I have just returned from exhibiting at Get Woodworking in London and Talking Tools at Axeminster. This is a new experience for me as an exhibitor as the last time I last attended a show like this was fifteen years ago as a judge and before that, forty years ago as a raw beginner. I went to these shows simply because we were asked, and because we were given a nice free stand. Ego plays a part here and the opportunity to meet and talk to some of you. The possibly to sell the odd one week course or DVD did also cross my mind.
I had the opportunity to meet some people I had known about but not closely. Guys like Tom Lie Nielsen, whose planes seemed to be everywhere and who took very kindly to my somewhat mean criticism of his handtools. Robin Lee of Veritas Tools was equally happy to allow me to be a miserable old sod.
I loved spending time with Rob Cosman. Boy, does that guy have to work for a living. He has on the bench during his demos a picture of his wife and eleven children!! Thats not a missprint thats ELEVEN and all of them in home schooling. Rob is away most weekends, clever man, demonstrating and teaching hand tools skills at a range of tool shops throughout the United States. He says that the only way he gets away with it when he calls home, is to not be very happy. Doing a demo this week in Hawaii: “Hi honey, yes, the weather is lousy here, yep, its a real bore, all this sea, surf and pineapple trees…….” Oh Rob she must really love you.
I was surprised at how the shows had changed in the forty years since I first went to the Agricultural Halls in Victoria. That exhibition was organised by Woodworker magazine. Then it would be possible to look out over a heaving crowd of mostly middle aged men. When I looked over a similar crowd twenty five years later at Epsom the view was disturbingly different. My friend, the late Paul Richardson, former editor of Woodworker magazine and creator of Furniture and Cabinetmaking magazine said “Its like a silver sea of smelly old badgers.”
Nowadays that silver sea would probably include you, dear reader, as well as me and we would probably be even older and smellier. Paul was a furniture maker himself as well as a fine editor so I believe that the term was one of warm endearment