You’ve heard of Whale Wars, Storage Wars even Abalone Wars.
Now, to a city near you comes “Woodshow Wars”.
The first few stones have been thrown, and whether you agree with the content or not, they have a singular target in mind.
News to hand, is that the Melbourne Timber and Working with Wood Show is returning to Jeff’s Shed for 2013!
I’m sure there are many pros and cons, and reasons why the decision was made to return to what is officially called the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.
This year, it is on from the 18th through to the 20th October. Not sure what (if any) my involvement will be, but one way or another, I will be there, if only as a visitor!
So there you have it, to the cries of joy of some, to despairing wails of others.
To start, (and in part because there are a number of sites linking to this page), let me again show you the essence of the current show, as experienced October 2012
The full 20 minute feature of just some of the cool things you get to experience at the current wood show can be seen by following this link to Episode 90
For the customer/visitor to the wood show, the show has 100s of years of combined experience, and all very approachable people who are only too happy to share their knowledge with you. The following article is not condemnation of the show, nor should be taken as being negatively critical of any group (exhibitors, organisers, visitors). It is, in my humble opinion some observations on how we may make the show even greater, in financially tumultuous times. I don’t want to see the show lost, decreased in frequency, or to loose its primary focus of being a show for woodworkers, by woodworkers, about woodworking. So with all that in mind, and combined with the variety of opinions, ideas and suggestions in the comments, I return you back to the original, unedited article.
Before I say another word, let me be very clear: I really enjoy the concept of the woodshow. I’d go even if I wasn’t on a stand, demonstrating, presenting etc. Every year. The video preview just released, and the full version to come is still very much what the show has to offer. I don’t want to discourage people from going, the opposite is true. But I think it can be better (I know it can be), and that is what I have been hearing from all sorts of directions.
I also am well aware that this is not likely to be a popular article….. but for the sake of the show, I do believe someone has to say it.
First, some of the feedback I have been hearing, either said to me directly, or overheard between retailers and customers.
From the customers:
- the show is not as big as last year
- there are less stands than ever
- perhaps I’ll skip it next year – there is nothing new
- where is all the timber? There are only slabs…or bowl blanks (and I am not a turner)
From the retailers:
- where are all the customers?
- you could fire a shotgun and not hit anyone
- there is no advertising
- the space is so expensive
From the organisers (at the first day debrief):
- numbers are down from last year
There was a lot more, but that captures some of the essence.
I want to show you something. This video was taken earlier today at the Stitches and Craft show (where ManSpace magazine created a “men’s” retreat).
Few things I see here:
Crowds. Lots and lots of people. Conversations left right and centre. Money being spent hand over fist. So much for a downturn in the economy – sure it is depressed, but if something is on offer and the desire is created, wallets (or purses!) are still opening readily.
Many, many small stands (3mx3m), rather than a few huge ones.
What I really see? What the wood shows used to look like…. at Jeff’s Shed. Stands with people standing 3 and 4 deep – everywhere. Enthusiasm, excitement, variety of stands, affordable purchases.
The Showgrounds are a reasonable location, plenty of room, cheap parking. But after a number of years there, it has always been tainted by the decline in show popularity. As a significant way of demonstrating an attempt to change the show around, a return to Jeff’s Shed says so in spades.
It is at the same time as other expos, so there is a cross-visiting benefit. Couples head to the area, split off so one goes to the baby show, the other to the wood show.
But most of all, it is where the show was still pumping.
The cheaper the entry fee, the more people will come, and potentially the more money made. More people, more food sales, more sales at stands, happier retailers, more retailers, better show, more people.
Stand cost: I only hear second hand about the cost of the stand, but it sounds huge – very very hard to make enough sales to cover the cost. Up at the Ballarat show, a 3m x 3m stand is $75. At the Melbourne show, it is something like $2000. Now the organising company has to make money, but there must be a way to achieve both. Perhaps retailers have to decide to opt for smaller stands which keeps their cost down. Perhaps instead of storing stock on the stand, a system of storing stock ‘out back’ and easily accessed would be better. I seem to recall that out back there were shipping containers for stock at Jeff’s Shed. Seems to have gone. Storing stock on a stall is an expensive way to use precious real estate. Stored stock is not generating sales – it is fulfilling the order once a sale is made.
The show needs retailers – and it needs a lot. A few with large displays doesn’t cut it. Small stands with so much variety is the best, and is how the shows used to be.
What Carrolls did at the last show (Carroll’s Boulevard) was awesome. Small displays, lots of variety, lots of demos. A model worth expanding, or at least encouraging.
It used to be a set programme of demonstrations, and not just wood turners. If the customers are not entertained and informed as well as having lots of temptations to spend, they will not consider it a great show, and want to come back. Demos used to be scheduled, programmed and coordinated.
Something new – special guest (on top of the local experts, some external talent) Suggestions: Chris Schwarz, Norm Abrams, Marc Spagnuolo
As far as the locals, encourage an actual presentation from local experts, and not just what they do on their stand. Get people like Neil Ellis to give an actual presentation on finishing, on a stage (or staged area). Terry Gordon talking through manufacturing of a plane, or the use of profile planes or similar. There are plenty of others to choose from. Bring the demos to the audience. Provide notepads (in the entry showbag). This doesn’t detract from having demos at the different stands (they are still a must), but add to the experience. Encourage and inspire the customers. At the Stitches and Craft show, there were lots of stands where you could try out the activity. No signs declaring it- a sea of “come and try” when you look down the isles achieves little. Come and try what exactly? By the time I have gotten to a stand, I can see for myself if there is a participation element, and what the stand is about.
How about some master classes, as well as introductory ones? How about one on dust extraction in the shed. Another on what different tools are and why they are useful. Then one on handcutting dovetails, how to bend wood, how to inlay, or veneer or whatever. The knowledge is out there, the presenters are too. Inspire the customer and they will get into the spirit.
If the cost of being at the show was controlled, shows could be more like the US ones, where the debut of new products plays a significant role. We want to inspire people, give them something to look forward to, not just sell em the same old thing over and over.
At the Stitches and Craft show, I saw row after row of robotic sewing machines. CNC sewing. At the wood show I saw 2. The CNC shark which has been there for a few shows now, and a new one from Vicmarc. And I’m sure CNC machines are not the only new product or technology that is here (or is coming).
I assume there was some. I got some emails, but then I already knew about the show so it was an aide-mémoire, rather than a hook for new, interested parties. I met a lady at the Stitches show who was very disappointed to miss the wood show – she wanted to go, but didn’t see any prompt. Was there any newspaper ads? radio? I saw a couple of TV ones, but it was not a great promotion of the show to the unfamiliar. And it showed a number of products/stands that were not there anyway.
What about more promotion through the new media? Blog, Twitter etc?
There used to be a big toy competition, sponsored by Triton. It isn’t just the organisers who can advertise a show. Everyone should be promoting the hell out of it, and not just to their existing customer base.
How about embracing the skills around – live blogging/video blogging from the show? Wonder if there is any blogger down under with that sort of skill set? But you can’t rely on goodwill and free advertising. There has to be a quid pro quo.
How about having Wood Show TV, both reporting from the place to a screen at the place (interviewing different displayers etc), and to something like channel 31? Generate excitement.
The show needs to have more family interest, kids involvement activities, wider range of interest, and less tyre kickers looking simply for an outing of entertainment for a nominal entry fee.
The show should be a great place to stock up on items otherwise hard to find, from retailers local and national. There has to be a point to go to the show. Discounts are definitely one way (and real discounts, not just nominal ones).
Show bags, show bags, show bags. Real ones! Say a $100 show bag with your choice of a Chris Vesper marking knife or a HNT Gordon mini spokeshave, and a bunch of other stuff. etc.
One thing I have suggested for years, is to examine some of the international show successes, why their shows work and adopt good ones for ourselves. One thing they do in the US is power tool racing (power sanders). If the litigious US can do it, surely our nanny state could manage it.
Dovetail olympics (and other traditional tools). Sort of thing Stan is doing with his stand on a casual basis, but a more formal comp.
There is a whole heap more I could think of the add on here, but in the end there is no point unless there is real commitment and buy-in from all parties.
What I propose is a forum to discuss what can be done to save a great show. Not a blame-fest, but a professionally moderated brainstorming, with existing (and previous) retailers, demonstrators, customers, and show organisers. The goal – to come up with a number of strategies to build the show, to promote the show, to build interest (and increase the number of woodworkers out there – the more there are, the more customers), and to save what would otherwise be a terrible loss.
Going to a 2 yearly cycle would be terrible. There are always new woodworkers, and a 1 year gap is a long time as it is. We want to build the show, not pull the rug out from under it. Going to 2 years is defeatist, and a coffin nail (or a bunch of em!)
So I throw it out there: build a show back to days of old, or kiss it all goodbye. Other shows are managing it successfully – why can’t the wood show?
Instead of blaming the economy on why the show isn’t working, learn to adapt the show to the circumstances. If people are not buying big tools, concentrate on smaller items. People don’t give up woodworking when the economy declines- they change what they do in the shed to include different woodworking activities. Adapt with them.
While unpacking from the weekend, I got to thinking about the number of products and companies that I end up demonstrating, promoting or otherwise giving exposure through product placement.
Here is the list just from the previous weekend:
Torque Workcentre (Professional Woodworker Supplies (PWS))
Beall Pen Wizard (Carroll’s Woodcraft)
Tormek T7 (Carroll’s / Promac)
Tormek DBS22 (Promac)
Oneida Dust Deputy Ultimate2 (PWS)
Festool Surfix (Ideal Tools)
Festool F Clamp (Ideal)
Festool Cleantex CT36 w boom arm (Ideal)
Festool ETS 150/5 (Ideal)
Lidwig Claw (Lidwig)
ManSpace Magazine (ManSpace)
Microclene air filter (Microclene)
Protool Bag (ToolTechnic)
Walko Workbench (Ideal)
Walko Surface Clamp (Ideal)
Carbitool Surface Router bit (Carbitool)
Triton Circular Saw (Triton)
Dremel Rotary Tool (-)
Wixey Angle Gauge (PWS)
Wixey Depth Gauge (PWS)
Woodpeckers mini square (PWS)
Marples Chisels (-)
Days? Seriously? Didn’t mean to leave it so long, but still I get home at night and flake completely- no capacity to be awake long enough to write. But the weekend approaches, and it contains the wood show. Being so ballistic at work means I just can’t afford the time to be more involved with the show, so now I am looking forward to being a spectator. It’s going to quite a novel experience after so long!
I was looking for a programme of demonstrations, but couldn’t find times so it’ll be turn up and see what I want to see
Wonder if just one day will be enough?
If not…….I might just have to go back!
Having a Big Ken moment….. “I’m excited”!!!
And as quickly as it was arriving, the show is over for Melbourne for another year. I really did mean to post updates each day, but what with the long days, and longer drives to and from the show I fell asleep each evening well before I had a chance to write anything, so this will have to be a big summary of all three days.
I heard comments about the show being bigger than previous, others that it was smaller. My perception was that it was about the same…give or take.
Timber is always a big feature of the wood show, and burls outnumber slabs 2:1 it seems. There were the usual ones demonstrating the burl as an exotic coffee table, needing nothing but a bit of finishing, and stands selling slab and burl after slab and burl. Some amazing ones, some seemingly plainer, some surprisingly cheap, some um…. less so.
A couple in the foreground here are Camphor Laurel and I have the third piece sitting at home now – similar to the smaller one in the front (behind the burl). No idea what I am going to do with it yet – either something will come to mind, or it won’t. Either way, I might just polish it up and hang it on the shed wall!
Wish I had a bigger house for some of these – they’d make great tables!
A burl is like a tree cancer, sometimes significantly bigger than the trunk of the tree itself.
This burl is not only huge, but has also been bookmatched, producing an amazing result.
Lots of tool porn at the shows – beautiful handtools, powerful electron murders, all good!
Stan ran his normal highly entertaining sessions, and on the Friday had a whole heap of older school kids come through. This girl was one of a number of kids who had challenges set. Her friends videoed, so it is probably on YouTube somewhere already! She looks so incredibly nervous of that saw.
The Tormek Girl is actually a bit unfair on Mel, who is one of the regional sales managers for Promac – the importers of Tormek, Flai, BMI etc. She is learning quickly the techniques needed for the Tormek sharpener (when Lindsay wasn’t being distracting wanting a photo).
Carbitool were there once again, and I finally replaced my bottle of Top Saver (some would remember me using it to remove rust from some tools) I also got some replacement tips for my surfacing cutter – they are only about $3.75 each tip, and each with 4 sides, so complaining the bit is blunt is a furfey.
One of the most stunning guitars I have seen – made from Black Hearted Sassafras by the look
A small goblet all in timber, and a bunch of profile planes nearby.
The Slabmaster worked much of the weekend – seen here taking a massive Depth of Cut (not that the machine seemed to mind)
The output from the Slabmaser caught in a dust bag looked rather cool, and resembled a landscape sand sculpture. Trying to guess the different timbers represented would be an interesting exercise.
One exercise I did decide to try, was seeing just how well the Torque Workcentre would handle preparing an actual burl, and these Back Butt burls were sitting near the workcentre. (After asking permission from the timber stand who was selling them), I fixed one to the surface of the TWC, and begun taking the outside off to produce the first, flat edge. The piece I chose is the one in the top-right corner, and as you can just see, had a serious chainsaw scar across the surface.
The first passes had to be pretty light, and slow – the bark isn’t held on tightly, and even so plenty of chips and waste were thrown all around. The Walko clamps from Ideal Tools proved their weight in gold time, and time again, clamping down all sorts of odd shapes etc.
Each slice removed showed more and more what was deep inside the burl, and each pass revealed a surface with different character.
On flipping it over, I began work on the primary side, slowly removing the chainsaw scar.
The result is a large, freestanding burl, over 2″ thick which will become a clock for my desk at work.
To support the clock (or at least appear to do so), I’m using a bit of the offcut and again the TWC proved its’ valve, allowing it to be surfaced ready for attaching to the back of the clock. Try putting a piece like this through a thicknesser, and watch the shrapnel fly!
So as quickly as it came, the show again is over for another year. Hope you got along if you could!
Been at the Showgrounds for the day getting the Torque Workcentre/Stu’s Shed stand set up. There are 4 workcentres on the stand this time – a Router Master (with probably the drill attachment mounted), 2.5m machine with a selection of tools, 3m machine with the prototype of the chainsaw attachment (and my little chainsaw – it’s too small to be used with the current mount, but there to at least demonstrate the concept), and another 3m machine with a double head. One I will be using primarily with a router, and the other has the Hitachi 12″ saw mounted (it has a serious, dedicated mount to fit it to the machine), and I thought the chainsaw attachment would be the coolest thing, but I think the 12″ on its special mount has to take the cake – it is an awesome thing! I’ll take some footage (photo & possibly video) over the weekend, but at the moment, this is the stand as it was when I had to head off today.
As you come into the place, you will see the banner hanging in the distance, but don’t forget to check it out! If you are interested in buying a machine at the show, don’t be shy in making known you are a Stu’s Shed reader and we’ll see what we can do for you.
Overall, the show looks good – better than last year (which wasn’t a bad year in itself), and there are quite a few new products worth checking out.
The DBS-22 is being demonstrated on the Carrolls stand, the MagFence combo kit is heavily discounted this year on the Maxis stand (around the $150 mark, which is about 25% off). This will be one of the very last chances to get the combo pack – for some strange reason, MagSwitch have decided to discontinue it, and sell the items individually. (Apparently it sells well in Oz, but not in the US – personally, if any store has trouble selling this kit, they are not working hard enough!) They have good discounts on MagSwitch featherboards too.
Addictive Pens has a number of their snake pen blanks, but not enough to last the entire show (they are too popular to be able to keep enough stock in apparently). This year I decided not to miss out, so already have the one I want set aside (think it is Cobra, but will double check – I chose based on look, rather than species).
The stand next to ours has lots of timber, and some large, very good looking slabs of Camphor Laurel crotch for only $50. I keep looking over at it, wonder what I might be able to make out of it to justify grabbing one.
Didn’t have a chance to look around much more than that so far – there’s time, plenty to look at, drool over, and perhaps acquire
It all kicks off tomorrow – can’t wait!
I’m starting to build my shopping list for the upcoming Melbourne Wood Show, and in my preparatory travels, I typically check out Carroll’s and found some interesting new products they have that will be of interest to others going to the show.
For one, they are stocking the Tormek T7 (where I got mine from), and they are a supplier of Flai blades (check out my videos of the Mustang and Ultimate blades – they are exceptional!) They have the Tormek Drill Bit Sharpener (DBS-22)(and will no doubt be demonstrating it – check it out and see why I like it so much!)
They have a new Professional Pen Starter kit that looks like an excellent idea. I already have what I need there, but will definitely be stocking up on pen kits – I am in very short supply, and they make excellent Christmas presents (and I always like having a few nice ones for my personal use as well).
Carroll’s have quite a lot of the products I have been talking about over the years – the Top Saver and Blade Saver systems (for cleaning and protecting your tools), Quicky tape measures, Wixey, Microclene, Lidwig, the list goes on and on. Jim and Irene always have a very comprehensive stand.
I’m seriously considering the Easy Riser conversion kit for my drill press too – will be checking that out too, and I am definitely having a very close look at the Beall Pen Wizard – been tempted by one of those for ages!
Stu’s Shed will be at the show, in conjunction with Torque Workcentres, so don’t forget to drop in and check out what I have been spending quite a bit of time talking about recently – the machine has so much unrealised potential, and the more owners there are sharing their discoveries of what we can do with it, the more invaluable the Torque Workcentre will become!