Dumbing down woodworking with the help of some online designers

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Forum topic by a1Jim posted 12-16-2015 04:25 PM 3850 views 0 times favorited 113 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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115177 posts in 2998 days

12-16-2015 04:25 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Hi Folks
Those of you that know me know most of the time I try and stay on a positive note,but this subject is a pet peeve of mine. As a woodworking teacher I’ve had to battle the idea of using butt joints and screws for every woodworking project. A big cause of these poor joinery ideas are from some bloggers and online designers This thing of Dumbing down the woodworking process is also a problem in that unless corrected by a place like LJs or other woodworking sites, folks think they’re making a good product either for themselves or even selling those kind of projects to others.

After having folks show me that I was being unfair to the person I previously named in this thread I have removed
her name from the title and the following verbage .

-- Custom furniture

113 replies so far

View Burb's profile


109 posts in 1791 days

#1 posted 12-16-2015 04:45 PM

I said the very things you just said many times regarding her work, and that of many in Pinterest.

I will add that you said it with less expletives…

-- I aspire to be a novice woodworker...

View jdh122's profile


878 posts in 2239 days

#2 posted 12-16-2015 04:46 PM

I think quite a few people have gotten into woodworking through tackling one of her projects, which are generally fairly easy. That’s got to count for something.
What gets me, though, is this issue of wood movement. She and her team have made these pieces and saw for themselves that a year (or two) later, big cracks appeared because the tabletop was not free to move. It seems close to dishonest to leave those same plans on the site.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

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291 posts in 1367 days

#3 posted 12-16-2015 04:47 PM

Hey, Jim. I don’t usually reply to your posts although I always find them interesting and thought provoking. I have some thoughts on this I’d like to share. Simply put – I DO think you’re being a bit of a woodworking snob although I don’t think that’s always a bad thing. I myself been accused of being a snob in a number of contexts. That said, I have a bit of a different take on White. I think of my son-in-law who is just starting out in woodworking. Until recently, he’s been working with the most basic of power tools (drill, circular saw, a few small clamps). Now he has miter and table saws and a router. His woodworking skills have improved but they often make me – well – twinge. I’ve tried to take the approach of suggesting he think of other ways of, say, joining or cutting or designing the next time while trying to encourage him to think positively of what he is working on now. While I am no expert now I am worlds better than I was when I first started out and one of the reasons I’ve kept at it and improved is the supportive critiques of close friends and folks like those of you here at LJs. Another is finding out the hard way that some techniques don’t work well. Trial and error. I guess in the case of White, the people who use her designs will find out what works and what doesn’t, but they have to start somewhere! Just my two cents.

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7656 posts in 2264 days

#4 posted 12-16-2015 04:48 PM


Have you seen “The American Woodworker?” He is sponsored by Kreg guess what he uses for Joinery? I am a snob. But that comes from my education by some masters.

When I got out of the army and went to school I needed some furniture. Two of my dad’s prized 1945 pine boards, some wood screws and two boards across the bottom to hold it together. Added some screw on danish modern legs and some finish. Not an heirloom but it served me well through 5 years of school?

Teaching people who want to learn is great. There are many “attractive” (April Wilkerson) personalities making a living with their online work. I have found some really great, not so attractive folks teaching by doing ( Andrew Pitts) . As long as these people are there and young people watch it will help what you do with hands on, when the joints go bust?

Otherwise Jim “Yep you’re a woodworking snob.” LOL!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

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2105 posts in 1594 days

#5 posted 12-16-2015 04:48 PM

Yes you’re probably being a bit of a snob, but if you are so am I. She is giving her audience what they want. I personally don’t understand the attraction to old door etc. as wall hangings. As far as barn wood goes if I use it it gets planed and the old gray goes away and you see the actual grain and color of the wood.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View pintodeluxe's profile


4825 posts in 2234 days

#6 posted 12-16-2015 04:55 PM

Nice of you to offer her some assistance. Too bad she didn’t take you up on it.

It is pretty common to see novice DIY folks make basic design and construction errors, but for a design company to make that mistake is unfortunate. I get that breadboards done with tenons are more difficult and outside the skill set of many people, but why not skip the breadboard if you’re not going to do it right.

Thanks for posting your thoughts.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

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87 posts in 1666 days

#7 posted 12-16-2015 05:01 PM

Spot on

-- if it is to be it is up to me

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2263 posts in 1791 days

#8 posted 12-16-2015 05:02 PM

I think her projects fall right between particleboard furniture from WalMart, and fine woodworking. The target audience is looking for something they can do without having to invest a ton of money/time, but is of better quality than particleboard bookshelves.

There are definitely some design aspects to her stuff that would cause potential longevity issues. Like you said, pocket-screwing a breadboard end on a table. That probably won’t last long, the pocket screws attach underneath, and the person sitting at the end of the table is applying leverage from the top. I think the majority of her stuff, even with the potential issues, would probably hold up pretty well.

I think the target audience probably doesn’t know about designing for wood movement, long-lasting joinery, etc. They might not care, if they did. This stuff will most likely outlast whatever they were going to buy and assemble. It also gives them the option to build something and personalize it, and say they made it.

Also, on her ‘About’ page, she mentions that this was her solution to not having much time/money. She says she build furniture, which I guess technically is true, but she doesn’t claim to build fine/heirloom furniture.

Now, I don’t sell my work, nor do I teach, so I may not have as much invested (both monetarily and emotionally) in this, but the way I see it is this :

At the end of the day, this doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t have an impact on the quality of woodworking I do. I think of friends of mine who can turn a screwdriver, and that’s about the extent of their DIY skills. They could probably tackle one of her projects, and feel pretty good about it, and get something usable that they’re proud to say they built. I’d even help them build it, I might make some suggestions along the way, but let them own it, and act more as an extra set of hands. I don’t have the time to spend with/for them making fine furniture, and they don’t have the money to pay me a respectable wage.

Plus, she’s kind of easy on the eyes, so that helps.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

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7925 posts in 1714 days

#9 posted 12-16-2015 05:06 PM

I don’t really have a problem with people wanting to go that route to DIY, but it bothers me when people try to compare what I do with stuff like that.

-- Mos - Twin Cities, MN - -

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Bill White

4408 posts in 3382 days

#10 posted 12-16-2015 05:08 PM

Jim, I’m in your court. No excuse for not promoting basics.


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202 posts in 672 days

#11 posted 12-16-2015 05:12 PM

Yes, you’re being a woodworking snob, but that’s okay because I agree with your sentiments.
However many people are happy with mediocre good enough stuff.
That’s the level she teaches at, and that’s what her audience is happy with.

Whatever floats her boat – and theirs…

If some in her audience find her craftsmanship sub par, they’ll move on and improve their skills somewhere else or on their own.

View Jerry's profile


1710 posts in 1069 days

#12 posted 12-16-2015 05:26 PM

Well, there’s two ways you could look at this:

1) When the pupil is ready, the master will appear.
2) Thou shalt not suffer a witch to “woodwork”.

Seriously, it seems that people find their own level in life. I can assure you that her “joinery” will speak volumes about her skill, and quickly. Those that want to do better will find LJ, and significantly because of your post here. LJ is the type of site that always gets to the top of search results, so your post here will serve as a beacon for those followers of hers that want to do better. You are now fighting fire with fire, I.E. Social media power with social media power. So great job Jim. Keep sending them cards and letters!

-- There are good ships and there are wood ships, the ships that sail the sea, but the best ships are friendships and may they always be.

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6470 posts in 1571 days

#13 posted 12-16-2015 05:28 PM

I don t really have a problem with people wanting to go that route to DIY, but it bothers me when people try to compare what I do with stuff like that.

- Mosquito

That’s my biggest problem as well. When people find out I do woodworking, they automatically assume I do the same stuff they see on pinterest armed with nothing but a circular saw and a kreg jig. I think it’s probably due to my age (27) and that I fit squarely in the demographic that sites like Ana White are aimed at. Most recently my neighbor that lives in front of me (who is one of those said people who builds pinterest furniture). He followed me into my garage while I got him a scraper for cleaning up some finish drips and ended up spending a good half hour in there while I explained various tools, woods, and showed my finished furniture that I had built upstairs.

The good news though is that now he is going to come over for some lessons, even though he’s about 10 years older than I am.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

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187 posts in 1618 days

#14 posted 12-16-2015 06:05 PM

Funny that you post this Jim. I only found her on youtube a few days ago. Her designs and skills fit her audience which are entry level/beginners. I also wonder if people are looking at her or her skill level.
At any rate, it did get her at least one episode on an Alaskan reality TV show which is suppose to air tonight or maybe it was yesterday. I’m not sure since I won’t watch so called reality shows. They’re garbage in my opinion.

With that said, if I want to see real woodworking skills, I view the people & projects here on LJ’s which I’ve done for several years now.

~Never under estimate the stupidity of the general public~

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15512 posts in 2755 days

#15 posted 12-16-2015 06:10 PM

Jim, when I started woodworking about 20 years ago I went in for for turning. I could get a finished product in a couple of hours. Now that was productive!

Soon after starting my new hobby my neighbor cut down a big sycamore tree and I promised him a bowl in return for part of the tree. I took the fresh logs and cut them up into disks about 4” thick with my chain saw. I took one to the lathe and turned a bowl for my neighbor right away. It wasn’t particularly good, but it was a bowl. About 3 days later I went to get another blank from my disk collection and I saw that all of them were cracked up radially.

I wanted to continue with my woodturning, but I realized that I needed to learn a few things. I’m still upset that those sycamore logs were wasted, so it was a good lesson.

I suspect that ms White’s followers might experience something similar. Some will give up and others will have learned some valuable lessons. It’s like my mom said, “hang out with the wrong people and you might wind up just like them”.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

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