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Des Plaines, IL, 60016

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Building a woodworking community through learning

With an emphasis in the use of hand tools, Midwest Woodworking School offers education in tried and tested woodworking techniques from past to the present. Your learning experience will empower you to achieve higher levels of woodworking. Whether you are a beginner, hobbyist, or looking to learn the skills required to make woodworking your career, Midwest Woodworking School will help you improve skill level and match your goal. All classes are taught by master craftsmen in their own field of woodworking with years of knowledge and experience.

Located in Des Plaines, Illinois, 10 minutes north of O’Hare Airport and 14 miles from Down Town Chicago. 

ArnFest 2016




ArnFest 2016

Douglas Ward

Last weekend, I went out to Union Illinois to attend ArnFest 2016, the annual gathering of the Old Wood Working Machines group ( The members of OWWN participate in their online forum throughout the year, sharing info about classic woodworking machines of yore. They do a lot of buying, selling, trading, and helping each other learn about how to restore/repair their old "arn" (iron). But once a year, they gather in the middle of the country at the site of the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, IL, about an hour outside Chicago. (The IRM is worth a visit in its own right, with an amazing collection of vintage trains, street cars, and even Chicago busses and other transportation.)

Being centrally located is important, as this is where someone from Florida can deliver that 1700 lb. jointer to that guy in Oregon. The event is several days long, with dinners, demos, presentations, and auction, and a swap meet. The later is one of the largest attractions, and the event I've been most interested in over the years. This year was my third in the last four years, and it keeps getting bigger each year. I think it is their 13th total, and it seemed there was at least 150 people this time. The rucker's rodeo is fun to watch too, where the forklift comes in and helps move heavy machines between trailers and trucks, from sellers to buyers. And while people come from all over the country, the heaviest contingency is from the northern Illinois/Chicagoland area, which always gives me a good chance to meet some local woodworkers.

The main "demo" this year was the pouring of new babbitt bearings for one of the IRM woodshop's vintage jointers. I'd never seen that happen in person before.

Here's a gallery of some the swap meet and the event...

-- Douglas