WIA ReCap–One Toolmaker’s Perspective

First the bad news;

Michael and I got stuck on the smoking floor of our hotel–my room smelled much worse than his, but he disagrees. The last time I remember walking into death like this was when I forgot to bring in my duffel bag after a hockey game–that bag stayed in my trunk for about a week–you get the idea–and in case you don’t there were mushrooms growing on my shin pads.  Moving us to a non-smoking room was not possible–a direct punishment for making reservations on a discount site.

In addition, we had a direct flight from Philadelphia to Portland and we both got stuck in middle seats–I would rather get bitten by a Mongolian Death Worm than ride in the middle seat–again, punishment for purchasing discount airfare I am sure.

Lastly, whoever thought of the idea of opening the exhibit area at 8 am each day needs to be bitten by the Mongolian Death Worm. When it was slow on the floor, this is ALL WE TALKED ABOUT.

There. I feel much better.

It sure appeared that the attendees had a grand time–it is fun to be around positive vibes. Orders were tough, but it has been this way for a while in this business so that is no surprise.

On Friday, I assembled for the first time, a new rail system for the Jointmaker Pro. It worked great–for about a half-hour. I give myself a great big “F” for that idea. However, like all engineering problems, failures are solvable and I can’t wait to lick this one. More on this later.

I really enjoyed talking to the other toolmakers and several inquired into our business model–meaning how do we survive without inventory?  The math is basic–with credit lines diminished or gone completely, inventory is worse than the bites of a thousand Mongolian Death Worms. We make-to-order and are constantly refining this process–as of this writing, I don’t see us ever going back to the days where we have millions of dollars of cash tied up in inventory.

On Friday evening, we joined several other tool makers at a clients house (whose name shall remain anonymous since his basement is the Ft. Knox of hand tools) for a hand prepared meal. Check this out–the pesto for the handmade pasta was made in San Diego, put on dry ice and flown in specifically for this feast! How cool. Oh, and how tasty!

THIS JUST IN: I just received an email from a customer admonishing me for showing the prototype of the CT-16 without posting it  here first. We will formally announce this new tool next week with a couple of videos. Meanwhile, here are a couple of pics of black chrome and stainless steel;

PB2 in hand Johns Blog

PB2 Johns Blog

Two well received tools at WIA were the MG-5 Marking Gage/Gauge (both are correct) and the DJ-1 Drilling Jig. We were particularly thrilled with the DJ-1–the demo where Michael drilled a perfect hole on the corner of square stock–while hand holding both the stock and the drill–dropped more than one jaw and opened several wallets.

The MG-5 surprises people with its ergonomics and ability to sit where put. And, the verdict is in, all those that voiced an opinion thought my fetish for black chrome is worth pursuing.

The exhibit hall had many lulls which, as weird as this sounds, I welcomed. I don’t get many opportunities to play with our tools and these moments provided many new seed ideas.

UNRELATED TO WIA DEPT: I was thrilled to read in the New York Times today that as of December 1, the FTC is requiring any blogger/Twitterer or other social media sites which post product reviews to disclose any connection to the advertiser, including the receipt of free products and other forms of compensation. This is a slimy practice in my opinion and any attempt to fix it is most welcome.

THE BEST NINETY-NINE CENTS I EVER SPENT DEPT: I happen to be one of many, I am sure, who are addicted to the smell of WD-40. There is just something about smelling like WD-40 that makes me feel productive and that is just part of the story… I have been spraying this stuff on my ankles for over 50 years and have never been bitten by a Mongolian Death Worm–so there.

I am sad to report that smelling productive just may be over. WD-40 has recently released a new dispenser that is fantastic. It is a felt-tipped pen that puts the smell right where you want it. We bought this at a local box store in Philadelphia because Michael forgot to bring the JM-P lubricant and this turned out to be a great mistake on his part.  DISCLAIMER: Although it is not December 1 yet, I have no affiliation with WD-40 other than as a customer who likes to smell like petroleum distillates. What I really like is the benefit to the environment–how many times have I needed to silence a squeaky door hinge and ended up painting a 2 square foot area with lube? Those days are over. It’s ninety-nine cents folks and tell them John, your Tutelary Lubrication Angle sent you.

WD40_02 copy

I can’t close before mentioning that the staff of Popular Woodworking did an outstanding job (except for that 8 am stuff) and are very gracious hosts. I have not heard where the next WIA event will take place but I am sure it will be another stellar event.


12 comments on this post:

  1. Where on earth did you find out about the Mongolian death worm?? That is one ugly looking dude…..

    I LOVE the CT-16. VERY cool. It looks a bit larger than the PB-1. Is this true? My hands are a little big for it, but I do use it a lot.


  2. There are only two things that keep me from sleeping; cash-flow and the Mongolian Death Worm–I don’t know which is worse. How did I find out about it? Staying in cheap hotels. I would appreciate it if you did not ask me any more embarrassing questions…

    Yes, the CT-16 is a bit bigger, but it will fit your hands–it is way sexier than the pics…more later.

    Meanwhile, tickets to Mongolia have never been cheaper.


  3. John – I’m so bummed that you posted pictures of the CT-16. I was hoping to make some money getting people to pay me to tell them what it was! Now I have to remain poor. Drat!

    For all you J-blog readers who didn’t make it to WIA this past weekend, you missed a really fun show. Not too many booths, and not too many people – plenty of time to chat with everyone. It was overwhelming, being surrounded by some of the best toolmakers in the world. And having the opportunity to yak with them. Seriously educational!

    And, as far as I can remember, no one mentioned Mongolian Death Worms. Just as well…

    - Peter

  4. John,

    I have to say that you and Michael did a magnificent job of showing your tools even with the MDWs. :o The beauty of the brace is literally stunning and would be a welcome addition to my anonymous basement. :o Peter and his elves did a wonderful job with the meal and I was so pleased that you and Michael were able to join us. As with the others from the show both you and Michael always have a place to stay in the Philadelphia area and my house has ALWAYS been non-smoking. I can’t even begin to imagine how you all stayed in those rooms.I wish I had known as I had plenty of space.


  5. John,

    It sounded like a great time. When I saw the list of tools that were going to be there, I really wanted to go, but it just wasn’t going to work. Though if I had known that Fred had free accommodations, it might had worked out!(continental breakfast or omelet bar?) Not all was lost as I checked out Michael’s “tweets”, and he had posted pictures!

    I didn’t realise that sending admonishing e-mails is an option, can I also send them to complain about prices?

    I’ll sign off now, as I need to go sit on the curb and wait for all the cool new tools!


  6. Rutager, you would have been welcome at Fred’s. There were several beds left over. Continental breakfast, lunch and dinner (after Friday’s extravaganza) was pasta with pesto, rack of lamb, and lasagna. Oh, and caprese salad with grilled asparagus. Lots and lots of it! On the other hand, it was still pretty tasty two days later!

    Yes, you’re really bummed you didn’t get to hold the new hand brace. You really have to feel it to believe it. But I’m sure you will!

    Plus, you missed the opportunity to play with a colleague’s Marcou smoother (in the care of Fred).

    Perhaps next time…

    - Peter

  7. If it’s a reassurance (I was the round, world-weary government lawyer), you likely will have sales for having shown that you wouldn’t have had you not. I ended up buying one of the Noden floor model benches and will likely buy a Jointmaker.

  8. MDW (Mongolian Death Worm) aside, it’s interesting to hear of your MTO (Made To Order) approach as an analogy to POD (Print On Demand). What would Webster think of all these new fangled terms?

    On the social media front, much as I would like to see some serious policing of that world, I hesitate to think it will happen… or how to implement it. I had wanted to include a comments feature on the Hand Tool Makers site as a means to exert some minor control over what people say as well as to give people an opportunity to applaud when needed. In the end, the work needed to monitor was too much from even one simple test of the sytsem.

    Let’s hope Twitter and all the rest include a negative feedback button of some sort.

    Now, if only the next WIA could be located somewhere in the Northeast, such as Boston…


  9. Gary;

    In my opinion, the biggest travesty that is occurring right before our eyes is the full frontal assault on editors. One of the advantages of paying for magazines/news sources is the trust we place in editors. With the social sites today, everybody has a voice and this comes at a steep price. Now we all have to wear hip waders, and waste much time, to find information. How sad.

    I don’t want to read mean-spirited, overly biased opinions that one has to question the motive or the source.

    Truthfully, we edit here. If a post comes through that is questionable, we ask for it to be re-phrased if we don’t understand it. It is rare, but I really want the BCTW forums, and to some degree my blog, (where I reserve the right to make an ass of myself) to be somewhat informative, if not entertaining.

    Lastly, I sadly report that I am fatigued with the negativity in our industry–particularly with the emphasis on price–we live in a world of choices–or so I would like to believe. If somebody says they can’t afford something, I can relate 100%. Only the misinformed spout out that something is “too expensive”…to which I always retort, “Compared to what?”.

    You are 100% right–it is next to impossible to police this mess–those that have nothing to say outnumber those that do by a wide margin.

    I am just tired of it all.

    Lastly, you have to admit, the Mongolian Death Worm is interesting–and perhaps three of the most fun words you can string together.

    Thanks for your post and all the best.


  10. John,
    I definitely agree with your views on the 8 am start. As far as the crowd goes, you were one of the folks I really wanted to meet and talk to during the event. Everytime I wrapped up one of my seminars, I trudged over to the booth to see what was happening. With very few exceptions, you seemed to be busy with someone every time I looked over from my booth. Sorry to have missed meeting you. I’ll try again at the next WIA event.


  11. Chuck;

    Sorry we missed you–you are right, when classes were out the floor filled with attendees. See you next time!


  12. MDW as a WMD may be a good analogy for the wild west action of the net and in particular, blogs & forums. A moderated feedback system that includes both well voiced positives as well as well thought out negatives that are constructive in intent would be something I’ld like to see.

    No anonymous users, only properly signed in users for commenting along with all commercial posters registered as moderators. In a way, I’ld like to see an Amazon.com kind of feedback system that allows for dunking the few idiots and those who simply mouth off without thinking or without facts.

    Maybe I’ll find a comment system yet that fills this bill! There’s something about making a site more interactive that gives it that down home feeling, feet on the porch railing, plucking on my banjo, eating a piece of hot cherry pie kinda feeling. All while taking pot shots at the squrirels with my 22.


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