What did you say about my project???

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Blog entry by Tom Adamski posted 12-31-2008 08:11 PM 2354 reads 1 time favorited 47 comments Add to Favorites Watch

As we all know, woodworkers are a prideful people. How many times have we toiled over a project, spending hours and hours just to get an “uh, that’s nice dear” from the spouse? Do they not realize the 4 hours I spent at the wood store to find that grain pattern? I’m sure you can understand…. That’s one of the reasons I see that we post our projects online. To have it evaluated (or at least appreciated) by our online peers here at lumberjocks is a self check that all is right with the world. And, for the most part, that is exactly what I see here; the support and encouragement is fantastic. I could not recommend a better site with a better bunch of people.
Considering the appreciation and the support here, I would like to propose an idea I have about the level of critiques here. Going back to what I mentioned above, some people are looking for support and encouragement and yet some are looking for genuine evaluation of their work. Perhaps when we post our projects and desire an objective critique, we could state that in the post. That would signal to the reader that their comments and suggestions are welcome and the person posting is looking for that personal insight.
As I type this, I’m thinking that it could even be a feature (radio button, separate listing, etc) that could distinguish it from a standard posting. And even pushing it further, it could develop some of us into a mentoring position to assist other members develop their ideas and projects.

What are you thoughts?

Critique the work, not the person…


-- Anybody can become a woodworker, but only a Craftsman can hide his mistakes.

47 comments so far

View oldskoolmodder's profile


802 posts in 5142 days

#1 posted 12-31-2008 08:29 PM

There are times like today, when I see a project and think, I can’t objectively comment on that thing, without sounding too critical, so I don’t bother to post anything at all. There are also times when people post tons of projects all at once and I want to say, HEY! give other people a chance, but don’t, for fear of having someone tell me to get lost.

That said, I don’t care for the always rosy comments all the time either. I will tell someone something is nice, if I like it, and if I think something could be done differently, then I’ll say so, but it’s mostly a lost cause because the project is already done.

Criticism is fine as far as I’m concerned, as long as it’s warranted and related to the project and not spelling/grammar, and no one’s feelings are being hurt. If someone can’t take criticism, then they shouldn’t post in the first place. I don’t post everything I make for various reasons, some because they aren’t anything special, they are just for me to make my work better, but if I think they are useful to other people, I’ll show them and hope someone can use it to better their work, or at least save money or time.

As for building things for family or friends, well, I find it rather hard to build something that I know the person will just set on a shelf, or give away in a few years. That makes me feel like I did all that work for nothing.

This is a subject that we could go on for days and days with and I look forward to seeing what other people have to say.

-- Respect your shop tools and they will respect you - Ric

View FlWoodRat's profile


732 posts in 5372 days

#2 posted 12-31-2008 08:51 PM


I like your idea and really appreciate both the positive comments and the more critical comments I see being posted. We can all learn from each other. There are a lot of very skilled lumber jocks posting their work here and it encourages me to work harder to do finer quality work.

-- I love the smell of sawdust in the morning....

View StevenAntonucci's profile


355 posts in 5401 days

#3 posted 12-31-2008 09:33 PM

I’ve never gotten better from a compliment. I have gotten better from a critique.

Nuff said.

-- Steven

View Peter Oxley's profile

Peter Oxley

1427 posts in 5337 days

#4 posted 12-31-2008 10:23 PM

This topic comes up every few months. The general consensus always seems to be that it would be great for Martin to add a feature to list the project as “comments welcome”, “critique welcome”, “just sharing”, “be gentle” ... etc. Until Martin adds that feature, users should state in the description what level of feedback they want. Which is pretty much what Tom just suggested. However, I have yet to see anyone really do that.

-- -- --

View TraumaJacques's profile


433 posts in 4963 days

#5 posted 12-31-2008 10:46 PM

Hey I am my worst critic if I can see a mistake so can the world, BUT I learn from ” MY” mistakes. This forum is about ideas and learning if I see a joint that is not up to ” my ” standards chances are that he/she who made it knows about it so why would I state the obvious, but they may not notice the amazing design they have created. Lets focus on the positive and should you ask for a “critic” perspective I would be happy to oblige. Just my two cents worth.

-- All bleeding will eventually stop.

View daltxguy's profile


1373 posts in 5376 days

#6 posted 12-31-2008 10:47 PM

I might suggest that this is a two way street too. I think some of us ( me included) might tend to post only those projects that we think have been successful. It would be interesting ( and instructive) to show some of our failures, what we’ve learned and perhaps if we’ve been able to recover from our mistakes.

If we are open about our mistakes, that leaves an opening for others to comment and provide useful suggestions.

I think effectively dealing with mistakes is a big part of woodworking which is seldom discussed here or anywhere.

Here. I started by posting this bench project

-- If you can't joint it, bead it!

View kolwdwrkr's profile


2824 posts in 5053 days

#7 posted 12-31-2008 10:56 PM

Do we really need anymore buttons on this thing? Lets be realistic here. If there was a button for every purpose there wouldn’t be room for projects. I asked this question a while back and the consensus is to post happy positive remarks on the project page itself, then PM the OP the negative remarks. In my opinion this is bad. Why? Because the OP may take the negative comments as a personal attack instead of taking it as a learning experience, and, the people inspired to make the same project may make the same mistakes that the OP made simply because they did not see the negative feedback.
Lets face it, we are all to nice to each other and that’s what makes this site a joy. But at what expense? If nobody steps in and says “do this, avoid this, and…” then we are mearly posting projects for praise, not to learn and gain experience. Design is as big as the actual execution when it comes to feed back. In fact most people won’t even notice small gaps or poor joinery. They see the design and the finish. So if I post a project that is perfectly built but with a poor design I won’t know how to become a better designer if nobody says “that’s a great job on the build, but your design is pretty poor”. Then I can ask why, and not only will I learn, but others will learn too. I posted my maple box on Woodweb and got negative feedback. He said that I should have left the bowtie joinery out and only did the marquetry, or vice versa, because together they clash. Looking at it for the first time I didn’t think so, but after looking at it everyday I wish I would have done splines or the like. My eye goes to the bowties not to the marquetry. And now I don’t like it. Now on my next project I will take more time to think about the overal look I’m after, not adding a bunch of stuff that I think may “WOW” people.
In the end it is up to us to comment criticism. I really don’t think we have it in ourselves to do it. Partially because we may think that other jocks may frown on us, and when we post ourselves, may not get comments from the people we need them from.

-- ~ Inspiring those who inspire me ~

View lew's profile


13534 posts in 5218 days

#8 posted 12-31-2008 11:01 PM

I like to have my work critiqued, constructively. I think many other so also.

A positive comment as a response to a post and then a followup private message to offer encouragement and suggestions, to me, is a more likely to be accepted in the spirit it was intended. As I posted here once before- this site is sort of like your refrigerator. You proudly display ALL the works of art- regardless of quality and then offer encouragement to the artist at the appropriate time and place.


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Rob Drown's profile

Rob Drown

849 posts in 5295 days

#9 posted 12-31-2008 11:15 PM

I agree completely with you thoughts. The point is, the satisfaction to have done the best possible (skill, materials, time, resources) and how to do better.

The way you post and the pictures you take have an effect on the comments you receive. We can only see what you show us. It is really hard to make constructive comments from a few pictures when there is so much more to a project.

-- The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools. Confucius, 经过艰苦的努力的梦想可以成真

View ryno101's profile


388 posts in 5127 days

#10 posted 12-31-2008 11:28 PM

I couldn’t agree more… I’m in this to learn, not to get gratuitous praise… (Although it is nice! It’s not like my wife appreciates what goes into woodworking!)

-- Ryno

View motthunter's profile


2141 posts in 5261 days

#11 posted 12-31-2008 11:42 PM

I agree 100%. When you post a project, make it clear the kind of criticism you desire.

I like to get positive tips and suggestions to make my work better rather than empty compliments.

I have see some mundane common projects posted that get reviews as if the item was made by the hand of god. We all have different levels of skill and ability, and of course you don’t want to discourage in your posts.. but I have thought to post a nailed and uneven but joint as a goof to see how many people would tell me how stunning it was.

I only leave a comment if I really think it is helpful or deserving a compliment or if the person is asking for help or ideas. If I think that the work is sub-par or even silly, I just shut up and move on. Fortunately most of what I see here is good to great work. And some is incredible work!

-- making sawdust....

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 5623 days

#12 posted 12-31-2008 11:46 PM

as Peter says, this discussion comes up several times throughout the year and there is always a great discussion about how people use this site.
Some people don’t have time to make thorough critiques but want to acknowledge the project and just leave a quick “well done” comment. Others, (like myself) don’t have the expertise to make a critique and can only acknowledge that the project is appealing to them.
Asking for a critique is a great idea, in my opinion, and is usually suggested in these discussion but rarely used in practice.
Some people don’t want critiques, others just want gentle suggestions and still others can take the “what did you do that for” type comments.

What’s the answer? I have no idea. I don’t think there is one “right way” for all people.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5681 days

#13 posted 01-01-2009 12:07 AM

I’ll put my 2 cents in again on this topic.

I try to fit my comments to the skill level of the woodworker. Yes, I sometimes make rosy comments on so-so projects. But if the person is obviously inexperienced, he or she needs encouragement more than anything else. If I feel I have a tip that will help them, I’ll say so. But if the problem is just klutzy joints due to lack of practice, there is no reason to criticize. Unless a person is totally clueless, they can see how there work stacks up against other projects. I also remember what it was like to work hard and be proud of a project, only to look back on it a year later and see how mediocre it was.

On the other side of the coin, I am more likely to point out something I don’t like about a project by someone like GaryK or Lee Jessberger because these guys are masters of their craft. They don’t need a pat on the back at all, and the best are always looking to get better.

As to making a button for desired level of criticsim, think how silly the choices would be. No matter how you phrased it, it would come out something like:

A) Hit me with your best shot
B) If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.
C) Please just stroke my ego.

In the end, I think it’s best just left up to individual choice. Let each LJ comment/praise/criticize as he or she sees fit.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Tom Adamski's profile

Tom Adamski

306 posts in 5233 days

#14 posted 01-01-2009 12:28 AM

I have noticed in a few replies, some believe that positive comments should be posted and negative should be pm’d. I would disagree with this as it is counter productive to the site as a whole by depriving others of the wisdom of a full individual critique. First, I’d like to clarify that constructive criticism is never negative. To critique a project (providing the person is seeking it) is to support their abilities and to encourage them to overcome their weaknesses.
Since I’ve been in the art & design world for a while, I know (from experience) the power of a fair and impartial criique of my work. It helps me reinforce the direction I want to go in and to make me be aware of the shortcomings I may not have even seen. To evaluate and offer alternatives to someone carries with it responsibilty. You first must only focus on the work itself. Once you deviate from it, you are out of bounds. Once you decide you are going to go out on a limb, be honest. Notice I said honest and not hurtful. If you like it, say so and why, offer some suggestions and be sympathetic as to the creators abilities. Now, if you don’t like it and feel compelled to say something, still be honest and say so, but make sure you tell them why and what makes you feel that it is not right. Then, I personally would offer other solutions and ideas that would offer the designer a different course next time. Maybe they will use it, maybe not.
Why offer solutions if you don’t like it? Because anyone can say they don’t like something. I feel that it is more beneficial to offer a solution or another idea that may be accepted and at the same time offer inspiration to other readers that can build on that idea or to offer an even better solution. The purpose of this is to pass along the knowledge and wisdom we have to others. Sure, there are those that don’t know how to do it, but that is ok too, they’ll learn. As long as you keep it about the project and have care and concern for the other person, you’ll do all right.

Just my thoughts…


-- Anybody can become a woodworker, but only a Craftsman can hide his mistakes.

View Tom Adamski's profile

Tom Adamski

306 posts in 5233 days

#15 posted 01-01-2009 12:41 AM

Charlie… Thats funny. But you forgot

(D) All of the above.


It could be worse. You could anonomously rate the projects on a scale of 1 to 10. “like from am I hot or am I not”

-- Anybody can become a woodworker, but only a Craftsman can hide his mistakes.

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