Had lunch with Norm Saturday!

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I attended a presentation, luncheon/presentation, book signing on 8/16/03 at Old Sturbridge Village at which Norm Abram was the featured speaker...
The day started off with Norm and OSV housewrights doing a compare and contrast presentation. This event occurred at the site of a new small house that OSV is building using 19th century technology. I got the last question of that event in: "Hey Norm, did you ever finish the stairs at your house?" He got a big grin on his face and responded with a single word...
"NO!"
His wife, YES, HIS WIFE, then said "That is on the Honey-Do list!" and the place burst into laughter!
I spoke with his wife a bit after that and she was a lovely woman, warm and friendly... I'm not sure how to spell her name... it's either Alysse or Alese or Ellease or something like that. BTW, for those who are interested, Norm was wearing his ring.
Next was a 2 1/2 hour luncheon/presentation. Norm walked around and spoke with EVERYONE in the room... shook hands, posed for photos. Then he showed film clips from his OSV related projects and discussed his techniques in segments. After each segment an OSV interpreter gave the 19th century take on things. Norm then showed us a NYW project that will appear on a new show sometime after January 2004 that is based on an OSV artifact.
It was obvious that Norm was interested in developing his skills even more over time. He also spoke in terms of interpreting pieces of furniture rather than copying them... he sounded more like an academic than a technician throughout the presentation which warmed my heart. He also discussed his evolution from carpenter to TOH and how much different NYW was to do as compared to TOH--whole different sets of skills were needed for each stage of his career.
In terms of developing projects Norm said that he takes some measurements and photos, sketches some things out, and then develops the project while building the prototype. During the prototype development he takes notes, measurements, etc., that are used to build the show piece and develop the measured drawings. He said that he can visualize the finished piece and what needs to be done and doesn't need detailed plans, cut lists, etc. to create the prototype.
There was also a really neat souvenir on the tables at lunch... an autographed biscuit! ;-)
The book signing was another chance at interaction and photos.
The funny thing is that as things unfolded we talked about the web cam and digital photography rather than woodworking! :-) He said he loves digital cameras as they are really handy when he's looking over furniture for possible projects. He also mentioned the pitfalls of the web cam in that you really are on stage all the time and any unsafe behaviors on a TOH worksite are cause for concern.
Impressions: Norm is a genuinely nice guy who takes his craft seriously. This was a wonderful experience and there were smiles and laughter in abundance throughout the day. If the opportunity to participate in a similar event presents itself to you I strongly suggest you take it!
Once I get the photos processed I'll post something...
John
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<<Then he showed film clips from his OSV related projects and discussed his techniques in segments. >>
There he goes with that OSV stuff again. Why can't he use real lumber like a true woodworker? <g>
Lee
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On Wed, 20 Aug 2003 04:21:43 GMT, "Lee Gordon"

Perhaps if you hung around with OSVers, some of the Light side of the Force would rub off on YOU, too!
- Ever wonder what the speed of lightning would be if it didn't zigzag? - http://diversify.com Full Service Web Application Programming
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I was about to have my lunch with Norm (on TV) Saturday, but they dispatched me to a motorcycle/truck accident.
SWMBO had planned ahead though, and recorded Norm, Roy, and the Router guys, not knowing what I'd be doing at the time.
Seems from your narrative the only people who don't change and grow over time are the vocal critics of Norm.

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Reminds me of a joke/sad-tale-but-true I once thought only musicians could truly appreciate .. a breed who, if they haven't heard you play in 20 years, and you happened to have stumbled over a part at the time, will be forever convinced in their own minds that that is as good as you'll ever be.
Johnny B. Goode came back to his hometown for a visit after making it big in the music industry. The day he was leaving he ran across an old musician buddy from High School he hadn't seen during his visit. The buddy asked him how he was getting on and Johnny said, "Things are going real good for me, especially after that Grammy I won last year". His buddy replied in surprise "Man. I didn't hear about that!". Johnny said, "Yeah, actually I've been nominated four out of the last five years". His buddy said "Whoa, I never knew that, that's great". Johnny said, "Yeah, and I just signed a big contract to do, the sound track for one of JLo and Ben's movies next year. His buddy cried, "Dude, you're doing great, I never heard any of that ... I'm really glad I got to see you before you left!". Johnny replied, "Yeah, I'm so busy that I only go to stay a week, but I did get to sit in with some of the old band at the Step In club last Saturday. Really enjoyed playing with them again after all this time, even tho I was a bit rusty and missed some of the changes to "Satin Doll", and a couple of other tunes I hadn't played in years. His Buddy said, "Yeah, I heard about that!"
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Heh... happens to woodworkers, too. The old codgers must have been clucking up a storm, rocking on their heels in front of the Bethlehem General Feed and Seed...
"You say you saw Jesus do miracles? Couldn't 'a been miracles. _Why, isn't he that carpenter's kid?_"
_Nobody_ gets any play in their own hometown. ;>
Michael Baglio Chapel Hill for 3 more days...
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What date/time do you get the Router Guys on? Here in Denver, we've got two PBS stations, and I'll be dipped if I can find them...
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I'm a boondocker with directv. They're on @1630 Saturday on the national feed.

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Sounds like a great time in the life of a woodworker, John. Be sure to posts the pics.
Jim

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Bob,
We had planned on going to OSV this summer for quite some time. One of our friends told us they saw a sign at OSV earlier this summer announcing that Norm was going to be there. With that information I looked the event up on the OSV web site and we made our plans to attend. I may have stumbled on to this on my own as we planned our trip but the information from our friend cemented the dates!
BTW, we also went to Hancock Shaker Village on the trip and that turned out to be a woodworker's delight also. I was used to seeing what a Normite would consider to be inadequate and crude hand tools from my days working at Colonial Williamsburg. However, taking the jump from the 1770s of CW to the mid 19th to early 20th century of HSV still didn't reveal the kind of precision that is commonly DEMANDED by folks here on the wreck... Sure they had water powered table saws, lathes, surfacers, bandsaws and jointers, but there were still a LOT of hand-tools involved that didn't look appreciably different from those of the 18th century. The power tools were for rough dimensioning and the handtools for the joinery and finishing.... funny, that is pretty much the model I've been working with myself!
I still have to deal with the photos. I got them downloaded from the memory cards to the HD but I still have to rename the files and burn them to a CD. I've also make inquiry to a friend of mine about him professionally handling some of the files and print them. Once I get the photo files all sorted out I'll create some web-friendly versions and put them up on ABPW.
John

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On Wed, 20 Aug 2003 21:12:56 -0400, "John Grossbohlin"
<snip>

Now there is a gloat that truly makes me envious. That place is like Disneyland to me.
Regards, Tom Tom Watson - Woodworker Gulph Mills, Pennsylvania http://users.snip.net/~tjwatson
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wrote:

Me too, that's why I made it happen! ;-)
John
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I posted some pictures to ABPW... still have to work through more photos and if any others look interesting I'll post them.
As an aside, I found the article on Norm's stairs that appeared in the Washington Post. It was dated 2/27/02. At that point in time the house was six years old... that means those plywood treads are now 7 1/2 years old! Makes me feel less concerned about some of my unfinished home projects. ;-)
John

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Two additional items:
1. During the luncheon Norm was asked about prepping rough sawn lumber into useable boards. In discussing this he commented on "only hav(ing) an 8" jointer." With that the place roared... including his wife! Maybe there is a DJ-30 in his future?! ;-)
2. Speaking of wife, it was Norm's second wife, Elise, that I met at OSV. Norm's first wife was named Laura... Elise is the woman in the photos I posted last month and I reiterate that she was a lovely woman. My initial impressions that they had been together for a long time were wrong... it was more a case of them having a nice comfortable relationship than it was a long one.
Hope this clears things up!
John
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Sounds like you had a great time. I would have loved to be able to be there. I have been to Old Sturbridge Village several times, and that is a GREAT place. There used to be a guy there named Cliff Myers that did the Oval Boxes. He held a two day seminar down in Conn., which I attended.
I hope to get back up that way someday. Thanks for the interesting post.
John

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wrote:

While it's much smaller than OSV, check out Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield some time.
Barry
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in message

When we left OSV we stopped at Hancock Shaker Village... I thought it was great but the short attention span part of the family much preferred OSV. ;-)
John
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in message

Been there and done that too.... it is a wonderful place....... Had Thanksgiving Dinner at OSV one year. I'll never forget it, was wonderful.
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John Grossbohlin wrote:

Hmmm... Sounds like maybe Nahmie traded up for a prettier model once he got bigger tools. :)
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Norm didn't mention what happened to Steve Thomas of TOH did he?

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