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by a1Jim
posted 02-29-2012 08:47 PM

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90 replies

90 replies so far

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1531 posts in 2659 days

#1 posted 02-29-2012 08:52 PM

Honestly, I don’t know many of those names you mentioned, as ww-ing is something still pretty new to me. However, Andy gets my vote in terms of fine woodworking. I’m more of a coarse woodworker myself.

-- Dan, Rochester, NY

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117063 posts in 3543 days

#2 posted 02-29-2012 08:59 PM

Thanks Dan your choice doesn’t have to be anyone I mentioned.
Andy’s a great choice

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View canadianchips's profile


2600 posts in 2963 days

#3 posted 02-29-2012 09:02 PM

Thankyou everyone from the acedem…..........................Ah crap, it wasn’t me.
A1jim, the best woodworker in real terms was my DAD. He was able to make a lot of things with pretty primitive tools (According to todays standards, )
I look at the architecture of Europeans ,Asians, Romans and I am perplexed. Completely in AWE at what those people years ago were able to build. It has lasted !
We do have well known people in North America as well, to name ONE is a difficult thing. Personal taste would decide which ONE I really think stands out.
Very good topic…I will follow this and learn even more. Thanks A1jim for starting this.

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

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4541 posts in 3040 days

#4 posted 02-29-2012 09:03 PM

Any effort to define the best has to be very subjective.

I personally know a guy who is extremely artistic in what he designs and builds. His workmanship is very good but would probably not qualify as “the best”. His artistic talent may qualify his as “the best”. Are we talking about great joints or great artistry?

I have great admiration for the old woodworkers who did such great work with virtually nothing but hand tools – often hand made hand tools. Does the state of the tools they had to work with figure into the decision?

Some woodworkers have access to and work with some incredibly beautiful pieces of wood. Others, work with more basic stock. Does the quality of the wood factor into this decision?

Do you only consider one or two exceptional pieces or do you consider their work in total?

How do you compare a complex piece of furniture (a complex desk for example) and an impressive turning?

My point is that this is very subjective and everyone will have their opinions.

Despite all my babbling – the woodworker I admire the most is Sam Maloof.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

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4816 posts in 3140 days

#5 posted 02-29-2012 09:14 PM

I’ve always defined the “Best” woodworker as the one with the greatest total number of posts, on


-- -- Neil

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5705 posts in 3198 days

#6 posted 02-29-2012 09:15 PM

Just IMHO mind you, but the best woodworkers ever are, or were…

Jesus of Nazareth. (Hey, you think he didn’t work in Joseph’s carpentry shop when he was a boy?)
My Grandpa H…
My great uncle Gilbert,
My Dad. Dad, Uncle Gilbert, and Grandpa furnished and accessorized several family homes with equipment that would be considered primitive by todays standards. I had no idea furniture was made of cheap plywood and particle board until after I got my first apartment and tried furnishing it on my own… Now their style and mine are radically different, but I will say this, I sure wish Dad was closer so I could spend some quality shop time with him while he’s still here…
That dude I saw making Jaguar masks on the road on the way to the pyramids at Chichen Itza. He could do things with, and I kid you not, a swiss army knife, and sand held in a banana leaf used as abrasive that would blow your mind!

I might be a little biased though…

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

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1531 posts in 2659 days

#7 posted 02-29-2012 09:16 PM

hahaha.. suck up!

-- Dan, Rochester, NY

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117063 posts in 3543 days

#8 posted 02-29-2012 09:18 PM

Good points Rich ,in spite of all my babbling that’s what I was trying say ,It’s all subjective.
Sam should sure be on the list.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

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15881 posts in 3300 days

#9 posted 02-29-2012 09:34 PM

Hi Jim. I can’t think how one could name the best. I think I agree with Rich that such a choice couldn’t be very objective.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

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8165 posts in 2543 days

#10 posted 02-29-2012 09:37 PM

Good one Neil.

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2656 posts in 2889 days

#11 posted 02-29-2012 09:40 PM

Never really thought about it Jim but it’s a good point to ponder.

-- Life is good.

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Joe Lyddon

10048 posts in 4018 days

#12 posted 02-29-2012 09:47 PM

Jesus of Nazareth. (Hey, you think he didn’t work in Joseph’s carpentry shop when he was a boy?) (I agree)

Sam Maloof – Woodworker… In his field… He redefined the Rocking Chair along with other chairs and furniture. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (you didn’t think I’d vote for anyone else… did you?)

Note: Jim said ”... who was…”
... but the title says “who’s” = who is … (???)

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

View Manitario's profile


2629 posts in 2849 days

#13 posted 02-29-2012 09:51 PM

That is a really tough call; I don’t know enough about “famous” ww to make any sort of suggestions; this month’s FWW mag features Jere Osgood; his creations are absolutely amazing, however I’ve seen my share of projects on LJ’s which are beautiful and incredible. Some stuff I can sort of imagining one day to have the skill to build, there’s a lot of projects on this site though that I can never imagine being able to build!

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3081 days

#14 posted 02-29-2012 09:56 PM

I think the best woodworkers has to be the waterbucket maker
he is judged several times a day to proof his new build bucket is thight
if we talk a single person …. but none of those we know the name on

and if there can be more than one who can have build a thing it most be the boatbuilders
since people littrely put there life in there hands

if it comes to furniture it has to be one that is a master of several trades in woodworking
both to design /build / turning/carving /veenering and finish how many can claim that now adays
compared to the old masters that made furnitures of high end to the realy rich including
queens and kings among those who did that there is several that is pretty much unknown to the mass

I have seen a few on L J

to find the best of the best will take years and a few $ (alot of them)to find out

take care

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5688 posts in 3274 days

#15 posted 02-29-2012 09:59 PM

Jesus of Nazareth? I don’t think he did much with this woodworking and I can’t ever remember hearing about any of his woodworking skills or what type of stuff he built…I believe he got his skills and his notarriety on other areas.

I agree with Rich..there are so many variables and areas of woodworking that make it hard to define under one title. So many people with so much talent and longevity building in so many different styles in their trade.

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Joe Lyddon

10048 posts in 4018 days

#16 posted 02-29-2012 10:02 PM

Greg… Whatever He did, you know it was Perfect. LOL

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

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1739 posts in 3696 days

#17 posted 02-29-2012 10:12 PM


Most of build things we’ve seen or copy someone else’s design, or even buy a design and build to the plan.
The really interesting and awesome stuff for me is the original work. People that come up with something never seen before, and build it really well.

Most of us have never really had a truly original thought. I know I’ll take flak for that statement, but I believe it to be true. The really amazing woodworkers have skill, talent, and can think miles ahead of the rest of us.

I don’t know who these people are off the top of my head, all I really know is, I’m not one of them.

Wait, you said best in my neighborhood? Well I’m pretty high up on that list. :) I think there’s only one other guy anywheres near here.

Thanks for making us think again Jim.


-- Mike - In Fort McMurray Alberta

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7836 posts in 3269 days

#18 posted 02-29-2012 10:24 PM

wow jim, you really hurt me on this one…i thought i was, based on what i know of my skills and then others…LOL…LOL… im a legend in my own mind…….....yes your right, when i see the works of the great ones , ive seen so many who i thought were just fantastic and know i wont ever reach there skill level…but i know for sure ive seen some very good craftsmen on this web site…but who is the best, well i think joe has got, good luck in finding out who it might be, maybe some real close ones will be revealed in this thread…good post jim… p.s…and besides…ive never seen a man look so good in a red dress then me, and wear a tool belt…LOL..

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

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198 posts in 2594 days

#19 posted 02-29-2012 10:31 PM

Maloof. He was a master with wood and with people. His style is unique and he was truly an artist. The lines and joinery in his furniture are unmatched IMO.

-- Kevin, South Carolina

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3103 posts in 2252 days

#20 posted 02-29-2012 10:41 PM

Let’s not forget those who came before us with no power tools at all. No hand planers either. I don’t think any modern woodworker can begin to stack up to those guys.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

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376 posts in 3110 days

#21 posted 02-29-2012 10:50 PM


Short and obvious list.

Tage Frid, for re-introducinng us to the Danish Workbench
George Nakashima/Gentaro Hikogawa, introduced traditional Japanese woodworking to America
Sam Maloof, goes without saying
Gustav Stickley, father of the Craftsman Style
Greenes/Halls, contemporary classics

And lets not forget James Krenov.

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5705 posts in 3198 days

#22 posted 02-29-2012 10:53 PM

Actually my point about Jesus was the influence on woodworkers. Not specifically regarding woodworking, but he sure did have an impact. (Not a comment on religion, rather a comment on the historical person and impact…)

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

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1829 posts in 2355 days

#23 posted 02-29-2012 11:00 PM

I gotta say Noah, I am not sure what gopher wood is, but hos ark was tight and that was before the days of steam bending and such.

I think the best is very difficult to determine, we can say the most artistic, or the most utilitarian, or the most cost effective. I love the work of Gustav Stickley. I don’t think we can leave out Antonio Stradivarius for his violins and Zacharias Hildebrandt who built Bach’s organ.

-- Haming it up in the 'bash.

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20923 posts in 2770 days

#24 posted 02-29-2012 11:04 PM

a very good idea Jim. My thoughts are my Uncle Herm. He was an incredible craftsman, but, nobody else knows of him because he wasn’t on tv, or in any magazines. I still have an LP cabinet that he made for me on my 18th b-day (we won’t say how long ago that was), that resides in my shop, and every glance at that cabinet, I get inspired by Uncle Herm. My $.02
It really isnt anything fancy, but, to me, it means a bunch. Here is the cabinet:

some inlay that he did. I know they have this stuff in places like Woodcraft nowadays, so I don’t know if he actually made it, or if he bought it. I’ll never know.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

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2712 posts in 2272 days

#25 posted 02-29-2012 11:08 PM

I am of the mindset that there is no one that can be called the best, everyone has their area in woodworking where they excel, and certainly there are many who excel in every area of woodworking. For me it’s not so much the craftsmanship but the one who has the patience, the focus and the design ability to start from a few hunks of wood or boards and create something that was only an image in their mind. Every one here to me is the best woodworker…. Ok if you make me choose I would go with Norm Abram, as he was a big influence in my obsessive hobby, that’s what makes him the best to me.

-- Martin ....always count the number of fingers you have before, and after using the saw.

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117063 posts in 3543 days

#26 posted 02-29-2012 11:16 PM

It can be tough Mike
Joe If you read all my post I’m sure you could spend years correcting my grammar and spelling. :))
Ok Neil I’m not on the list LOL
Greg I think Jesus might have been a carpenter but I don’t see a lot of wood in those old middle east homes,so carpentry would have been a broad description of what Jesus had done in his earlier years.
Mike I guess the projects that all of the members want to copy are originals aren’t they? Like Andy boxes and degooseies boards . :))
Bob I meant to list you right along side John townsend LOL
Kevin Sam sure should be on the list
Russ that;s who the Townsend’s were all hand tools and some of their furniture has sold in the 20 million dollar range.
Nathan every one on your list is on mine too good choices,

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

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#27 posted 02-29-2012 11:35 PM

I do not think that he necessarily is the best woodworker around but lately I have been watching videos from Paul Sellers and I really like his approach to wood working: very simple and very effective.
If I was to “copy” a woodworker that would be Paul Sellers.

-- Bert

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8519 posts in 2808 days

#28 posted 02-29-2012 11:57 PM


Boy are you a troublemaker! LOL Glad you widened the club! There are many masters of woodworking. I look at them in different catagories. Then there is that personal filter we screen things through? I think we also, like you said, now recognize and appreciate how someone puts a structure together, as well as what the structure makes us feel? My Uncle was a hunter/fisherman guide in Northern wisconsin. He built furniture, cabins, his home all from WWII crate lumber as my dad said it was better than could be bought at the lumber yard. He and my dad had an influence, and i still have hand tools I was shown how to use “properly”. :) There I feel nastalga (sp?) and appreciation. I appreciate the deft and skill of Charles Neil, And then there is the “New Yankee” who was my only mentor. As I got more interested and serious I investigated Taig Fried, Fred Marks took me into another place, but James Krenov’s expressed love of the making of furniture hooked me. My friend Kintaro Yazawa is the master of joinery!

I also have come to LJ’s and find many inspiring,masterful woodworkers, Andy and Greg? Benji Reeyes, and watching Andyboy build something leaves me mezmorized. And these folks make me wanna be a good woodworker! I have a big list, but I’m gonna stop now LOL!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

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Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2327 days

#29 posted 03-01-2012 12:28 AM

Great topic, Jim. To my way of thinking, guys who can cut the perfect dovetail and apply the flawless finish are a dime a dozen. On the other hand, the person who can create a unique and beautiful design that becomes a furniture icon is the true master craftsman. It doesn’t matter if he is the one who actually makes the piece, though if he does, he’s due greater esteem. There’s no one best. Recent examples include Morris, MacIntosh, Greene & Greene, Stickley, Thonet, Maloof, Krenov, and Nakashima, to name just a few. And LJs is not without its own representation of folks who do beautiful work.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

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7966 posts in 2764 days

#30 posted 03-01-2012 12:55 AM

There are so many unknown masters. We can only speak of those who have become famous enough to have their names remembered. For me there is no best, nor can there be but I have a tremendous admiration for the old boatbuilders, Frank Honour and Leif Gunderson to name only two, who taught me how to build wooden boats.
You’ve never heard of them but their work was amazing.

-- Paul M ..............If God wanted us to have fiberglass boats he would have given us fibreglass trees.

View a1Jim's profile


117063 posts in 3543 days

#31 posted 03-01-2012 01:33 AM

Hey Bert ,Paul Sellers is a new name to me but that’s what was hoping for is some new experts ,

Tom me a trouble maker ? LOL It’s great to hear about your family members that inspired you too. All the folks you brought up have inspired me too,except I didn’t know your dad and uncle. I’m glad your feeling nostalgic an appreciation ,it just so happens we have a special on that this week only$110 pay the secretary on the way out LOL

Client Very good point about designing , now I know why I only get a dime for those dozens of things I make :)
I get your point and agree with your list of great furniture makers and designers,

Paul those unsung mentors is what it’s all about.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

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709 posts in 2904 days

#32 posted 03-01-2012 01:57 AM

I haven’t got a clue who”s the best, But the one thing I do know is just about everyone is better than me. I don’t though mind I have no place to go but up…............................Schloemoe

-- schloemoe, Oregon , http://www.

View DocSavage45's profile


8519 posts in 2808 days

#33 posted 03-01-2012 01:58 AM

Lj’s brings the world woodworkers to my door. Some recent posts by some of the russian woodworkers is tremendous. My friend Kintaro Yazawa, has been nominated Master Woodworker of Miazaki, Japan.

$110? must be a 40% discount.

Be interesting to see if the people I admire here like Paul share who guided their travels.

Oh yeah I started making sawdust. Really fine sawdust, and it’s a start.

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View lysdexic's profile


5254 posts in 2589 days

#34 posted 03-01-2012 03:03 AM

Al: aka “Bertha” gets my vote

If I could only be half the wood worker that he is; then I would be less than half as good as I am now.

-- "It's only wood. Use it." - Smitty || Instagram - out_of_focus1.618

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555 posts in 3247 days

#35 posted 03-01-2012 03:30 AM

Grinling Gibbons

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#36 posted 03-01-2012 03:34 AM

I have been following Jeffrey J. Williams and Patrick Edwards

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#37 posted 03-01-2012 03:42 AM

My vote is for Sam Maloof

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

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#38 posted 03-01-2012 03:53 AM

Thank you all for your thoughts and Jim for bringing it all up.

I like Rich’s comments. There are many factors which can be considered. Tools, materials, beauty vs practicality of outcome, cost, originality, etc. Someone brought the fact of most things being both original and copied. Since it’s free, I’ll buy that. Beauty can be found in the extravagant, or the simple both in their own way. I’ve seen much of that here by all y’all

I read a bit about Maloof online recently and believe he was an artist, a pioneer and a heck of a craftsman. But if you take a look at Ramon’s work here at LJ, his chairs are pretty sick too, in a good way of course.

In terms of practicality, and often beauty, boat builders and luthiers have to be mentioned, someone brought up the Strads earlier. I haven’t seen it mentioned yet, but weren’t those WWI airplanes made of wood mostly? Had I been a pilot then, I know who I would hope was the best wood worker.

By the way, please forgive my ignorance, but the fellow that came up with this concept that led to this LJ community is high on my list as I learn and get inspiration most times I get online here.

-- Dreaming of the day I might joint two pieces of wood square..........

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Jim Jakosh

20295 posts in 3071 days

#39 posted 03-01-2012 03:58 AM

Jim, that is tough one to pick. So many people specialize and they are the best at that special kind of work. I think you are looking for an overall woodworker and I cannot name one particular name. I am amazed by the talent on Lumberjocks and that person may very well be in our club here but I cannot pick just one person.

It is a good thing to to think about but I cannot come through for you!

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

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1782 posts in 2530 days

#40 posted 03-01-2012 04:02 AM

Lot of inspiring people here, but how about tim the tool man taylor and al borland?

haha. I have to say someone who probably most amazed me was a man I met named Steve a few years back who worked for the Prince’s [Charles] Trust and was part of a 500 year old guild and was especially trained in medieval carpentry. Not exactly fine woodworking, but man did he know how to work wood.

-- It's made of wood. Real sturdy.--Chubbs Peterson

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#41 posted 03-01-2012 04:07 AM

To begin I truely think that the first time I watched my dad build something I thought was imposible, I new then he was the greatest. But after having travel around the country and met some of the best back alley woodworkers and turners, opened my computer and saw Sam Maloof’s work and many other of his caliber, They all are very great woodworkers, because they stired the desire to strive to be the best I can be. There are several on LJ’s, because they stir us to go one more level, try new things.

-- Bob in Montana. Kindness is the Language the blind can see and deaf can hear. - Mark Twain

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573 posts in 2278 days

#42 posted 03-01-2012 04:20 AM

Tough topic, that is for sure!

Of the people I know, when I have seen their work, I am right up there. But they are mostly doing furniture- I am mostly doing boxes. Apples to oranges.

I had the pleasure of being around Frank Klaus several times. I now kick myself in the butt that I didn’t watch closer when he was hand cutting dovetails. In fairness- I was supposed to be working (a ww show-). He is certainly worthy of your list.

Sam Maloof, both by the examples of his work I’ve seen, and by reputation, should be on that list.

Norm! Not that he is a huge talent in ww skills, I think he would tell you that he is not the best at all. But he gets special consideration for bringing our wonderful (work? hobby?) to so many people. I suspect the folks at Delta will join me in that sentiment. Norm has probably indirectly sold more power tools than anyone! And if we want to extend that thinking a little- he may have helped populate the used machine market too, when guys found out that Norm had more going for him than just fancy cast iron.

We can probably put Roy Underhill on that list too, both for his dogged determination to remain historically accurate, his skill in a variety of areas, and his success at sharing it with us.

my $.02. I’ll go to bed now.

-- Dan V. in Indy

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woodshaver Tony C

5905 posts in 3319 days

#43 posted 03-01-2012 05:38 AM

I just asked my wife and she said “Forgetaboutit…. It’s not you” ! “(

-- St Augustine FL, Experience is the sum of our mistakes!

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4255 posts in 3126 days

#44 posted 03-01-2012 05:46 AM

To me, yes they would have to have the skills to build great pieces, but there are many other factors that would be required to earn the “best woodworker” title. Does that person even exist?

They should have the humility to not think too much of themselves. They need the desire to coach others to do their best work. They need to be able to create a new design whether it be old stuffy museum pieces or modern works of art. They need to understand the mechanics, advantages, and disadvantages of different joinery. And they also need the ability to think on their feet when something goes wrong. This is not exhaustive, but it is a start to what would get my admiration.

I don’t know if even Norm met all of my requirements. I know many of the new folks don’t. As Paul mentioned, there are many unknown great woodworkers. That being said, I have been impressed recently with Gary Rogowski.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

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#45 posted 03-01-2012 06:17 AM

Mirror, Mirror, on the wall who’s the finest woodworker of them all?

View Kenny 's profile


260 posts in 2414 days

#46 posted 03-01-2012 07:15 AM

In my opinion, the best ever was no doubt John Townsend of Goddard-Townsend fame. There is simply no denying the fact that many of his pieces are that which everything else is judged by. As well, his pieces sell for more than any other traditional furniture ever made.
And when you consider the time in which he lived and the technology they had back when he was alive and building, it makes it that much more incredible.

Sorry, I just do not feel he can be questioned as the best or even challenged in any way. He simply built the masterpieces of the world of fine furniture.

Really, what could possibly equal the Newport Six Shell Secretary? It’s the Holy Grail of furniture! And it sold for over $12,000,000!

And the you have the Townsend clock, the chest-on-chest, the bureau table, all gorgeous masterpieces, and all built by hand, with hand tools, long before any power tools would ever be developed.

I agree there are many masters of the craft living today, and may others who have lived. But when it comes to the absolute best, John Townsend of Goddard-Townsend fame was certainly the best.

Just my opinion, others may vary, and I take no offense to that.

As for the “woodworking celebrities” like Abrahm, McDonald and Marks, they’re good, but I think my buddy Charles Neil is better. He just doesn’t have a mainstream tv show to make himself as well known. Though I feel he can out-build any of the three.

Don’t get me wrong, the others have talents, but gilding something and slopping some chemicals on it does not make you a good woodworker. It may make you an artist, but not a great woodworker. Mr. Marks has made some nice furniture, but he’s drifted so far away from that and into this whole other realm that is so far from building furniture, that I’m not even sure he could be accurately classified as a “woodworker” any more. I understand being creative, but following the money is a whole other deal altogether. And when you charge a “consultation fee” to give advice on the phone, you can not deny following the money.

-- Kenny

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215 posts in 2275 days

#47 posted 03-01-2012 11:51 AM

A guy stiopped by the shop the other day. Gave me his card It said, master wood craftsman on it. Very impressive! I’ve sawed up a forest in my time. So my question is where do i go to be a master wood craftsman?

-- What started as a hobbie is now a full time JOB!

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#48 posted 03-01-2012 11:56 AM

Try your best, do your best, enjoy doing what you’re doing and you are the best woodworker.

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#49 posted 03-01-2012 12:45 PM

I think his name was Damit. Pretty sure his name has been spoken of in every wood shop.

-- Billp

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#50 posted 03-01-2012 12:52 PM

I would definitely say the old masters of an era gone. Just looking at this Louis XIV piece would show you that it took some excellent skills, using mostly hand tools and some foot/animal operated equpment to build this style of furniture.

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