Fair Woodworking

May 30, 2018

Fairwoodworking What’s in the Name?

Filed under: Fair Woodworking & Hand Tool Blog,Skill development — fairwoodworking @ 4:30 pm

When I started this blog over 6 years ago I told nobody about it. Sometime in the first year my good friend Steve stumbled on to the blog while researching a tool and put 2 and 2 together. From there a number of people have “decoded the mystery” or I have met in person, but that has all been an unexpected blessing of this pho-humble blog hosted by WordPress. (side note. The WordPress spellchecker does not recognize WordPress as a word…)

It was never expected that I would one day introduce myself to other woodworkers, and then watch their eyes light up when I added, “you might know me as Fairwoodworking”. The truth is, that was the opposite of what I was trying to do when I started this.

This blog was intended to be totally Anonymous.

Not in an anti-social way, I just didn’t foresee at the time, that I’d ever come face to face with with another woodworker that would have seen these words.

So what’s in the semi-anonymous name of Fairwooodworking?

Have you ever had a non-woodworker look at something you made, something you cringe at every time you look at and have to smile as the non-woodworker tells you that “This IS some FINE woodworking!”?

Of course you have, because they then had to awkwardly smile as you point out all the mistakes you made, and that is why every blog, podcast and woodworking author has told us that we don’t need to point out our mistakes to others.

My name has nothing to do with the magazine Fine Woodworking. I have always regretted that obvious association. It is not a slight against them or a thumb of the nose towards them.

The name was intended as a sober recognition that the term of Fine Woodworking is more of a long term goal for me. A realization that my best today should not be my finest work but only the best I can do at this time. That hopefully, in comparison to what I will be capable in my last days, today’s work will qualify as only “fair woodworking”.

Six years later I feel, that while I’ve discovered that there is a socialality to what just started as a name, it has come full circle in a lostness in woodworking.

While the bulk of the woodworking world is mesmerized by epoxy pouring out of a five gallon bucket, there is very little excellence in the finished product. Sure there is much skill required to do this well, but do you really think in a hundred years, will anyone will sell tickets to view the greatest live edge river table known to man? Will there be a “Henry O. Studley” of epoxy?

Who will be the woodworking Virtuoso of this age?

Although I didn’t have the words when I started this, if I was to name this blog today, it may have been called “In Search of Virtus” although that is a bit of a mouthful and I’m not totally sure how to pronounce Virtus.

At the age of 46, I must concede that Virtuoso is out of my grasp. Chances are nobody will ever pay to line up to view my works behind glass either. I cannot hope to see others handle my craftsmanship with white gloves while others watch in hushed silence, but that does not mean I can’t strive towards that goal. I joke around here and on other platforms a lot. I mock the work of others that I don’t think are doing their best work. I often make some of the silliest projects to poke fun at others, but at the same time, my jokes have been some of the most challenging projects I have ever attempted.

There is a thrill to looking at a project that common knowledge says you need “these” tools to build, and asking the question, “can it be done safely without them?”.

Can I exchange “those” tools for this set of skills?

Can I make the argument that, for example, the absence of a lathe is no excuse for the inability to build a uniquely shaped folding stool?

Or to turn a pencil?

Remember the old argument against the things that Norm made on The New Yankee Workshop was, “I could make that too if I had all those tools”.

My argument for any project is becoming, “I could make that too if I develop the necessary skills”.

And that is what’s inside the name fairwoodworking.


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