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Almost Christmas In Detroit


With 2010 quickly drawing to an end, the Woodworking Shows opened in Detroit this last weekend. I flew in to a temperature in the low teens and with snow on the ground but none forecast for our three day stint. Having visited the Ford museum and Motown in previous years, I decided to see a history of the Christmas tree and automobiles at the Walter Chrysler Museum in Auburn Hills before heading to the venue.

The museum is a collection of vintage cars, muscle cars and experimental autos produced by the Chrysler Corporation. You enter and immediately catch sight of a classic 1924 B-70 Phaeton in “cherry” condition. At the time it would be the example of grace and class.

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 The war years had the factories working for the military and producing engines for Sherman tanks. A very powerful yet simple design joined five engines, each six cylinder, to move these behemoths.

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 One of my favorite cars, though, was the 1941 Town and Country. This was the first of the “Woodie’s”. Thick oak graced the sides and rear and was finished beautifully. The joinery was perfect. It sold for $1500 back then.

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 For those old enough to remember, the 1975 Cordoba had Ricardo Montalban boasting about the “rich Corinthian leather”.

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And who wouldn’t want to ride this death on wheels motorcycle?

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Coupled with this elaborate display of Detroit steel was a collection of a dozen or more period Christmas trees dating from 1910 to the present. The trees showcased the country’s mood as the century passed. Very Spartan early trees looked more like the Charley Brown stick tree. In 1924, electric lights became popular and when I came on the scene, bubble lights first appeared. A coincidence, I’m sure.

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The venue, The Gibraltar Center, is a permanent flea market with an exhibit hall attached in Taylor, Michigan. Just a short walk past the tempting diplays of exotic birds and reptiles, and amid the tatoo parlors with the aroma of mini donuts and roasted almonds in the air, you arrive at the entrance to our show. This is the second year that the show has been here and there were more vendors this year than last. From my discussions with many of the vendors, the attendees were in a buying mood. Purchases seemed to be geared more to consumables but many purchased power tools as well. The hall was well filled in the early parts of the day but thinned rather quickly in the late afternoon. Given the country’s overall economy and the local jobless rate, the show was considered a success by many of those on the sales floor. For most, this wasn’t a bad way to close the year out.

One of the newest vendors, Supernova International, debuted their AP Lazer. With prices running from $9995 to $24,995 this probably wouldn’t be an impulse purchase, but what it could do certainly merited a stop. In addition to engraving on the flat surface of a wooden raised panel door, it was adept at the rounded edge of a pop bottle and had the power to etch brick.

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I had a very nice talk with William Holwig of Livonia, Michigan this weekend.  As a volunteer with a local Cub Scout pack, he has brought woodworking to a level that the scouts can understand and accomplish. His precut kits enable these kids to learn how to use a variety of power tools and create heirloom projects as they and their parents follow the instructions he provides. One could see his enthusiasm and his love of kids. He brought his Pirate’s Treasure Chest to the show and entered it in the Show Off Showcase. His efforts brought him a second place finish.

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 The winner was Silvano Salvador of South Lyon with his “Reunion” carving.  Taking third place was Frank Genuise’s Intarsia Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus.

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All entrants chose a prize from a number of Bosch Power tools donated by the company.

2010 may soon be history, but The Woodworking Shows will begin 2011 in Baltimore on January 7th with what is being billed as the first of the Big Ten. Check out thier website for the locations and dates of these events. These perennially large shows will feature additional educational opportunities including presentations by WOOD’s Project Editor Craig Ruegsegger and Forum host, Matt Sieler. If you can make it, you’ll be treated to some great opportunities to expand your knowledge and skill base in addition to competitive tool pricing from an even larger pool of vendors. Sorry, but no one will be selling Iguanas or offering to pierce anything.

I hope that everyone has a safe and happy holiday. If you don’t get that special present you were hoping for, your hints were probably too subtle. Come out to a show and buy what you’ve always wanted. You know you deserve it.

‘Til then, I’ll see you on the road.

Jim Heavey

WOOD Magazine’s Traveling Ambassador

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