I have been to a lot of woodworking shows over the years in Australia, America and Europe. It’s always great to see all the goodies, meet new people and hang around talking about woodworking. I have always felt however, that woodworking shows could be more than what they presently are, a more diverse experience that massages all the woodworker’s senses. I set out on a journey to find the perfect woodworking show.

“Driving through American farmlands past endless corn silos and barns…the concept of Wood Dust was forged”

150 year old barn in Amana
Inside the main barn at Handworks

Handworks Amana, Iowa, in a 150 year-old barn

In May 2017, I travelled to America to attend Handworks in Amana, Iowa. Handworks is a hand tool event featuring all the big names including Lie Nielsen, Veritas, Benchcrafted and Bad Axe Saws. Amana, known as the Amana Colonies, is a series of villages set in 26,000 acres just outside of Cedar Rapids. The main village has an array of original farm buildings, some the best part of 150 years old. In amongst these barns and hay sheds is a colonial German village selling coffee, cake and meals—to say Amana was the ideal for a wood show is a gross understatement. I thought to myself, that this is the type of venue needed for a show back home in Australia.

From Amana, I travelled to Des Moines Iowa, where the headquarters for Wood magazine are located. Wood magazine is not published in Australia or New Zealand, but in America it is one of the most popular magazines available. Every year the magazine opens its doors and holds a weekend where readers can come along, tour the facilities and attend a series of masterclasses and lectures. The 200 places available were all sold out at US$500 each and I was impressed, I have not seen enthusiasm for a wood show like this before. The weekend with Wood added another dimension to the new wood show concept manifesting in my mind.

Driving through American farmlands past endless corn silos and barns I travelled to the Field of Dreams movie set just outside of Dyersville Iowa. Assuming that most of you have seen the 1980’s Kevin Costner film, you may guess what kind of mood I was in. With “if you build it they will come” ringing in my ears, I played baseball with two Canadians and the concept of Wood Dust was forged.

Back in Australia

Back home in Australia I caught up with my mate Evan Dunstone who is a fine furniture maker from Queanbeyan NSW. Evan and I had been banging on to one another for years about what a great wood show should really be about, and now with my American odyssey behind me along with Evan’s fearless enthusiasm, we sat down together and crafted our event.

Lie Nielsen tool at Handworks, Iowa

Lie Nielsen tool at Handworks, Iowa

Firstly, to capture the village atmosphere of Amana, we chose Bungendore and Queanbeyan NSW as the venues. With the Bungendore Woodworks Gallery, the ANU furniture school and a healthy community of woodworkers all around, this part of Southern NSW is the unofficial woodworking heartland of Australia.

Secondly, to inform and motivate our audience like the weekend at Wood magazine event we contemplated an offering of lectures we call ‘yarns’, and masterclasses not seen before Down Under. Evan and I rang all our friends including Michael Fortune, Andy Buck, Ross Annels and Terry Gordon asking them to participate. Along the way Tom Lie Nielsen got involved, so too the team from Veritas and Matt Kenney from Fine Woodworking magazine. The Queanbeyan-Parang Regional Council put their hands up to help out by offering up access to the Q Theatre in Queanbeyan as the yarns venue—hence Yarns at The Q, and Evan put his business Dunstone Design forward as the workshop venue for the Masterclasses.

With our lineup of woodworking celebrities in order, we added the Timber & Tool Marketplace to the formula. We chose the Bungendore Showgrounds as the venue, with its old-world charm and beautiful trees, what a place to spend a weekend woodworking. So there it is, Wood Dust—The Australian International Timber and Woodworking Festival, 17th to the 21st October 2018.

Since my trip through America’s mid-west Evan and I have worked hard to bring together all our ideas and experiences into Wood Dust. As a result, Wood Dust offers a unique, diverse experience featuring some very special woodworkers and tool makes from around the world. If you have means and the time, come to Southern NSW in October and immerse yourself in all things woodworking at Wood Dust.

We look forward to seeing you at the festival.

To learn more about Wood Dust start exploring www.wooddustaustralia.com
For general enquiries, travel, accommodation and exhibitor information email John at hello@wooddustaustralia.com
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Fine Woodworking is a proud sponsor and media partner of Wood Dust Australia 2018. For more than 40 years Fine Woodworking has been teaching, inspiring, and connecting with a passionate audience of woodworkers.