Observations #1: Big Fish Small Pond

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Russel posted 11-08-2007 02:27 PM 1179 reads 0 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Observations series Part 2: Even the Bad is Good »

I just read Dennis’ entry about the Western Design Conference he went to (yeah I know I’m behind) where he described himself as a “mediocre woodworker” and that statement struck me as representative of LumberJocks.

Many years ago, in my formative years I wanted to be a musician. In my local area I was actually pretty good and had a bit of a reputation. Based on my interests, I went to a specialized school that would allow me to take college level music courses while still in high school. I thought I was pretty hot stuff.

Until I got there.

When I arrived, I found that the music department had a full symphony orchestra, 3 wind bands, 2 stringed orchestras, 4 choirs and a variety of specialized performance groups. After my audition, I found myself placed somewhere in the third level band. This small pond fish had just arrived in the big waters; what an eye opener.

It was probably one of the most educational experiences of my life. To realize that there is always somebody better was a valuable lesson.

Among my circle of acquaintances, I am quite the woodworker. Of course none of my friends actually do any woodworking so the pond is quite small. Once again I was a big fish in a small pond. When I first came across LumberJocks I was intimidated by what I saw and equated it with my high school music experience.

I was right.

This small pond fish had ventured into the big waters once again. The difference here is that the big fish don’t flaunt their bigness. Instead, they generally behave themselves as older siblings rather than superior species. The folks here are aware of their skills and proudly display them (as they should), but do not let their advanced knowlege become a status symbol.

I am enjoying my time here and learning skills and attitudes that can only do me good. If I behave and pay attention, I’m looking forward to the time when I too can be a “mediocre woodworker.”

-- Working at Woodworking

11 comments so far

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 3859 days

#1 posted 11-08-2007 03:53 PM

Amen Russell. I understand the big fish little fish scenario. Among my friends I am a really good woodworker and I get lots of praise and encouragement. But in reality I am just a hacker – I do ok, but I’m definetly a little fish. I came to Lumberjocks from other forums with hopes that I would find less egos and more help to improve my little fish syndrome. And I have! This is the best forum for help, information, encouragement, fun and friends. I know that I have already improved my woodworking by the tips and information I have gained here.

Every Lumberjock should stand up and pat themselves on their backs——and the rest of us should give the others a virtual pat on the back. We really are good people here.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View mrtrim's profile


1696 posts in 3843 days

#2 posted 11-08-2007 04:29 PM

i had a great laugh on your story , it reminded me of the time years ago a woodworking friend and i decided we would each build a project to enter in the rienbeck woodworking show ( its a juried show ) all our friends were looking at these projects and showering us with praise . by the time we got our projects in the truck and headed for new york we were puffed up like bullfrogs. so we get there and go in to see what we needed to do next and started looking at the other projects already there our egos were hit with a giant wrecking ball. long story short we decided to just leave our stuff in the truck and enjoy looking at some REAL woodworking !

View mot's profile


4911 posts in 3999 days

#3 posted 11-08-2007 04:42 PM

Good points about the general feel of There are some amazing talents that are well beyond the skill, talent and capabilities that I will ever possess, yet they are helpful, willing to teach, friendly and informative. It’s a “check you ego at the door,” sort of site. Nice post.

-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

View David's profile


1969 posts in 4101 days

#4 posted 11-08-2007 06:51 PM

Russell -

What an incredible sentiment to share. I agree with you whole heatedly. Lumberjocks is indeed a very special site. It is amazing to me that I can communicate with an awesome bunch of very talented woodworkers that so generously share their time and talent without making you feel intimidated.



View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 3925 days

#5 posted 11-08-2007 11:16 PM

Your stories remind me of the time in 1972 when I thought I was ready for the big time in the Cowboy Art field. I stopped in to visit with Johnny Hampton at his gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona. Johnny was one of the founding members of the Cowboy Artists of America. He was pretty kind to a cowboy from Wyoming who THOUGHT he could paint. He made a statement that I’ve always remembered, “The cowboys call us artists but the artists call us cowboys.” I hauled most of my stuff back to the hills but gained some insight and a couple good stories from one of the greats.

Russel, I think we all share your sentiments. the reason we are here is to learn. We learn as much from the beginners as the pros. I just studied videos with David, trim work with MrTrim and countless other learning experiences without spending a dime or leaving my chair. This is truly one of the great sites on the web and the reason is all of you who share and contribute to this community. Thank you one and all.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View TomK 's profile


504 posts in 3837 days

#6 posted 11-08-2007 11:51 PM

I couldn’t agree more. I’m a newbie here, but I’ve been made to feel welcome and encouraged by the folks here much more than any other woodworking site or forum I’ve visited. You guys (and gals) are terrific.

-- If you think healthcare is expensive now, wait until it's free! PJ O'Rourke

View Dadoo's profile


1789 posts in 3953 days

#7 posted 11-09-2007 12:19 AM

I agree with you Russell. But do you realize that we have almost 2000 fish in this pond? It’s been an excellent place for info and tips, and ideas. You learn something new everyday. Everywhere.

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4062 days

#8 posted 11-09-2007 07:36 AM

I really enjoy the LJ group. Everyone seems to be very genuine and I enjoy that. I am very passionate about what I do and love sharing it. And I love sharing in the trials and triumphs of other woodworkers. I have learned quite a bit from the group here and appreciate everyone.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View cajunpen's profile


14575 posts in 4028 days

#9 posted 11-09-2007 08:19 AM

I am in agreement with everyone. LJ is a group like no other on the internet – at least that I’ve found. We have some of the best craftsman in the world visiting this forum, and I have never seen one of them do or say anything that was not helpful to the readers. The techniques and tips shared on LJ is invaluable, I don’t know of anywhere in the world that you could come to one place and meet with other people with like interest/passion about woodworking. We have a very unique opportunity to hone our craft here. Thanks to everyone, as Thomas says we can learn from everyone that contributes.

-- Bill - "Suit yourself and let the rest be pleased."

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 3837 days

#10 posted 11-09-2007 08:27 AM

Great writeup Russel. You hit it right on the mark. We all need to humble ourselves sometimes, or someone else will for us.

-- Happy woodworking!

View DustyNewt's profile


671 posts in 3825 days

#11 posted 11-15-2007 02:20 PM

Very well written article. When I visit websites or go to a show, I see fantastic work that my mind immediately tells me, “Forget about it, you could never do something like that.” I am ready to give away all my tools and take up cooking or something. Then, I see a small detail, or a posting on LJ, and I say “Well, THAT was how it was done. I can do that.” One thing leads to another and before I know it people look at a piece I did and say, “I could never do that.” Everything is relative to how receptive your mind is. One step in front of the other gets you there. Thanks for the post.

-- Peace in Wood ~

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics