Welcome back to Behind the Sawdust, our weekly-is vlog about what goes on when the cameras are off here at the two Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journals shops. This is our first episode of November, so we’re going to talk about plans for the coming month, talk about a few things that have been going on in the woodworking world, and have a little fun!
If you haven’t already, you should check out the latest issue of Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal. Besides for the 21 videos we made for the issue, there are five contributed videos and there are some answers to interesting questions in the Q&A sidebar. It’s all free over at Stumpynubs.com. But as an influential online woodworker, I know that at least five or six of my seven fans are eagerly awaiting the new content that will be flowing through the month of November like clumps through this giant sewer we call YouTube. Well, I won’t disappoint you, at least not any more than you usually are every time you tune in and realize, this guy isn’t getting any funnier. But fear not, those of you who hate dumb jokes, we have a load of serious woodworking content planned for November. In fact, we have more than 20 new videos on the schedule this month. We’ll be power-carving an eagle from a stack of 2X6’s; we’ll build a new drill press table with an innovative X-Y sliding mechanism; We’ll show you how to sharpen forstner bits with a diamond hone; We’ll have a tutorial on cutting a double bridle joint on the table saw; And another on how to use marking gauges. Mustache Mike will have another bunch of quick-tip videos, and he’ll be teaching his second lesson on scroll saw basics. We’ll also do a little bit of wood turning this month, and we’ll check out the results of our months-long test of the upgraded helical cutter heads in our jointer and planer. We’ll review Robert Lang’s new book on designing kitchen cabinets with Sketchup; We’ll do another Q&A episode; and we’ll close out the month with another “Cool Tools” video that will look at the high stakes world of workshop fashion.
Wow, that sounds like a lot of content! You’re right, thank you for saying that! And that’s not even everything we have planned for November. Of course, it will all be wrapped up, along with some more articles and contributed videos in the next issue of Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal. Aren’t you glad you’re a subscriber? I mean, other woodworking channels are great, but where else do you get this kind of variety and my personal guarantee that you’ll become a better woodworker, and marginally more attractive to your spouse or significant other. (This guarantee is not real. You may be too ugly to help.)
So, that’s what’s in store for the upcoming month. Let’s have a look back on a few issues that have popped up in the woodworking world over the last few weeks.
First up, we have the great push-stick controversy over at the Popular Woodworking Editor’s Blog. It wasn’t actually a controversy, it was more of a cute little joke. But that won’t stop me turning it into a controversy just for the sake of having a little fun. Let me ask you this: Who do you think of when I say insensitive, socially tone deaf and overtly sexist? You guessed it. Push stick manufacturers. Just look at the designs they force upon us. This style may be great for big-knuckled, beer swilling men, but does the manufacturer care if the handle fits the feminine hands of our more genteel craftswomen? And what about this all too common style? Clearly it was designed, not just for pushing boards through the table saw, but for taking home after work to use as a club on women, children, and maybe even baby seals. And here we have the worst of them all! Not only is this push-stick tremendously overpriced at $15 for a hunk of plywood, but it’s entirely unrealistic. If you’re the type of woodworker that would try to wrap his grubby mitts around a handle this awkward, then chances are slim to none that anyone of that shape has ever been near your shop. So, popular woodworking boss, Megan Fitzpatrick decided to modify it to a more realistic design. Not only does this fat trucker look more like the type of woodworker that would use that push stick, but the rotund beer-belly will add some cushion to your grip. Yes, it’s time we push back against push sticks. Because if we don’t, we all know that eventually, someone will take it too far.
You’d better sit down for this next one. Chris Schwarz is about to drop a truth bomb. The one-time editor of Popular Woodworking magazine knows what goes on behind the scenes at your favorite printed periodicals, and he’s exposing the truth. Woodworking magazines got lazy in the 90’s when all they had to do to inflate their subscription numbers was to send Ed McMahon door to door with his Publisher’s Clearinghouse flyers. But then came the internet, where Chris says, and I quote- “a woodworker in tight shorts or a muscle shirt on YouTube can command as many eyeballs as a magazine issue that represents months of work.”
While you let that soak in, let me agree with a couple of points. All you have to do is go through your back-issues from the 90’s and even the early 2000’s to see what he’s talking about. Wood Magazine in particular, was filled with so much filler it was practically bursting its staples with whirly-gigs and toddler toy patterns. Chris pointed to two examples of what he called “dufus-y” projects: A Taco Corral and a moose with a pencil sharpener in its butt. Despite being a woodworker who’s eaten his share of tacos, and giggles at the thought of sharpening a pencil in a wooden moose’s pucker, I believe he’s saying that this type of content fails to represent our hallowed craft in a proper way, in that it lacks the substance many serious woodworkers crave. But let’s leave that for a second and re-visit the “tight shorts and muscle shirts” comment.
First of all, if I have it, I’m gonna’ flaunt it, Chris. My milkshake brings the boys to the yard, and everyone gets a free ticket to this gun show. But I see this issue a bit differently. I don’t think magazines got lazy, I think they saw where the money was and they went for it. For every fine furniture maker out there, there’re a hundred people building little projects for the grandkids in their sheds. Grandad worked in the coal mines his whole life, he’s not a craftsman. He doesn’t need articles about tuning a tenon with a shoulder plane because he’s never owned shoulder plane and he probably doesn’t put tenons in his birdhouses. So, if you want to sell magazines to the masses, you fill the pages with whirligigs and cutting boards because that’s the sort of thing the masses make. And frankly, the magazines were more than willing to do that for a very long time. But now they have competition. Rather than paying for a magazine, a woodworker can get all the beginner to moderate level woodworking content he wants free on the internet- with cool muscle shirts. I think that, more than anything else is why magazines are suddenly too good for crafty projects. They can’t compete, so they’re targeting a more advanced customer base. I think that’s great. There’s room for all of it in the woodworking community. But let’s not pretend that the basic stuff is suddenly beneath the magazines standards. Believe me, if there was still money in it, magazines would be more than happy to make whole barnyards full of animals with pencils in their rears!
Did you know that Shakespeare died 400 years ago? I know, it seems like it was just yesterday. But this past April marked four centuries since the old bard went toes up. And at least one woodworker is celebrating the way a woodworker should: he’s building something. Tim Ross Bain has been hard at work on 18 benches and 12 chests that are going to be placed in the original classroom when little Billy Shakespeare went to school. I wonder if he was a good student. Do you suppose he played around or acted out? Get it? Plays… acting… Historians say there may have been as many as 60 little nose-pickers in the room at a time, with just one schoolmaster armed with nothing but a birch switch for discipline, and a bowl of apples for rewards. Frankly, I would consider one to be just as unpleasant as the other. As someone who caught a switch to the yapper a time or two when I was a little stump, I can testify to the pain. But apples for a reward? Seriously? Even in Shakespeare’s day people knew that apples were basically garbage. I mean, what do kids give to their teachers? Not their delicious pudding cups or juice boxes. They give an apple to the teacher because nobody likes apples. I suspect that even back in Stratford-upon-Avon, no kid was really motivated with the promise of fruit. No wonder Shakespeare became a theater major. Anyway, we’re getting off subject. I think the reproduction furniture project is fascinating. They used 200 year old oak trees from a property owned by Shakespeare’s granddaughter. They’re using chains and hammers and socks full of screws to beat up the benches. They’re putting on a finish from an old recipe. Tim’s even making his own hinges and other hardware so everything looks just as it would have in the 16th century. He’s not a blacksmith. He just has a tiny little benchtop forge. He’s even making his own nails. I would LOVE to do that. How awesome would it be to hand forge hinges for your next project? I love historic stuff like this. I’ll keep an eye on it and give you an update later on.
Our Behind the Sawdust vlog has changed quite a bit over 44 episodes. When we started out, the entire thing was a woodworking newscast. But it just took way too much time to prepare each episode, which meant we couldn’t do our regular woodworking project and tutorial videos. So, the news portion was axed and Behind the Sawdust became a variety vlog about what goes on in our shops, from the projects we’re working on, to the tools we’re using and the miscellaneous shop stuff that doesn’t make it into regular videos. But, to help satisfy our viewers who long for a return of the light humor and biting sarcasm of the old days, we’re going to try doing a show like this one at the beginning of each month. We’ll tell a few bad jokes, have some good-natured fun at other people’s expense, and end each episode with a fan favorite, the debate segment we call point-counterpoint. If you’ve never seen these segments in the old episodes, they are designed to discuss both sides of an issue. Mustache Mike picks one side, I pick the other, and the debate usually spirals out of control from there. It’s mostly in jest, but it’s a lot of fun, and it gets viewers talking about some interesting topics. Next month we’ll have an all new point-counterpoint debate, but today I want to revisit our very first one from nearly 2 years ago. In this version we were talking about CNC machines. The Stash and I actually both enjoy our CNC machines, but since someone had to argue the negative side, I did. That doesn’t mean I am anti-CNC, I just wanted both sides of the issue represented. Anyway, here’s the debate-
That wraps things up for this edition of Behind the Sawdust. Next week we’ll take the cameras into the main shop to see some of the changes we’re making. In the meantime, be sure to support our sponsors by visiting their websites via the links in the notes below the video. These are fantastic companies that have paid the bills so that you can get Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal for free. So, by supporting them, you are supporting us. Then you can sit back and have a cold one, because you’ve earned it, my friend!
S- CNC machines are cheaper than ever and can do just about every step but assembly in the furniture making process. I believe that takes the craftsmanship out of the process.
M- I believe you're wrong. A machine may do the cutting, but a person has to tell the machine what to do. The person is making the piece, the machine is merely his tool.
S- I think Mustache Mike simplifying the issue too much. Yes, a person has to input instructions, but modern software makes that so easy that just about anyone can learn to do it. Talent isn't required.
M- And I think Stumpy shouldn't dismiss the skill that is required to design a unique piece. Some of the most interesting furniture is not only made by CNC, it can ONLY be made with computer assisted tools.
S- I am not dismissing the talent of a skilled designer, but we're talking about the craft of woodworking, not interior decorating. Design is certainly an art, but woodworking is only half design, the other half is the execution, and if a computer is cutting your joinery, then the computer is the craftsman, not you.
M- Maybe I need to talk slower because Stumpy’s not getting it. A computer is a tool just as a table saw is a tool. I can cut a tenon on a table saw, or I can use a CNC machine. I'm still the one cutting the tenon.
S- I would hope that the Mike would have a computer helping him because he couldn’t properly fit a tenon if his mustache depended on it. Some people don’t have the skill to fit joinery without R2-D2- assisting them. If the machine possesses the skill, so who’s the craftsman?
M- And if Stumpy wasn’t such an idiot he’d know that woodworkers have happily used the latest technology since his ignorant savage caveman ancestors made the first stone tools. I'll bet that the old hand tool woodworkers thought the electric table saw was cheating, but today’s finest craftsman use table saws.
S- A table saw doesn't remove the skill from the process, you still have to properly lay out your cuts and you still have to guide each piece. And here's something else his tiny pea brain didn't consider. A piece of furniture made with a table saw is still a one off creation. A CNC can spit a hundred copies out like a zerox machine. That's mass production, not art.
M- Look, Moron, a painter often sells multiple prints of his painting. Isn't he still an artist?
S-Yes, but the print is not art. The original, handmade painting is what makes him an artist. If a copy of the painting is art then I have the entire Louvre in a book on my coffee table. Besides, in that ridicules scenario the printer would be the artist because he's using a computer controlled press to make the prints. Are printers really artists, Mustache?
M- You’re the reason your mother left you as a child.
S- I want to tear that mustache right of your face.
M- This has been another edition of point/counterpoint. If you’d like to weigh in on this controversial topic, please do so in the comments below.
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