Report From WIA – A Silent Clap of Thunder

For several years I have been a friendly collaborator of Lee Marshal and Brian Meek of Knew Concepts Saws.  I am on the same wavelength as these guys, and that should make at least one of us pretty nervous.  By “friendly collaborator” I mean that we exchange ideas with varying frequency, mine usually some degree of outlandishness, and they make magic happen in their prototype shop.  This magic eventually becomes part of the market, and the saws they have created and manufactured thus far have all been game changers.
WIA 2016 proved that such a trajectory continues.


Flash back to 2012.  Not long before I departed the Smithsonian Brian came to visit me and continue a conversation that had been underway for a while, namely the idea of creating a viable benchtop alternative to the full-scale marquetry chevalet.   I had built one, of a sort, and showed it to Brian as a launching point for his and Lee’s creative and ingenious minds to chew on for a while.
Coming from the jewelry arts (Brian) and aerospace engineering/fabrication (Lee) with my incessant encouragement they saw this new world of marquetry and its requisite saws as a fertile area for their exploration.  I have long felt that the traditionalist approach of requiring a lawn tractor sized (and priced) sawing tool, the chevalet — exquisite and high-performance though it be — was an insurmountable hurdle for the broader popularizing of marquetry.  In my opinion an alternative needed to be created for marquetry to get beyond the several dozen practitioners of traditional techniques and make it into the mainstream vocabulary of the several hundred thousand woodworking shops across the country.
I believe they have succeeded.
In the subdued din of the WIA Marketplace I encountered the working concept prototype whose gestation was several years, and as I worked with the tool I felt, more than heard, a thunderclap.  Everything that had been was now no more.  I always knew that Knew Concepts Saws would come up with a compelling and new concept for such a sawing machine, but this was so ingenious that I had not even contemplated this as a working prototype.
Literally within two minutes I could feel my decades’ worth of muscle memory being augmented by a new way of working, leveraging those skills to a whole new place.  To say I was hooked would be an understatement in the extreme.
I stood and shook Lee’s hand warmly in congratulation, and placed my order for one immediately.  He gently reminded me with his chuckling smile that they did not yet even have a manufacturing prototype yet and all I was seeing was the physical  manifestation of their conceptual noodling.  Manufacturing was still a ways off.  They are working on getting it to market as soon as is humanly possible, and no amount of cajoling could make it happen any faster.  Never mind, I told him, put me on the list.
I must not have been unique because in yesterday’s email Lee told me that several other WIA attendees are “on that list.”
I truly believe this tool will lead to a vibrant and expanding presence of marquetry within the firmament of the ongoing traditional tool/craft Renaissance, and that the ultra-fine fretsaw work that had been the preserve of us “specials” will become part of the vocabulary for both replicators of the past and creators of the future.
Thank you Brian and Lee, for once again making aKnew the world of precision contour sawing.
(Full Disclosure – I have and will continue to engage with tool designers any time they think I have something to add to the conversation.  Unless they are jerks.)