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The last week of the current Woodworking Show season took me to the capitol of all that is space exploration, Huntsville, Alabama. The drive in from the airport would pass within sight of Space Camp and be too much of an enticement to pass up. Maybe it started with the “Honeymooners” shows of the sixty’s, but I remember Ralph Kramden saying “to the moon, Alice” and thinking “yeah right”. I now have to admit that, if asked, I would take the next shuttle launch to wherever without any hesitation. Inside the museum at the Davidson Center for Space Exploration, there is a full size mock up of the Saturn V rocket in all its glory. It’s hard to describe how impressive this thing is and how small you feel walking underneath the absolutely huge booster rockets that are just a few feet off the floor. As you walk towards the opposite end, each stage is separated so that you can get a feel for the power and utility needed to propel the astronauts into orbit and beyond. The command module used on the Apollo 16 mission is on display also. Huntsville, AL 0410 016

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I may be easily fascinated but it’s hard to not get caught up in the moment. Outside the displays there is a G force simulator meant to give you a sense of lift off by flinging you up over 50 feet in a heartbeat. This is a big hit with the kids in the park. I took it. Twice.

The venue was at the Von Braun Center, named after the man considered the father of modern rocketry. This is the first time we’ve come to Alabama and we had hoped that this area of relative prosperity would draw a nice crowd of enthusiastic woodworkers. Unfortunately this was one of the most poorly attended shows in recent memory and the reasons were allusive. One of the issues would definitely have to have been the severe storms predicted for Saturday. Local weather stations warned of tornado possibilities throughout the day and night. A Nascar race on Sunday may also have had an impact.  Attendees would have found some of the most motivated vendors of the season. They were making a concerted attempt to sell off their demo pieces at greatly reduced prices rather than pay to ship them back to the factory. As it turned out, the vendors themselves went on shopping sprees in each other’s booths. I took advantage of some great sales but would have preferred that huge numbers of local woodworkers would have beaten me to it. Most shows also had quite a few local woodworking clubs represented and yet we were only able to secure one. Too bad that we ended on such a sour note.

I spent some time with David Arkin of VSP Specialty Printers and talked to him about a new product. He has found a way to turn an ink jet printer into a tool capable of decorating almost any surface in any plane. The applications seemed only limited by your imagination and since we had plenty of time to talk I watched a demonstration.Huntsville, AL 0410 023

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There was one bright spot, however, that show cased the talent of a retired pediatrician and woodworker. This Queen Anne style chest was one of the nicest submissions in the Show Off area to date and handily took first place. The work was very well done and the choice of Cherry was the crowning touch. The figure on the legs was chosen to add impact and it did that. The hand rubbed finish also stood out. The carvings and turnings were also hand done.

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 This entry will join those of the previous 22 shows and a grand prize winner should be decided in the next week or two. Someone’s going to be thrilled to get that phone call and arrange for the delivery of the new Delta Unisaw. The Woodworking Shows web site has images of the previous winners. See if you can pick the overall champ before they announce it.

On Saturday night a number of vendors, presenters and show staff had dinner together and took in a concert. We were given comp tickets to see The Allman Brothers. Even the concert hall was unable to fill the seats (hence the comp tickets) and I was left thinking that there was a theme here. Anyway, the concert was good and it brought back memories of the rock groups that I grew up on. But in keeping with the weekend, I waited in vain to hear their most popular cut of all. The song that made them famous, Ramblin’ Man, wasn’t sung. Kind of like going to a woodworking show and not seeing any wood!

Huntsville is on the schedule for next year. We will have to find something to draw the engineers and rocket scientists to the Von Braun Center if we want to make this event a hit. Ground control to Major Tom.

The next big event is the biennial IWF in Atlanta in late August. WOOD Magazine will be there and I hope to see some of you there too. The next Woodworking Show season starts in October. I’m thinking about making routers the focus of the WOOD booth. Let the planning begin.

‘Til then, I’ll see you on the road.


Jim Heavey

WOOD Magazine’s Traveling Ambassador


  1. Jim,

    I was at the show in Huntsville. I didn’t get to talk with you although I did stop by the booth a couple of times. You were busy with others and I didn’t wait very long. There were tornados in the area and the drive over from Flornece was pretty bad.

    I did pick up a couple of items and I didn’t find any of those deals you were referring to. I guess I should have waited until Sunday to come.

    I am not aware of any clubs in the area, I haven’t even been able to find many woodworkders here. I am hopeful that if you are returning next year the weather will be better and so will the attendance.


    John Moody

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