There sure is no business like show business

Ok, ok I know it’s been a while again. Since the show in Novi, MI life has been more than a little hectic. Those who know me, and those who’ve talked to me, know that I have lots of things ready to go for the blog. The problem has been finding time to sit in front of a computer long enough to put together a decent post.

During the last two months, or so, I handled my “Christmas” rush and started a whirlwind tour doing a variety of woodworking shows. The “Christmas” rush around here has historically meant that I work sixteen to twenty hour days, seven days a week from September through December just to handle getting pieces made that are promised for the end of the year. It’s never mattered how many people I had working with me in the shop or how early I try to get the projects going, the work load always ends up the same. 2008 was only different in the fact that I added a some classes and a couple of woodworking shows to that time frame.

On the upside, only one project that was planned for completion prior to the end of the year didn’t get done and that was because the customer postponed the work. Doing the WoodWorks events in York, PA and Novi, MI were great fun. I got to meet so many fantastic people through my demos and the seminars I taught.

2009 has started off with a bang as well. It began on New Year’s Day when we loaded up the truck and headed to Baltimore for our first show of the new year. The crowd was unbelievable! On Friday, January 2nd, the line of people wanting to get into the show was fifteen wide and a hundred and fifty feet long. It was incredible. One of the best parts was that I got to meet a handful of my fellow Lumberjocks.

Next it was off to the WoodWorks Event in Springfield, MA the very next weekend. I had lots of fun teaching seminars, doing hand cut dovetail demos and meeting more Lumberjocks. I even got to help Frank Klausz judge the woodworking contest at the show.

The following weekend it was off to Columbus, OH for yet another woodworking show. In Columbus I got to meet a handful of the the local members of the Society of Period Furniture Makers. Since I am a period furniture maker, and a SAPFM member, it was great fun. Later in the day on Saturday my friend, and fellow period furniture maker, Glen Huey of Popular Woodworking stopped by for a visit. As you may, or may not, know Glen has graciously offered to come out to the shop this Summer and teach a class on his cover project from the June 2008 Popular Woodworking magazine, a Queen Anne Tea table.

In my booth I have an easel with a rather sizable poster of Glen and the tea table advertising the class. I had just finished up one of my demos on hand cut dovetails and managed to get a young fellow from the audience to agree to give it a try. As is usual during one of these demos, I try to chat a little with the victim…err, volunteer to help put them at ease in front of a crowd. This fellow proceeded to tell me, pointing at the poster over his shoulder, that he was a big fan of Glen’s and how he had all Glen’s books and videos. It was at this point I told him that Glen was due to show up sometime that very afternoon. His response “I just hope it’s after I embarrass myself with these dovetails”. Naturally, as he completed that sentence, Glen walked up to the booth. Well, this fellow turned white as a ghost but managed to get through a pretty decent set of dovetails in spite of having just met one of his woodworking heroes.

The next weekend I had “off”. This means I spent the 8 days I was home working like mad to get projects further along so I could then trek off to Indianapolis for the show out there. If you’re doing the math along with my ramblings you’ll have figured out that show was this past weekend. The show was great and heavily attended in spite of being Super Bowl weekend (I hope I haven’t violated any copyrights by mentioning the “Big Game” by it’s actual name). While I didn’t cut as many dovetails as I did in Columbus, I still managed to work my way through a couple of dozen sets myself plus a handful that got cut by willing volunteers. All in all it was a fun, productive weekend.

For me though, the best part of the trip to Indianapolis was the after show trip. I decided to loop down to Cincinnati to visit my friend, Glen Huey for a day or two. So, Sunday after the show closed I packed rather rapidly with the help of Geoff Noden and his wife Suzette, and trekked off to Cincinnati. After a brief delay due to a slight tire blow-out on the trailer I made it to Glen’s. We had a little dinner and watched the last two minutes of the “Big Game” then we talked woodworking until nearly midnight. It was gripping conversation, I assure you.

Monday morning came early because Glen likes to be at the magazine by 7 am. For me that’s a late start but I rarely stay up as late as we did on Sunday. So, I was dragging a bit on Monday. We arrived at the offices of Popular Woodworking just before 7 to find the hardest working man in the woodworking business already in the office, Chris Schwarz. Now, I had never met Chris and I really didn’t know what to expect. I wasn’t sure if I was going to find a guy who was permanently attached to a key board or a handsaw. What I found was a guy who is permanently attached to both and still manages to be personable and witty.

For those of us on the outside of the woodworking magazine world, I really had no idea of what to expect. I figured a high rise building with everyone having their own office and secretary. And I figured there was a guy like Larry Tate popping his head into Glen’s office half a dozen times a day just to see if they were on for drinks at the club that night. Well, Popular Woodworking resides on the first floor of a high rise building (the whole building is the home of F & W Publications who owns PopWood) but that’s where the similarities to my corporate delusions end. The entire magazine is published from a room about the size of my shop. The whole staff including Steve Shanesy, the publisher, resides there.

Now, if you’ve managed to read this far you’re probably thinking “Where are the pictures?!?”. In a rare moment I caught Glen in his “office” hard at work. See Chris it does happen and here’s the proof. And yes, the whole office looks just like that. It’s a woodworker’s dream with brand new tools piled everywhere waiting, longing to be used and reviewed.

Somewhere in the conversation Glen and I had the previous evening he mentioned that I was to be interviewed when I got into the office. I wasn’t sure why they would want to interview me but I’m just a woodworker which means I’ll figure it out one day…

So after meeting Chris and getting a quick shot of Glen in his cubicle…sorry, I mean “office” I got a tour of the PW wood shop. Now, you might think that with a “guest” coming in they might spruce up the place a little. Fortunately for me their shop looks exactly like mine when I’m not teaching classes. It’s great to see that even in the vaunted halls of Popular Woodworking there are hand tools, power tools and furniture parts scattered throughout the shop. Ok, so they also have photographic lights on stands and cameras all over the place too,  which is not likely something you or I have in our shops, but the rest is about on par with every woodworker I know.

Here’s a few pictures of their fantastic shop. It’s got a great layout and even better light. Gotta love LOTS of windows. An yes, that is “The Schwarz” bench in the background of the first photo.

After my tour of the shop, Glen and I went back into the office where Chris informed me it was time for my interview. It turns out the plan was for me to be interviewed for Marc Spagnuolo’s and Matt Vanderlist’s Wood Talk Online. Now, I’ve corresponded a little with Marc for some advice on my upcoming DVD but I never dreamed I’d end up on one of their shows. Glen, Chris and I sat in a room with a recorder and I talked with Glen for fifteen minutes or so about how I got started in woodworking and my thoughts of period furniture even a little about the school.

Upon my arrival home, I found a feed from PopWood announcing that the interview would be aired (if that’s the correct term) next Tuesday, February 10th at 8:30 PM EST.

After the interview, we wandered back into the office to find the rest of the crew starting their day. It was a great pleasure meeting the entire staff of Popular Woodworking. I even got to sit in on their normal Monday morning planning meeting. And while I can’t divulge what they are working on, take it from me they have some great things in the store for the magazine and the website. If you aren’t a subscriber, I highly recommend you give the magazine a try. You certainly won’t want to miss out on anything they have planned for the upcoming months (specially my article in next month’s issue!).

All in all I had a great visit with the Popular Woodworking folks. Everyone was as nice as could be. I truly enjoyed sitting in on the meeting because it gave me a chance to see these folks interact with one another. They’re a fun, lively group with, collectively, a great sense of humor. I hope that if I get the chance to trek back to Cincinnati I can drop in on them again. They are all certainly welcome here if they ever get to the Philadelphia area.

Well, now you know what’s been keeping me from the blog pages in the last couple of months. I alluded to a DVD but didn’t ellaborate because, with a little luck, you’ll find out much more in the next few weeks. There were also a few other things that happened during this time period that will be the subject of future blog posts. And speaking of future blog posts, keep an eye out here for my next post reviewing a certain Festool product. See you soon.

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5 thoughts on “There sure is no business like show business

  1. Great to hear from you Chuck. I knew you were busy.

    I look forward to your future posts on the Blog.

    Charlie Mullins

  2. Wow, you are definitely one busy guy. Well, I’ll be seeing you in class in March, so hopefully you can take a breather and let others work. Thanks for the pics and description of Popular Woodworking – I’ve always wondered what that place was like! Now about that new Festool product …

  3. Hey Chuck,

    I just caught your interview on WoodTalkOnline. I really enjoyed learning more about your woodworking journey and experiences. Great job! I’m looking forward to the upcoming Popular Woodworking articles too.

    You are definitely a busy guy…but that’s a good thing. I hope that things in the shop and school are going well.

    I really should have some discussion with you about some specialized classes at your shop. I’m in upstate NY so, not that far away. I’d like to do some more period pieces and incorporate some carving into my work. Maybe extended over a period of time with some work at my shop and at yours periodically.

    The Craftsman’s Path

  4. Mark,

    Thanks for the support on the interview. It was a lot of fun. As far as the specialized classes go, let’s talk. Although I’m not specifically gearing the school towards period furniture, it is what I know best. I’m trying to make sure that people understand that once you learn the traditional methods, you can apply them to any style of furniture. That’s why we included some Arts and Crafts pieces in the schedule for this year and wait until you see what we have planned for 2010.

  5. […] Glen Huey, in the shop. We’ve known one another for the better part of two decades but, until recently, neither of us had been in the other’s […]

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