He IS the "power tool junkie", isn't he?
There are occasional woodworking shows where the guy has fewer tools.
I enjoy watching Norm at lot more than Billy Mays!!!!
Vic Baron wrote:
Before everyone gets to upset, please note that many of the hotshot
tools are donated to the program by the manufacturer/retail sales store.
That's how he got the BIG belt sander. The carved wood sign was donated
What gets me is David Marks and his marvelous MULTI-ROUTER. He sells it
for something like $3,500. That and his favorite wood finish: TUNG Oil
Simple solution for that ... hit the "next" button. ;)
For me, as one whose interest in furniture design has developed and advanced
beyond simply copying a plan, it is the _project_ itself, followed by Norm's
take on the joinery/method of construction of each, that has become the
focus of my interest in his shows ... not the tools he chooses for each
IOW, the more complicated the projects that I've designed and built _without
benefit of plans_, the more I have begun to appreciate Norm's take on the
methodology of constructing the project, whether it reaffirms, or differs
from, what I have already figured out on my own as the best way to do
Then there was Bruce Johnson ... proving there are some you just can't learn
a damn thing from ... unless it's how not to. :)
I was thinking the same thing. I don't watch Oprah, I don't watch
Maury, nor any of the judge shows. I rarely watch anything with my
free time that irritates me.
I think few truly understand and actually appreciate the breadth of
Norm's experience and projects. Or his experience with tools and his
knowledge of how to creatively apply their uses. Or his huge variance
in project selections.
In all the years I have been on this group as well as a few others,
there have been Norm bashers. I don't know why as I have never heard
him set himself out as an ancient zen master of woodworking as say,
Krenov. He has never, ever, put himself on a pedestal. He has never
held himself up and anything more than a simple woodworker, which is
simply not true. He shows doable projects that can challenge the
neophyte as well as the experienced wood worker.
When I started, the best advice I ever received about woodworking came
from my boss. I didn't have the tool in the truck to do a specific
job that I was assigned to do. So, I went back and complained to him
that we didn't have the right tools to do the job, so we couldn't do
He blew up. "WTF do you think is going on here? Where do you think
you are, in a tool store? Do you think where ever you go to work you
will always have the perfect tool for the work? Either go over there
and get it done or you can go home because I don't need you".
It didn't sound like advice and guidance at the time, but it certainly
was. For those that think they cannot do some of the projects because
they don't have the tools Norm does, they need to rethink their
procedures. They need to rethink their methods.
Norm builds by procedure, each project step by step. He shows how to
use the tools he has. But I have seen enough of him to bet any money
that without many of the tools he uses in the show, he could still get
the job done without many of them.
Allow me to expand on that a bit. I think there is a curve of
appreciation on watching Norm's show.
When many are beginning woodworking, some folks lay the fact that he
can do all the neat things on the idea that he has all the tools to do
what he does. So the tools make things so easy, he has a huge
Then skills pick up, you find yourself able to do more with the tools
you have, and you start to think you are "getting it". You understand
more of what you read about woodworking, and more of the concepts
You knock out a couple of book cases, maybe a project for the wife,
and of course a couple of heritage pieces for the kids.
Now you are a craftsman. You have tools, a few projects behind you,
and your family and friends love your work. You must be good at this
stuff, right? Everyone says so.
People ask you for advice from time to time on their projects. You
try to help, but sometimes working with a noob can be frustrating.
You do what you can.
You decide that you like doing something differently than the examples
of work you have seen on TV. Great! The more you participate in ANY
craft, the more you realize how many paths there are to reach the same
goal, so you should get that fact.
Then, the dreaded day comes; you think you are better than you are.
Yup; definitely a better craft person than your neighbor, your wife
tells you that the vanity you built for he bathroom is much better
than the ones she has seen in the store, and the kids pounding on
their toy boxes and step ups haven't broken them yet. And that
storage shed you built out back to look like a little barn is holding
up quite well.
(Note: Norm STILL hasn't hit this point. He talks with a great
amount of respect of people that are in all manner of trades, and
seems to get a real sense of appreciation of his fellow craftsmen.)
Back to the curve, you are now dismissive of Norm and his baseball bat
project, his shadow boxes, or his coffee tables. You toss in the heap
his blanket chests, his Federalist style furniture, etc., and let your
buddies know you aren't impressed. Hell ya, you could build any of
that stuff if you just had the time, right?
You quit watching Norm.
If you keep working on developing your skills, or start to work
professionally, you change your idea of where you are in the big
picture of woodworking skill sets. Probably not as far along as you
thought if you are around the right people.
Then one day it rains on Saturday and you are inside. Nothing on TV,
nothing to do outside, so between the cooking shows you decide to see
what Norm's up to.
You now have different eyes to see this work. Eyes that understand
that one little detail in design and execution can save hours of
work. These details don't have anything to do with the tools he
uses. But you missed the details the first time because he didn't
sound a horn when he is executing them, and since they didn't look
that important you missed them. But now you see.
Then you start to appreciate Norm. My style of building in my
business is different from Norm's. There was no Norm when I started,
and we didn't have a lot of tools. We were on site carpenters, and we
learned to use the tools we had. My old habits are sometimes hard to
break, and I don't.
But on the other hand (see, here comes the end of the curve, right
there at your post) I really appreciate a good look at alternatives to
all kinds of carpentry work. I like Norm's pragmatic organization/
detailing/procedures in building his work as that is the way my mind
So in the end, I think you have to learn more to appreciate old Norm
for what he really is; a good teacher and a fearless woodworker.
Pretty damn good craftsman, too.
Just don't get me going about his finishing...
That used to drive me nuts. He is better now though.
I remember years ago when my wife saw him paint over a beautiful wood
project with green milk paint. She screamed, "Why is he doing that"?
I tried to explain Norm Abrams to her. She didn't get it.
Truthfully, neither do I. :-)
At the first Woodcraft Parking Lot Show I went to in Madison, they had
Scott Phillips from American woodshop doing some demos. That was fun.
Especially the part where he talks about Norm's Belt Sander. "It's a
great machine except it takes up more space than a car and when he
turns it on he browns out Boston!"
But I still watch the show. He's like family. He exasperates me at
times but his heart's in the right place.
It should also be noted that Norm isn't above commenting that he just
learned a new trick or new technique from someone.
I know that I learn something from every show I watch, even one that I
have seen a dozen times.
Norm is a TEACHER as well as a CRAFTSMAN.
He's just luckier than you and I.
The full line was:
Haven't watched the NYWS in a while and had some free time and tuned in -
now I'm irritated again.
I HAVE been using the next button, just not the last time!
Actually, I agree, I would just like to see him do it the "old" way. As far
as the broadcast is concerned it takes no more time than using the dedicated
I would venture a guess that IF you own a dedicated molder then you pretty
well know how to use it. If Ihad to make that multiple curved foot he made
on the show I watched, I would have to use either the bandsaw or multiple
passes with a router. I would have preferred his technique on doing that
rather than running a chunk through a molder and voila! a curved foot.
I think that he can scare away as many new woodworkers as he attracts - at
least with this type of show.
"So what" could be said about any post in any thread - it's my opinion and
I'm sticking to it.
And who the heck said anything about beloved old ways? I don't really give a
rat's ass. I am being totally selfish. I do not use a dedicated molding
machine and I want to see how he would do it without. I am not interested in
seeing him use tools that are beyond the average *home* woodworker. If I
wanted to see how a major woodworking company might tackle a project, I'd
There are molding machines that cost less than a cabinet saw.
There's always Bruce Johnson...
I just thought of something else.
"The Average Home Woodworker"...
If you take away the TimeSaver, Norm might be a lot more average than we
When I think of amateur woodworkers here, on the various web forums,
that I've met at seminars or classes, etc... The folks who have been at
it for a few years and are very serious about the craft have home shops
just like Norm.
It's not all that much of a stretch, either. Norm's shop brand new,
minus the Timesaver, would cost less than a decent boat, a Harley, a
killer home theatre system, a grand piano, a few years of season tickets
to major sports, a few seasons of golf on nice courses, a hobby car
(show or race), a horse, etc... Yet we all know people with custom
Harleys, boats, show cars, grand pianos, horses...
Woodcraft is an entire chain aimed at the hobby market. They even offer
classes to teach you to use the stuff they sell. I'll bet many more
hobbyists buy stuff from Lee Valley, Lie Neilsen, Highland Hardware,
Tools for Working Wood, Tool Crib, and so on... than pros.
I remember when my own shop was a Jet contrator's saw, a jig saw, one
router, and 4 "C" clamps. Back then, I didn't see Norm's shop as
something I'd ever have. But the bug bit... <G>
Excellent analogy. I use my tools to make a living, but in
perspective don't really have all that many. Yet I get teased a great
deal by my friends for their costs.
Yet, they hunt ($$$$$), plan deep water fishing trips (seen the price
of a good deep water reel and rod lately?) and invest in "kick ass"
home theatre systems, etc.
One of my friends has never teased me since I pointed out to him I
could buy all my tools in just a couple/three years with the money he
spends on cigarettes and a quart of beer after work. Apparently cut a
bit deep there.
Couldn't agree more, and I think spot on. I went to our monthly
woodturning club meeting last week, and while there was looking at the
Kapex saws. Impressive. Sales are good; they sell one a week,
religiously and have for the last couple of months or so. My amigo
the assistant manager and I were talking about them and I asked him if
they sold them to any full time professionals.
Only one, he said. To a guy that does picture frames. The rest,
hobby guys. He told me that was the way with all the Festool tools,
except the sanders. The shoe is on the other foot there, and the guys
that use their sanders a lot are scooping those guys up. He has a
cabinet shop that uses them for touch up sanding before shipping, and
he said they bought five last time the purchased. He called a friend
of his, and they bought the last three in the store.
He opined that it was a mixed bag of pro and hobby on the Domino, but
as seen here, those that purchased them love them.
He and I noticed the same thing on the Fein multi when it was the "it"
tool and line. 90% of the sales go to hobby guys. The professional
guys that buy them swear by them as sanders, and cutting tools for
flooring, door jambs, and all kinds of other flush cut applications
Strange how well the marketing works. They have 1/3 the Fein space
they used to have when the Fein was the "it" tool, and no longer carry
the Fein router or vac in the store. Both can be special ordered,
But the can't keep the Festool stuff in stock (except their router,
which they are pushing hard this month with free demos which only
further pushes your point!) and it has about 20' of display in the
I don't know how well this applies to all the tools sold, but I
remember reading in one of the AAW publications that 70% of all lathes
are out of use in the first year, and something like 90% are out of
use by year three.
Judging by our club and the lack of offerings in the local Woodcraft,
I think the wood turning rage has seen its day, at least until the
marketing departments see fit to have a "renaissance" of an old
craft. I would gladly bet that 97% of all lathes sold five years ago
are no longer in use.
Since the Euro tools are all the rage these days, it will be
interesting to see what washes up on shore in the next year or two.
IMHO, they will be really hard pressed to beat out the Domino for
originality and actual real life application.
But hey, I never saw that one coming, either.
.. snip of other good stuff
I think you are spot-on. I don't have a boat or a killer home theater
system, I have a well-equipped shop and a couple of old tractors that
comprise my hobbies. I think a lot of people who see Norm's shop see it as
unattainable as an all-at-once acquisition. I started with a few tools and
have added to them over the past 14 years. A few tools at a time or one at
a time, and pretty soon you aren't that far off of what the NYW has.
If you're going to be dumb, you better be tough
A couple old tractors, eh? There is nothing that warms an old farm boy's
heart like an old tractor. Brings back memories. Lots of stories
associated with old tractors. Any pictures you would like to share?
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