What you missed at FWW Live 2013

Even on our one rainy day, we were inside having a blast. The 2x4 Buildoff was the biggest hit of all. Woodworkers make great teammates, and amazing problem solvers. Next year, Im going to make a team of editors, and join in! Steve Latta demonstrated traditional inlay techniques, like sand-shading. Our own Back-Cover maestro, Jon Binzen, led off each day with an all-conference seminar, this one on the forefathers of the modern woodworker. Peter Gedrys gathered students around his bench to show them how to take their projects to the next level with color. We hand-pick vendors who are great teachers too. Many thanks to Lie-Nielsen, Knew Concepts, Lee Valley, Nexabond 2500, and Eurekazone, plus Bosch, who sponsored the Build-Off. The keynote speaker at the Saturday-night banquet was the legendary Brian Boggs (catch our podcast interview), who took us on a journey from his earliest discoveries, through his work with third world craftsmen, to his very latest designs and tools. The five chairs he had on hand were as big a hit as he was. A few FWW editors, like art director Mike Pekovich, have become fantastic authors and teachers in their own right. In fact the whole staff was on hand, and we left as energized and inspired as the attendees. Chris Becksvoort uses a small cabinet teaching aid to demonstrate some of his construction techniques.

We had a feeling that the second annual Fine Woodworking Live conference would be even better than the first, but you never really know until it happens.

The new venue, the beautiful new student center at Southern CT State U., was near-perfect. Everything in one spot, from the classes, to the banquet, to the vendor area, to the catered lunches in the food court.

The furniture tour at nearby Yale University was a huge hit, as 30 lucky people took a guided tour of Yale's priceless underground trove of 100 or more iconic pieces, plus the official furniture exhibits at the University's awesome new art galleries.

We had 20% more attendees this year too, and they loved the new schedule format: almost all electives and many more classes to choose from. Of course, we had the best teachers in the world once again, and closeup cameras projecting all the action on big screens.

But the roaringest new success had to be Friday night's 2x4 Buildoff. That was one thing we REALLY didn't know would work, but it is now a fixture that is here to stay! Over 150 attendees and participants stayed up late to enjoy the battle. Amazing what woodworkers can do with a jigsaw, a pile of pine studs, and a box of screws!

The best thing of all are the friendships made, and those renewed. Many of us pursue this craft in isolation, which can be nice, but it feels good to share the love. That's the reason we launched FWW Live, as one more way to keep us connected.

That powerful impulse drew attendees from as far as Brazil, Austria, Israel, and New Zealand, from Mexico to Canada. In fact, more than half of the attendees were back from year one. For the rest of you, there is always FWW Live 2014. I guarantee we'll raise the bar again!

Fine Woodworking Live Holds its First Build-Off

Members of the winning team gather around their creation. Clockwise from upper-L: Manuel Chaos, Alberto de Leon, Dominic Ryan, and Jose Luis G. Team 4 placed with their bench: Tom Divilio, L.G. Smith, wayne Ricker, Albert Krasinski. Team 6 also placed: Matthew Mosley, Greg Fedeczko, Stephanie Petillo, and Doug Slocum. Heres what each team was given to start with: eight 2x4s and a pair of saw horses. Bosch generously provided the tools, which included a drill, jigsaw, and plenty of batteries, bits, and blades. Catching the right back angle on an oversized adirondack chair. Attaching the arm of a bench. Adjusting the angle of repose. Competition was fierce! This guy was taken out by a flying 2x4! Just kidding. I believe he was trying to figure out the right angle for his teams chair back. Yours-truly and FWW senior editor Matt Kenney try out the winning Bromance chair. Yeah, I was a bit uncomfortable with this positioning.

On the evening of Friday, August 9, 2013, eight teams of diehard woodworkers took to the floor of a makeshift, carpet-covered workshop at Southern Connecticut State University for Fine Woodworking Live's first annual "Build-Off" event.

Each team of four was cut loose by FWW editor Asa Christiana, charged with the construction of an item of furniture that wasn't announced until the last possible moment. Participants were given 90 minutes to construct...a chair...from a stack of eight home center 2x4's. All eight teams finished in time. All eight teams worked their tails off, and all eight teams deserve a hearty round of applause.

In the end however, only one team could take home the championship belt--alright, there was no belt, but there were a few prizes. For their "his and hers" chair dubbed "Bromance" by the Fine Woodworking staff, Manuel Chaos, Alberto de León, José Luis G., and Dominic Ryan (team 3) took home the top spot.

Team of Expert Judges

Judging of the 2x4 build-off was carried out by a team of star-"studded" (sorry, I can't help myself) woodworkers: Michael Fortune, Brian Boggs, Chris Becksvoort, and Lee Valley Veritas' John Wilson. Although I wasn't part of the judging, I did notice that "comfort" seemed to be the word of the day when looking at the winning chair, as well as the two runners-up. "Bromance" incorporated shaped back slats that curved right around your back--no small feature when your tools are a jigsaw and a drill/driver!

I Knew It

I hate to gloat, but I had a feeling early on that team 3 would take home the gold. Here's why: most teams got started cutting and fiddling with parts right off the bat, but team 3 took a different tact-carefully planning out their chair in every detail, and marking all their parts, before a single blade made contact with the wood. Not a bad idea!

View the Entire Lineup

Here, in all their, uh, "glory," are all eight entries from the 2013 Build-Off--in no particular order. Well done, ladies and gentlemen. This was no easy feat! You can click on any of the photographs for a larger view.