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The Woodworking Shows!

Do you know about The Woodworking Show?  If you don’t, it’s time you go.  But come in there with a pre-planned budget in mind.

Is It Worth It?

It's always a good sign...

This question could be asked about a lot of tradeshows and seminars, but this show is specifically geared toward the small business and hobbyist woodworker.  Plus it was only $10 admission and $5 parking.  Not too bad.

I also attend the AWFS show when it’s in Las Vegas (there’s another one in Summer 2011), which is aimed at the larger manufacturer-type woodworking business.  I see value in both.  The small business or hobbyist woodworker can learn about another world by going to the AWFS expo.  I get tons of ideas from there.  In fact, many things I’ve incorporated into my woodshop design were inspired by literature I got there.  Major manufacturers focus on high-productivity strategy because they have to.  We can all learn something from the techniques they employ for sure.

The Woodworking Show offers 4 main categories of interest for us:

  • The first thing I saw as I approached the main gate was a giant truck and display from Cook Woods.  I knew I wanted to buy stuff there so I decided to wait until I was on my way out later in the afternoon to avoid carrying it around.
  • The second thing I was greeted with was a room full of associations, schools offering classes, and displays of student work.
  • The third thing of course is the product booths and tool exhibits in a second hall.
  • The fourth thing offered were free seminars you can sit in and learn from others.
Woodworking Schools and Associations

The tables with woodworking associations and schools are worth browsing.  I saw some people bypass them and head straight for the tools.  I got a good deal of inspiration from seeing others’ work, and I also discovered some classes I’d like to take from William Ng School of Fine Woodworking in Anaheim, CA.  I didn’t realize they’re so close to where I live.  I took a flyer and will plan around that schedule based on what I want to learn at different times.  I also discovered that the founder, William Ng is a fellow engineer, so I’ll probably find it easier to learn from that approach.  Marc Spaguolo of The Wood Whisperer is also listed as a staff member there, whose blog and podcasts I follow and learn quite a bit from.

The organizations (California-based) included the Orange County Woodworking Association, the San Diego Fine Woodworking Association, Cerritos College woodworking manufacturing technologies, and Fullerton College wood technology.

There were about a half-dozen seminars to choose from but since they were scheduled to occur throughout the weekend is was possible to attend them all.

The Show Floor

I’ve been to this show before (every time they have it I generally go), and this year it seemed smaller like most other expos due to the economy.  But there were still quite a few manufacturers there.  I was planning on buying a Lie Nielsen shoulder plane, but they weren’t there unfortunately.  No worries, I still got to see both small-time inventors with their cool gadgets as well as the big tool manufacturers and retail outlets.  By walking around for about 3 hours I got a solid view of what’s new out there, and what my alternatives are for various tools.  There must’ve been a half-dozen varieties of dovetail jigs to compare.  Tons of dust collection accessories were everywhere to play with and add to your list.

Some of the booths on the show floor included Peachtree Woodworking Supply, Bad Dog Tools, Bessey Tools, Inc., DeWalt, Porter Cable, Rockler, Kreg Tool Company, Epilog Laser, Lee Valley & Veritas, Snappy Tools (I really like their countersink bits), Jevons Tool Company with their 3D Assembly Squares, and many others.

By perusing the aisles I bought a pack of Painter’s Pyramids to use for finishing (so I don’t get my Rockler Bench Cookies full of finishing oil).  I also got myself a bent wrench so I don’t have to reach below my router table to change bits.  I know, I could’ve figured out what size wrench to buy and bend it myself, but for a few bucks I’d rather just buy it ready-to-go (if you add up the price of the un-bent wrench, time, and gas to do that I think I came out ahead).

I'm constantly on the look-out for things that save time...

It’s been on my list for over a year, so I finally bought a Bosch Colt variable-speed palm router.  It has so many uses and it’s easy to handle for smaller jobs that require less power.  I’m all about ease of use as long as I get the same results.

There were a few booths who had staff that were a little too “salesy”; they reminded me of used car sales or infomercial people.  What I like is when I go to a booth and I’m free to look and explore without a sales pitch immediately, and they are approachable for questions.  If I can’t tell what the product is, how it’s used, and its benefits rather quickly, I’m inclined to move on.

I also finally subscribed to Woodworkers West magazine.  I’ve wanted to for quite a while but got around to it when I saw their booth.  They have a glossy new look too!  Always really good articles, and really creative studio art furniture features, which I think there aren’t enough of.

WoodChip Tip: If you’re going to buy a popular tool at a trade show, especially if it’s a discounted “show price”, buy it right away before they run out of stock.  Just take it back to your car and then go back into the show.  When I bought my Bosch Colt router they ran out and I now have to pick it up at the local Tools-R-Us store this week (although this is a good excuse to go there).  However, I wish I got the router earlier in the day and walked back to my car while at the show...


Now I did stop by some of the seminars.  The presentations ranged from Cabinet Making, Inlays, and Bandsaws to sawing lumber from whole logs.

They had metal folding chairs set up in front of a presenter using a mic and speakers.  It was a little hard to hear the speakers, and it was a little difficult to see what they were doing.  I wish they put the seminars in another room with better acoustics, and had a better way to display what they were doing.  The bandsaw presentation had a camera aimed at the bandsaw with a display screen, but since the camera was stationary the screen didn’t always show the main action.  A camera operator would have helped.  Handouts with the seminar’s main points to use later would have been beneficial as well.

WoodChip Tip: Take a pen and small pocket-sized notepad with you to jot down ideas you can use later, or items you want to research.  I didn’t just randomly buy stuff there.  If I saw a cool new gadget or tool, I took note of it to go back home and research it online.  I’ll look up price and read product reviews and then decide if I want to buy it.  I would’ve come to the show with more of that info in-hand but there wasn’t enough information on everything on the show floor in advance.


This area is simply impossible to resist.


Lumber Yard!

Ok, as I mentioned earlier, I did stop by the Cook Woods lumber display and trailer.  Here’s where my “unanticipated budget” occurred.  I came into the show knowing I would buy $150 or so worth of stuff.  But I’d just spent that inside the show.  There was a display of awesome exotic wood outside the trailer, and even more inside the trailer.  It had me wanting to buy it all and pick the project later.  But, I restrained myself and just bought enough for the next few projects.

I wound up with a 10 ft. board of Lacewood, a smaller piece of Bloodwood, and some Zebrawood.  I’m making some frames with inlays, and also I needed some inlay material for a maple bed.  I’ll let it all acclimate for a while and then start the projects.

The show purchase I’m most enthusiastic about by far...

All in all, I’m glad I went.  The show itself wasn’t big enough to warrant coming back for a second day, but I more than got my money’s worth.  I have a small stack of literature to sort through.  What I typically do is dog-ear the pages of relevant things and archive the rest.  Things I don’t plan on dealing with now I organize into categories for later reference, and the actionable stuff I leave in plain sight.

WoodChip Tip: Use the literature you collect at woodworking shows as reference during your woodshop design sessions.


What tradeshows do you go to that you couldn’t live without?  Which ones are a definite “don’t miss”?

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5 Responses to “The Woodworking Shows!”

  1. Glenn says:

    I too enjoyed the show and enjoyed your review. I always try to inspire folks to attend instead of listening to those who complain that the show “wasn’t big enough”. Costa Mesa was cozey and easy to see in one day. I will go again next year.

    • Bobby says:

      Yep, me too. I expected it to be smaller due to the economy but it still kept me busy the whole day, and I got a lot out of it. Besides, the show would be bigger if more people went. The AWFS show is this summer in Las Vegas; it’s quite a bit bigger than The Woodworking Shows. Even though it’s geared toward the furniture and cabinet manufacturing industries, I get tons of good ideas from it.

  2. vida says:

    Awesome review! Sounds like a great show.

  3. JR says:

    Nice overview of the Wordworking Show, after reading this I am a lot more interested in going. I am hoping I can attend it the next time they hold another show. Thanks for the info…

    • Bobby says:

      Thanks JR; it really is worth it. You’ll see things you didn’t know existed and wind up with a bunch of reference material to help you with your woodshop improvements. I still use stuff I got from shows 3 years ago for my designs.

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