they store/access junk. Here’s the part of Phil’s place that really caught my eye:
Thomas Lie-Nielsen has started these Hand Tool Events as a way to connect people with the tools his company produces; but they are more than that also – other tool-makers exhibit there, and various woodworkers demonstrate techniques to boot. It’s like a small-scale trade show, and it’s FREE. They happen all over the place, see their website for the schedule http://www.lie-nielsen.com/ and for slideshows of previous incarnations of this thing.
I spent some time at the bench where Matt Bickford was showing his molding planes. He spent time with everyone who came by, and guided several folks through the process of cutting an ogee molding with rabbets & rounds. Nice planes; worth a look for certain. http://www.msbickford.com/index.html
I missed the bench with the fellow from Fine Woodworking; but I noted that he was busy the whole time I was around; always with a crowd. That was also true in the front room of Phil’s shop, where the Lie-Nielsen crew was showing & demonstrating their tools. All in all I think these are a great draw; from the sounds of them they are growing as they go. From my standpoint, I know what it’s like working & answering questions all day – and these folks have an audience that is already fanatical about the subject, that makes for a more lively time for all involved. If they come near you, I’d say it’s worth a trek. It’s not green woodworking, but it is hand-tool woodworking, and I think that’s good enough for many. back to greenie stuff next time.