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Woodworking in Milwaukee

This last weekend, February 17-20, the Woodworking Shows opened its doors in Milwaukee at the State Fairgrounds and just about a 2 hour drive from my home. I had forgotten how nice it was not to have to fly to a venue but I’m still very much a creature of habit. I put my coat, suitcase, backpack and anything metal along with my shoes and belt into a plastic tub for the walk from the house to the garage and then I waited thirty minutes in the car before I drove off to the venue. I even waited until I got 10 thousand feet out before I turned on the radio. Never saw a flight attendant but I brought my own snacks anyway. I took the long way there and had to circle the building twice before I was able to get a parking place. I waited outside the car for fifteen minutes before I opened the trunk to get my luggage and then I walked a half mile to my booth. I think that the exhilaration and excitement of travel is overrated.

I was able to stop at the Pabst Mansion in downtown Milwaukee. This residence, with views of the lake and a place on a street known for its opulent homes,  was built in the late eighteen hundreds by Captain Pabst. The woodwork in the home was amazing and each room seemed to outdo the last. The built in cabinetry, coffered ceilings, and attention to even the smallest detail made it the perfect tour for any one admiring woodworking. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to take any pictures indoors.

 I also spent a bit of time in the pavilion that was attached to the side of the home and which now serves as the gift shop. This was once part of the great Columbian Exposition in Chicago and was used to display Pabst beer products during the fair. It was dismantled and moved to Milwaukee and added to the home in 1895. It also had use as a chapel for a time and the stain glass added to its charm.

As has been the case since January, this last weekend was a great success. The aisles were filled during the majority of each day and the comments from attendees were very positive. Every vendor I talked to reported strong sales. The Kreg people had a nice selection of their products and reps there to provide demonstrations of the tool’s versatility. Delta had a good bit of heavy iron there and some very good pricing besides. Super Max had a number of larger sanders on hand and Franmar Chemicals showed how they were the best strippers at the show.

I stopped by the Wisconsin Woodworkers Guild and saw examples of some of the work that their members had brought in. The free form project was interesting and very well done.


The Kettle Moraine Hardwood display drew a lot of buyers with their great choice of lumber species and sizes and the booth seemed to be busy all weekend. I will probably regret not buying that piece of figured Cocobolo. I don’t think that I’ve seen color and grain so outstanding.

The large slice of Redwood got an updating. The show owner, Joe Strong, added some date tags that make you realize just how old that tree was. Well over half the distance from the center is a tag showing the date 800 and it denotes the time when Charlemagne was crowned Holy Roman Emperor. The outer most tag is from 1984 when the first woodworking show was held in Pasadena.

The Show Off Showcase winners this last week were extremely varied. First place went to a scroll sawn project by Dawn Baltz. The stark contrast in the woods that she used really made this work standout. Jeff Baemen took second with a jewelry box. Actually a series of boxes, this project had to be disassembled to appreciate how well crafted it was. Lastly, the “Old Man in the Chair” by Steve Klein rounded out the top three. Dawn’s project will go on to the final judging in Houston in April and all received a tool from Bosch tools. We didn’t have a lot of projects this weekend and I  hope I was able to convince others to bring in their work.

There was a slight diversion this weekend at the hall opposite our woodworking show. I snuck into the classic car show next door to see what was there. The jet engine semi tractor was pretty interesting especially when I found out that it had burned a hole in the parking lot when the owners cranked it up. And this motor cycle would have been the ultimate answer to my prayers though probably not my wife’s. Done by woodgrain “hydro dipping”, would this make a statement or what?

It’s back to the east coast for a while for the Woodworking shows. We will be in New Jersey at the Garden State Exhibit Center on Atrium Drive in Somerset.  The show will open February 24-26.  This is always a very nice show and we have a number of vendors and educators unique to this area of the country. The hall is one we’ve used for years and is easy to get to with free parking. Save an additional $2 off your admission by following this link. http://thewoodworkingshows.com/styled-6/index.html. And please preregister. You’ll save a lot of time at the door.

Join the people who share your passion for woodworking. You won’t be disappointed. And stop by the WOOD Magazine booth when you’re there. I promise to make it worth your while.

‘Til then, I’ll see you on the road.

Jim Heavey

WOOD Magazine Traveling Ambassador

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