Another Word on Criticism

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Forum topic by CharlieM1958 posted 09-24-2010 07:38 PM 2945 views 1 time favorited 75 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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16280 posts in 4416 days

09-24-2010 07:38 PM

When I was in kindergarten, the old nun who was the school principal came walking through the classroom one morning, checking out the pictures everyone was busy coloring with their crayons. I heard heard her issuing the usual compliments to other kids about how pretty their drawings were. I happened to be the youngest child in class, and somewhat behind the curve in terms of motor skill development. My coloring was poor, ragged, outside the lines, and I knew it.

When she finally approached my desk, she looked down at my scribbling, made a face, and said “Oh… that’s ugly.” I promptly wadded it up into a ball, and let Sister Agnes have it right in the chest. She didn’t react well. I was sent to the office, and my mother was called to come pick me up and bring me home for the rest of the day. The year was 1963, and I suspect I was the first four-year-old (and maybe the last) ever suspended from kindergarten for delinquent behavior.

To the folks who dislike “attaboy” comments, I hope this serves to give some perspective on why I make them. If someone posts a project that obviously leaves a lot of room for improvement, I assume one of two things is true: Either they are so out of touch with reality that nothing I say is going to make a difference, or, more likely, they know their project has some rough edges, but they are simply doing the best they can for now. If they spend any time at all looking at the projects on this site, they will see what they want to create, try to imitate, and get better by practicing, reading, and asking questions. Me pointing out that their miters have gaps is probably just going to make them feel like that old nun made me feel.

On the other hand, if someone posts a project that is quite skilfully built, but has some design elements I don’t particularly care for, how am I helping that person by disagreeing with his or her own artistic vision?

I know there are some good arguments to be made for critiquing each other’s work. I continue to encourage everyone to offer criticism on my projects as they see fit. I promise…. I’ve gotten over Sister Agnes. :-) But I do think that knowing when, where, and how to offer critique on this site is one of those many things in life that are easier said than done.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

75 replies so far

View Eric_S's profile


1565 posts in 3393 days

#1 posted 09-24-2010 07:43 PM

It reminds me of Billy Madison.

Billy Madison: Well, I made the duck blue because I’d never seen a blue duck before and I wanted to see one.
Miss Lippy: Well, I think it’s an excellent blue duck. Congratulations Billy, you just passed the first grade.

-- - Eric Noblesville, IN

View TheDane's profile


5545 posts in 3861 days

#2 posted 09-24-2010 07:47 PM

Charlie—I agree whole-heartedly. Well said!

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View patron's profile


13640 posts in 3539 days

#3 posted 09-24-2010 07:48 PM

well said , charlie

we all have a different path
regardless of how parallel they may seem

to each his own

and a kind word
goes a long way

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View PurpLev's profile


8547 posts in 3847 days

#4 posted 09-24-2010 07:48 PM

I agree, and come to the conclusion, that unless I am familiar with the poster, and he/she with me, and we are comfortable critiquing one another – I simply will not comment on such projects – unless they implicitly ask for it

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18388 posts in 3874 days

#5 posted 09-24-2010 07:52 PM

Well said Charlie. I hope the sister recovered from her wound, yoiu didn’t say. :-))

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View ellen35's profile


2739 posts in 3631 days

#6 posted 09-24-2010 07:56 PM

Well said, Charlie… I think I had Sister Agnes too… but I was too scared to take her on!
Why be nasty… there is always something to like about a project, if nothing else, the fact that someone wanted to share it with some 20,000 other woodworkers!

-- "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Voltaire

View NBeener's profile


4816 posts in 3372 days

#7 posted 09-24-2010 07:58 PM

Well said, Charlie.

The only things that you’d really have to know, in order to give constructive criticism, and have it be well received are:

- everything about the personality of the person whose project it was,
- what kind of mood they’re in on the given moment that you might offer up constructive criticism, and
- how to word constructive criticism in such a way as to preclude even the possibility of it being taken wrong.

There. Now how hard can THAT be ;-)

Incidentally, I live a few miles from Sister Agnes, these days. She STILL has a bruise, there. Ever thought about major league ball ? I bet you throw a MEAN fastball :-)

-- -- Neil

View Brandon's profile


4152 posts in 3150 days

#8 posted 09-24-2010 08:01 PM

I was going to say, “Well said, Charlie” but five people already beat me to it! So instead, thumbs up to you.

-- "hold fast to that which is good"

View lilredweldingrod's profile


2496 posts in 3305 days

#9 posted 09-24-2010 08:08 PM

Hear, Hear, Charlie,
Like our parents told us as youngsters, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything.”
I’m just getting started in woodworking and I have a long road ahead of me to even approach the talent I see here. And even I can see the difference in true talent and ability, and kindergarten level talent and ability.(me being in the latter). Even an atta boy here and there is encouragement for us newbies to try harder.
The members I appreciate the most, are the approachable ones that are willing to offer gentle critiques and encouragement.
We all make mistakes everyday. And we know it. We don’t need to have it hammered in over and over. It is much more upbuilding to have guidance to improve our abilities and knowledge of woodworking.
The first to correct me on another forum was a true gentleman, knotscott. I followed him here and have not left. I have found many gentlemen and gentle-ladies here that are fantastic mentors, critics and teachers.
Charlie, your help and suggestions on my little project were invaluable, and I thank you. I could run several pages just listing the names of other friends I have made here.
It is as the Bible says, “A gentle word turns away wrath.” Thank you senior woodworkers for your gentle words. Please know that I appreciate you and your leadership eminently. Thank you, Rand

View CharlieM1958's profile


16280 posts in 4416 days

#10 posted 09-24-2010 08:20 PM

And just to reiterate, I do understand that most of those who advocate critique are talking about giving it in a gentle and friendly manner.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 4498 days

#11 posted 09-24-2010 08:23 PM

That was a nice story Charlie!

It feels good when you confess. You should sleep well tonight. LOL

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

View DaddyZ's profile


2475 posts in 3239 days

#12 posted 09-24-2010 08:23 PM

Well Said, Can’t we all just get along!!!

-- Pat - Worker of Wood, Collector of Tools, Father of one

View swirt's profile


3415 posts in 3170 days

#13 posted 09-24-2010 08:35 PM

Sister Agnes, wearing her cardboard flack jacket to protect her from flung paper, just smiled and mumbled to the person next to her that “Charles turned out to be a good kid after all.”

-- Galootish log blog,

View PBthecat's profile


53 posts in 3248 days

#14 posted 09-24-2010 08:38 PM

I like your projects but I bet the drawings are real ugly…

-- "Every hundred years, all new people"

View Rick  Dennington's profile (online now)

Rick Dennington

6297 posts in 3392 days

#15 posted 09-24-2010 08:43 PM

Charlie, You just need to eat some more hot crawfish, taters, and corn on the cob….. That good Cajun food will help you get over your nightmares from the past… I could eat some of that right now, or a plate of good Mexican food….. I love both….with a big glass of tea..

-- " At my age, happy hour is a crap and a nap".....!!

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