Tales of a Hack #7: Professional frustration

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Blog entry by ajw1978 posted 01-26-2016 10:38 PM 1254 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 6: Back in the saddle (and protective glasses) again Part 7 of Tales of a Hack series no next part

It’s been awhile, fellow jocks. Too long, if I do say so myself. So, let’s get up to speed. The last time I rambled to you fine folks, I had made the decision to transition out of journalism and into carpentry. Since I couldn’t get into the local tech school thanks to a few missed deadlines, I got hooked up with a rough carpentry crew thinking I’d learn some basic skills that would pay off down the road when I finally own and renovate my own home.

So much for that; turned out to be a miserable experience, devoid of any instruction and, ultimately, any pay.

Followed that by taking on some orders for a store on my street, building simple display furniture (shelves, cabinets, etc). Fun, somewhat fulfilling and it put a little money in my wallet but unfortunately, the limitations of my shop (Wisconsin; Outdoors; Etc) brought that work to a slow crawl.

So naturally, I was excited when I learned of a community woodshop opening near me. A brilliant, novel idea. It was perfect for people like me who lack space to work, finances for high-end equipment or even know-how but have plenty of eagerness to practice the craft and learn all they could.

Well, one would think it a perfect fit. Instead, the focus is on high-end crafters; you know, people who already have their own shops, their own tools and the financial wherewithal to obtain what they don’t have. Not a place for beginners to get their feet wet, cobble together some pallet wood and pine projects and actually discover a love for the hobby.

Getting to my point: what is it about the realm of ‘fine woodworking’ that leads people to snub their noses so much at beginners, novices or weekend warriors? No, pine boards and pocket screws do not make for fine woodworking. Nor should they. But why does that segment of the craft always seem to get shunned? Is it so hard to comprehend that some people lack the time, money, space and experience to create beautiful, dovetailed joints and for the time being, are happy just being able to build a little table for their kid to color on? Or a stepstool for their wife to reach the top shelf? Or a stinking plywood beer tote?

An aside, here: for the most part, you folks on LJ’s are the exception to the above rant. I’ve found it to be nothing but an encouraging, reassuring, resrouceful, educational and welcoming community. But, go to Rockler, go to Woodcraft or even the local Guild meeting and it’s pretty obvious that, if you use a Kreg jig or construction lumber, you’re not welcome.

People often wonder why interest in the skilled trades is waining in this technological age, and this is a prime example why: the few that actually show an interest are turned away for not being “good enough.” It’s disappointing, it’s insulting and it’s really sad.

Thus ends my rant sorry for venting here, I try to keep things positive on this board but I’m kind of fed up right now.

Hopefully, cobbling together some slop with brad nails and scrap pine will sooth the anger.

-- May the good Lord help me if I ever actually have a shop, garage or basement.

4 comments so far

View bearkatwood's profile


1830 posts in 1982 days

#1 posted 01-27-2016 01:17 AM

I love making projects with hand cut dovetails, mortise and tenon joinery, hand planed to perfection. It is a joy to see what your years of learning can come to, but if you think you can take my kreg jig away from me, there’s gonna be a rumble baby!
The beautiful thing about the craft of woodworking is its’ openness to everyone, no matter what the snobs say. Go get you some wood and make something with it, be you a young man or an old lady. There is a place for all in this craft. Those that would turn up their nose started at the same place as the novice, they couldn’t cut a dovetail to save their life. No, they learned and grew as craftsmen/women, but somewhere along the way they found their skills gave them feudal status and were all to happy to lord it over those in the position they previously employed. Bah-humbug, for crying out loud, your a woodworker. Think about that for a minute and tell me of a world leader that rose to power on their woodworking skills or a Nobel peace prize winner that made the world a better place through woodworking. We occupy a very obscure and overlooked craft and though we love it dearly, the rest of the world does not share our fervor, so cut the new kid a break.
O.K. enough ranting, thanks for bringing up the thread. I hope you find a fun place to learn and practice putting wood projects together. All the best!
Take care

-- Brian Noel

View BigAl98's profile


251 posts in 4009 days

#2 posted 01-27-2016 05:50 AM

To quote deep throat….”follow the money”. Did you learn the art of writing without the same?

-- Al,Midwest -To thine own self be true

View ajw1978's profile


165 posts in 2391 days

#3 posted 01-29-2016 08:05 PM

Most of my readers will argue that I never learned the art of writing!

-- May the good Lord help me if I ever actually have a shop, garage or basement.

View TheGreatJon's profile


348 posts in 2203 days

#4 posted 01-29-2016 08:40 PM

I was actually thinking recently that my town could really benefit from something like the studio you described. I thought that a wood turning shop could do very well if you modeled it after other crafty places like the paint-your-own-pottery stuff.

I was thinking about it because I signed my wife and myself up for a date at a glassblowing shop. It was a lot more money than we would typically spend on a date, but the class sounds very fun and interesting. Those who have figured out what they are doing (more or less) can then come and just pay for materials and a nominal studio fee and then play around with melting glass.

Sorry… I guess that missed the thrust of your post. I agree that there can be some intimidating factors in trying to break into the fine woodworking scene and that there aren’t too many places for wannabes like me to play around. On the other hand, creation of such places would require an expert to take the time to make it happen. Historically people would learn trades by apprenticing under a master. They could take the time to do that because it was a career path. For weekend warriors, that isn’t really an option, especially when master craftsman are becoming endangered due to the dwindling market for fine woodworking. Such products are still valuable, but it is a niche market. With that in mind, I would assume most of the “masters” are busy with other things in their lives and haven’t ever put much thought into the conundrum of the common wannabe.

-- This is not the signature line you are looking for.

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