your most influential woodworkers?

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Forum topic by ToolCrib posted 02-22-2007 06:34 PM 11830 views 2 times favorited 57 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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34 posts in 5376 days

02-22-2007 06:34 PM

Who are YOUR top five most influential woodworkers?

What questions would you ask them if you could?

I’m asking because I’d like to learn good questions to ask woodworkers for future interviews in the ToolCrib blog :)

-- Editor,

57 replies so far

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34 posts in 5376 days

#1 posted 02-22-2007 06:50 PM

I’ve also asked this question in WoodNet here:

Norm Abram is emerging as a major influence…

Is he on your list? What questions would you ask him? :D

-- Editor,

View Ethan Sincox's profile

Ethan Sincox

767 posts in 5388 days

#2 posted 02-22-2007 07:33 PM

I find it funny that so many people are so snobbishly opposed to the man in plaid. I think it really just comes down to basic jealousy.

I wonder how many people would put “famous” woodworkers on their list as opposed to people they know in their personal lives. Maybe it all comes down to their definition of “influential”.

#1 – My mentor, Vic, is probably the most influential woodworker on my list. He puts a lot of time and effort into each and every piece he does. He is also a small project woodworker, for the most part, so he’s already worked through a lot of the problems and challenges I find and I can either get a really good answer from him or he will point me in the right direction. He gives me free reign to use his shop tools when I need them and he trusts me enough to let me help him with his projects (his livelyhood and income).

#2 – Even though he died when I was two and I never really got to know him, my grandfather has been very influential in my woodworking life. In the upstairs living room of my parents’ house, you can still see the small child-sized, but fully detailed, workbench he made for me and my older brother. My niece and nephews still play with the 6” cubic blocks he made (six-sided, hollow in the middle, with fully mitered corners on all edges) for me and my brother, as well. Every day, my mom uses a cutting board he made almost 40 years ago. His butcher block counter top is still in the kitchen of our old farm house (where my little brother now lives). He was a hobbiest woodworker for much of his life and he was taken from us way too early. I wish I could have had the opportunity to study under him. On a side note, he is also influential in my personal life in that I watch what I eat and how much I exercise, because I’d like to be around to teach my grandchildren and not die at an early age (56?) because of an unhealthy lifestyle.

#3 – I suppose every list should have at least one “famous” person on it. If I had to pick one, I’d probably go with David Marks. I’m really not a huge fan of a lot of his designs – he tends to be a bit too modern for my tastes. But his attention to detail and the skill levels of his designs are definitely admirable. He can turn even the simplist-appearing foot stool into a challenging task with the angles and joinery he picks. He sets a skill-level bar I can actually see; one I feel I can reach. He also does a great job of incorporating power tools and hand tools into each project and throughout his various episodes he does a great job of showing you more than one way to do things like cut dovetails.

#4 – My little brother is influential in that he might not be making a ton of money, but he’s working in a cabinet shop as a full-time woodworker and he makes a living and enjoys what he does. I hope some day I have the courage to take the leap of faith and leave the safety of corporate life to try my hand at making a living doing what I truly love.

#5 – This last one isn’t going to sound too great, but… nobody has ever accused me of being less than honest. There is a guy in the local woodworking guild to which I am a member, and he is a woodworker who greatly influences my woodworking, but not like one might expect… I learn from him what kind of woodworker I do NOT want to be. Whenever he passes around some of the projects he’s recently completed, it makes me more determined than ever to constantly focus on the quality of my work and make sure my joinery is tight and my sanding is completed through the steps and that I spend just as much time and effort in project design as I do in actually making the project.

There are a few woodworkers who would make it really close to the top of the list, including George Nakashima and James Krenov. They both have books out that show woodworking from an internal artistic perspective – the insight they provide me is priceless.

After several minutes of thought, I don’t know if I could come up with many questions that might be generic enough to apply to any woodworking interview. They would all be questions specific to that person.

But I do want to thank you, Mr. Editor of ToolCrib. This was a great exercise in woodworking! I’m glad I took the time to think about it. Also might make a good blog entry… :)

-- Ethan,

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91 posts in 5352 days

#3 posted 02-24-2007 05:55 PM

Mark DeCou would be very worthy to look at.

-- Make Dust

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2579 posts in 5375 days

#4 posted 02-25-2007 08:23 PM

I have been thinking about this for awhile, but I can not come up with anyone specific. While there are all the famous people out there like Norm and Sam Maloof, there are also a number of ordinary people that produce exceptional work as well.

I have also read a lot of woodworking books and magazines that have some great advice and such. These have provided influence, but I do not know I can say they are the most influential.

Of course, no list would be complete without the Lumberjocks site included too.

-- Bill, Turlock California,

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34 posts in 5376 days

#5 posted 03-10-2007 06:28 PM


I counted all the influential woodworkers mentioned at WoodNet, FamilyWoodworking and here and came up with over 100.

I took the top 31 and did a little research for each one to bring you:

I hope this is a useful source of inspiration for you :)


-- Editor,

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2579 posts in 5375 days

#6 posted 03-10-2007 06:33 PM

That is quite some list. I see several I had not thought of before, but have read/watched their creations.

-- Bill, Turlock California,

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34 posts in 5376 days

#7 posted 03-10-2007 06:39 PM

Hey Bill,

You should see the list (70+) that didn’t get more than 2 mentions :D

I had to draw the line on this first list, but will be cranking out others down the road because there are some incredible woodworkers out there…

Thanks for dropping by the list and if anyone has additions or suggestions for it just leave them in this thread.


-- Editor,

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 5375 days

#8 posted 03-10-2007 11:47 PM

my 2 cents:
most influential woodworkers? The LumberJocks.
And that’s a fact.

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

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702 posts in 5339 days

#9 posted 03-11-2007 01:39 AM

Debbie – You always say the perfect thing at the right time! You get my vote!

-- The Gnarly Wood Shoppe

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18619 posts in 5375 days

#10 posted 03-11-2007 04:25 AM

coool :)

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

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2214 posts in 5451 days

#11 posted 03-11-2007 04:55 AM

You make it sound like Sam Maloof has passed on, yet I don’t seem to find anything saying any such thing

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323 posts in 5312 days

#12 posted 03-12-2007 02:11 AM

1. My Dad
2. Al Borlan
3. Marc Spagnuolo

-- Making sawdust is what I do best

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2214 posts in 5451 days

#13 posted 03-12-2007 01:21 PM

Me. I see something, make it … usually not to the best of my ability, don’t like it, and try it again. Each time I get a little better. I can’t let others influence me, because if I did that I’d quit. I see so many things in here that are better than mine.

So I’m basically influenced by what I make and what i expected it to look like.

If it was anyone I’d have to say David Marks, because I see what he does and expect mine to look as good, even though I’ve only been at it about a year.

View Muddler's profile


32 posts in 5315 days

#14 posted 03-15-2007 04:19 AM

As I mentioned in my profile, my woodworking roots are deep, but I really didn’t have the means for the equipment or a little space for a shop until a couple of years ago, so I’m pretty new to fine woodworking. My influences are in chronological order:

1. grandpa
2. 9th grade shop teacher (thanks for the award and the extra time on the lathe)
3. His Normness
4. David Marks

more recently, I’m looking forward to more from Marc Spagnuolo. Being new, I haven’t spent much time reading up on the “greats” yet, like Krenov, Maloof, and Stickley (although being from the Syracuse area and having lived one block from the Stickley factory, you would think I would have a better grasp on Gustov!) I’m sure my influences will be added to as I learn more.

As for Norm, I wouldn’t have much to ask him, but just thank him for making woodworking seem accessable to the average joe woodworker.

-- ...straight lines or tight lines, either will make me happy! Muddler

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261 posts in 5311 days

#15 posted 03-15-2007 05:24 PM

These are my top five influential woodworkers in no particular order.

1. Maternal Grandfather
I think everyone has their favorite grandpa and this one is mine. He is a great and honorable man who lived a humble life, was a medic in WWII, and outlived two wives. He taught me to fish and was basically my father-figure growing up. I remember when I was really little, grandpa would make the parts for bird houses and I would help him assemble them.

2. Fraternal Grandfather
My fraternal grandpa was also a good man. He wasn’t much of a talker but he gave a good smile of approval. He tinkered around with many things including Model T’s and sleighs. I have fond memories of his one-car garage, especially during Christmas. He would go out to the garage and stoke his pot belly stove while working. I often went out there to visit with him or mettle with wood. I remember one Christmas I made a sword by cutting 1×2’s on the band saw. Someday I would like a shop big enough to have a pot belly stove.

3. Second Shop Teacher
During my first year of high school, the wood shop class almost turned me away from woodworking. The very first part of the year was the only chance that we got to work with wood and that was only with block planes and hand saws. Shortly thereafter, our high school shop teacher was fired. As rumor had it, he kicked a kid in the nuts. If this rumor was true, and knowing the kind of kids that attended my high school, the kid probably deserved it. The rest of the year we had substitute teachers and had to do bookwork.

Finally, my sophomore year the school hired a new teacher and he became very influential to me in regards to woodworking (other things as well). That year, I created a night stand with raised panel faces and won the best of show trophy in an industrial technology fair for the Greater Des Moines Area Schools. That set me in the right direction and my senior year I had independent study with that same teacher and created an archery rack. I submitted it to the same fair and won a gold metal. I was moved onto our state fair and won another gold metal. My instructor never helped me with the projects accept for giving me good advice and being a good role model.

4. Norm Abram
Growing up and even now I have this fascination with watching the public television (PBS) channel for woodworking, construction, fishing, and cooking shows. I remember watching norm as early as middle school just to watch something being created. He’s a guy that seems pretty humble and I would like to meet him someday just to get to know him a little more.

5. Sam Maloof
Having Sam Maloof as an influential woodworker may seem like a cliche but most recently, I have been finding great joy in studying rocking chair design. Sam Maloof’s has a style all his own plus I appreciate his life story.

-- There are three types of people in the world, those who can count and those who can't!

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