Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event at Fine Woodworking

6 10 2008

On Friday I took the day off and drove three hours to Newtown, Connecticut for a Lie-Nielsen hand tool event. I went to one of these last year in Massachusetts and it was excellent. I wanted to go this one to check out Fine Woodworking’s shop and offices and a couple new tools from Bridge City Tool Works.

The drive down was beautiful. It’s the perfect time of year in New England and even though the drive is on the highway, it is mostly through wooded areas. Seeing the mills of Manchester, the architecture of Hartford, and miles of changing leaves made for a very pleasant drive.

The Fine Woodworking shop was little sparse, but the offices were great. The best part was getting a tour from the Editor, Asa Christiana. We got to see a wall of covers from the last five to ten years. Each cover had a piece of paper underneath with the total news stand sales. It was interesting to see which covers had done well and which bombed.

Another editor took showed us a cubicle was with articles that had a combined useful and interesting rating of 75% from subscriber surveys. I’ve never gotten one, but Fine Woodworking sends out a survey for every issue to a sampling of subscribers. The surprise was that there were less than two dozen articles and none of them rated 90% or better.

Finally we got to see the upcoming Tools & Shops issue in progress. Once the tour was done, the two editors asked us a lot of questions about what we liked, disliked, and thought could be improved. It was an interesting discussion that lasted at least twenty minutes. The whole tour was only supposed to last fifteen, but I think my group spent closer to forty-five.

Some other interesting facts from the tour:

  • Taunton Press is a family owned business. In fact, during our tour an older woman stopped by who turned out to be part of the family who owns Taunton Press.
  • Taunton Press is named after Taunton Lake in Newtown, CT.
  • Fine Woodworking’s subscriber base is 10% beginning woodworkers, 80% intermediate and 10% professional.
  • Fine Woodworking’s writers are 20% amateur and 80% Professional.
  • There is no advertising in the center core section of Fine Woodworking. All the ads are at the beginning or the end of the magazine.
  • All the drawings are still done by hand.
  • Editors are sent to the author’s shops to watch the process being written about and take pro quality photos.

John Economaki from Bridge City Tool Works had the Jointmaker Pro, but not the CT-15 Multi-Square. The Jointmaker Pro was as impressive to use as it is in the videos. In place of the CT-15, he did have one of six stainless steel CT-14 Foxtail Shoulder Planes. Only six were made because of the cost of manufacturing them from a block of stainless steel. John said they would have cost around $2,000 a piece.

One surprise was getting to meet Christian Becksvoort and see three pieces of his work. I’ve read some of his articles and remembered reading how he hides a silver dollar in his work for the year it was built. When he built his 500th piece, he hid a gold dollar coin. I have enjoy reading his articles and he’s a very nice guy to talk with. His website has photos of some of his beautiful work.

Finally, I loved the stone wall in front of the Taunton Press offices:

As an appropriate surprise, the December issue of Fine Woodworking was waiting for me when I finally got home that night.

— Jared

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