My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #151: More on Changes

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 11-01-2010 12:50 PM 3958 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 150: Dealing With Change Part 151 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 152: Some Decisions are Difficult to Make »

I very much enjoyed reading your responses to my blog yesterday. You all brought up some excellent points that I want to respond to and I hope you don’t mind if I continue the discussion here. There were many good points made and I would love to talk about some of them.

As Tom said – balancing the old practical with the new technical is something to think about, and has raised several questions around here since I have been here. A couple of months ago, the discussion was brought up as to things made with a CNC were considered ‘hand made’. It seems to me that there is an ever changing fine line as to what is considered hand crafted and what is not. Many people see CNC projects as manufactured type items because of the tools involved in their creation. But where then do we draw the line?

Do we consider Jordan’s beautiful war shirt as being ‘manufactured’ because he uses a Dremel to create it? Or Martyn’s impossible boxes manufactured because he uses power tools? Even my own scroll sawn items are created with a saw that is powered by electricity and a motor. Is it considered more hand creafted if I used a pedal saw? What criteria dictates where we draw the line between ‘hand made’ and ‘manufactured’?

Woodworkers use jigs all the time for a variety of purposes. Does the use of the jig to help them make more precise work make things less ‘hand made’ than if someone used hand tools and no jigs to create them? Again – where is the boundary?

In answer to Martyns question regarding demographics of scroll sawyers, I don’t have exact figures, but I believe the last time I saw some numbers it appears that the vast majority of scroll sawyers are males over 50 years old. Considering my customer base, I feel that it is a pretty accurate figure. I have seen confirmation of this both in the shows that I have attended in the past and also from my own customer base, as well as with speaking to others in the industry. Although it is not the main driving force, I try to consider this when both designing my patterns, and pricing them. Many scroll sawyers are retired and on fixed incomes.

I believe that one of the reasons scroll sawing appeals to many people is because as far as woodworking goes, it is a relatively inexpensive hobby to have, as all you really need is a scroll saw and a drill or drill press. Most of you know that I do the majority of my scroll work right in my kitchen. You can make a project start to finish with these tools and not need to invest a fortune or have a large area set aside for a shop. It is a great way to be involved in woodworking without have to make a huge investment.

I find my own customer base to be a bit more diversified than the previously mentioned figures. I see both women and men as customers, as well as many younger people. This group includes women who enjoy painting and want to cut their own wood, younger men who work and want a Saturday hobby, and also some hard-core woodworkers of both sexes who are looking for ways to embellish their other projects or just expand their knowledge. If I choose to look at things in a positive manner, I look at this with hope that more people are looking to go back to their creative roots and that scroll sawing and woodworking in general is on the rise for these younger age groups and also for women.

You need to understand though that my customer base is mainly made up of a focused, although growing group. Nearly all of my retail sales consist of sales through my site and the internet. That factor alone filters the results severely. While many more seniors and elderly people are now owning computers and ordering online, I still find that there are a great many more that don’t. I have several customers who don’t feel comfortable ordering online and I am happy to call them on the phone for orders. Does this necessarily have to do with their age? Perhaps not, but I do think that older folks are more leery of ordering online and the internet in general. These are in no way scientific findings, but they are only my own personal observation from my own experiences with my customers and speaking with others from other areas in the industry. I am sure I will have a better answer after I return from the show in March and am able to see the demographics of the attendees first hand.

On a final thought for today, I agree with the need for constantly updating a business to keep up with the times. Things change so fast in our world, and with the goal of any business being able to appeal to the masses, it is very important no matter what your business is to be able to adapt and change along with it. Although people find comfort and security in nostalgia, the lure of technology and innovation seems to win out every time. Businesses that are unwilling or incapable of being fluid and flexible soon become stagnant and die.

I am somewhat surprised that some of the magazines haven’t put forth more of an effort to develop websites and internet sales. Personally, I would think that it would be the next step in their growth and sustainability. Although I must say, the painting magazine that just failed did offer online subscriptions to an online version of the magazine. A virtual magazine if you will. However (and I may be wrong) the cost for the online issue was the same as the paper issues, or very close. And I wonder what those virtual subscribers will have to show for it now? How would you use your virtual magazines for reference if they no longer exist? I don’t know if the issues were able to download on their own computers. Certainly there are still flaws in that system that need to be worked out. What troubled me also was when I went to their site after hearing of their closing, they were still accepting subscriptions. You would think that would be one of the first things they would have disabled on their site.

There is a lot to think about regarding the future of any business. I truly enjoy hearing all of your opinions and thoughts on these issues. It is great to hear the many different opinions and observations you all have from your experiences. I very much appreciate your input.

I hope you all have a wonderful and productive Monday!

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

7 comments so far

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 3000 days

#1 posted 11-01-2010 06:32 PM

Some hope there, then. Woodworking seems not to be mostly old fools like me. I am not arrogant enough to believe that woodwork should continue because its what I do and therefore of prime importance, its more that I hope it continues because I get a lot out of it and I hope others do too. If its not ‘there’ in the future there will be one less thing that people could enjoy. I’ll be interested in what you find out at the show. I for one hope my worst fears for the future are not realised.

I like to see change happening. If something doesn’t change it dies or is as good as dead. I’m sure the same arguments about new tools and materials have all happened before. Flint knappers moaning about the new Bronze weapons, traditionalists used to using hide glue objecting to PVA etc. etc. I embrace new technology. In my opinion it doesn’t detract from the process of making things but broadens the possibilities of what can be achieved. At the very least the accuracy needed in some of my designs would be difficult, if not truely impossible, to achieve. Others may think the use of machinery a cheat. They are entitled to their opinion. Just as I am entitled to mine, which is that it is not. Example, you cannot get to the moon by ladder, you can by rocket.

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View Steven Davis's profile

Steven Davis

118 posts in 2878 days

#2 posted 11-01-2010 06:49 PM

Be cautions about what you find at the shows – just as with the Internet, the audience for industry shows reflects who goes to the event, not the population / potential market as a whole.

It is an interesting question as to what is the future of woodworking. I would think for talented crafts(folk) such as you and Martyn, there are going to always be opportunities as skill, art, and craft are valued for their uniqueness.

The “mass market” for scroll sawing and woodworking may be fading, or shrinking, to a new level, however.

A better estimate of the market would be the number of scroll saws sold per year… I would think that for scroll saws especially, the industry would have a real vested interest in supporting the sale of patterns and such to push their product.

I’m totally amazed by the crazy new sewing machines that are out there! Clearly, one could imagine doing something similar with scroll saws.

-- Steven Davis - see me at

View woodcraftertom's profile


38 posts in 2816 days

#3 posted 11-01-2010 08:40 PM

I don’t think that woodworking will ever run out of folks wanting to create and work with natures products. Their numbers may dwindle a little but the demand for wood, tools, and pattern designers will always be there. People like you, Sheila help to keep the interest alive. I do not think acurate numbers can be obtained from the number of saw sold since many buy the saws and then lose interest and the equipment just sits in their basements. I do believe that with the newer equipment,creative designs, and challenging techniques along with people to pass along the teaching of the art of woodworking, there is alot of hope for the future. There will always be changes to the way we do things but that isn’t always a bad thing.

View William's profile


9949 posts in 2806 days

#4 posted 11-02-2010 01:10 AM

While I believe woodworking will always be around in one capacity or another, I fear the future of such things as scrolling, for example.
There is presently nowhere in my hometown to buy a scroll saw. Home Depot held on to the Ryobi Scroll saw for a while there, but the quality of it (or lack of) I believe is what killed it locally. As Home Depot is the most major hardware store here, I also must mention that Rigid discontinued their scroll saw.
I could drive to Jackson. The only scroll saw they have at Lowes isn’t worth the cost. Another store, where I bought my Delta, hasn’t got an employee that even knows what a scroll saw is.
There is also nowhere to buy my blades. I have had to start planning ahead and being sure to mail order my blades ahead, before my stock runs too low.
The only way to get Creative Woodworking And Crafts (my favorite scrolling literature) locally is to catch the magazine lady putting out magazines at Home Depot and ask her to get it off the truck for you.
I do hope I am wrong. I fear though that the younger generation just doesn’t have the patience to do detailed work. The few that do, like some of my kids, have the problem of getting equipment. I have resorted to planning ahead. I now have two Delta saws so that if one tears up, I can use the other while I search for parts to repair the first one, so I can put it up for a spare.


View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9222 posts in 2884 days

#5 posted 11-02-2010 12:26 PM

As always, thank you for your feedback. I think you all have very valid points.

I am excited by change and improvements in tools. It is thrilling for me to see what new things are on the market and it usually sets my mind racing as to how I am going to utilize them in my new designs. Although there are many times when the ‘old methods’ are great for accomplishing certain things, I can’t help but want to try new things. I have always been fascinated by an Incra jig, for example. I know that they have been around forever and I wonder about their effectiveness because I rarely see work that has been done using them, even in vast places such as here at LJ’s. I love the idea of being able to set things up so accurately and precisely, although I don’t know if it is just sales hype or reality. It is something that I will need to look into much deeper before actually considering buying one.

I also find that scroll saws are difficult to find. Our stores here have few and the quality of the machines that they sell are very low. It is no surprise that someone who may want to get started on the hobby will give it up quickly. One thing I stress when recommending a saw is getting the best one you can afford. I recommend the DeWalt to many because it is mid-price as far as saws go, yet performs as well as the top of the line model (well – nearly as well, I feel) It is important to make a new experience fun and relaxing so people will want to continue on.

I agree that the shows will have another slanted demographic of participants. I believe that all aspects of scroll sawing should be considered when assessing its growth or decline – pattern sales, magazine sales, saw sales and attendance at shows. If we are getting younger people involved, wouldn’t it make sense that they have full time jobs or families to consider and getting to a show could be difficult? There are so many factors to consider. I hope though to speak with others in the industry, such as some of the other editors for the magazines and the tool sales people, and get a good idea on things.

There is room on my pink cloud for Martyn and any others who want to join me in hoping and being optimistic that woodworking will again see a healthy rebound. My own personal belief is that in lean times, people look to themselves to be more creative. Where previously they may have purchased gifts for others, they may now choose to make them themselves. If I can help them or inspire them in any way whatsoever, then good for me.

One can hope :)


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View Steven Davis's profile

Steven Davis

118 posts in 2878 days

#6 posted 11-02-2010 09:38 PM

I think there is a growing opportunity for true crafts(people) such as you and Martyn, but I am not sure about the hobby…. that you will see more and more sales of your final products and stable to falling sales of patterns (or tutorials or books or articles)... aggravated by people doing “stuff” for free on the Internet.

-- Steven Davis - see me at

View BertFlores58's profile


1694 posts in 2886 days

#7 posted 11-04-2010 01:56 AM

I just read today your view, a bit late because I spend vacation somewhere in a tiger zoo..

The downside of woodworking…. green house effect … difficult … fast growing metal and plastics… the tradition that slowly being forgotten by the young (electric guitars vs acoustic).... etc.. However if I will examine the rise of these things it will just lead to one thing too … clients or user friendliness. If there is only a client who can be satisfied with the wood products…. there will be no end. Blame it on the masss produce manufacturers.. the use of MDF that bulge when wet… the plywood…. wall paper…. vinyl veneers.. the glue that stick then crack… these then put the woodworking at failing industry. The customer will buy fiberglass just because buying furnitures from low quality MDF furniture will now erase his likeness in wood. The hardwood are very seldom in the market and quite expensive anyway.

I am glad that most of us in LJ believed in the quality concern. Let us also educate those buyers for they are the biggest part of how this woodworkering will last.

Thanks for all above comments.. It increase my knowledge.

-- Bert

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