A Vacation from Woodworking? Impossible!

A few weeks ago, my wife and I embarked on a trip to Belgium for our first vacation since our honeymoon three years ago.  With visions of waffles, French fries, chocolate, beautiful architecture, and amazing beer racing through our minds, I was likewise excited to spend two weeks with few (if any) thoughts related to woodworking.  I lasted less than a day.

On our first day in Brussels, we found ourselves walking through the Musical Instrument Museum, and it wasn’t long before I found myself marveling at a piano lid’s amazing marquetry instead of reading the information card or listening to the recordings of how it sounds.

Piano Lid Marquetry

We also saw a display of an instrument-maker’s shop that brought to mind editor in chief Rob Johnstone’s background in lutherie, although I’m pretty sure at least a few of Rob’s tools were more modern. Check out the clamping trick that’s in process on the workbench.

Music Instrument Shop

The same day, we found ourselves at Autoworld, a car museum the size of an airplane hanger.  In between rare cars from the likes of Auburn, Messerschmitt (yes, the fighter plane company) and beyond, we came across this wooden sports car body, and my thoughts instantly went to seeing the Splinter Car in person during the big AWFS woodworking show last year.

Wooden Car Body

While in Ghent, we had the opportunity to view the Ghent Altarpiece, a wonder to anyone in its presence regardless of their religious beliefs.  After looking at this magnificent piece in its final stages of a lengthy restoration, I found myself noticing and identifying the tools scattered throughout the restoration facility.  Sorry for the lack of a photo; even non-flash photography was forbidden in the church and I decided not to push my luck.

CooperyDuring our time in Bruges, we toured the Halve Maan Brewery.  While learning about its six generations of history (and before the sampling started…), we found ourselves in the brewery’s own on-site coopery, where barrels for the beer were built.  In my discussions with woodworkers about barrel-making, I have consistently noticed hints of a deep appreciation for coopery.  This lost art’s combination of craftsmanship and practicality was certainly on display here.

So, while I’m not really a woodworker myself (yet??), I have to say that my exposure to your comments and photos of your projects on the Woodworker’s Journal eZine and woodworking.com forum (where I am one of the moderators) has sure given me a much greater appreciation for the craft and a better eye for quality workmanship. If you’ve snapped some great woodworking shots during your travels, click here to send them in (make sure to include a description), and I’ll be happy to post them!

Matt Becker
Internet Production Coordinator

PS – Not surprisingly, Chris Marshall suffers from (enjoys?) the same inability to turn off the woodworking thoughts while on vacation. You can read his posts from a recent trip to Africa here and here.

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4 thoughts on “A Vacation from Woodworking? Impossible!

  1. Matt, love the article and pictures. Can you, or someone tell me what the object is, that’s setting in the lower left corner of the music instrument shop picture? I’m guessing it’s a form for setting a curve in a thin sheet of wood. Maybe for glue ups. I’m not sure though. I think I see something similar against the back wall on the floor as well (smaller version?). I’m just making wild guesses. Also, I thought the clamping method you pointed out was great.

  2. Hi Matt;
    I see you had a nice trip in our little country.
    Besides the woodwork i hope you took some time to try the beer, chocolates, waffles and fries too.
    I hope you enjoyed your stay, and maybe if you come back to Belgium i can guide you around.

    Greetings Glenn Wouters

  3. Glenn,

    We certainly indulged in all you listed and more! We brought back a suitcase full of beer and are trying to re-create the amazing frites we enjoyed.

    It was the experience of a lifetime, but one that I would love to repeat someday! If I do, you’ll be the first to know.


  4. Great article! It’s great to travel to other countries and see the methods and workmanship they use to craft things. I really like the wood body on the car, it shows you that you can literally make anything from wood.

    My wife’s side family is from Norway. When they came to visit, they were amazed that we use plastic and cement board for siding here in the United States. Haha, they couldn’t get over the fact that my truck uses regular gas and not diesel and that it was an automatic.

    Anyway, my name is Wade by the way. I own the website generationwoodworks.com. I hope to see more of your adventures!

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