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All the stars were aligned this last weekend, March 14-16, when the Woodworking Shows pulled into the fairgrounds in West Allis, Wisconsin. Some of the best crowds this season came out to celebrate the upcoming St. Patty’s day by spending time and some serious cash on the show floor. It’s nice to have a major holiday (I am a bit Irish, by the way) lift the spirits of our attendees this time of the year. The aisles were just packed all weekend long and there were more people present for the band saw give away on Sunday afternoon than I’ve seen in a very long time. They may not have been green, but it didn’t hurt to see that beer sales were really brisk throughout the show too. What a fun weekend!

As has been the case this year, there were stationary and portable tools for nearly every taste and budget. The demonstration areas at the tool vendors booths would ebb and flow all day long as woodworkers watched the sales people highlight each tool and accessory within reach. The somewhat chaotic clogging and thinning of the aisles made walking from one end of the show to the other a real trek at times.  Everyone adjusted to the rhythm though and I never heard any complaining. In one area of the show you could find a really nice selection of local and exotic lumber and then pass a spot where those boards had been laminated to form skateboards and cutting boards.

The carvings I saw were really interesting. Very intricately done and colored.

At another booth I saw a kids tool set. On closer examination, I found evidence of a woodworking fact: WOOD Magazine readers save all their issues and even find something from an August 1991 issue to be as relevant today as it was back when the project was first published.

The Project Showcase had some very diverse entries for the attendee to view and judge. We only had a single youth division entry but it was a beauty. Taking home the first place ribbon, as well as being both the People’s and Educator’s Choice winner, was Simon Piotrowski’s Scroll Saw Clock. A clean sweep by this young woodworker!

In the adult division, the third place finisher in the Furniture Category was the Carved Wall Shelf by Klaus Zunker. Second place went to David Valentin’s Figured Maple Chest and the top prize award went to John Borchardt’s Twisted Table.


In the Turnings/Carvings Category, the Walleye Carving by Tim Schlarb took second place. The Carved Shelf by Steven Klein was our first place winner.

Our Open Category had three entries. The Jewelry Chest by Duane Cichy took third and Scott Olson’s Packers Cribbage Board took second. Jeff Baenen’s very unique Vertebrae was our top award winner.


Jeff’s Vertebrae was the winner of the People’s Choice award and Tim Schlarb ‘s Walleye took home the Educator’s Choice award.

All our winners split a variety of gifts from Bosch Tools, Worksharp, Lee Valley, WOOD Magazine and Fine Woodworking Magazine. That Walleye will go on to the final round of judging for overall winner following the last show of the season in Tampa.

As I write this, while nursing another Guinness to celebrate one of the most solemn days in the Irish calendar, I’m reminded of those smiling faces at the Milwaukee show. They were enjoying a chance to meet and talk to fellow woodworkers about our mutual interests: Being in the shop and maybe having just a short one before we quit for the day.

There will only one more opportunity to get to a woodworking show this season and it will be in Tampa this coming weekend, March 21-23. We will again be at the Fairgrounds and, as of this writing, the temperature will be in the low 80′s. Perfect Florida weather for a show. We have always had good crowds at this venue so buying advanced tickets on line would be a good way to avoid the inevitable lines each day. And you’ll also save a couple of bucks at the same time. If you’d like to learn a bit about cabinet making, I will be in the WOOD Magazine booth with three unique presentations each day. Stop in and grab a chair. Heck, maybe we can even have a short one before we quit for the day. I did say that I’m Irish, didn’t I?

‘Til then, I’ll see you on the road.

Jim Heavey

WOOD Magazine Traveling Ambassador


  1. Jim,

    Thank you so much for your great presentations regarding cabinet making. I always learn so much when you make your presentations at Milwaukee. Kind of laughing, though. You mentioned that several days later we wouldn’t remember half of what we heard. I am having that problem already.

    I remember your trick for getting the spacing correct for the drawer lock joint. In your presentation I thought you mentioned you made the groove 1/2 inch from the bottom of the drawer side. I thought you used the same set up for the drawer lock joint but that didn’t make sense as that was set for 1/4 inch.

    I hope you can help my fading memory.

    Mike G

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