Review of the Video "Sam Maloof: A Fine Woodworking DVD Profile"

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Review by Mark A. DeCou posted 01-20-2008 12:26 AM 6897 views 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Review of the Video "Sam Maloof: A Fine Woodworking DVD Profile" No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

Wow, want to feel overwhelmed, and very inadequate?

Sort of like being the last kid to get underarm hair in gym class.

I am in the process of building three more Maloof-Inspired Rocking Chairs. Two for a commission, the third as a piece for speculation sale.

I have been working through my notes from the last one and preparing wood, and I ran across the Sam Maloof DVD as a recommended Amazon item. You know, those annoying multi-week advertisments from Amazon that keeps track of everything you have ever ordered from them, and they try to entice you into another purchase of something similar?

You’re right, it worked on me this time. Well, actually, it works a lot. This week I also bought the new Terry Winchell “Molesworth” book, and Theo Marx’s “Contemporary Western Design”, and Jim Steven’s new book “Scrimshaw Techniques.” Book buying is sort of a bad habit for me. There are many bad habits I have though, so I’m not prejudiced.

So, I watched the DVD with my wife last night, a good way to spend a Friday night after the kids have gone to bed. Hey, I’m 44 now, and have other priorities than I used to. Ok, ok, to be honest, my wife has other priorities now.

Sam made this video in 1989, and he walks through some of the basics of making his chairs, what he thinks about when he designs furniture, how his shop works, his philosophies, his home, his life, etc.

I was quite impressed with the entire video, but most of all Sam.

I was thinking, you could have gotten me to buy a video from a phone camera of Sam working. I am just in love with this guy, in a safe, normal, admiration sort of way.

The forearms on Sam are pretty intimidating to a guy that drinks too much diet soda pop and eats too many M&M’s. His chairs are a lot of work, and his arms and hands demonstrate those years of hard work.

I was so amazed at his team of workers. Sam would be talking to the camera man, and a guy would walk by, and he’d say, “Hey you, go ahead and spread this glue, and put on those clamps I want to tell the camera man something.”

“Oh, you please Buddy, come here, take this rocking chair seat blank, and finish up all of the carving and grinding work.”

“Hey you two guys come here, I want you to take this seat back over to the upholstery shop and I want you to know what to tell him.”

“Hello, my lovely wife, please catch these boards as they come through the planer….don’t get a splinter.”

“Oh, you fellow, come take this chair and finish all of the hand sculpting and sanding, I have something else to do.”

“oh, this is a lovely Lemon Tree, too bad those nasty guys at City Hall want to bulldozer you for a highway”

“Here is my house, all built by me.”

Of course, those quotes are either exaggerations, or pharaphrases.

I was having a “discussion” with my wife this week about her free time during the day when the kids are in school. I made the suggestion that she could come out to the shop and help me. She replied, “Oh yea, you just want me to cook, clean house, do laundry, and all of the work that is beneath you in the Shop.”

So, I’m still working alone.

But, it was nice to see Sam and his team and wife all work together to fill customer orders.

So, if you have an evening to spend watching a Modern Master make something, you won’t be dissappointed in this DVD, despite it’s age. Sam is great in the video, and his late-wife Alfreda is also in the video, and their relationship is an inspiration to all of us long-married folks.

BUT, here is the warning:
I was so severely overwhelmed at how much better Sam is than I am as a woodworker, that it critically hurt my ego last night. I sort of recovered this morning, but he is so impressive, you can’t help but applaud after the DVD is finished. Even my wife, the born skeptic, said, “wow, he’s good.”

My hats (all of them), and my Ego, is off to you Sam-the-Man, and for Taunton for having the foresight to take a camera to Sam’s shop, which has now been moved off of the site.

Mark DeCou

This writing is protected by copyright M.A. DeCou 1-19-2008, all rights reserved. I stole the picture of the dvd cover from the internet. Sorry.

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

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Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 5257 days

6 comments so far

View rookster's profile


67 posts in 5002 days

#1 posted 01-20-2008 12:35 AM

Hey Mark,

Remember that even in 1989, Sam had been woodworking professionally for a very long time. Think of this as where you might be in another 25 years.

-- Rookster, (

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Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 5257 days

#2 posted 01-20-2008 12:51 AM

You are right Rookster. I calculated that Sam was in his mid-70’s during the filming. A powerhouse of muscle, passion, design, and love. It all just exudes from him as you watch him work, and pick out wood, and shape a chair arm, and hug his wife, and sit and rock and tell stories, and walk around his orchard, which is now an interstate highway.

And, he’s doing all of this work during the years that most of us guys are looking for an RV to drive and a keno screen, or fishing hole..

There’s a lesson in there somewhere.

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View IowaWoodcrafter's profile


280 posts in 4928 days

#3 posted 01-22-2008 01:06 AM

I can’t order this DVD. I’m in awe of your work, Mark. I feel like a child when I look at my work compared to yours. If Sam overwhelmed you then I have no chance of my ego coming out unbruised.

-- Owen Johnson - aka IowaWoodcrafter

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Mark A. DeCou

2009 posts in 5257 days

#4 posted 01-22-2008 03:29 PM

Thanks Owen: Go ahead and get the DVD. I’ve recovered now, and have a burning passion fueled by Sam’s inspiration…...again.

I read his autobiography (future review to do) maybe 10 years ago, and it is just packed with what makes him tick. One of the things that impressed me so much, was that he didn’t let the lack of money, the lack of a shop, the lack of tools, the lack of anything get in his way. I’m sort of the same way, but he obviously has more common sense, intelligence, skill, and tools, than I have.

He started out making furniture from used sandblasted plywood pieces that he scavenged, and took off from there. When he didn’t have a shop, he would pull his tools out of a chicken coop and worked on the grass, and put the tools back at the end of the day. Eventually he got enough money to pour a concrete pad. He just worked on the concrete pad, and after each project he could afford to buy 2-3 studs for the walls of his future shop. He pieced it all together one little leg at a time. He says all the while, his wife helped, and encouraged him to stick to it.

He said in the Western Design Conference lecture in 2006, that, “You just can’t give up.”

At the Conference, he told a heart warming story of how he and his wife and the mailman all stood together on the sidewalk looking at an envelope in Sam’s hands. He quickly opened it up, it had a big check, and all three of them jumped up and down with joy. They had enough money to cover the rent for the next 8 months. He said that the mailman was just as happy as he and his wife was. I have a UPS delivery guy like that. He is excited to bring me supplies, and hear every trip how things are going. We need folks like that in our lives. We are equally excited about customer checks, and often jump up down, and always hold a check and look up, “Thank you Lord.”

From what I can see of Sam after studying him for the past 10 years, and only shaking his hand for brief moment in Cody, WY, reading anything in print about him, reading from his book, seeing his profile on “Modern Master’s”, and watching this Taunton DVD…...........Sam would mostly like say,

“I’m pulling for you.” And so would I.

He wasn’t built in a day, neither was Rome, and neither are we!

Now, let’s all get to work!

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View DaveT's profile


15 posts in 4568 days

#5 posted 03-29-2008 05:34 PM

When he does a cut or something he goes, “Now look at what I have done” or something along those lines, makes me chuckle.

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 5098 days

#6 posted 04-12-2008 09:41 PM

Like I said before Mark, one day we’ll all be saying, why that’s a” Decou”. Wait and see. Just like we say that’s a Maloof now. mike

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

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