As far as woodworking stores go, Chicago is in pretty good shape. We're lucky to have not one, but two Rockler Woodworking and Hardware stores now. One is in Schaumburg, IL, and it's been joined this year by one in south west Bolingbrook, IL. The Midwest Woodworking School is lucky they're both staffed by some great people. We recently reached out to them about helping us promote the school by letting us display our posers and flyers. But they went a step further, by inviting us to set up in the stores, and meet their customers face to face.
So, the past two Saturdays, once in Bolingbrook, and then in Schaumburg, we brought out our Moravian workbench (more on that in a future post), some furniture from our classes, some tools, and some projects to wok on out the stores. We set up the bench, and started doing some hand tool woodworking, making sawdust and shavings. Soon, we were answering questions about the tools, the processes, and then about the school and our classes.
What was surprising to us was, for a lot of the customers, it was their first real exposure to hand tool woodworking. Rockler sells plenty of hand tools: chisel, planes, saws, etc., but it seemed like many of the woodworker customers still haven't decided to tackle the hand tool learning curve. We're sure they see people doing it online, and in the woodworking magazines, but they haven't had the courage or encouragement to do it themselves. We heard them saying us things like "I have my grandfathers old hand plane, but I couldn't learn to tune it up..." and, (after watching us rip a board with a hand saw), "... wow, there's no way I could cut that straight!", and of course, "... I should really learn how to cut dovetails by hand..." with a sort of guilty sound in their voice.
That tells us we are in the right place -- there is a way to learn those things... sign up for a class! The interest is there, and thanks to the support of the local Rockler stores, we were able to help spread the word to some of their customers that there's a place to go to learn these things. We can't thank Rockler enough for being so supportive of our school, and for letting us do our thing there. We have plans to appear regularly at both the stores, doing demos and spreading the word. It was a great step forward in building a woodworking community.
Here are a few photos from the two events...