I arrived at Heritage Inn Amana Colonies Hotel & Suites late Thursday night (early Friday). It was a great place to stay—clean, comfortable, hot water, no complaints. Since my experience with Iowa thus far had been in darkness I was surprised to wake up Friday morning to this:
On my way to Handworks on Friday morning I met Steve and Phoebe Winninger waiting for the elevator. They were kind enough to invite me to join them for breakfast. Maybe they felt sorry for me because I was planning on locating a McDonald’s. Either way I ended up dining with them at the Colony Inn Restaurant. The food was served family style and was quite good. The pancakes were unique, a little thin and crispy, but really good.
After breakfast Steve and I headed over to wait in line for the opening of the Festhalle Barn.
I was a little surprised by the number of people waiting in line. We arrived earlier than I had planned and figured we would be at the head of the line. Nope. This place was packed. The good news is that woodworkers, in general, seem to be a friendly and talkative group of people. It’s easy to make friends and everyone is willing to share pictures of the projects they are working on. In fact, I saw some really amazing things including a semi hotrod with 1200 horsepower (didn’t catch that guy’s name but it was cool).
Once the doors opened I made my way to the Benchcrafted booth. I pretty much knew what I wanted before going so I grabbed it early. I picked up a holdfast and the La Forge Royale Miter Jack. Jameel’s brother ran my credit card and my phone number popped up. He asked if I wanted the receipt texted to my phone. Sure, no problem. Then I get a text. It wasn’t from Benchcrafted. It was from my wife and the receipt went to her phone. So much for keeping my spending on the down low. (Actually, my wife is awesome and only laughed about it.)
I also had a chance to see the co-project of Jameel Abraham and Christopher Schwarz. This tool chest is really unbelievable. The pictures are pretty good and they still don’t do it justice. It certainly represents the pinnacle of craftsmanship–seemed to be a theme of the weekend.
And right next to this was the work of Marco Terenzi–the guy who creates all the otherworldly miniature tools, chests, etc. The guy is just plain amazing. Pictures don’t do his stuff justice either and I’m grateful I had the opportunity to see it with my own eyes.
After packing my bag with stuff from Benchcrafted I headed over to wait in line to get Roy Underhill to sign my copy of Calvin Cobb. Once again woodworkers are a friendly lot. I met some really interesting people in line and everyone seemed patient enough to allow others to talk to Roy and get pictures. It was a really neat experience.
Having chatted it up with Roy I grabbed my copy of Virtuoso by Don Williams. Like all LAP products this one is put together pretty well. I also had a book signed by Christopher Schwarz (just in case he ever becomes famous). As always the LAP crowd was genuine and easy to talk to.
After getting the signings out of the way I hunted down Jeff Hamilton. I had talked to him about a month ago and offered to help with his booth (everyone needs a bathroom break once in a while). He seemed like he was doing all right so I spent some time with Steve browsing from booth to booth. Honestly, it was a little difficult to move around because the place was so packed.
I ate lunch (again with Phoebe and Steve) at the brick oven pizza place and then visited the Woolen Mill. The place is architecturally awesome. If my wife would have been with me I would certainly have spent more time in this place.
Just around the corner from the Woolen Mill was the Amana Furniture Shop where Frank Strazza’s Heritage School of Woodworking was located. Just at the front of their booth was this Federal table.
My wife thinks this style is ugly but I am mesmerized by it. It is certainly on my list of top things to build but I’m going to have to find someone willing to take it once I’m done because she isn’t going to have in her house. Oh well, someone will get a deal. This one was amazing and something to aspire to for sure.
In the same building was the famous classical carver Mary May. She was swamped with people and I didn’t feel the need to add to the chaos so I grabbed a couple of her DVDs. Kind of odd considering I have never really carved anything, but who knows, this could be the catalyst into something fun or possibly a humbling experience. Either way I’m sure it will be good.
I spent the rest of the afternoon working with Jeff Hamilton. His marking gauges are simply awesome. I already own three so it was really easy to sell something you thoroughly enjoy. And on top of it you can’t find a better guy than Jeff. The temperature was making a few of his panel gauges stick slightly and anyone else probably would have sold them anyway. Not Jeff. The things went under the bench to go back home. His quality control is top notch. If you don’t own a Hamilton marking gauge you can get one at his site here.
Great day. Awesome people. Incredible experience.