Friday, September 3, 2010

I Am Wood Working And So Can You

Issues of Popular Woodworking Magazine always get a bit of a work-over in the blog-o-sphere after it's out. Not usually one of those "a few rounds in the ring with Tyson" work-over, more that the folks over there do a talented lot, excellent at more than just woodworking they have a knack for inspiring discussion more so than any of the other magazine publications. This would most likely stem from the fact that Chris Schwarz is a prolific blogger, and bloggers tend to keep up with other bloggers stuff,and this results in more discussion. All a very good thing.

Chris did make me laugh out loud with this most recent issue of Pop Wood in his "On The Level" blurb at the beginning of the magazine. Where he called out the woodworking to community to take up the cause of blogging about woodworking to preserve the knowledge for future generations. I have to say that kind of goal puts only a little more pressure on the quality of my own blog posts, but it did make me think about why I started blogging about my work.

It wasn't necessarily to teach anybody anything, not that I'm against teaching, I'll show you anything I know and make up some of the stuff I don't know if you ask me. And it wasn't to brag, if it was that then I'd be putting up finished pics and talking about how great I am instead of documenting my mistakes along side my triumphs. It was some about creating a chronicle of my work, Before I started the blog I had been woodworking for about 8 to 9 years, but I had rarely taken a camera into my shop. In fact some things I've built that have gone to other loving homes, I have no pictures or record of. The more that occurred to me the more it bothered me. How can you know where you want to go if you can't see where you've been. So the camera began to sneak it's way into the shop.

Then we moved from LaCrosse Wisconsin to Presque Isle Maine. Just under 1700 miles away from family, friends, and the lives we knew. Why? The usual reason, something that looked like a good job prospect,
While we were living out there I began a blog about us, my wife, my daughters and myself, so that the folks back at home could keep up with us and we could feel like we were still in touch. A few months in I realized that I could also blog about my woodworking and I started with my first real project done out there, building a real workbench, a hybrid version between the 175 dollar workbench and the Nicholson or English Workbench. It was kind of raw and I fumbled my way through the process. Several times I have been tempted to go back and heavily edit those posts, but I fight it because again, I want to know where I've come from.

We have moved back to Wisconsin, with lessons well learned, and the blogging not only continued, but I got a little more serious about it. Blogging about my work is great for several reasons, only one of those reasons is the point Chris brings up about passing along and archiving knowledge, but there are other reasons that are of a direct reward to me. One is blogging keeps me in the shop and motivated. I have a personal goal of making 2 to 3 posts on this blog a week, sometimes I do better, sometimes I do worse, but it averages out. To have something to write about, most of the time I have to have done something. This gets my arse in the shop, and more time in the shop equals better skills, and better skills lead to more ambitious projects, which lead to . . . you guessed it, new blog content, more work, better skills and better projects and outcomes. It's a delightful cycle that can fuel itself. If you need no other reason to blog, I suggest you use this one.

The other big thing blogging has done for me is made my very curious to read other woodworker's blogs, something that had never occurred to me before I forged a beginners blog of my own. This has opened the door to me to become part of an online woodworking community, both through reading and commenting on other's blogs but also being inspired to search out other woodworkers on social media platforms like Twitter (shameless plug: you can follow me on Twitter @oldwolfworkshop). This has also given me more of a connection to woodworking than ever before.

As you can see in the left hand side of my blog I follow a good number of the woodworking blogs out there, I enjoy all the content that each of them offers, but tonight I'm talking about inspiration more than anything and I want to point out a few blogs as particular inspiration to me. Obviously missing from the list will be Chris Schwarz's multiple blogs, his work goes without saying and needs no further fanfare from the likes of little ol' me.

First I am going to start with one of the heavy hitters from the list, Peter Follansbee, and his blog Joiner's Notes. Peter is a gifted woodworker who focuses all of his attention to working with hand tools only, using period joinery and carving techniques from the 17th century. You can tell from the execution of his blog that his work flows in an effortless practiced way that comes from a great amount of study, practice, and familiarity. I love his articles and how they delve past the "this is how you can do this" layer of work and into the thoughts and broad knowledge base behind the work. I feel smarter every time I read a post from his blog and I look forward to every one.


Next is a man who is a blogging machine, I am very happy if I can get up 2 to 3 posts a week. This guy posts
every
single
day.
His name is Brian Meeks and his blog is called Extremely Average, but it is far from that. Brian is fairly new to woodworking but he is really catching on fast and his progress is fun to watch and, through his blog, he makes you feel like you're participating in the journey. Besides being so accessible in his writing Brian's photography is incredibly beautiful. It puts me and my little digital camera to shame. I want him to come and take some photos of my work because I get so jealous of the quality that translates through with his. He is progressing fast and is definitely someone to read, and watch.


Here's a confession, I am definitely not a podcast kind of guy. I will watch a video if I feel it's right up my alley but generally speaking I get more from reading and pictures than I do from listening, maybe it's just me but my attention span checks out. That means that I don't get as much out of some great blogs like the Wood Whisperer, Renaissance Woodworker, or the Logan Cabinet Shoppe. (These guys all have great regular blog content as well, and are top notch, I'm not knocking them I just don't always get as much from their blogs as other probably do) But to every rule there is an exception, and my exception is Matt Vanderlist and his Spoken Wood Podcast, where he features blog posts written by others yet recorded read out loud, either by the author, or by Matt himself. The fact that he links back to the original post in his show notes helps me as I can go and look at the post while I'm listening, now the content really hits home.


Dyami is fairly new to the blog-o-sphere as he has only been posting at The Penultimate Woodshop for about 2 months as I write this post, but he is a great example of everything that is great in blogging. When I find new blogs, one of my favorite things is to go back and read the very first thing they posted, Dyami writes exactly about the reason people often don't blog, in fact the same hurdle I had to jump myself to start typing, the great question "Compared to those guys out there, what value can I possibly add?" and he's a perfect example of why that thinking is wrong. You should definitely be reading what he's up to, there's good stuff here.


When I started a hand tool only odyssey a year ago there were tools I wanted to use, but I could not find them as a "non antique" for an affordable price. What was I to do? Then I found Leif at the Norse Woodsmith, and began to read his blog. There is a ton of information over here on maintaining hand tools and even making some from scratch. (Making my own floats following his example is fast approaching on my do do list). A quick look at his archives told me he has been placing his quality content on the net since 2004, so until I wrote this article I didn't even realize the depths of information that are contained here. I'm going back to dip for more as soon as I finish this post, you should come with me.


Rob Porcaro and his blog Heartwood does things just right, He offers a good mixture of well thought out and well written content, from technique to tools to projects. He always has a new little tip or trick he likes to share. Again if you go back and look at the first post he blogs I think he really has the philosophy correct and verbalized better than I could. He talks about an oily rag he keeps in his shop for wiping down tools after use, I keep a similar rag and I think a lot of woodworkers do, but he's right when he says that something like that would never be discussed or covered in a woodworking book or magazine, and then that information is more difficult to pass along to those new to the passion. Rob describes the idea behind his blog is a chance for others to sneak a peek over his shoulder, maybe to be inspired, maybe to just find a different way of doing something. This mirrors what I try to do with my blog.


I should say that the choices I made in which bloggers to feature is like a slice of pie when it comes to getting woodworking information on the internet, I take that back it would be just a bite of a slice of that pie, and even though that bite is sweet on the tongue and lights off a million pleasure sensor's in the brain, there is another bite to take after this one, and there is so much more to discover out on the net. I cannot encourage you enough to take up the cause, to read, and start your own blog, You will not only be helping, motivating, and inspiring yourself, but you'll be sharing your time and motivation with others.

Cheers

Oldwolf

P.S. I would be remiss here if I didn't take a second to thank all of my own reader's out there. I have been blogging for a little over a year and my hit counter just hit the 5 digit level, that's 10,000+ pages read on my blog and that is indeed a humbling number, Thank you again for all the support and please keep tuning in.

1 comment:

  1. Your reasons for beginning to blog were the same as mine. I kick myself when I think about the projects I build for the first 6 years of woodworking that I have no record of. You are so right that the obligation to keep blogging keeps us going in the shop. I gotta have stuff to right about y'know. I started out in audio podcasting and it is so hard to keep that going as a picture is so much easier. I am still trying to find ways to put out audio stuff but I guess Wood Talk Online will have to be my outlet for now. Thanks for the shoutout and I completely agree with your pics for great bloggers.

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