During his long career at GE Global Research, Herman Finkbeiner was always asking questions, and in retirement that still hasn’t changed. For instance, how do you make a boat big enough to carry three people but light enough for one man to portage?
Finkbeiner and his friends at the Northeastern Woodworkers Association have that one all figured out, and will share their knowledge of Adirondack Guide Boats with the public this Saturday and Sunday at the NWA’s 21st annual Woodworker’s Showcase at the Saratoga Springs City Center. Among the many items on display will be five guide boats all built by members, as well as other woodworking items, including side tables and chairs, and various wood carvings and turnings.
The NWA was formed in 1991 when Finkbeiner and seven other men decided to get together and share their knowledge and love of woodworking.
Northeastern Woodworkers Association Showcase
WHERE: Saratoga Springs City Center, Saratoga Springs
WHEN: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
HOW MUCH: $10
“There were a number of people at the lab who did woodworking of one kind or another, and one of the guys who had recently retired came to my office and wanted to form some kind of group to get together regularly so that we could all learn more and talk about woodworking,” said Finkbeiner. “So we had a meeting and there was eight of us, six from the lab, a guy from the [Knolls] Atomic Power Lab and another guy from the main GE plant downtown.”
Joining Finkbeiner that day were Milan Fiske, Dan Staver, David Mobley, Dale Brown, Jack Ericson, A.C. Stevens and Red Redington. The group quickly got bigger, so that meetings could no longer be held at a member’s house.
“For about six months, we met in each other’s shops, but then we had grown to like 18 members so we started meeting in the Price Chopper Community Room on Eastern Avenue,” said Finkbeiner. “There seemed to be a lot more interest in woodworking than any of us thought, so by November of 1991 we decided to have a show.”
The inaugural NWA showcase was held at Curtis Lumber’s then-new store on Route 67 in the Town of Ballston.
“Because of that show we got quite a few more members, and by the time we had our second show the following year we were up to 50 or 60 members,” said Finkbeiner. “Curtis Lumber did some advertising and they told us that they had about 1,000 more people at the store that weekend than they normally would have had. They were very happy, but unfortunately we had to move to Shenendehowa High School for the third year because Curtis Lumber did a lot of new things to the store and they didn’t really have the space for us.”
Despite moving the showcase away from Curtis Lumber, Finkbeiner was optimistic No. 3 would be a success until he woke up that morning to blizzard-like conditions.
“We still were holding it in the fall, and when I got up in the morning it was snowing like crazy,” he remembered. “I can remember thinking, ‘well, this is going to spell disaster for the show.’ But, then I got to Shenendehowa High School and even though we hadn’t opened up yet, there were people there waiting in line to get in. That third year we were successful beyond anything any of us could have imagined. We got a great crowd.”
The purpose of the showcase is to give members an opportunity to display their work and lure more people into the field of woodworking.
“We do sell a few items at these events, but selling things is never what we intended for this show, so we never put an emphasis on that,” said Finkbeiner. “It’s about teaching people about woodworking and raising money so we can give people grant money that will allow them to go somewhere and take some woodworking classes.”
NWA member John Michne of Clifton Park, an expert at building Adirondack guide boats, will be at the showcase to talk about that craft, while for $90 people can sign up for a class on making Shaker boxes.
“The showcase costs $10, and then the class for making Shaker boxes is the only additional fee,” said Finkbeiner. “That’s $90, so that’s only for people who are very serious about making Shaker boxes. That class size will be limited.”
A native of the Syracuse area, Finkbeiner has lived in Schenectady for 54 years now. He got interested in woodworking at an early age.
“I grew up on a farm and watched my father do a lot of carpentry work because there was always something to be done,” said Finkbeiner. “I’ve probably been at it myself since I was a young teenager.”