Is there effective critique on this site?

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Forum topic by CanadaJeff posted 07-29-2009 07:03 PM 1924 views 0 times favorited 51 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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207 posts in 3606 days

07-29-2009 07:03 PM

I’m not looking to start an argument, but I just realized as I’m scrolling through the projects that 99.99% of the comments are all in praise of a project. There is nothing wrong with that praise is excellent to hear, but it makes me wonder if its helpful in making us become better woodworkers.

Perhaps it’s tough to do on a site like this. Many people are friends and nobody wants to feel like the jerk of the group when they come to a project that has 20 comments all saying it’s a great job.

I think one of the best ways to learn is by sharing your projects and receiving both the good and the bad feedback. I’m not suggesting we trash peoples work, I have yet to find a project that I would even want to trash, but perhaps some good constructive criticism would also be useful to help those learn where they could improve.

Having said that and being an amateur woodworker I’ll step up to bat and offer my own projects as Guinea pigs for this . Feel free to provide ideas of where I can improve. I would only ask that they be constructive so we can learn from them.

I’m going to try and do this more in the projects that I look at. So if you read this post and subsequently see me provide a constructive criticism, please keep in mind that my aim is to help both myself and others improve at woodworking.

Any thoughts? or critics!

51 replies so far

View PurpLev's profile


8535 posts in 3645 days

#1 posted 07-29-2009 07:10 PM

yes. I personally agree with you, and would like to see more criticism. however. this topic has been brought up every once in a while by another member, and the consensus is that when people post projects, it’s more a self-accomplishment thing, and should not be criticizes as much unless a person asks for criticism in their post. forums and blogs usually get more criticism and suggestive comments though.

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

View DocK16's profile


1184 posts in 4083 days

#2 posted 07-29-2009 07:12 PM

Jeff, I agree there is room for critique that is less than flattering that could help me be a better ww. Your hot link isn’t working though.

-- Common sense is so rare anymore when you do see it, it looks like pure genius.

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

14172 posts in 3979 days

#3 posted 07-29-2009 07:12 PM

I have to agree with your post, but must say no one wants their hardwork tore apart. That said, I want to share with everyone some of the best critique I have ever had of my work on this project posting. It is by LEE J.
Click for details
It taught me loads about visual appeal and have applied that thought pattern to my work ever since. I will always appreciate LEE’s feedback. His comment was rock solid.

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View CanadaJeff's profile


207 posts in 3606 days

#4 posted 07-29-2009 07:17 PM

True enough PurpLev.
I know for myself personally, when I post a project while I may not ask for it to be criticized I wouldn’t mind hearing what I could have done differently.
It would be nice to see a check box when filling out a project to be posted asking if you are wanting a critique.

View Don K.'s profile

Don K.

1075 posts in 3323 days

#5 posted 07-29-2009 07:25 PM

Jeff.while I agree with all you say…..I also believe there are “Ways” to be critical…Like you, I find VERY little to say in a negative way to ANY piece posted. Most are so far above my skill level they belong in a museum.

But I also think of it like this…we are all woodworkers…and all at different skill levels, some are just starting out…and others are true masters. But BOTH are just as proud of the piece they made…or they would not have posted it for all to see.

When I was young and playing around in my dads shop…some of the stuff I made was nothing more than a small kid playing at being a woodworker. But my dad never tore a piece apart (and not saying thats what you are saying), or said anything negative about it. But he would say things like “Thats really nice Don…you know….if you did this…or add this…this piece would really pop”

As a beginning woodworker who thought the world of his dad….if he had been negative toward my work, I probably would have never picked it up. I try and remember this and did/do the same with my son….and do the same with anyone who ask my opinion on a piece. I will say nice things about it…AND mean them…but if I think it could use a little “Something extra” I will say so for what it’s worth.

I think people and members want to be nice…and not hurt someones feelings…and understandable so. But I think if it is done in a “Constructive way” there is nothing wrong with it. As I said…I have seen some real masterpieces here….and I have seen some beginning woodworkers who posted simple plywood boxes to hold up their TV with…but he was probably JUST as proud of his plywood box as the man who spent months making his master piece.

So…for his skill level,(Master, mid level or beginner) he DID do a good job…and I tell them so and try to help them by encouraging them to do even more and better work.

-- Don S.E. OK

View CanadaJeff's profile


207 posts in 3606 days

#6 posted 07-29-2009 07:28 PM

Dan thanks for sharing, I looked at the critic Lee gave you and thats what I’m talking about. I would find that type of evaluation of my work useful in becoming a better woodworker myself. I guess the point is that there is always ways to improve and become better, and those types of comments ultimately make us better woodworkers.

View Will Mego's profile

Will Mego

307 posts in 3709 days

#7 posted 07-29-2009 07:35 PM

Usually the poster themselves points out the flaws we could never tell from a picture anyway. Usually somebody is their own worst critic. In the event somebody does post some junk, it’s usually more from ignorance of the alternative than anything else, in which case there’s usually some friendly comments about trying it another way, or a link to somebody’s project which accomplished the same thing while doing it a lot better. I do recall a project on here where somebody posted a project designed to hold a collection of small tools, and made the statement that it didn’t matter what it looked like or how well it was made because it was just for some tools, and that did create a small fight with several people (myself amongst the group that says that everything matters, even if you’re the only one who will ever see it). I think that on this site, where you’re dealing with objects that represent somebody’s possibly massive investment of time, money, and emotion, having only positive forms of feedback is probably best, and I think most of us do in fact know this and follow it, even if it’s somewhat subconscious. So perhaps just finding better examples of whatever the work is, or “Have you ever tried doing it this way?” along with some small praise for the effort and courage it takes to just post something and have it be judged and commented on by thousands…well, maybe it’s all for the best.

-- "That which has in itself the greatest use, possesses the greatest beauty." -

View PurpLev's profile


8535 posts in 3645 days

#8 posted 07-29-2009 07:36 PM

Jeff, since this is a personal preference as mentioned previously – I can only suggest that in your own project postings, you ask for criticism explicitly. nothing more than just adding an extra line of text to your post. and will plainly tell people that you’re ready for it, even might ask for specific critique related to particular aspect of each project as you see fit.

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

View johan's profile


162 posts in 3507 days

#9 posted 07-29-2009 07:46 PM

Hi Jeff,
I agree with you. As a professional woodworker for 25+ years, I still learn every day. It is thanks to constructive criticism that I have been able to achieve the standard where I am now. I was not always receptive to such criticism, but most times I listened and applied some of it, to my ultimate benefit. This criticism should never be construed as negative, but as a very positive thing, as it is most times well meaning, and for the benefit of all. Everybody has got a different perspective or view of the same project so there can be so many different ways to do the project.
I am in favour of constructive criticism, and take it as well meaning and instructive. I am sure many lumberjocks, amateur and professional alike, can learn from this.

-- Johan, South Africa,

View Bob #2's profile

Bob #2

3809 posts in 4018 days

#10 posted 07-29-2009 07:57 PM

It’s pretty hard to “critique” from a few pictures.

1. I often can’t see the joinery or the finish.

2. I don’t feel my comments on the selected design are relevant unless asked for.

3. Most of the processes are scantily documented thought the several steps so it’s often difficult to appreciate the difficulties the operator may have had with roving grain and warp etc.

4. Finally, some are so bad from my perspective that I have to refrain from commenting.
If the poster has not asked for a “critique” he or she is probably not expecting one.
FFC= fishing for compliments.

-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

View lew's profile


12056 posts in 3752 days

#11 posted 07-29-2009 08:17 PM

One thing that’s difficult to know is how many projects have been “critiqued” by a private message, to the poster.

For myself, I have made suggestions through private messages; hoping a “one on one” discussion would be more helpful.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Kindlingmaker's profile


2656 posts in 3523 days

#12 posted 07-29-2009 08:19 PM Bob #2 said and each time each of us does something we think it is a good work and each time we start a new project it will be better than the last and not as good as the next. If a Jock wants a complete reveiw of his work then maybe but it in a blog with lots of details and high def photos. I have to add that some of the projects are not “See what I have done” but rather “See I can do it” or even” or “See one can think outside the box”.

-- Never board, always knotty, lots of growth rings

View Don K.'s profile

Don K.

1075 posts in 3323 days

#13 posted 07-29-2009 08:19 PM

Thats a good idea lew...never thought of that.

-- Don S.E. OK

View Durnik150's profile


647 posts in 3318 days

#14 posted 07-29-2009 08:31 PM

This is a tough one! I think the general idea is, if you really want critique, be specific about what you want to talk about. Regretfully, a sour grape here and there would jump in wholeheartedly and take it as permission to really flame out on someone.

The positives are genuine on my part. If I don’t like a piece I just usually don’t comment. You can almost gauge how much people like the piece by how many comments you get, within reason.

Interesting topic.

-- Behind the Bark is a lot of Heartwood----Charles, Centennial, CO

View Kent Shepherd's profile

Kent Shepherd

2718 posts in 3283 days

#15 posted 07-29-2009 08:33 PM

You have brought up a very valid point, one I have often thought about in my short time here on LJ. I usually don’t feel good offering suggestions, unless they’re asked for. I would typically just not respond. There are so many different skill levels—-and personalities, that how can you really criticize on a constructive level. What is very easy for me to accomplish because of my experience, and quality of tools would be very difficult for some. I have seen work by brand new LJ’s that I am very impressed by what they have done, even though it would be junk compared to some here. Sometimes they just need some encouagement. The critique might come later.

I also feel you should earn the right to criticize. Know the person and their personality and level before you offer what might be a great suggestion. I have had people in my life that were actually rude in their comments. That said, some of those were instrumental in my development as a craftsman (and no, I didn’t like hearing it) The ones I listened to were craftsmen that knew their stuff—-very well. Without the input I would not have improved my skills. Some love to critique to enhance their own self worth. Others are genuinely intersted in teaching. I guess what I am trying to say is, yes I agree with your concern, just be careful how it’s done.


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