Reflections on WIA Day 0 — When Tool Geeks Collide

Among the multitude of things that I am and things that I am not, two come clearly to mind in this initial recap of my recent foray into Cincinnati/Covington for Woodworking in America.


One thing I am not is a calligrapher, by that I mean someone whose handwriting is legible to anyone but me.  Mine may be to penmanship what Jackson “Jack the Dripper” Pollack is to real painting.  On the flip side of that truth is the added reality that I am someone who actually crafts a lot of my words with pen and pencil on a piece of paper.  I would be pleased if my handwriting were elegant, but not enough to actually practice and accomplish it.

At WIA since I was going to be signing something approaching a literal ton of To Make As Perfectly As Possible books I wanted to make sure I was using a permanent archival pen for the occasion.  A quick ask-about revealed the presence of a stationary and pen store called Appointments just over the river in Cincinnati, and I headed across the Ohio River on the Robeling bridge, itself a delightful stroll on a sunny afternoon.


It was at Appointments that I met Douglas Kennedy, a tool geek of the first order.  His tools are writing implements.  To say that he was interested in writing tools would be like saying I am interested in shellac.  While his store did not have the specific tool I was seeking – that was later found at an art and drafting supply store nearby – I nevertheless spent a half hour with Mr. Kennedy looking at and test driving a number of truly wondrous writing tools.  It turned out that he had a lot of tools I wanted, and did in fact leave with a couple including a Cross Tech3+ “triple,” a pen body that includes a black stylus for writing, a red stylus for editing, and a 0.5 mm mechanical pencil.  In fact, recognizing that I was looking for excellent tools rather than expensive tools he catered to my interests completely.  As we parted company I could only think “here was a craftsman fully engaged in the use of fine tools.”


If you are in the Cincinnati area and need counsel on fine writing tools, Douglas Kennedy is the man to see.

As I left Appointments on my way to the art store he told me about, I was walking along the sidewalk and came to the window behind which Gus Miller was crafting hats at the Batsakes Hats shop at Sixth and Main.  I was hooked.


You see, a second thing I am not is a fashionista.  On an annual basis I spend literally dozens of seconds purchasing attire, mostly at the local thrift store or on line – I know my body measurements, why should I have to try anything on? – but what I am is a hat guy.  The vision of Gus Miller crafting hats and the stacks of inventory in the background compelled me to round the corner and go in.  Sure enough, Mr. Miller and his lovely wife had just what I needed, even though I didn’t even know I needed it two minutes before I saw him.


While in the store they showed me not only their inventory but the tools he uses with consummate skill.  Another tool geek encountered, but again with a wholely disparate set of tools from my perspective, as he crafts, shapes, and modifies hats for his loyal customer, including this new loyal customer.  (Yes, I know that the dictionary says the word is “wholly” but dictionaries are idiotic some times and I refuse to stop using the more rational “wholely” and some day it will lead to a death match conflict with an editor)  I walked out the door with a really cool-looking Borsalino “flat” that looks like it was made with my head in mind.  It is already my everyday hat.  Given Lost Art Press’ proximity to Batsakes the odds are near 100% I will be visiting again.


That evening was the gathering of Roubo-istas at the book release party for To Make As Perfectly As Possible as scores of us crammed into an artisan’s pizza place Chris Schwarz knew about.


The fellowship there was almost overwhelmingly delightful as both Deluxe and Standard Editions were distributed to loyal and patient acquisitors, tool geeks all.  I was much humbled by the enthusiastic support for our projects, but none more so than when folks like CraigF and TimH took the trouble to drive for hours to attend and congratulate us, even though they would not be attending the WIA conference.


My appreciation for that encouragement cannot be fully articulated in words, even with a really nice pen while wearing a cool hat.