(closed) There's a lot of skill and craftsmanship @ LJ's, but also a lot of bad taste...

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Forum topic by gargey posted 05-25-2016 01:19 PM 12443 views 2 times favorited 196 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1013 posts in 2236 days

05-25-2016 01:19 PM

A lot of the projects I see posted look like they took a lot of skill to produce, but also look horrible overall, due to poorly chosen design proportions, style miss-matches, and color color/material mismatches.

It takes more than a well executed design to produce something worthy of praise, in my opinion. The design has to be good too. But when I click into the projects all the comments say ”great job, fantastic, beautiful!”

Do many woodworkers have bad taste? Or does the LJ’s community frown upon criticism?

Here’s the thing:

People will be more reluctant to post projects if they fear critical commentary. But the flip-side is that I think there are a lot of instances were people are getting positive feedback on things, but would benefit more in the long run from comments on why the look or feel of something is “off.”


196 replies so far

View Richard H's profile

Richard H

491 posts in 3141 days

#1 posted 05-25-2016 01:32 PM

While I see your point I am not sure a anonymous forum is the best place for helpful criticism. A teachers critical eye can be extremely valuable as a tool to teach students what they did right and what they did wrong however a cynics view who is more interested in creating noise and disruptions (something all to common these days) has no value at all and can act to discourage people from continuing to practice and learn. The last thing any of us should want to do is drive people away from this craft.

We must also always keep in mind that Lumber Jocks is a community of vastly different levels of experience, capabilities, tool sets, motivations, and tastes. I believe that given those differences and the dangers that come with critical writing from anonymous faceless sources that it’s better to be supportive and positive in my posts.


View Dwain's profile


623 posts in 5319 days

#2 posted 05-25-2016 01:40 PM

If worded properly, I think criticism has it’s place. All should be complemented on the fruits of their labor, but remember that just because you don’t like the design or what have you that doesn’t mean it’s bad. Also, if worded as you worded your original post, no, I wouldn’t want to hear your criticism.

“John, your work looks horrible all it all, but I know you put a lot of time into it, so… there.”

I don’t think anything getting complemented looks horrible, remember people have different skill levels. A beginning woodworker would be very proud of something they made that an expert would think looks pretty bad.

I would rethink your wording and be positive in your criticism

“If I made that project I would have tried … or …, but man, you did some fine work.”

My two cents.

-- When you earnestly believe you can compensate for a lack of skill by doubling your efforts, there is no end to what you CAN'T do

View bondogaposis's profile


6183 posts in 3811 days

#3 posted 05-25-2016 01:43 PM

Taste is very subjective and personal. The Internet is a breeding ground for trolls.any constructive criticism would quickly devolve into flame wars. I don’t think what you suggest would be workable.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Jim Finn's profile

Jim Finn

2938 posts in 4382 days

#4 posted 05-25-2016 01:45 PM

I get comments on changes I could make to my projects on occasion. I have even agreed once or twice…<grin>

-- No PHD just a DD214 Lubbock Texas

View CaptainSkully's profile


1615 posts in 5019 days

#5 posted 05-25-2016 01:52 PM

I cringe at a lot of stuff I see on here but then I remember a couple of things. First, my original foray into woodworking was to make a crappy magazine rack for the bathroom and a couple of tabouret tables that are about only good for kindling. Those were necessary steps to get me to where I am now able to make heirloom quality furniture. We’re all on a journey together. Any criticism at that point might have impeded my growth.

Second, we all have different aesthetics. Keep in mind that there are people in their eighties and eighteen year olds posting projects here. They’re going to want to build completely different things. I’m a huge fan of Arts & Crafts furniture. When I see the homes in the background of the pics with the finished pieces in situ, I ASSume the maker is of a certain age and that we have wildly different tastes. That doesn’t detract from my appreciation of the skill, effort and execution of their project, I just would never want that in my home.

Since we’re on the subject, I do have to choke down making comments where people make really nice furniture out of pine or poplar. It takes the same amount of effort and only a little more money to make the same piece out of oak. Plus the finished product will last 100 years longer. Okay, I feel better now…

-- You can't control the wind, but you can trim your sails

View jdmaher's profile


472 posts in 4040 days

#6 posted 05-25-2016 02:05 PM

Momma always told me: “If you can’t say something nice, shut your mouth!”

I believe we should just let people be nice whenever they have the inclination. There’s no accounting for taste, and maybe the compliment is about features or qualities that someone else just doesn’t value as highly.

But I am highly skeptical of ”constructive” criticism. Especially in a written medium, it often comes off as just mean. And a bit like an egotistical assertion that the critic has better taste than the artist. I don’t believe that’s really constructive.

And I’m certain that I don’t need to burden anyone in the world with my subjective judgments. So, I’ll do what momma told me, except when someone specifically requests my ”thoughts”.

-- Jim Maher, Illinois

View Mosquito's profile


11761 posts in 3752 days

#7 posted 05-25-2016 02:14 PM

I think those who care will ask for feedback, both positive and constructive. Those who don’t want it, probably wouldn’t listen to it anyway.

I think LJ is an excellent place to share what you’ve been working on with like-minded individuals. Those of us that see it as a means to learn and improve our own skills are empowered to do so, and those who just want to share are also welcomed to it as well. I don’t think it really matters what others think of someone’s project, as long as the person who made it is happy with it.

I know I blend styles all the time, because I design by what I like. I also don’t sell anything that I make unless it’s a commission before hand, so it doesn’t really matter if others like the design of it themselves. As long as people can appreciate the effort that goes into it, regardless of skill levels, I think it’s significant.

I appreciate good craftsmanship as well as good effort, even if I don’t like the design. I’d rather see people getting into woodworking at whatever skill they have. If that means encouragement by fellow woodworkers, even if their execution isn’t perfect, then I’m all for it. People will grow and get better at their own pace, and if they don’t but enjoy it anyway, that works too.

-- Mos - Twin Cities, MN - -

View builtinbkyn's profile


3036 posts in 2401 days

#8 posted 05-25-2016 02:23 PM

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Well we all heard that of course. Having been subjected to critique in school for my architectural degree, it certainly taught me a lot and helped me build a thicker skin than the one I earned living in NYC :) However I think as some others have stated, critiquing aesthetics here isn’t the purpose of the forum. It’s the means and methods that are paramount and what many come here in search of. For some, just getting things to align properly and stay together is a true accomplishment. Aesthetics are at that point, secondary. I think if someone that has limited skills in woodworking looks at the truly well crafted, well designed works presented here, they’ll see something to strive for and mimic if not improve upon.

-- Bill, Yo! Brooklyn & Steel City :)

View Dan P's profile

Dan P

755 posts in 3352 days

#9 posted 05-25-2016 02:26 PM

I often see projects pretty much ignored that look really good to me, and on the other hand see projects go right to the top of the board with really obvious craftsmanship flaws.

As an observer it is an interesting study of crowd behavior.

-- Daniel P

View gargey's profile


1013 posts in 2236 days

#10 posted 05-25-2016 02:28 PM

If it needs to be said, I don’t propose that we say “that looks horrible!”

I get and respect the differences in ability that come with experience. I tried to make clear (without writing too many words) that its not execution that I’m thinking about, but design.

Yes, aesthetics and good taste can’t be evaluated objectively or quantitatively. But that doesn’t mean that one can’t have a reasonable basis in discussing good taste, or what looks good and what doesn’t…

...For instance proportions, or whether it makes sense to have a piece that has a natural edge, and sharp square edges, and also semicircular edges in other places.

I can think of analogs: A Pontiac Aztec, or a guy who wears a striped shirt with a striped tie and striped suit. It just doesn’t work.

Overall, I get how sensitive people are to criticism, and for that reason I have held back. But it’s an interesting dilemma.

View JayT's profile


6455 posts in 3671 days

#11 posted 05-25-2016 02:36 PM

The biggest problem I have with giving criticism on a project is that you can never be sure if the piece looks off because of proportion or because of the photography (angle, lighting, etc.) Without seeing a piece in person, it’s tough to know if the pictures are showing it off accurately.

Usually, if I don’t like a project, I just don’t comment. There have been a few times that I have posted a question about a design choice to try and understand why something was done a certain way. That way it’s not really criticism, but if the person has a perfectly good reason that I do not understand, they can explain. If not, maybe it’ll cause them to re-look at the piece and wonder why the question was asked.

-- - In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

View Mosquito's profile


11761 posts in 3752 days

#12 posted 05-25-2016 02:43 PM

I like to take the approach that JayT mentioned as well. Ask questions to gain understanding. It might even make the person realize something in their own answers. I do that at work all the time. I don’t necessarily know the code someone is working on, but I know the questions to ask that help them answer their own questions.

-- Mos - Twin Cities, MN - -

View bbc557ci's profile


698 posts in 3534 days

#13 posted 05-25-2016 02:44 PM

As said there are different skill levels here. That, and it’s none of my business when aesthetics or a persons taste are concerned. I like traditional, and I like quality. If someone asks for an opinion then fine…. critique away. I would not knock another guy’s work or project, skill, or lack there of. But on the other hand, I wouldn’t praise a piece or project, if praise isn’t deserved.

-- Bill, central where near the "big apple"

View Dan P's profile

Dan P

755 posts in 3352 days

#14 posted 05-25-2016 02:55 PM

—->>I get and respect the differences in ability that come with experience. I tried to make clear (without writing too many words) that its not execution that I’m thinking about, but design.<<< gargey

Interesting that you say design over execution. Seems like in woodworking execution of nice looking joints and proper finishing is or should be held in higher esteem than design, to me anyway.

Of course for projects that are going to be sold design is important, but the maker will learn that quickly with non-sales.

-- Daniel P

View BurlyBob's profile


10510 posts in 3726 days

#15 posted 05-25-2016 02:56 PM

I’ve got to agree with Bondo and Jay T. Personally I only comment on the things I like.

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