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The Woodworking Shows went east again this last week. The venue was in the town of Fredericksburg, Virginia. Situated about an hour south of Dulles Airport, the drive down on Thursday took me through some very hilly and beautiful terrain. This almost idyllic countryside belies the history of the area. The American Revolution as well as the Civil War had a major impact on the people and the landscape. Fredericksburg in particular prides itself in the part that it played in the county’s first 200 years. The downtown streets house a variety of historic old structures and each has a very interesting story to tell. The buildings along the Rappahannock River, the old bank building where Lincoln spoke and the Confederate Cemetery and the Fredericksburg National Cemetery are just a part of the sights.

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 The signages adjacent to the battlefields describe horrific conditions of the Civil War battles and the carnage that followed. Over 15,000 soldiers died during the fighting in 1862 in the Fredericksburg area. One can now only imagine what it must have been like as you walk the trails and the stone embankments.

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It only seemed fitting to me that I could see this week’s show as an extension of the previous day’s wanderings. A couple of the projects in the Show Off area were very traditional. The sleigh brought memories of a bygone era as well as this week’s winning entry of an old steam engine and coal car. I felt as though I had taken a step back in time looking at the very detailed work on the engine itself and even the train track it sat on.

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There were hints of a more traditional form of woodworking on the show floor as well. At the Acanthus Workshop booth, I watched as professional furniture maker, Chuck Bender, demonstrated cutting a perfect dovetail joint using a series of hand tools. The beautiful furniture pieces on display are examples of his work and just some of the classes he teaches at his school in Pottstown, PA.

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In another section of the hall I found the School at Annapolis Woodworks. The dean of this school, Troy Beall, demonstrated a number of techniques associated with a time before power tools.

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I really enjoyed seeing the craft I love being taught and demonstrated in its purest form. I have to be honest though. I did fly to the east coast instead of taking a stagecoach or an “Iron Horse”. I still prefer that the tools I use to have a cord or battery attached to them.  And you are reading these musings digitally (and spell checked, I might add) on a computer screen. But there is something to be said for the inherent, if not nostalgic, beauty in the pieces produced by these craftsmen.

In a few weeks, the woodworking show season will be over. I’m looking forward to spending the summer in my shop creating my own projects. Maybe I’ll hand cut some dovetails. I could even do it by candle light. I haven’t hurt myself in a while.

‘Til then, I’ll see you on the road.


Jim Heavey

WOOD Magazine Traveling Ambassador

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