”What an honor is has been for me to be able to post these interviews. I think you’re going to enjoy this one!”
What is your inspiration story? Who did you watch, what was their hobby, and how did you get involved?
Who did I watch? Some guy named Roy Under-something-or-other. I don’t know if his show went anywhere, but I used to see him on PBS. He taught me that woodworking was all about taking your time, enjoying the feel of the wood and the smell of the shop, and occasionally cutting yourself. I watched those freckled fingers of his bleed on some of the most interesting projects, and I wanted a bench and a pile of shavings to call my own. But I was a kid, and my paper route didn’t leave money for tools, not when there was Big League Chew and baseball cards to buy! So I borrowed grandpa’s hand saw and a few bent nails and started sorting through the scrap pile. I used to have to ask permission to use every stick of wood, which usually meant waiting hours until he came home to grant it. And if that hand saw didn’t get hung right back on the peg I got it from, or worse yet, ever touched the ground, it meant certain death! But I made a lot of stuff with those scraps and that hand saw. I didn’t get a table saw until I was in my 30’s!
Power or hand tools? Why?
I love hand tools. But let’s be honest here… nobody has enough time or energy to use them exclusively. Hand planes feel great, who doesn’t love curls of shavings falling at their feet? But have you ever flattened and dimensioned an entire project worth of hardwood with hand planes? I grew up with a saw in my hand, but does anybody REALLY rip and re-saw everything that way? If God intended for us to use hand tools exclusively he wouldn’t have invented electricity. Hand tools are for making little projects when you’ve got nothing but time. I make most things with power tools, and pull out the hand tools for specific purposes. Don’t get me wrong, I really love the IDEA of hand tools. But you only have to flatten one hard maple board to say “forget this” and buy an electric jointer.
What advice would you give to someone just getting started in woodworking?
You should have started sooner! Seriously, woodworking is the greatest hobby in the world. It’s artistic, it’s genuinely useful, and the sawdust makes a great pillow stuffing. But a wonderful hobby like that lends itself to excess, so a newbie should be careful to avoid getting caught up in the hype. Don’t go out and buy a billion dollars’ worth of tools. I have cabinets full of the next great thing that never made it out of the box. Get a good used saw and learn how to use it without cutting off your fingers. You will be amazed at how much you can do with just a saw and a drill. Watch Steve Ramsey (Woodworking for Mere Mortals). I think everything in his house was built with a jig saw and a can of spray lacquer.
If you could build one thing, what would it be? What is your dream woodworking project?
An eighteenth century piece by one of the masters. Townsend, Goddard, Chippendale… something big with lots of carving and turned accents. Something like Charles Neil makes, except I want to do it with hand tools like the old timers did. Since you know about my limited endurance when it comes to hand tool woodworking, you can guess how likely that item is to get checked off the ol’ bucket list.
How did you come up with your nickname?
Stumpy Nubs? That information is top secret, but I will tell you this: It involved a chicken, a bottle of mecuricome, and three board feet of heart pine…
What inspires you regarding woodworking?
I know this might sound cheesy, but I really get inspired by the little orphans from the institution near my house who sneak out and come to my shop to ask me to teach them how to make things so they can… Forget it, nobody will buy that story… I wish I had something really inspiring to say about what inspires me, but I just think I work with wood because of what’s inside me, not because of what I see. I have always been an artistic person. I was a portrait artist before I was a professional woodworker. So woodworking gives me another way to be creative. I suppose if I had to answer, I would say that I am inspired by the pictures people post on places like Lumberjocks. I see what they are doing and it embarrasses me because so many things are way better than anything I have done! So I want to get better, to try new things, and to be a bigger part of the woodworking community.
What is the greatest reward that you have received from woodworking?
I am not going to say something cheesy this time. I’ve made projects for special people and special occasions, but I have never felt so good about my woodworking as just recently when Popular Woodworking asked me to write a book. Here I am, a nobody in the woodworking world, a circus clown who makes videos for entertainment, and the folks who really do know the craft think I have something useful to share. That was an honor I don’t think I will ever be able to top!
What is your favorite creation you’ve made in your woodworking?
It hasn’t been made yet. I know that sounds strange, but I am my own greatest critic. I am never happy with a project, not entirely. Maybe I am a perfectionist, maybe the work is legitimate crap, I don’t know. But if I was to give you a photo of a project, just about any project I’ve ever made, I would look at it later and nitpick it to death. I think a lot of woodworkers have that problem, at least I hope I’m not the only one!
How did you find LumberJocks and what is it that keeps you coming back?
I don’t remember how I found this site, but I’m glad I did. I like how the moderators are in the background rather than trying to be the center of every thread. I like how it is laid out, with lots of photo galleries and a very attractive home page. But, most of all, I like the enormous variety of styles and skill levels you find in the community here. I am a member of other communities, but I come here WAY more than anywhere else. I am not sure I’d change a thing about this site!
Host of Blue Collar Woodworking, a weekly internet show all about how regular woodworkers make their shop, tools and unique jigs work for them. Check it out sometime: http://www.stumpynubs.com
-- "Show respect even to people who don’t deserve it, not as a reflection of their character, but as a reflection of yours."