At this past weekend’s Woodworking in America conference, there were some totally great classes to take. Mary May showed her elegant carving techniques. Chris Schwarz showed how to make workbenches and tool chests from simple home center materials. Don Williams taught us how to determine the age of a piece of furniture based on evidence of how the wood was cut and milled.
No, it dealt with online woodworking. Namely, it was a round table discussion about the online woodworking community, how people could use it and what goes into putting out content. The panel was an esteemed one… featuring some of the biggest names in online woodworking – and somehow, they managed to include me in the mix.
From left to right, there was Megan Fitzpatrick ,me, Dyami Plotke, Chris Adkins, Steve Schuler, Marc Spagnuolo, Wilbur Pan, Shannon Rogers, and Matt Vanderlist.
The discussion began with each of us giving our five-minute introduction (which, with the representation up there, took some time), and then the conversation was opened to the audience.
While there were a lot of questions (How much time does it take to do online video? Where do your ideas come from? How can I participate without having my own blog? ), there were just as many positive comments about how the Internet has opened many doorways to participation.
Think about it. Before online woodworking, there were a few ways to get your woodworking information. You could go to the library. Meet with your local guild. Check out the woodworking magazines. Watch some shows. Maybe, if you could locate one, you could attend a woodworking school. Other than that, it was a pretty isolated experience, with the average woodworker expected to overcome challenges in his or her shop with little or no help.
Today, the choices are endless. In addition to all of the traditional outlets, there are many more ways to reach out into the web to get content. The woodworking shows have websites, as to the magazines, woodworking schools and tool manufacturers. Getting answers to questions takes a matter of minutes, not days of research.
And, plenty of woodworkers are out there online, sharing their experiences and knowledge. Turning. Marquetry. Carving. Cabinetry, Chair making. Whatever your interest, there are blog posts, videos and podcasts out there, available to you on your schedule.
One of the more interesting questions came from an audience member who asked Popular Woodworking magazine’s editor Megan Fitzpatrick and the panel if the online woodworking community is ‘competition’ for her. This brought about some interesting discussion, but the best point was made by Wilbur Pan. The ‘piece of the pie’ analogy is great, but we are seeing it from the wrong perspective.
When you consider the ‘piece of the pie’ analogy from the point of view of a family sitting around a dinner table, yes, if dad gets the biggest piece of pie, there is indeed less for everyone to eat. And, unless you are into some bizarre penguin-like method of feeding your family, once someone eats their piece of the pie, no one else can get a chance to take a bite.
The other – more appropriate – perspective is from the point of view of the baker. “You guys like the pie? Great! I’ll have the crew start making more to satisfy your demands.” As content creators, we would be kidding ourselves to believe that the consumer would only be reading content from one of us. I’m positive that in addition to reading Tom’s Workbench, you are also reading a few other blogs, some or all of the woodworking magazines and taking in some of the woodworking TV shows. As long as you are doing this, there is a great incentive for us to keep cranking out the content to help keep interest in woodworking at a high level.
There were a bunch of other great moments from the class, and I have been told that perhaps – just perhaps – I need to reduce the volume of my voice. Other than that, I hope that sessions such as the one we participated in – plus others to help guide people through the online woodworking community – will become an important part of other upcoming events.