Last Friday I took some time to go to The Woodworking Shows in Indianapolis. It reminded me of the Jimmy Buffet song Fruitcakes.
“Take for example when you go to the movies these days, you know. They try to sell you this jumbo drink, eight extra ounces of watered down cherry coke for an extra twenty-five cents. I don’t want it. I don’t want that much organization in my life. I don’t want other people thinking for me. I want my junior mints. Where did the junior mints go in the movies? I don’t want a twelve-pound Nestle’s crunch bar for twenty-five dollars. I want junior mints.”
The last time I attended this show was over ten years ago. I remembered it as a large show with some nice deals. I knew it wasn’t as educational as Woodworking in America (which I hear is not happening this year) but I wasn’t expecting it to be a complete let down. And sometimes the unexpected occurs.
This show was small. Really small. It didn’t even fill up the space available for the show which made it feel even smaller. And it seemed odd to me that they didn’t spread the booths out and give the impression that it was larger (and give a little breathing room to the attendees).
But even small shows can be fun. On my way back to the truck I was trying to determine why I was disappointed because quality trumps size any day. The conclusion I came to? Gimmicks.
Perhaps my awareness of the gimmicks being sold reflects the shift I’ve been making toward hand tools. At nearly every booth there was some gimmicky thing guaranteed to make you a better woodworker. I generally tend to believe that the things marketed to make our lives easier/simpler don’t. And we end up losing something else. Like money. Nearly all the gimmicky stuff that was being sold can be made in your shop in a few minutes out of scrap material. Jigs, guides, work holding, tools, you can make all of it.
A few years ago, I was in Atlanta, GA and came across a guy painting a picture. His appearance led you to believe that he was homeless or dirt poor. His canvas was a piece of corrugated cardboard. His brushes were sticks with some fabric duct-taped to the ends. I wish I would have taken a picture of what he was painting or even bought the painting. It was a beautiful picture of a man playing a saxophone. The intensity on the face of the sax player led you to believe he was in the zone doing what he loved. I watched the painter painting himself. He was in the zone doing what he loved. His tools and equipment were not professional level stuff and clearly not mass market. But he got the job done and it was amazing.
Why does our woodworking have to be anything different? Shouldn’t we all find creative ways to solve problems without relying on a gimmicky tool?
Gimmicks are driven by economics. Companies manufacture them because they are profitable. They are profitable because people buy them. The people who buy them are often beginners who believe that they can’t succeed without them.
These people need to hear a different sales pitch.