The house blend, please.

On Monday, as we set out on the second leg of our trip home from Woodworking in America I stopped by one of my favorite coffee shops in Salem, VA to pick up a bag of beans. This coffee shop has some very fine single origin roasts (I’m partial to the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe) but I always ask for the Mill Mountain Blend when I’m buying some for the road. I do this because I want to see what the “house blend” has to offer and to experience its particular flavor.


I’ve begun to hear the terms “blended” and “hybrid” generously sprinkled over the woodworking as a way of categorizing and explaining the work that goes on in shops where power tools and hand tools are integrated in some way.  I have heard these words used defiantly, apologetically and sometimes accusatorily . I empathize with the first, sympathize with the second and have no patience for the last.

I must confess that I’ve never been one for categorical thinking. It rubs me the wrong way to think that if we can name something we can understand it (or, more often than not, disregard it entirely) and I would rather hear the story behind something than learn its definition. This goes doubly for people, and most woodworkers that I know are people.

At this moment I find it advantageous and fulfilling to work mostly with hand tools, but I can say this – after spending a the weekend submerged in woodworking culture I’m thankful for the diversity I found in that convention center in Covington, KY. I’m glad there were booths showing off band saws across the way from hollows and rounds. I’m happy I had the opportunity to hear Wilbur Pan’s thoughts about Japanese woodworking tools and the ruminations of Western plane makers under the same roof. I’m glad I could represent two different corners of the publishing world and find common threads between the pages of Popular Woodworking and Mortise & Tenon Magazine. Whether your tools have tails or not, we’re more alike than we are different.

The house blend at Woodworking in America was pretty good. I wouldn’t mind a second cup.



5 Comments Add yours

  1. John says:

    Mill Mountain: too bad my work no longer takes me to the Roanoke/Salem area. Nice folks, good coffee and great vibe about that area. Your thoughts on WIA are good ones though I wonder what kind of turn-out the guys with the laser burners and pattern cutters got from the mostly hand tool crowd.


    1. John, Salem is one of those places I would move to in a heartbeat if all the pieces fell into place. Nice area.


  2. Pat McNulty says:

    Our daughter went to school in Salem 20 yrs ago and stayed. A very nice place, and Mill Mtn and Our Daily Bread make it even better.
    Re found your blog and reading from end to start, got this far and just had to comment.
    You commented about being in N C and growing up in Pa, so I guess you travel interstate 77/81, to miss a lot of traffic and see some of the most breath taking mtn. travel 77 north to 64 at Beckley then east to 81 at Lexington—-we live in Bluefield and my wife is from Philadelphia, so we have traveled those highways many times in 50 yrs.
    Be safe and have a healthy Holiday Season.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pat, I know all of those roads well and I’ve been to Bluefield a few times too. I spent several summers working with a group called Appalachia Service Project trying my best to help folks make their homes safer, warmer and drier.

      Thanks for the kind words and happy holidays to you as well!


      1. Pat McNulty says:

        Need I say more you have seen the best of both worlds.

        May you and yours have a safe healthy Holiday season. P


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s