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My Woodworking Bucket List

by Howard Van Valzah
Roscoe, IL

For many years I had hoped to go to the International Woodworking Fair (IWF) in Atlanta, Georgia. This year I was finally able to because my son has a big accumulation of air miles he was happy to share with me. I loved the show but the walking was tough on my 82-year-old body. But the good news is that I did accomplish one more thing on my "Woodworking Bucket List." If you don't have such a list, perhaps now is the time to think about making one before it's too late. I'll show you my list which I have partially completed, and others I still hope to get done ASAP. Maybe it will give you some ideas for your list and maybe you will have some to suggest that I have overlooked. Your ideas might be helpful to me.

1. IWF is a great woodworking show. Don't miss it if you like to dream about tools you might never need as well as viewing all the options for something you are interested in purchasing, often with discounts and free shipping.

2. Because I did not have a vehicle to get around in Atlanta this time, I missed a favorite event of mine, a visit to the great Highland Woodworking store. The thing I have most appreciated in doing business with Highland Woodworking over the years is that their corporate attitude is that they will go way out of their way to help a customer solve a technical problem, help him with any questions on products for sale, and better yet they know what they are talking about!

3. Marc Adams School of Woodworking. I had the pleasure of attending a weekend session featuring Thomas Lie-Nielsen talking about and demonstrating his line of hand planes and other hand tools. But I have not yet been able to afford to go to one of the one-week courses there where I could really do some hands-on learning.

4. The Lie-Nielsen factory in mid-coastal Maine. Thomas Lie-Nielsen has created a market for absolutely top quality hand tools manufactured in many cases using old machinery which he has rebuilt to modern technology standards. I spent my working life in manufacturing management and really enjoyed touring the Lie-Nielsen factory. Machine shop technology is very exciting for me.

5. Woodworking In America Conference. Two years ago I attended this conference and found it very educational as well as entertaining. One presenter cut his finger on a recently-sharpened tool while standing on a table demonstrating how to use the tool. (If you've watched a lot of woodworking on TV, you may be able to guess who.) You will have the opportunity to see some of the best woodworkers in the world demonstrate their skills, like using a chisel to cut dovetail joints by hand which fit perfectly on the first assembly attempt.

6. Cook Woods facility in Oregon. I haven't been there yet, but I love their regular Internet offerings of very exotic and unusual woods from all over the world. I would like to visit their operation and smell the wonderful woods they have in stock. I have seen their traveling show once and it was spectacular and the pieces I have purchased are exactly as advertised and the quality is superb.

7. Sam Maloof's Home and Museum in California. Sam was a spectacular designer and builder of top quality furniture. He created a furniture style all his own that everyone loved and would pay a premium price to own. His home was his own work of art and I would love to see it.

8. Wharton Esherick's home and George Nakashima's home in Pennsylvania. Both of these homes have many very important architectural features and furnishings, each created by the artist in residence. I particularly like George Nakashima's natural designs. My wife and I have a dining room table, chairs and sideboard he designed that was built by a furniture company for a furniture show in Chicago. No one else at the furniture show bought it, so we bought it ourselves and we have loved its uniqueness and slightly Oriental features. Of very special interest at Nakashima's location is his world famous wood collection. He has large barns filled with huge slabs of wood from all over the world. He had standing offers to wood sellers world over to ship him outstanding wood whenever they located it. His daughter now runs the business with a somewhat different flair.

9. Williamsburg Colonial Village in Virginia. Colonial architecture and furniture are not "my style," but I would delight in seeing the craftsmanship demonstrated by people in costume using their skills in woodworking and metal working under conditions quite dissimilar from what we have today.

10. Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright's summer home near Spring Green, Wisconsin. We have visited this home many times and never tire of seeing it because we always see something we had never noticed before. There is always built-in furniture to examine and many decorative features like custom-designed lighting fixtures, artwork hand painted on walls, and all too often evidence of deterioration that needs repair. But like all FLW buildings, anywhere you point your camera you will see fine art.

So now you have read my bucket list. What are some of the items on your bucket list, and what do you think I should add to mine? Are there any of mine that you don't like?




You can email Howard at howard@vanvalzah.com.



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