Monday, July 2, 2018

Are woodworkers generally a conservative bunch?

What prompted me to this blog post are the changes that has been done to the Popular Woodworking homepage.

If you like me has visited the page over that last couple of years (I think I have frequently visited it for something like 10 years) You will almost be able to describe for someone how it looked and how the page was built up without even opening the homepage.

The current staff this month of the magazine has decided to launch a new website.
As you can see from the comments most people don't seem very impressed with the change.

I don't mean to move that particular discussion over on this blog, because it is better that people actually raise their voices at popular woodworking, so the crew over there can get a much broader view on what the readership base thinks about it.

Back to the conservative issue:
If I look at ads in woodworking magazines or homepages, they generally tend to be created much the same way, brownish tinted dream scenarios with a bit of dust and plane shavings.
Flannel shirts and jeans and maybe a baseball cap.
I have yet to see a "woodwork of the future ad" with a silver clad astronaut lasercutting a piece of MDF in front of some rainbow coloured garage door in outer space.

I guess that the people who are designing the ads know their demographics well enough to now that it just won't sell anything.

I personally feel that woodworking for me is like a "safe haven" away from where I have to think about that the world is moving forward, and that I have to reluctantly follow along. And I guess that a lot of others feel similarly one way or another.
When Megan Fitzpatrick campaigned to get more women into woodworking, the general response seemed to be that:" We are here for the woodworking, leave out the politics."
Very few commented directly on if it was a good or a bad idea.

Still the website remained like it had always been. It was kind of like your old fashioned hardware shop (the one that doesn't exist anymore except in your dreams and in the movies). With a knowledgeable and friendly clerk, only quality products on the shelves. Suddenly this store carried a weird new product (female woodworkers).
Megan left and the female woodworkers were sort of not refilled into the shelves.

But now this fantasy hardware store has suddenly moved and at the same time turned into an orange coloured newly designed shop, probably with a "latte machine" somewhere on the show floor.
Gone is the familiar smell of the old dusty shelves and the ringing of the bell whenever the door is swung open. The floors are no longer the same and there is a new face behind the counter.

I am still considering whether or not to find "another hardware store", or try to give the newly rebuilt one a chance.


  1. Interesting to see a finishing blog post that wasn't from Flexner..

    1. Hi Mike
      I doubt that will happen since the name of that blog is Flexner on finishing, but you never know.

      Thanks for commenting

  2. Hi Jonas, I don't visit their homepage often, like this year, just go straight to blogs. I'd guess that most woodworkers are older, which could explain more than political position. But once we (older people) get used to the new look and presumably some functional advantages, then we won't want it to change next time. I also see a goodly number of younger folks (like under 50), so hopefully they'll bring us all to a better level.

    1. Hi Jeff.
      Thanks for commenting.

      I know that I am conservative (heck even my kids think that I am old school).
      Maybe they are trying to attract a new readership base, and that is understandable, but I wonder if perhaps it hadn't been better to make a more gradual change.

      Maybe it has got something to do with that the old design didn't play along well with modern telephones which could be a potential showstopper in a few years.

      But at least there is still some activity in the magazine, which is good to see, so like you suggest, maybe it isn't such a bad thing after all
      - A terrible thought for someone as old fashioned as me.. :-)


  3. Your comment on a silver clad astronaut lasercutting a piece of MDF in front of some rainbow coloured garage door in outer space really made me laugh!

    I have been spending increasingly less time on blogs and woodworking websites. I still love woodworking, but many of the blogs have turned into groupthink echo chambers. That is why I like your blog, you are the only seafaring woodworker on the internet. I watch a lot of YouTube nowadays. More variety and it seems to be the media choice for the younger crowd.

    I personally think most woodworking blogs are more liberal leaning. (Too many man buns and skinny jeans for me) The political situation in the United States is the worst I have ever seen it so I am looking for entertainment to escape all the radical crazies out there. I bet if you look hard enough on YouTube will find your astronaut laser cutting a piece of MDF in front of a rainbow colored garage door. Try Colin Furze, Laura Kampf, or Jimmy Diresta.These are some of my favorite channels.

    1. Thanks for your nice comment.

      I am glad that my blog is a bit different, even if seafaring woodworking will probably never be wildly popular.

      I guess that you could be onto something with the liberal leaning woodworking blogs. I hadn't thought of that. But when I see the ads they are as I interpret them, all aimed at some old fashioned/conservative dream of woodworking.
      But on the other hands, flannel shirts and lumber jack beards used to be the mark of a blue collar person, nowadays any computer technician will sport a beard and a padded flannel shirt, so maybe I am too easily fooled by the looks of stuff.

      I'll try to check out you suggest Youtube channels when I get home, out here the bandwidth is rather limited, so streaming a video will often not work.

      It is interesting that you should mention the groupthink echo chamber issue.
      I had someone comment on one of my old posts about pretty much the same. I think he called it the imitation syndrome.
      The problem was that instead of having a lot of different blogs each building different stuff, he felt that there were perhaps one or two very influential blogs that built a project, and the next thing that happened was that a bunch of following blogs built the exact same thing.

      By the way, I hope we get to see a picture of your blacksmith bellows in use some day?

      Best regards

  4. You bring up a lot of manifold topics into one short essay. I only tangentially visit PopulerWoodworking website but I can detect a strong feminist ideology that is creeping into its side ventures that you interpret as conservative and I rather interpret as pushback against haranguing men in general for not doing more for the benefit of women.
    Schwarz indicted his own sex recent with this assertion: "We men have failed during the last 150 years to bring women into the craft – the numbers don’t lie." I get that he lives in an estrogen infused household, but does he need to be a white knight in this situation. And does it ever help to broadly shame the male sex in order to appeal for funds to build a woodshop that excludes men.
    This sort of feminist favoritism has been promoted in the USA now for a generation so that even as women are the majority of students in higher education, men are still blamed because they dominate STEM fields. Even Schwarz uses the inequality of outcomes (fewer women in woodworking) to reach the conclusion that there is inequality of opposrtunities.
    PopWood is like any other business in the USA. It's trying to cover its ass to avoid negative publicity and to expand into any underdeveloped markets, even if men are expected to subsidize the costs.
    Calls to 'keep the politics' out of a woodworking website are, in fact, a plea to not have to contend with 3rd wave feminist ideology that presumes that men are at fault if women don't participate in equal numbers. There is no pleasing some when being displeased is their main bargaining chip.

    1. Hi Mitchell.

      Thanks for commenting.
      I know that if this had been a Danish assignment in school, I probably would have gotten a low grade for the less than impressive way the short piece was tied together :-)

      I guess that I was trying to tell myself why I think that most people (including me) suddenly freak out because they change the setup of a homepage.
      With the reference to ads being generally aimed at something that can resemble nostalgia - to give an idea of that most often continuity and nostalgia are "positive" words in the minds of the general reader of woodworking magazines.

      Personally I can't see the problem in that there are not very many women in woodworking. I know that in Denmark they have the same classes, so they should have the same opportunities to go ahead and choose woodworking as a career later on if that is what they wish. But somehow there doesn't seem to be a lot of women that are interested in taking that path, and that's OK with me - there is little point in forcing someone to go a certain route.

      Our daughter has had the same opportunities to spend time in the shop with me as the boys have, and she was actually fairly skilled at the lathe, but her interests have moved in a different direction. I think that if I forced her to go to the shop to learn some more it would not help in her being interested.

      It could be that there is an undeveloped market for female woodworkers, but I kind of doubt it.

      Looking at another field of "craft"; horseback riding. In most of Europe this is 98% female oriented. and while you can still find male products like male size pants etc. most of the ads are directed towards women. I haven't heard anyone complain about that. But people just seem to be happy that once in a while a boy is riding a horse.
      Still there happens to be both men and women competing in the very top of the sport, and and interesting thing is that it is the only Olympic sport in which men and women compete on 100% equal terms against each other.

      Now that craft manages to go along just fine without intervention from magazines etc. that all the female riders should feel guilty for not having succeeded in bringing in more boys to the sport. So why can't the woodworking world do the same? Just be happy or content that there are some female woodworkers, instead of bashing all the men because there aren't too may women interested in the hobby.

      (Down from the soap box now..)


  5. You'll not find a more inclusive group of white men anywhere.


    1. Hi Brian.
      I think that you are right about that one.


  6. Hi Jonas. Interesting topic.
    I've found that most hobby woodworkers that I've met are both politically conservative and ideologically conservative. I say that as a person who considers himself a conservative, though maybe not a "hardline" stance, definitely conservative.
    That being said, I've found that most people (at least those that I've met and have spoken with) who have elected to become journalists range from moderately to extremely liberal both in their political views and their lifestyle.
    In the US, there is a current view, broadly speaking, that the so-called average "liberal" is a college-educated person with a degree in a field such as journalism, art-history, etc. and the so-called conservative is a blue-collar tradesman etc. Once again, in a very broad sense I do agree with this assessment, though of course you will find conservative journalists and liberal tradesmen etc.
    The reason I bring this up is because in the past 75 years there has been a great shift in the conservative/liberal ideology. Pre WW2, the conservative was the college educated "snob" and the liberal was the "hard working tradesman".
    That all being said, my opinion would be that Popular Woodworking has indeed gone through an ideology shift and that shift is more towards the so-called liberal side. Does this shift include a feminist undertone...perhaps. I no longer read PW because I simply don't care for its content. I have no issue with feminism as long as it does not include man-bashing, which unfortunately has gained in popularity here. I for one don't see the need to bring yourself up by tearing somebody else down, and I don't feel the need to "compete" with women. I like nice furniture no-matter who makes it. I have no idea why it needs to be said that "a woman made this!" That, to me, is the opposite of equality, but once again this is just my opinion.
    The bottom line, and I have to stress that this is just my opinion, is that most women aren't really interested in becoming woodworkers, both as hobbyists or pros. The difference between myself and a woodworking "journalist" is that I don't see this as some sort of character flaw in women or as the blame of men. For example, when my daughter was younger I used to have her woodwork with me and she generally enjoyed it. Now, on occasion she will ask if I could help her with a project, or perhaps repair something, but overall she simply lost interest in woodworking as something that she would like to do every weekend. Maybe when she is older that will change, but she is very much interested in more traditional "girly" pursuits: painting and drawing, loom work, cooking, and of course Taylor Swift.
    I don't see this as some failure of equality, rather, I see it as simply the way things are. For thousands of years men and women have gravitated towards certain fields, and I believe there is more of a reason for that fact than men were forced to do certain work and women another. I think it is wonderful that men and women have different passions, and I can't imagine why our differences are considered some sort of fascist, misogynistic conspiracy. After all, we've always been told to celebrate our differences, not lament them...

    1. Hi Bill

      Thanks for commenting

      As usual you manage to describe the issue better than I do. :-)

      I also don't know why it has to be a big deal if a man or a woman made this or that, and I do think that it will become a more beige and uninteresting world if we were all the same.

      probably 20 years ago I was holding the door for a female acquaintance of mine. (We were both in the same group in the national guard). After that she told me that she thought it was a bit male chauvinistic that I held the door for her!!
      I was dumbstruck - If we can't even be polite anymore without being accused of being male chauvinistic then there is really something wrong.
      Truth be told, she is the only one who has ever bitched about when I am holding a door.

      In Denmark the conservative party is sort of right wing, and used to be a protector of the traditional values, but it has become more liberal over the years.
      So generally if you are referred to as a conservative guy, most people will interpret it solely as old fashioned.
      That is unless the talk is about your political stance.

      It was actually in that respect I wrote the title of this post, as I don't see myself as a conservative in the political respect.
      A major drawback to me is that they are firm believers of the monarchy which I am not. But that is one of those discussions that I really shouldn't start on a woodworking forum.

      I just can't understand why all this has to seep into woodwork as a hobby. Mary May is a brilliant carver, and while I am not that huge fan of carving generally, I can acknowledge that she is very good at it. But I wouldn't feel any different about it if she was a man. I would guess that she would also prefer to be recognized for her actual skill rather than her gender.

      I happen to be OK with a sewing machine. Because in 6th grade it was not possible to choose woodworking as a class, so I took needlework and manage to familiarize with a sewing machine. If I help Laura, I don't see it as a big deal that I am a man and can help her with that. It just happens that I have an understanding for how a machine works and how to use/adjust it.
      So I prefer to be recognized for being able to help my daughter rather than OH A MAN USING A SEWING MACHINE!!

      And like you say, interests change for our children.
      All of our children have been in the shop and they liked it when they were younger, now Gustav prefers to work on mopeds instead of wood, and I think that is a very natural development. Laura likes to play music, and Asger prefers football above all.
      I don't think that it would make me a better parent if I forced Laura to chop firewood or build timberframe structures with me if she isn't interested in it etc.

      A "funny" thing is that a lot of people will think it is great and modern and progressive etc. if you make a "females only" woodshop.
      But try to market something the other way, as "males only" woodworking school.
      There would be hell to pay from all over the society.

      And that is hypocrisy as I see it.

      I think this subject might be a bit hard for me to accurately describe in English, but I think you get my point.

      Brgds Jonas

  7. Hello again Jonas. I just happened to read the comment from Potomacker and I generally would agree with every word.
    I cannot recall once ever meeting a woman who was "discouraged" by men from taking up woodworking, or taking up any field for that matter. Maybe it has happened, but I hardly see it as a prevalent mindset of society. Perhaps 75 years ago it was more common, but today one would be lambasted for even suggesting that a woman wasn't capable of woodworking.
    And the notion that men should have been "bringing women into the craft" is laughable. Firstly, any man who has ever had a girlfriend and in particular a wife knows that you just aren't going to make her do anything she doesn't want to do. In fact, I've often had to beg my wife to help me with my projects when I've needed an extra hand. Like nearly every other woman I know, my wife is hardly lazy, and it's not that she isn't appreciative of nice furniture, she just wants absolutely nothing to do with making it herself.
    So to me, the idea of men not "inviting" women into the shop is the direct opposite of so-called feminism. It is basically insinuating that without a man to guide her, a woman isn't capable of figuring out for herself if she would like to woodwork or not. The last time I checked, there is absolutely nothing stopping a woman from going online and ordering a few woodworking tools if she feels the need to begin a new hobby or even a career.
    This phony feminism (from men that is) and pseudo outrage is one of the reasons that I no longer follow the "woodworking world". As you and I have discussed several times, I personally think that the current crop of writers, just a very small number now, have destroyed any of the momentum that hobby woodworking was gaining during the past 15 years or so. What bothers me so much is why they felt the need to do it. Any magazine, book, television show, video blog etc that dared to use a table saw, biscuit jointer, or God-Forbid, a pocket-hole screw was ridiculed both subtly and not so subtly in print and on the web by a small group of writers as garbage, or "destroying the craft", or "soul-sucking", or whatever other of a dozen insults you can interject. Once again, why? Well, I know the reason why, it was to sell books and videos. But as I said before, why tear down the other methods while in the same breath telling people to be polite? If somebody likes woodworking with a biscuit jointer what difference would it make to me???? I for one could care less if some guy (or gal) liked to make furniture with dowels and pocket hole screws with his or her free time.
    So here we are...the same very small group of people who spent 10 years destroying hobby woodworking by telling everybody that pocket hole screws and Ikea were destroying the world are now blaming me (meaning men in general) for the fact that most women could really care less about woodworking.
    This small group of writers messed up bad Jonas. They are the reason that woodworking magazines and television programs are all but vanished. They are the reason that several online retailers have closed up shop. I've heard them say that the market was saturated, and maybe it was a bit, but now the market is empty. And that is just sad.
    Wow, I feel a blog post coming on :)

    1. Hi Bill

      It is funny how sometimes a blog post vectors in a different direction than originally intended.
      At first I was just annoyed that they had changed the homepage, so I tried to gather my thoughts and put them on print.

      I am looking forward to a blog post from you hand, cause you are much better at conveying a message like this than I am.

      I really like your comment that there is nothing stopping a woman from ordering a tool online or buying it in a shop.
      The way I see it, this is sort of an artificial problem, or made up problem whatever the term is. Like if you were able to gather momentum in a group of gardening interested people by starting to complain that there are very few male gardeners in Nome that are able to grow outdoor tomatoes.
      In fact I think that it is the fault of all the female gardeners, hobbyists and pros that they have been unable to secure a thriving environment for Alaskan male gardeners. And something ought to be done with that!

      On a side note, those gardeners of course all have to abide by very strict rules concerning the tools they use and they can only use natural fertilizer from organically fed Camels.

      On yet another note, it is typical me to be left behind in a dwindling woodworking blogosphere. I am always one of the last persons to discover that something went out of fashion, and I normally carry on out of habit.
      Hopefully I will still be blogging when the next woodworking revival comes around :-D