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The Garden State of New Jersey

The Woodworking Shows split this week and I was on my way to Somerset, New Jersey. This is a venue I’ve been to many times so you’d think I should remember how to get there. This is New Jersey, though, the land of no left turns and some of the most confusing turnpike exits you’ll find anywhere. Even my trusty GPS was saying things like “take exit 10 and stay right, no wait, left then right…recalculating”. You’ve heard the expression, “you can’t get there from here”, in New Jersey you can even see your destination and you still can’t figure out how to get there.

In spite of the near constant vertigo, I made a stop at a monument I’ve wanted to see ever since I heard about it. Located in the Bayonne ship yard, about 15 minutes from Newark Liberty Airport, is a tribute commemorating the tragedy of 911 from the Russian people. Commissioned by Vladimir Putin and designed by artist Zurab Tsereteli and called the Teardrop Memorial, it looks toward the Statue of Liberty and the site of the World Trade Center (Lady Liberty is on the left and the red construction on the right is the 911 memorial). At 100 feet tall and with a 40 foot teardrop, it also has the names of all of the casualties inscribed on its base and a plaque decrying terrorism in the world. Very impressive in its size and its meaning.Somerset, NJ 2010 002Somerset, NJ 2010 003Somerset, NJ 2010 004

Most of the vendors at the shows are small independent owners and inventors who are unable to attend two shows on the same weekend. Because Kansas City and St. Louis are so relatively close, many chose to stay in the Midwest rather than travel east. This show was smaller as a result. Regardless, the hall was filled to capacity this entire weekend and sales were brisk in all the booths that I talked to. There were quite a few large tool vendors here also which should make many of the attendees happy.  The shows two largest vendors, Peachtree and Woodline were present at both venues. There were a couple of new entries that we haven’t seen thus far this season. One of these was the Portable Carpentry Workshop – PCW.Somerset, NJ 2010 017

 Though it will probably see more application on a job site, this workshop on wheels may attract woodworkers with very limited shop space. My presentations this season focus on shop organization and layout and this unit, as unique as it is, should give attendees yet another perspective.

The educational areas also changed a bit this weekend. Chuck Bender of Acanthus Workshop pulled double duty. In addition to displaying the period projects taught at his school, he was asked to conduct the seminars on Cabinet Building Experience. The usual speaker from Somerfield Tools was in Kansas City as was the Cabinet Refinishing seminar.

The Central Jersey Woodworkers Association booth had the work of its many members including a very nice dressing table, seat and lamp.Somerset, NJ 2010 012

 They conducted a number of short lectures on a variety of subjects throughout the day from their booth. These people were proud of what they do and couldn’t wait to share information and stories with anyone who stopped by. On my walks through the show floor I also found an interesting group of turnings. These miniatures from the Atlantic Shore Woodturners were very detailed and dwarfed by the business card I placed near them.Somerset, NJ 2010 016

The Show Off area had quite a few submissions this week. In addition to the winning entry, a Walnut cradle, there was a triple bowl turning and a humidor. As the contest nears its close in Alabama, the competition grows even stronger.Somerset, NJ 2010 022Somerset, NJ 2010 023Somerset, NJ 2010 024

One of the nicer aspects of the weekly travel around the country is the chance to have dinner with some great people and talk about their craft. On Friday I was asked to join a few of the exhibitor/inventors as well as those involved in the early days of the Woodworking Shows. Noted woodworker, Frank Klaus, also joined us and that simple dinner turned into 2 great hours of history and laughs. New Jersey may be a confusing place to drive around but this evening and the experience was well worth it.

Only a couple of days at home and I’ll be on my way to Detroit. This is an area hard hit by the recent economic downturn but I expect to see enthusiastic woodworkers ready to share a story and listen to one. I’ve made amends with Jill, my GPS voice, by promising a much easier, less stressful trip. The last thing I heard before I turned her off is that she’s recalculating. I’ve heard that before!

See you at the show. It won’t be that hard to find.

‘Til then, I’ll see you on the road.

Jim Heavey

WOOD Magazine Traveling Ambassador

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