A perfect storm – of what?

(Shop Monkey Note: After discussion with the folks at Fine Woodworking, it has been determined that the title of the Shop Talk Live podcast applied to a segment later in the show and not to the online blogging community. That said, the folks at the magazine have admitted that they weren’t careful in how they expressed their concern toward the online woodworking community, and have issued an apology.)

It’s not often that I react to what other folks post, but this one couldn’t slide by the wayside.  The folks at Fine Woodworking Magazine posted a shop talk live video podcast, their fifth, called “Perfect Storm of Stupidity.”

Nice title.

The podcast goes into a discussion about the online woodworking community… And, at first, the comments were pretty complimentary and tame.  It’s a great way for people to share their experiences – to show what they are building and how they are growing in the craft.

Had the conversation ended at the five minute mark, It would have been a great topic to cover and things would have sat OK with me. Alas, they couldn’t leave well enough alone.  In the next five minutes, I learned that the Internet is basically awash with a bunch of idiots claiming to be ‘experts’ on every topic, leading the poor beginning woodworker down the ‘wrong path’ to frustration and a lifetime of failure.

Woah.  Hold the phone, fellas. I do get that some folks may or may not have a total grasp on the finer point of technique. But, I know a great number of woodworking bloggers, and I really  have yet to run into one who claims to be an ‘expert’ on the topics they write about.

The claim was made that  no one is vetting the level of expertise of these bloggers, and there is plenty of bad information floating around out there pretending to be the voice of authority.  I have seen people cut joints that I’m not sure would be the best for the particular situation, but I have seen plenty of techniques that are plenty sound. Besides, if those techniques work for the particular woodworker, why not see how they are done?

The question of shop safety was also brought up. Some of the videos out there can be downright frightening to watch, with the one I posted here being example A. But, believe me, if someone goes out and puts up a post that’s not safety-conscious, the readers are going to be the ones who weigh in it. This was identified as crowd sourcing, and  trust me, it works. Heck, I’ve had folks weigh in when I don’t have my safety glasses on while I hand plane.

Another point of emphasis is that the more stuff a woodworker builds, the better they are. Therefore, if someone build dozens of pieces of furniture of one style, they should be looked to as the expert in the field.  I can see the logic in this, but it would be a stretch to say that this is a 100% guarantee that they are truly better.  Think of it this way – if a person has been practicing the violin for 40 years and has perfect playing form, but can’t make the instrument sing, why would I want to listen to the performance?  If someone has been playing for five years and can bring down the house, why would I not want to hear that? When I see younger woodworkers who have less than several decades of experience – David Marks, Rob Bois, Shannon Rodgers, Kari Hultman – cutting tight joinery and making it work -I am encouraged to see the new generation of woodworkers coming along to help pass the craft to my children and their kids.

The video hosts went on to say that only people vetted by the woodworking magazines or by well-known schools are the ones who really truly understand and can teach the proper methods. With their high level of expertise, they are the ones truly qualified to teach how to build. Nonsense. People who can woodwork are an awesome bunch of people, but it also takes an incredible amount of skill to be able to teach others about the craft. Communication, interpersonal skills and desire mean a lot. I had the honor of taking a class from Marc Spagnuolo when he was in his late 20’s… and his teaching skills were light years ahead of some of the other ‘more experienced’ instructors I have taken classes from.

Another thing that struck me as odd …  we know that  all woodworkers have their own preferences on joinery. And, after years of doing things only one way, they tend to rely on those same joints and techniques for most – if not all – of their projects. I contest that it’s good to get a wider, more diverse vision of how things can be done. If I have said it a once, I’ve said it a million times – there are about a thousand ways to cut a particular joint, and they are all right if they make for tight joinery that can take the abuse.  So, say, if Chris Becksvoort hand cuts his dovetail a certain way, does that mean that machine cut dovetails are inferior?  How about box or finger joints? Splines?  Should they not be considered valid because someone prefers another style of joinery?

And, while passing on the information is fine, what about the inspiration?  David Life is a woodworker I have profiled before, and he does his work in spite of being legally blind. I find it fascinating to learn from David how his techniques have had to evolve as his eyesight faded.  Hearing stories about woodworkers like David help make me a better woodworker. Just reading about or watching ‘established and vetted’ woodworkers leaves me flat.  I need to see the stories of woodworkers like me – toiling away in their shops and turning out great work on the weekends and after hours – not just the ones who do it full-time for a magazine or at a woodworking school.

I contest that online woodworking is far from the perfect storm of stupidity. In fact, this online collaboration has done more to get new woodworkers off their behinds and into shops that many of the established woodworking sources care to admit. And, it offers exposure to a rich variety of techniques I may not have considered in my woodworking.  Is it perfect?  Nope, but either is the other option where only a few ‘masters’ control what content is released to the masses.

If you would like to hear about why I or other bloggers do what we do, check out our take on things on the fifth edition of  the Modern Woodworkers Association’s online discussion.

Oh, and keep on blogging and building. I see the perfect setup the way things exist.


80 thoughts on “A perfect storm – of what?”

  1. I agree completely. I’m new to woodworking and think that the great range of techniques and opinions available on the web is great. For example, you and Kari Hultman might approach a project in totally different ways. Both are valid, and I learn a lot from the comparison I get to do. Keep up the great work.


  2. I look at this from two perspectives. These guys make their living from publishing the same type of material that bloggers put out for free. Unfortunately their are plenty of examples, as the one you cited, that help prove their point. Of course they really minimize the wealth of good information that is out on the Internet. As they highlighted with their own mess ups later in the case, no one is perfect in the craft.

    What amazes me, and this is not the first example I have seen of this, is that they attack the Internet community TOO the internet community. There is a weekly chat that a large segment of the Internet woodworking community participates in. A woodworking celebrity comes in and starts participating. It started out friendly at first, but the proceeds to really criticize the Internet community as a whole. I, as many others, were really taken back by it.

    The thing is, this type of thing isn’t isolated to the Woodworking profession, it happens in all areas of expertise. There was a period where I took on doing side IT work in addition to my regular day job. Because there were less than profession people out there advertising their work and undercutting others it did present some challenges. There were times I didn’t get as they the found someone to do it cheaper. The there were times where some of those people came back to me when the work wasn’t done right and I got the job to clean it up. Still, more often then not, I let my work speak for itself, and once I built the trusted relationships I was able to get plenty of work at the rates I expected. This really is true in the woodworking community as a whole as well. My feeling is they should use their background, skills, influence, experience, education, and so on to show there is a difference between a hobbyist/amateur podcast vs. what is offered by the magazines and schools. That is what the rest of the professional world does. Finally, there are always people, again in any field, that have a raw talent that you cannot get from podcasts, magazines, or schools that can run circles around someone who has been in the industry for many years. As a professional, I often want to embrace their perspective as they may have ideas I haven’t yet thought about.

    What I did find funny is that perhaps they should better utilize the Internet for fact checks. The march the played is not at all British, but is John Phillip Sousa’s Liberty Bell March which is very much American.

  3. Bravo Tom.
    If it were not for blogs like, Tom’s Workbench, The Village Carpenter, The Wood Whisperer, Matt’s Basement Workshop, The Wood Wright’s Shop and several others I read regularly and enjoy, I wouldn’t have near the répertoire in my skills that I do.
    Information packed sites like, The Modern Woodworkers Association, Wood Talk Online, The Spoken Wood podcast , and again several others, have enriched my thought process to the point where I rarely cannot call upon a technique or application I have learned from all the above to help me through a problem.
    This is not to say that I don’t respect the vast amount of knowledge and expertise that an organization like Fine Woodworking brings to the craft, but they should realize that entities such as Wood Magazine, Popular Woodworking, Woodsmith, just to name a few, have the same knowledge and expertise, with possibly fewer resources in some cases.
    Why do I always get the feeling that Fine Woodworking perceives itself as superior to all the others? It is because of pod-casts like that mentioned in the first paragraph of your blog today.
    Any presence on the internet or in print or television that can help me advance in the craft I love, is truly appreciated. Not just one source, but all.
    Thanks Tom, and keep up the good work.
    Eric Rusch Sr
    Kissimmee, Florida

  4. Bravo Tom! I’m tired of hearing statements like “the proper way” or “the best way” coming from the old guard of woodworking. In my opinion if you don’t endanger yourself or anyone around you, there is nothing wrong with the way you are doing it. What I do object to is anyone who would disparage anyone from sharing their method or their woodworking experience. Discussion like the one in Shop Talk #5 is what prevents people from blogging or posting a video for fear of being criticized. It is this attitude that makes me think 4x about anything I post personally. While some self editing is a great, it should be for better content not because we are afraid of blowback from an obsolete media format.

  5. Well said Tom …

    I understand there are “bad” things on the internet. You can find pretty much anything, true or false, out there. But, that doesn’t mean those “bad” tips and videos are “the norm” for this community. The way i see it, the hosts, focusing on those types of videos and blogs, only shows the extent of the knowledge they have on the topic, … or fear of what the true community is capable of 🙂

    And diversity is good in any craft it keeps thing fresh and alive.

  6. I just listened to the FWW podcast and simply thought it was an odd subject to discuss. It seemed to be a mild rant with not much useful I formation (for me at least).

  7. Bloggers and podcasters have a done a lot to help promote woodworking in general, magazines, suppliers, and events. They’ve generated discussion and enthusiasm for the craft—both with power and hand tools. Is there misinformation out there? Maybe. But everyone, even professionals, make mistakes and have revelations throughout their journey.

  8. In a way, yes, the Internet can be full of dissenting ideas about how to do something. But, really, it’s just a macrocosm of what you see in the woodworking world. For example, search the Internet for finishing techniques. You’ll find about 10,000 of them, ranging from “nothing but beeswax” to “if you’re not spraying lacquer, it’s crap.” But, at the same time, if you read 100 magazine articles on finishing, you will similarly find 100 opinions on the “right way” to finish. I eventually dug through all the Internet jumble of finishing techniques and settled on a technique used by some Wood Whisperer guy.

    Fact of the matter is, yeah, the Internet can be confusing to a beginner. Sure, I’ll buy that. But so are books and magazines. Go through your collection of woodworking magazines and count the number of articles that claim “the last finishing technique you’ll ever need!”

  9. I also agree completely. I am a young woodworker (27) who learned from my Dad and Granddad. When I moved away, I found the online community of woodworkers made up of people like me. In my opinion, the online resources out there are vastly more useful than FWW as they cater to us ordinary woodworkers. I subscribe to FWW, but this makes me want to cancel. It’s quite obvious that FWW feels threatened and if they don’t stop “hating” then they’ll eventually disappear. The online woodworking community is only going to grow.

  10. I’m going to sit on the fence on this one. I love discovering new woodworking blogs that show me different ways of doing the same thing. Studying different levels of expertise and varying methods from others can make you a better woodworker.
    My complaint with FW is that they never really specify what sources of “expertise” they’re referring to. They never differentiate between bloggers who clearly know what they are doing and have been doing it right for years, and the guys who have no business ripping a board on a table saw with no fence (as an example I’ve seen and they mention) let alone posting a blog or video about it. At one point, I think its Mike that points out where some of the bad information they’re referring to comes from: YouTube. And there I completely agree; there are some TERRIBLE examples of woodworking (both techniques and safety) on YouTube. If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t share it.
    In the end, readers have to remember that no matter what you’re source of woodworking information is it’s mostly opinion anyway. Beyond safety, there are very few absolutely in woodworking.

  11. I don’t really understand the controversy. The best practitioners are usually not the best teachers. I know two Nobel laureates – I wouldn’t want to take a course from either of them. My best teachers did not make deep contributions to their fields – their contribution was their students.

    As far as I can see this pattern is not different in Woodworking.


  12. A bunch of old woodworkers who depend on a dying format (print magazine) unfairly lashing out at the internet? What a surprise. I don’t subscribe to their magazine (I have never found that magazine very useful to my work), but I do subscribe to this site (RSS reader) and many others, and I learn a LOT from this and other blogs.

  13. I get what Mike and Asa are saying, but isnt it up to the viewer to determine what content is good. When i want to start a new project I watch lots of videos and read as much as I can on the style or tecniques that would be aplied to that piece. It’s up to me to determine if those practices are safe enough or the tecniques are sound. I always tell friends that without the woodworking internet content I would never have started this hobby. With a young family and a full time job I can’t rush out to classes all the time. Over the last couple years I’ve weeded out the garbage from the very helpful sites such as thw woodwhisperer, MBW, Renaissance, Boise and Toms websites. People need to start taking responsability for themselves and not whine about every little thing that other people do. If I see someone smoking crack online doesnt mean that its the right thing to do. Theres this thing called common sense. Use it.

  14. Hi, all–
    I’m the guy who shot his mouth off about the blogosphere! I stand by much of what I said, but I’d like to clarify a few things. If you listen to episode six of the podcast (could be titled, “Asa backpedals”), you’ll hear much of this same stuff. For one, the title of the show is not a reference to my comments about online experts! The perfect storm of stupidity comes later in the show, when Mike and I were talking about our own screwups in the shop.
    Also, I was really talking about a small handful of people who overstate their expertise, or at least over-imply it. I’m sorry if this raises some hackles but there are good ways to do things and bad ones, and the only way to learn is to listen to those who have built a ton of stuff, and then build a ton of stuff yourself. That’s not just a refence to the people in Fine Woodworking, but the best people who run schools, do blogs, or whatever.
    But, on balance, the Internet in general (including YouTube, podcasts, blogs, forums, etc.) has been an AWESOME thing for woodworking, for one thing bringing it to a whole new generation, like that 27-yr.-old (back when my knees didn’t hurt), young buck who weighed in earlier. So no hating here, just a small reality check.
    Our podcast, Shop Talk Live, is meant to be casual and fun, so I think I maybe got a bit carried away…

  15. Asa,
    Thanks for clarifying. This is why I don’t have a podcast. I would piss everyone off but my wife. She would eventually stop listening. Enjoy the podcast nonetheless. So, what are you thoughts on a woodworking Czar???

  16. Bravo Tom !!! What they are really saying is that we have a lot of money invested in this and we NEED to be the experts. I really do think that the truly “seeking” woodworker very quickly develops an ability to separate the tried and true( regardless of how old it is) from the stuff that is just trying to sell something, or the neurotically weird.

    Thanks for the post Tom

  17. There are many way to accomplish anything, epsecially in woodworking. In my apprenticeship, I worked with many different people. Some were very skilled, others not so much. But something was learned from each one. Ultimately, over the years, I have developed and zeroed in on those methods that work best for me, always looking for that edge in time or craftsmanship without sacrificing safety and / or quality. Common sense, I believe should be the by word here. A person must know what quality, craftsmanship, safety, etc. are before they can be practised. Take some classes, get hands-on experience and learn from these guys. I was fortunate to have an apprenticeship along with hands-on experience over 36 years ago.

  18. I was going to keep quiet on this but feel like I need to comment specifically about Asa’s thoughts on the vetting process. What I got from his comments was that FWW content is significantly more valuable and trustworthy because it is vetted. So I find it a little amusing that Asa is now experiencing the vetting process he claims doesn’t exist in the online world. Ask anyone who publishes content on the web if their content is vetted. OK, certainly not in the traditional sense. But there are thousands of people out there from all walks and all experience levels who are all too willing to evaluate every little detail of your videos, articles, or audio clips. You see, one massive difference between new and old media is the presence of a dialog and interactivity, something that magazines just can’t provide. Anyone claiming to be an expert sure as hell better be, or they are going to be haunted by comment after comment reminding them how much they suck. And Asa, ironically, is now having his comments vetted for accuracy and fairness. A very painful process indeed! My guess is that after this experience, Asa is going to think very carefully about what he says on his podcast. Welcome to the “online content vetting system”. It may not be as good as a conference room of 6 magazine journalists, but it sure is effective.

    And I really hate to pick on Asa again here, but this comment really bugs me: “The only way to learn is to listen to those who have built a ton of stuff, and then build a ton of stuff yourself.” Yes, please folks, build build build! The logical and obvious way to hone new skills is to actually use them. But to say that the only way to learn is to listen to people who have built a ton of stuff, well, I call BS. Here’s a very cool example for ya. Vic, someone I consider a good friend, built his very first project using information he picked up mostly from blogs, forums, and podcasts. That first project wound up in the pages Fine Woodworking in the Reader’s Gallery. He’s the poster child for what this online community can really do for a new woodworker, and I don’t think this is an anomaly.

    I have been woodworking for just over 10 years now. I have built a decent amount of projects but certainly not what anyone would consider “a ton”. I have much of my career ahead of me and I look forward to getting better at the craft. And while I can certainly hold my own in the wood shop, I am a firm believer that if I leave any legacy with this world, it won’t be my woodworking. Instead, it will be my teachings. But based on Asa’s comment, should I assume people shouldn’t or can’t learn from me? Would the woodworking world have been better off if I never started The Wood Whisperer? I am sure some think so (because haters be hatin’), but I would hope that most see what I have done as a good thing.

    In my opinion, if you really want to learn, stay away from folks who overuse phrases like “never, always, the best way, or the only way”. If you want to be a well-rounded woodworker, read everything you can from all kinds of resources. Take classes whenever your budget allows. Watch all the free videos you can get your hands on. Keep an open-mind and don’t forget to read the comments section. Lots of interesting stuff happens there. 🙂

  19. It is really strange that a publication dedicated to woodworking would try and discourage people from sharing their passion for woodworking online. Most folks not only can’t locate a master wood worker to learn from, they also are not ready. Many times a tenured Professional has no passion for teaching beginner skills. Magazines should focus on increasing their reach through the internet as well as through their printed material. Magazine sales are down but kindle sales are up. Where would you focus your energy?

  20. While the other comments have addressed this subject quite effectively, it also points out the power of collaborative discussion. Besides opposable thumbs, humans have the ability to learn and grow from that knowledge. While FWW has a solid stable of knowledgable woodworkers, there are far more out there that don’t see their name within their pages – many who utilize the Internet and social media to share their knowledge.

    Woodworking is not (or should not) be an elitist activity, but one shared and enjoyed by the masses – regardless of skill level.

    Online discussion groups, blogs, virtual schools/guilds, etc. help to PROMOTE the hobby/profession of woodworking by providing time and cost efficient information to the masses who seek information on this subject. Many of these people can learn about electronic/printed publications through the online woodworking community, and possibly subscribe to one or several.

    As someone once said “it’s not good to bite the hand that feeds you.”

  21. I have one question:

    If only a veteran woodworker with years and years of experience, vetted by other professional (magazine staff) woodworkers with years and years of experience are qualified to put out content, where will the new ideas come from?

    I’m one of the old guys, with almost 30 years of amateur woodworking experience, so I think I’m qualified to address this particular point. As you get older, you tend to get stuck in your ways. You find techniques that work for you, and you tend to stick to them and, as a result, you get very good at them. This makes you an “expert” on that technique, I suppose.

    However, you tend to stop looking for new, better ways to do things. What’s the best source for these? Why, the new guys, who don’t have all the habits and preconceived notions yet. They’re the ones saying, “Why not do it this way?” Maybe there’s a good reason for it, or maybe no one’s thought of that approach before.

    I submit that this is one of the main reasons for the decline in formal print media – the attitude that only the publishing community is qualified to decide if something is worth passing on or not. It’s a concept that I personally reject.

    So beginners, keep experimenting! I’m personally delighted when one of you comes up with something I haven’t thought of before, and will often try it out myself – I’m not THAT set in my ways yet. Just use a dose of caution and don’t ignore shop safety in doing so.

    And, perhaps most importantly, tell us when something screws up as well. I’d rather learn from your mistake than my own. That’s something that generally doesn’t make it into the magazines.

  22. Tom,

    I agree with what you wrote, but I do think you made it seem like the FW crew said more than they actually did. But hey, we all have our own biases.

    PS: I hope that everybody who commented here has listened to the referenced segment of Shop Talk Live. First hand information is always best (information collected by yourself, not somebody else).


  23. Chris – I appreciate your feedback and encourage everyone to listen to the podcast and draw their own opinion.. of course.

  24. Kind of disappointed but not surprised Asa, and I have to ask who declared your magazine the experts in which to guide the process. I personally find pop woodworking to be much more accessible and enjoyable. I would beg for you to put citations on your claim that any of us bloggers are claiming to be experts that really are not experts. I make no claim however I also seen any that did unless they were in fact pretty experienced. there are some idiots out there who make content like the tablesaw guy in the video he however didnt claim to be an expert nor did he not get people telling him how wrong it was to start his tablesaw like that. Even Marc who has the expertise he does doesnt claim to be an expert. i think most people are good at what they do have a little bit of humility. we all might can learn something from them.

  25. I want to add that i think you miss the point of all of us bloggers. we dont post content to make money teach or any other misconception. the internet is such a social experience that almost all of us are just telling our story and sharing our experience.

  26. Very interesting discussion. I have been published in Woodworker’s Journal, Woodcraft, Wood and Woodshop News magazines as a paid freelancer. I make half my living producing written, video and social media content for woodworking retailers and manufacturers. The other half comes from physical plant consulting to I do with wood shops of all sizes in the US and Caribbean. I have been working in woodshops professionally for more than 20 years using every tool from a handsaw up through CNC machines using 3D modeling to program them.

    I am completely self taught. I’ve never taken a class in woodworking, only the occasional training that sometimes comes with a new machine or software system. My points that I still learn every day, and OFTEN from people who have much less time behind a bench. My attitude is that I hope to stop learning only when I die, and I cannot afford to reject any potential source of knowledge just because they might not have my time in the field.

    I too run a website where I give away (and sell) a lot of information that people may find useful. Marc is exactly right. Every piece of this information gets brutally vetted every day. Commenting on a blog, emailing a response to a newsletter, or even flaming someone on Twitter is far easier than writing a letter to the editor, and far harder to block if unwanted.

    The future is here Dear Editors, adapt or be rendered irrelevant.


  27. Asa, in the podcast you said you was a hobbyist who doesn’t have a lot of time to spend on projects. Then shared with us your ‘many’ mistakes. How much ‘stuff’ have you built? I had a quick look on your website, but I couldn’t find a list of ‘stuff’. It seemed like you was giving a lot of authoritative Woodworking advice in your hour long podcast, so I’m assuming it’s a big list? What is the critical number of ‘stuff’ before someone is qualified to share their personal methods and techniques? Are you going to print a list of the past work of all your authors in the magazine?

  28. I will reiterate what Chris Wong, the extremely talented mind behind http://flairwoodworks.com/, said, “watch the podcast and draw your own conclusions”.

    I’m not sure exactly what Asa is really getting at. Yes, there is a LOT of crap out there, but we all talk ALL the time and if something is any good, we know and share it among the community. I suspect their isn’t as much of an ulterior motive here as another individual who recently was questioning the “credentials and expertise” of many of the fine people who have helped me become a woodworker.

    I believe there is a bit of insecurity on the part of people who are not heavily involved in our woodworking community and just entering. They don’t get how absolutely inclusive we are as a bunch. Most of us think, “The more the merrier”. The people who have a good teaching style, or who are fun to watch or listen to, along with having good information naturally rise to the top. That is how the fully democratic internet works. I blog and oddly have a decent following. I say oddly because I’m very sporadic in posting and don’t really write very well.

    I don’t get into podcasting because it just isn’t anywhere near my comfort zone.
    People like Marc Spagnuolo, Matt Vanderlist, Paul-Marcel St. Onge, Shannon Rogers, Steve Ramsey, Rob Bois and the many more who start casting everyday are just naturally talented in front of the camera. There are many who choose to be in front of the camera and many, many more like myself who are just blogging to document their woodworking journey. Whatever the reason, it is creating a LOT of valuable and FREE content.

    A few of the blogger/podcasters have entered the foray of teaching. THANK GOD!! You can have pretty damn good instruction for very little. I’m taking a two day bending class in June and paying what several years tuition would be. Yes, I still believe that in person training is the absolute best way to go, but not everyone can afford that. Are the instructors “expert”. None of the guys I subscribe to have ever claimed to be anymore than in love with the craft and teaching others. I can tell you they are good critical thinkers and excellent teachers. You HAVE to be to teach without being there in person. My Dad was a teacher and he could teach any concept he could grasp. You don’t have to be an expert, you have to be a teacher.

    Finally, I don’t fear bad information on the net, because as Marc pointed out. You get slammed if you put out bad info. So, I would say give Asa and anyone else who isn’t fully entrenched in our phenomenal community a chance to see how great you all are. I think in a year or so, if the crew at FWW are still at it, it will be a better podcast. They will KNOW their audience and embrace ALL of us. We are pretty much a tight and a very, very large community.


  29. I like a number of the comments that i’ve read here. I appreciate Asa’s “backpeddling”. Sorry Asa I let my subscritption lapse. Marc I liked your comments about vetting, it can range from great to brutal to supportive and yes ignorant at times. I believe I am learning more as an amateur woodworker by reading free content online. They have an open minded, open spirited approach and are sharing their projects and their journey. I plan to spend my money taking classes when i can, and I am seriously considering Shannon’s online apprenticeship.

    Keep sharing folks

  30. Your blog and way of explaining things has been very helpful for me as a beginning woodworker. Sure, I’d love to take proper courses @ a woodworking school (and will someday). However, it’s because of you and others such as Marc Spagnolo that inspired me to start woodworking and if not for you I wouldn’t end up going to a woodworking school.

    I just got a used table saw and due to your posts (during safety week), I am using my best safety device and thinking before each cut – I’m also purchasing the safety devices (for risky cuts) which I learned from …. hows’d you guess – online.

  31. When I was starting out in woodworking, I wanted to learn everything I possibly could. I read magazines and books and TV shows. But those just confused me further. According to Norm, I needed a 2000 sqft shop with a small fortune invested in tools (plus a brad nailer). According to magazines, all I needed to do to make fine furniture was bang out a few hundred hand cut dovetails.

    Then I found a guy with a website and some videos. Apparently his wife was out of town and he was bored, so he started making woodworking videos. Two things made his videos stand out: they were entertaining and they were actually informative! I still look back at a lot of those old Wood Whisperer episodes when I feel like I need a refresher.

    Around the same time, I started listening to Matt’s Basement Workshop. And where Marc gave me knowledge, Matt gave me courage. Although Marc is a really down-to-earth guy, he had the intimidation factor of being a professional furniture maker who studied under David Marks and had a huge shop full of heavy, gold machines. Matt was just a guy in his basement, just like me. If he could do it, so could I (although I secretly think he gets his power from the magical hat he wears).

    Since then, I’ve expanded the set of podcasts and bloggers I read and listen to. Some of whom are even in the print industry. And I’ve grown from someone who builds stuff in his garage to… well, ok, I’m still just someone who builds stuff in his garage. But now I’m more likely to build something I can pass down to my kids.

    But what I find funny about this whole affair is that most of these magazine guys were only peripherally woodworkers when they started at their respective magazines. They’re mostly writers who just happen to become “experts” at woodworking because they write for a woodworking magazine. And that’s true of some of my favorite writers/bloggers.

  32. I once had to make and finish a 1,000 flying pigs out of plywood, so I must be the leading authority on wooden flying pigs.. LOL I just listen to their podcast and pretty much thought they just shot their self’s in the foot with a lot of listeners. I also heard Asa on the Ace on the House podcast, and the more I hear him speak the less I’m impressed with him.

    I know I write my blog for me, and if helps others that’s cool, but even thought I have worked as a woodworker and a carpenter for thirty years I don’t tell any one I am expert, I’m good at what I do, but most people who work in a commercial shop usually end doing a narrow scope of jobs, and it is mostly jigged out and set up for production.
    That’s why I love the blogger’s, for one thing there is no way I would ever have this much access to other guys ideas and their methods of work, there just isn’t that many woodworkers around me. Second these guys come from a wide range of backgrounds and it brings a lot of different experiences to their woodworking even the brand new beginners which I have picked up more than a few tips from. For many many guys they get as much enjoyment from blogging and pod casting as do from woodworking and it is a hobby into it’s self and while the guy’s at Fine Woodworking are doing it to promote their magazine, books, and woodworking events, the rest of do it just it because we enjoy woodworking and just want to share that enjoyment with others.

  33. As an educator I couldn’t of been more insulted by the idea behind Asa’s comments, his real arguement. Take away woodworking as the topic of his arguement and you’ll see the real meaning. It belittled so many nonvalidated educators like grandparents, siblings, neighbors, etc… The internet is just a medium… the message path. Asa basically said only experts have any right to pass on knowledge.


  34. I like how Vic put it a few posts above especially since he is a heavily “web taught” woodworker and blogger. I can completely understand where Asa is coming from and what started the conversation in the direction it went was the info that can come from places like Wiki and Expert Village which the info there can be either real good or one step below horse dung. I am real curious about the type of content for articles they get on a regular basis as that may really paint the picture of the view they see from their door. He said it point blank that he is all for the guy that wants to share what he/she is doing and how, he is just concerned about the possibility of bad info be taught and as others have said he is not experienced in out vetting system-until now! On the other side I absolutely get where offense could be taken and this is a prime example where if this would have happened with everyone would be standing in the same room where if something is taken the wrong way it could be corrected and redirected if need be would have been great. I don’t personally think you can condemn all of FWWing’s hard work and say “that’s it, I will never buy their mag again” which is what is happening in several posts on F.B. I completely get where each side is coming from but the bottom line is that this is all opinions, FWWing is after all a few guys trying to put out woodworking content.

  35. Asa-

    I am a subscriber of both your magazine and your online PAY site. I feel it is both my right and my responsibility to voice my displeasure.

    I must say I was pretty offended by your remarks and your disregard for the passion and content produced by others. Your comments seemed to dismiss a large portion of your demographic: the hobbyist and the online community. But perhaps we are all confused as to whom your customers are. You’ve managed to come of as an elitist in a craft that is the hobby of the common man.

    As a novice, woodworking can be a very intimidating. While woodworkers are the kindess bunch of folks you’d ever want to meet, like anywhere there are exceptions. I can think of several times going into a woodworking store and being intimidated by the guy behind the counter, if I didn’t seem to know the right questions to ask while buying tools. Watching the video of you and Mike gave me that uneasy feeling of standing at the counter.

    I liken your comments to a teacher I had in grad school, he was very dismissive of others. If the info did not come from him it could not possibly be valid. He was very knowledgable, but a terrible teacher. I learned so much more by working and watching others- both the good and the bad. And please give your readers some credit that they can Filter out the garbage. Much like college, the internet is filled with incredible, accurate and FREE information and it is also filled with garbage. Most folks can filter out the garbage.

    I also find this discussion fascinating as I have seen you and the magazine make an attempt to harness this online community. It is obvious that the execs at Tauton saw that the mag was missing a large part of the population and falling behind in the media race.

    One last thing. How can the editor of arguably the largest woodworking publication actually sit there and dismiss Hand Tools as something that is “unpredictable” and may not a viable way to be start woodworking???
    Kids I’m sorry you’re going to have to learn how to use the router and table saw first…..

    In our house, we have a joke about people who dismiss the “buzz on the street”. I hope you do not dismiss the Buzz here on the online street and take these comments to heart. I enjoy Fine Woodworking, along with the other 100 blogs bookmarked in my google reader, and look forward to endless amounts reading, learning and filtering.

  36. I’ve decided to unsubscribe from this blog and twitter feed for now. Really, I don’t find this kind of hyperventilating to be at all helpful to the craft or what I really come to sites like this for. That is to learn how to be a better wood worker.

    Righteous indignation, anger and being upset by what others are saying about you isn’t what I came here to find out. So what that someone bad about you. You now feel you have the right to hit back.

    The folks over at FWW have been becoming more and more irrelevant in my learning about wood work by the mistakes they are making. They are going to die out because of their own mistakes – kicking and yelling at them isn’t going to make them die any faster.

    and sadly this conversation isn’t helpful but just making me want to find someone that is just interested in doing projects and not being pissed off about stuff.

    enjoy your anger -I’ll be elsewhere…

  37. Sorry to hear this, Andrew, but I completely understand your concerns. I hope one day that I can win you back as a reader.

    Until then, I wish you nothing but peace and happy sawdust.

  38. Crowdsourcing only works if you participate. I commend you for taking a stand on the comments made by FWW. FWW seems to be hiding behind the statement, they are “journalists”. And yet they make empty statements that they don’t back up. If there are people out there, that are selling themselves as something they aren’t, they should call them out. That’s how this whole Internet thing works. As “journalists” they should have the clout to call these people out, if they can really backed up their statements! I personally would love see who they have issues with.


  39. Steve Ramsey makes a great point regarding video production. I’ll extend that to ask “What gives FWW the right to pontificate about the content of the blogosphere?” When did they become the experts on crowdsourcing and blogging?

    I honestly don’t see too many people claiming to be experts, and no one is stating that their way is the only way. There are lots of people making mistakes and most of them are owning it. I just look back at the way the online community responded to Safety Week and you can see how most of us are completely up front about our own shortcomings and mistakes.

    I take issue with Asa’s statement that watching a video of someone making a box for the first time, making lots of mistakes and doing it “wrong” (whatever that means) should be censored and never to be seen by anyone lest they try it themselves. If I can see someone else do it wrong, I stand a much better chance of learning from their experience rather than making the mistake myself. If I make a mistake, I’m damn sure going to share it with my peers in the online community so that they might have the chance to learn from it themselves.

    The information age is changing things. It’s neither good, nor bad, it’s different – and because of that, the ‘establishment’ is getting scared because the more savvy people out there will embrace the change and realize that what they’ve been reading for years and years is being filtered for them, without their consent. Sounds a bit like censorship to me.

    That’s it, I’ll get down from my soapbox…complete with gappy dovetail joints and poorly applied finish.

  40. I listened to some of the infamous blog and I got to say that you guys are making to big a deal out of it. Of course these guys think this way they are part of a big time Magazine, what are they going to say? For me, I may never have the kinds of skills they do and for that reason it is over my head and I don’t listen to it much. To depressing. I agree that you as a woodworker/ hobbyist have to check everything you can get your hands on and pick up tips everywhere you can. Then just go out and do it. Try your best, make mistakes and learn from them and do something different the next time. Common sense rules on most things, wood Working is no different.

  41. If you guys are not too pissed off at this point, listen to my comments at the top of episode 6 of Shop talk Live: http://www.finewoodworking.com/item/47220/shop-talk-live-6-on-the-pod
    It is the latest one at iTunes, too.
    Check out the original comments in episode 5, too. I’m not sure everyone has. And remember that the title of the episode referred to a much later segment in the show, referring to one of our own screwups in the shop!
    Bottom line: I definitely did not mean to imply that newer woodworkers have nothing to teach, or that FWW’s experts are the only people worth listening to or anything like that. I’ve spent my whole FWW career trying to feed and celebrate the work of woodworkers of all stripes, and I love the proliferation of woodworking passion and info online. Mine was just a reaction to a few people who have oversold their expertise at times, promoting techniques that just won’t work well. No broad-sweeping indictment! I’ll quit now while I’m behind:-)

  42. Asa, thank you for responding. My aim was not to discredit you or Fine Woodworking. It was to step up in defense of my fellow bloggers who have inspired me and many others to improve.

    Hopefully, we have all learned more about what we are ultimately trying to accomplish … Making woodworking more fun and rewarding.

  43. Who exactly are these few people who oversell their expertise? How have you made that determination? The statements were clearly a condemnation of regular guys who aren’t interested in the snobbery of woodworking. They may not learn from experts or expensive, boring DVDs. They may even learn from really un-vetted people such as dads and grandfathers.

    The title of the episode was perfect! If it was meant for something later in the video, I have to wonder why. I mean, do people seriously sit through an hour of this tedium? You ought to read some of the 130 comments on my video from yesterday. Oh yeah, those comments and my videos are un-vetted. (My new favorite word!)

  44. Dear Tom,

    As I began to read your post, I found myself a bit puzzled, wondering why the commentary in episode 5 struck such a chord in you, and some other folks. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. It sounds (correct me if I’m wrong) as though you may have missed the second half of the episode, and thus the point of its title – “Perfect Storm of Stupidity.” I inferred this when I ran across this sentence in your post: “I contest that online woodworking is far from the perfect storm of stupidity.”

    In fact, that title refers to something completely different that was referenced in the podcast: the way in which often times, we’ll make a mistake while building a piece of furniture, attempt to mitigate the damage by incorporating the mistake into the design somehow, only to make the problem worse, thus sparking a “Perfect Storm of Stupidity.” This topic came up in a segment of the podcast called “Smooth Moves,” where we take a few moments to discuss some of the boneheaded moves we all make in our home shops while building projects. Now, had the title of the podcast been referring to the blogosphere – I would 100% agree with you, but rest-assured – it did not.

    That said, I can certainly see how it could have been misconstrued by anyone who may not have gone beyond the first ten minutes or so. I get it. Perhaps in the end, this all incredibly ironic – by combining that unfortunate title in an episode that ticked some folks off, maybe we created our own self-fulfilling “stupidity storm.”

    But I digress.

    While I can’t speak for Asa, I can say that from my end, in having this sort of conversation with lots of folks – and not just about woodworking – the number of folks out there overselling themselves are a minority. Crowd sourcing, as spoken about in Shop Talk Live 5 – is a two-edged sword: sure, you get a small percentage of less-than-stellar content, but you also have a massive community out there vetting and policing themselves. The system works pretty well, but we (as consumers of content) still need to be a bit selective.

    By the way, here’s a quick transcript of the segment of the show from which we drew our title:

    Mike: …What if I go ahead and put my pieces back together, and everyplace where there’s not a mortise in the opposite face, I drill mortises there? So instead of three mismatched sets of mortises, I now have six perfectly aligned sets of mortises.
    Mike: Lots of mortises.
    Ed: Mike, I believe it’s called “mort-I”
    Asa: Six “mort-I,” six rows of “mort-I” This is sounding a lot like my favorite kind of error, which is where one bit of stupidity gets compounded by a second bit of stupidity – into – crossing the streams into a Perfect Storm of Stupidity…”

    I hope that helps to clarify a few things. I took these comments to heart—hence the length of this response–and quite frankly, have been thinking about this all afternoon. Wanted to make sure I chimed in. The folks I’ve been lucky enough to work with at FWW for the past 3 years are quite possibly some of the most un-elitist types I’ve ever met. I can honestly say that I’ve never met a single staffer over here who was “full of themselves.” Not a single one.

    Best to all,

    Ed Pirnik

    Fine Woodworking

  45. Asa,

    I think making a statement like you did is hard to do, unless you state specifics, without having backlash. Part of that backlash is from some undercurrents that existed prior to you guys entering the podcasting world. There have been harsh and baseless criticisms leveled at some of the well respected teachers/leaders in our woodworking world. So, to some extent, I think you just hit a nerve. Unfortunately, in your explanation on Episode 6, as you finished addressing this and introduced Jeff Jewitt, you said, “Let’s get to a true expert…”(05:40) And yes, Jeff is definitely an expert. It was just a very unfortunate way to introduce him directly following your explanation that you weren’t belittling the community bloggers/podcasters etc. The point is that, on the whole, broad statements are usually not a really great idea.

    I hope that maybe The Modern Woodworker Association, or someone else who is respected among the woodworking blogoshere can do an interview with you, maybe get to the specifics of your statements, or we can all just let this go and try to develop a mutually rewarding relationship as we have with other magazines, such as Pop Woodworking and WOOD. The survival of the craft and that it continues to be taught is the most important thing for all of us.

    To all the rest of us in the woodworking community. Many of you are my friends. Without your encouragement and participation in our community, I lose out, we all lose out. We cannot afford a divide and conquer mentality. Yes, I totally understand if people go separate ways, if after there has been good discussion, we can’t come together. But let’s try that first.


  46. Very fair comment, Vic. I think there was truth in what I said, but not every bit of truth needs to be said! The sad part is that some folks think I don’t clebrate and appreciate the work of newbies of non-pros or whatever. So far from the truth. I was talking about people putting themselves forward as experts. Not folks just sharing their knowledge and experience. I see a difference.
    For the record, FWW has a good relationship with bloggers, though it could always be better. I’ve been on MWA’s podcast and we hosted their members at FWW for a great visit, for example. We have some outside bloggers at FineWoodworking.com, and we blog a lot ourselves. Plus we post lots of free stuff from YouTube, etc.

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