Interesting Woodworking Link

Friday, March 21, 2008

Episode #51 - Shop Thoughts

Musings from my Shop

The most important tool in the shop . . .

Much has been said about this in the online forums. The responses vary between some special tool handed down by a father or grandfather to the newly acquired hand tool or power tool. Responses that I have found most interesting are not tools but references and mentors. I think the variety of responses reflect to some degree a woodworkers development and maturation in the craft.

One universal trait of all woodworkers is a love of tools, be it a hand or power tool. What woodworker can resist that wonderful tactile satisfaction of a well designed, well balanced and properly tuned and sharpened tool? Whether a nicely preserved or restored antique, or a similar well made modern version. There is something very satisfying in that indescribable neuro-feedback between the brain and hand. This is something I can identify with after rehabbing and tuning up an old Stanley bench plane that had been kicking around in the bottom of my carpenter’s box. This feeling soared to new heights after taking the leap and purchasing my first Lie-Nielson hand plane. Only a fellow woodworker can understand this experience.

I can’t identify for you my most important tool. The answer will depend upon my mood at the time. My love of hand tools is reflected in my growing collection. I also take particular satisfaction in power tools. Is it the Festoool Domino, the table saw, or router table? Perhaps the tool that is “center of the shop” provides the correct answer. Now, that could be the workbench, the table saw or the band saw depending on your focus.

One “tool” that I derive a lot of satisfaction from is a broad category that I will lump together as “references”. The center of this tool collection is a library of woodworking references that include woodworking periodicals (Fine Woodworking, Woodworking, Wood Magazine, Popular Woodworking, Shop Notes and Woodsmith), as well as, a focused collection of books on techniques and design.

I would also add to this growing list the various online woodworking blogs and forums. The age of the Internet has ushered in a unique opportunity for woodworkers to learn, collaborate and share. This “cyber connection” has also increased the access to mentors who kindly share their expertise and guidance. Some of these online opportunities have made a significant impact on my personal motivation and work. As I prepare to spend another satisfying day in my little garage workshop, I pause to give a quiet word of thanks to all of my cyber woodworking buddies that have touched my little part of the world.


Vic said...

Amen to that David! The explosion of podcasts is amazing, but I cherish most some of the trail blazers such as Neil Lamens, for his invaluable insight on design and marketing, and others like Marc Spagnuolo, who excel in the podcasting world. The mix of information and inspiration have revitalized my focus and got me off my butt!
P.S. You do a pretty damn good job yourself, David.

David Pruett said...

Vic -

I agree whole heatedly!

Neil is indeed a trail blazer. I have found him to be very inspiring. He has lit the fire of design and changed the way I look at woodworking.

I would add to your list Matt Vanderlist from Matt's Basement Workshop - the true trail blazer fo the woodworking audio podcast.

Without a doubt Marc Spagnuolo excels in the podcasting world.

Thanks for the kind comments!


Mark Mazzo said...


Nice sentiments regarding the craft and those who share their experiences with others to further it.

I also like your thoughts about your most important tool being your reference material. As a self-taught woodworker, I can relate to that - all that I have learned about the craft came from reading and trying. Of course now, as you state, the internet has opened up many more avenues to learn and grow.

You are certainly a part of that movement, offering your views and abilities in your podcasts. Keep up the good work!

The Craftsman's Path

David Pruett said...

Mark -


After watching your series on the Queen Anne Side Table, I would echo the sentiments of your last comment. Your blog is on my woodworking bookmarks to check as part of my regular rounds. I am watching in awe as you effortlessly make the switch from furniture maker to luthier.


neil said...

David said:

"I think the variety of responses reflect to some degree a woodworkers development and maturation in the craft."

This is an excellent statement, I might change the word "some" to "large".

Ihe internet as a reference has had me for quite awhile in the process of re-thinking "the act" of being a craftsman. The act was such a craftsman you quietly learned to craft your selected material and it was your created work that spoke of and for you. By playing in limited production runs, this rationalizing worked for me.

The internet has changed this, crafted works' no longer speaks for you, the internet allows you to speak for "yourself". I waffle back and fourth on weather I like this or not. Always seeming to take the easy road and justify alot of misinformation with "caveat emptor".

I seem to be attracted only to those sites that are more thoughtful to the whole which plays more into working the material to create. Not creating in a material for effect. I do understand that working for effect is a viable path, but that approach is found more on canvas or in collage and only in woodworking done in a very techically high woodworking skill-set. Wendell Castle comes to mind.

2 things are interesting in David's blog:

1. I am a follower of The Craftsman Path, good company here, Mark has posted above and

2. Vic (again a poster above)mentions my marketing insite. And he is correct, having shared information with him and Kaleo Kala few in the industry would share. market on the internet by having to speak for your work, I haven't quite got my hands around yet. But believe a level of "self-speak" is the future.

It's still young, but so far, the internet as woodworking reference gets back to David's opening statement of responses being indicative of experience and at this moment, the internet lacks experience right now. Those in the industry are to busy to fully participate and those participating, have an alterior motive outside of the craft. There is a reason the US is 2nd in woodworking when compared to Canada, Europe, Australia, we are being lead by alterior motives. This is not new, just different messengers. We are selling and recycling rather than creating.

Be creative and Caveat Emptor........Neil

David Pruett said...

"Be creative and Caveat Emptor . . ."

Neil -

You never disappoint with your insight. I highly value these exchanges and conversations on the craft. You add a much more insightful view into the internet aspect of woodworking.

I smile now at the thoughts that prompted my blog entry. I recognize that I am a student of the craft. I deeply enjoy learning from every source I can muster. I enjoy the challenge of leaning and perfecting a skill. I sometimes have to be reminded by my wife Beth "David its family time now" because every spare moment is spent reading or practicing a technique.

The internet affords me the opportunity to pull a chair up to the table and join in the conversation with fellow students and mentors that I would not otherwise be able to access. The impact that these cyber interactions have had on my personal woodworking experience is invaluable, having literally fueled the desire to excel with criticism and praise equally valued. There is also the intangible value of accountability that comes with the ability to share and learn with a larger group.

So, I guess I view internet woodworking as a rich classroom that I can engage as my professional and time constraints allow. "Be creative and Caveat Emptor . . ." Sage advice from a mentor that I have learned to respect. I feel fortunate to have stumbled upon the nucleus of internet woodworking mentors that are helping guide and shape my experience. If I were to "do it all again" I would be very tempted to seek out a formal woodworking education. But, given where I am in life I will settle on the course I have set.

"The Folding Rule Show" is my personal journal of my woodworking experience. Its my way of seeing where I have been and where I am going. It is a way for me to share what I am doing while providing a venue for getting input from the community at large. I tend to be attracted to sites that not only stimulate creativity but also push my limits for design and construction.

Best regards to all my woodworking friends,