Interesting Woodworking Link

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Episode #66 - Design & Critique

Some thoughts on design and work critique.

The Rough Cut Show Forum
. . . truly the Forum of choice for the Internet woodworking community

Ready to loose a round of Frisbee Golf to my son!

Well, I have too much idle time on my hands these days. What is a woodworker to do when they can’t be in the shop? Read, draw, plan and organize . . . that is what I have done. I am recovering from an injury that precludes me from working in the shop. I have had a chance to knock a couple of woodworking books off my “to read list”. I also spent some time digging around some favorite woodworking sites. There is a huge amount of distracting content on the Internet for every subject of one’s imagination. Like everything else, some discrimination is in order to separate the wheat from the chaff.

What an exciting time to be a woodworker. For many of us, the craft is a quite pursuit. Something explored in a small garage or basement shop, or for those lucky enough, a dedicated shop or studio. Regardless of the individual passion for hand tools, power tools or a blended approach, all share to some degree a similar experience of design and execution. Relatively new to the woodworker of today is a common fabric of discourse and reference enhancing the quest to improve a skill set and raise the level of work. The Internet provides unfettered access to, not only outstanding written and video content, but also direct interaction with seasoned woodworkers willing to mentor and champion these efforts.

I have been particularly fascinated with developments on Tommy (aka T-Chisel) MacDonald’s website The Rough Cut Show. Tommy has generated a unique and supportive venue to learn and develop woodworking skills. Three components can be identified for the burgeoning success of The Rough Cut Show. First is Tommy’s charismatic personality. It’s kind of hard not to smile and get swept along with his enthusiasm. He is unabashedly proud of his work all the while being his own worst critic. So, it is hard not to accept the challenge of this North Bennet Street School trained woodworker to “raise the level of your game”. Second is the video content (119 Episodes as of 10 August 2008) on Tommy’s site. Intermixed with humor and camaraderie is a significant level of woodworking instruction that warrants more than a second look. Third is The Rough Cut Show Forum. Woodworking Internet history was made when forum members built The Crazy Leg Federal Table. The project was designed to explore and learn embellishment techniques relative to Federal Period Furniture. Project #1, The Crazy Leg Federal Table, gave way to Project #2, a Shaker Step Stool. This is a deceivingly simple project presenting an opportunity to work on joinery, specifically dovetails. Tommy encouraged forum members to bring non-woodworkers into the shop to build this project as an introduction to the craft. Additionally, the project could be done quickly over a weekend out of pine with quick joinery or pursued at a slower pace to push all elements of execution. Now the forum is moving forward with Project #3, a beautiful blanket chest.

To say Tommy and his forum have caught my interest would be an understatement. More importantly, my interest has been piqued by forum members that are developing a method of constructive critique. Without a doubt, this has been an area lacking development in the online woodworking community. All to often comments are general in nature with “. . . good job . . . great work as always”. While this makes the builder “feel” good, it offers nothing for their future development. Constructive evaluation and critique does not need to be something fraught with sensitivities, rather a valuable process actively sought out by the builder. Ultimately, this step is as critical in a woodworker’s growth and development as the design process and project execution, because without it, there is no other way for a builder to bring to bear on the next project the lessons learned from the previous build. These are tools as essential to our woodworking as the finest saw or sharpest chisel.

With these thoughts in mind, I encourage everyone to explore the rich content on The Rough Cut Show. More importantly, join The Rough Cutter’s Forum and participate in the development of a constructive woodworking critique rubric. As a woodworker, you have nothing to loose and everything to gain!

"Evaluating our work for better work in the future is very, very important"

Hope to be back at it soon!

The Three Sisters (South • Middle • North)
Cascade Mountains – Central Oregon

Some interesting related links:

Rough Cut Show Forum Topic: Furniture Design

Rough Cut Show Forum Topic: Critiquing Our Builds

Rough Cut Show
Project #1 – Crazy Leg Federal Table
Intro Video
Project #1 Forum

Rough Cut Show Project #2 – Shaker Style Step Stool
Intro Video
Project #2 Forum


Mark Mazzo said...

Hey David,

Man,what did you do? I hope it was not a shop injury! Please get well soon and get back into the shop.

The design topic is definitely an ever=-evolving one. I have been posting about it recently and plan to do more - it was one of my reasons fo starting to blog.

I am keeping an eye on what is happening over at the Rough Cut Forum. I hope to join in as well.

The Craftman's Path

Al said...


I share your enthusiasm about Tommy's work, and about The Rough Cut Show. The design and critique stuff has caught my interest, too!

I am sorry to see your hand and arm in this condition!!! Get well soon, and keep up with your great work on the blog.

It will be a good day again when you are back in the shop, making "stuff".

David Pruett said...

Mark & Al -

Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment! The design and critique topic is fascinating. The subjective and intangible aspects lend and elusive character. I think the design & critique work being done on The Rough Cut Show Forum will help bring the Internet woodworking community to the next level. Ultimately we have the most to gain when we have tangible lessons learned that can be applied to the next design and project execution. It will be interesting to follow the genesis of their "design speak" (N. Lamens) vocabulary and critic rubric.

Interestingly, only the thru the broad scope of communication via the Internet can a cohesive conversation like this proceed among a dispersed group of woodworkers. Additionally, the Internet opens this conversation up to every forum member that desires to participate. I believe there is the potential historically that these efforts will likely be view as a significant milepost in woodworking.

Regarding my arm, unfortunately it was a shop related injury. A fluke incident that I will report on later. I am on the mend and hope to be back in the shop soon. Thanks for the kind thoughts!


Vic Hubbard said...

Yeah! You're back!!

Hey David, Welcome back to blogging. As you know I'm a big fan of the design phase of woodworking. Note, I'm not a great designer....yet, but I'm gonna keep plugging away. I just wish my "day job" didn't get in the way of my shop time. Luckily, I do love my day job. I have started keeping a hard back sketch book with me and per W.Castle's interview with Mr. Neil Lamens of Furnitology, I sketch everyday. Now I just have to get good enough to bring some of these to life.

Keep posting my friend!


David Pruett said...

Vic -

Thanks so much for the kind comments and enthusiasm! You and I are similar. I love my "day job" but it does interfere with shop time! Oh well, I am happy to get the time I do have in the shop. I am quite anxious to get back to work waiting on the bench. I have a couple of projects lined up with my son which should be fun.

I say keep drawing and building . . . its the only path to improvement!

Best Regards,