Monday, September 3, 2012

Learn About Woodworking Online

I have been in IT for 14 years now, dating back to 1998 when the internet we know today was still in its infancy. I remember when Google was barely heard of and 56k dial-up was fast. Back then the internet was still the computer geek's domain and though I don't consider myself in that category, there has to be a part of that in me to have stayed in computers for a living.

Fast forward to today when my blue ray player can access youtube and my eighty something year old grandmother uses facebook (sort of). There isn't much I don't consult the internet on first, from looking up a phone number to call for pizza to in depth research prior to buying just about anything that costs more than $10.

With all the world wide web has to offer I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to find the wealth of available woodworking knowledge, but I was, and still am. My misconception about woodworkers was that most were middle aged guys who shunned technology, save for power tools. But really, how advanced is a cordless drill anyway?



It didn't take much googling to find just how wrong I was. There's plenty of people of all ages who take to twitter, youtube, blogs, google plus and forums to collaborate about their favorite past time. In fact, the amount of educational material available is a bit overwhelming. A few of my favorite online resources that I visit frequently are listed below. My woodworking experience is limited, so take this list for what it is worth, but if you are just starting your own education these are some good places to start.

In no particular order of preference, here's a list starting with some of the most well know known websites.

Youtube

Reading about woodworking techniques is good, but seeing them in action is better and there's lots of instructional videos available. A search on the general term 'woodworking' returns 54,000 results - way more than you'll actually want to watch. On that first page of results though are a couple of my favorite people to follow, or in youtube parlance, channels to subscribe to. Each one listed below has a website and can be found on facebook or google+ as well as twitter, but they are listed here because I found them on youtube before discovering their websites.

Marc Spagnuolo - The Wood Whisperer (www.youtube.com/user/TheWoodWhisperer)

Goofy web site name aside, Marc makes, hands down, the best free videos available on the internet. He's made over 100 but quantity is not what makes Marc's videos great, it's his teaching. Then length of his videos range from 10 to 45 minutes or so and not a single minute is wasted. Marc's method of teaching really appeals to me because he does more than instruct, he lets you in on his thought process when making decisions, from how he designs custom furniture to how he approaches a challenge. Knowing how a successful woodworker thinks is, to me, equally as valuable as how he performs. He splashes in a bit of dorky humor too. More on him later.

Steve Ramsay - Woodworking for Mere Mortals (www.youtube.com/user/stevinmarin)

Steve's got a simple and inviting way about him and how he approaches woodworking. His projects tend to focus on smaller household items as opposed to fine furniture, but that doesn't mean he's not a talented woodworker. He, like Marc, lets you in on his design process and thinking and he uses wood, tools and hardware that are readily available at most home centers. He's quirky too which makes his videos entertaining as well as helpful. Check out his website www.woodworkingformeremortals.com.

M. Scott Morton (www.youtube.com/user/MWSMorton)

Know as Morton in the online woodworking community, his videos show his projects as well as some tool reviews. Again, he lets you in to his thought process which I highly value. Plus he's a local guy in MA and very talented. Check out his designs at www.scottmorton.com.

Tom Hintz - The New Woodworker (www.youtube.com/user/thintz12)

Tom's videos are breed unto their own. His easy demeanor and dry humor make for very enjoyable watching. He's just a normal guy who likes to share and make videos of his work and his tool reviews are well done. I drop everything when I see he has posted a new video. His website is worth a regular visit. www.newwoodworker.com

Twitter

Twitter is a great way to see the daily chatter between woodworkers. I follow 60+ woodworkers, many of whom are listed on this post, as well as woodworking related companies and retailers. I'm not going to list them all here but you can see the full list on my twitter page in the 'Woodworking' list. The twitter feed to the right of every post in this blog is from that list. This list is by no means  complete and you may find twitter accounts in there that aren't pure woodworking, but they are certainly in the genre. I'll be adding to it as I find more woodworkers to follow. Feel free to follow me while your there.
  

#woodchat and #mwalive

Every Wednesday night a number of woodworkers from around the internet meet up in twitter using the #woodchat  and #mwalive has tags. This is a great way to virtually meet other woodworkers or just listen in on the conversations. The people who organize #woodchat and #mwalive also use   Google Hangouts and have a live video cast to go along with the chatting. More on that below.

Google+

Google's less popular answer to facebook seems to be preferred by woodworkers and I couldn't be happier about that. I won't turn this in to a rant about facebook and their blatant lack of respect for their users' privacy and security, horrible search functionality and the worthless babble that fills up my facebook home screen (ok a mini rant). Google+ seems less scammy and ... less crappy... and has a feature that is used by a couple of woodworking organizations. Hangouts is an interesting evolution of the podcast used by both the Modern Woodworkers Association and Woodchat. Hangouts are videos of multiple people at home with their webcams that are all watchable at once, live. They can also be recorded and made available on youtube for watching later. Unfortunately, both hangouts are at the same time on Wednesday nights, but both record their entire sessions and make them available on youtube for viewing later.

Forums

Forums, in different styles and scope, have been a staple of online communities since the dawn of the internet and are still going strong. There are two that I frequent.

Lumberjocks (lumberjocks.com/)

More than just a forum, Lumberjocks has user submitted videos, lots and lots of tool reviews, blogs and pictures of projects from fellow woodworkers, both pros and hobbyists alike. People seem very happy to help, which is a theme throughout the entire online woodworking community, and are respectful adults. Too many forums are a haven for people to spew hot garbage on to your computer screen using the anonymity of the web as a shield, but there's none of that BS here.

Wood Talk Online (www.woodtalkonline.com)

This is the forum extension of the Wood Whisperer website and the Woodtalk Online podcast. It is geared towards the new woodworker and a great place hear the chatter of experienced craftsmen exchanging ideas. This forum is a daily (often more frequently) visit of mine.

Blogs and Websites

Just about all of the resources above have their own specific website to go along with their social media accounts. Here's a few worth visiting in no particular order.

The Wood Whisperer (www.thewoodwhisperer.com)

I promise this is the last time I mention I mention Marc and his online woodworking media empire. You probably think I have a man crush on him by now (maybe I do), but he really does provide some of the best woodworking info available and he has a huge following. He no longer makes custom furniture for a living but has taken his knowledge and knack for teaching and turned it in to full time career. While my budget won't allow for a while, his paid instruction via The Wood Whisperer Guild is on my list of wants. It's not terribly expensive and it is more than just exclusive videos. I'm not going to go in to a sales pitch for him but you can check it out for yourself at his website. In addition to the guild, he posts user submitted projects, giveaways and blogs on a regular basis.

Matt's Basement Workshop (mattsbasementworkshop.com)

Matt Vanderlist, one third of trio that makes up the Woodtalk Online podcast, is a regular guy with a day job and basement workshop. He's got his own podcast and blog and is very easy to read and listen to. What I like most about him is that he could be any one of us, meaning he is not a woodworker by trade. He's an enthusiast who loves to share his passion.

The Renaissance Woodworker (www.renaissancewoodworker.com)

Shannon Rogers is the other third of Woodtalk Online podcast and he focuses on hand tools. While he may admit to having a power tool or two, he tries to make every project using traditional methods and without the use of electricity. Woodworking purely with hand tools does not hold as much interest for me, but I will have to acquire a few key tools that no woodworker can live without, such as chisels and hand planes. Shannon is a great teacher and he hosts his own online classes in The Hand Tool School. He's a great teacher and his lessons transcend the tools used.

The Bois Shop (theboisshop.blogspot.com)

Rob Bois is another Massachusetts guy and an active member of the Modern Woodworking Association. He blogs about his projects and he creates videos while working on them. He's taken the small basement he has and turned it in to an efficient work space where he makes gorgeous furniture. He's another guy that lets you in to his thought process while working on a project, and as much as anyone, else I click with the way he thinks and instructs. Be sure to check out his interview with Asa Christiana of Fine Woodworking Magazine during this past summer's Fine Woodworking Live convention. I am sorry to say, this is as funny as it gets with woodworking humor.

The Modern Woodworker's Association (www.modernwoodworkersassociation.com)

The MWA's weekly-ish video podcasts, MWALive (one the of the recorded Google Hangouts I mentioned above), is required viewing and the website has great links to a number of other blogs. The video is hosted by Tom Iovino of Tom's Workbench with a panel of MWA'ers who really know what they are doing whenit comes to wodworking. Chris Adkins of High Rock Woodworking, Nick Roulleau of Mansfield Fine Furniture (another MA guy) and Dyami Plotke of The Penultimate Workshop, along with Tom, are a great mixture of pros and hobbyists who treat the video as if they were sharing beers and talking shop (though Dyami is the only one I have seen hoist a bottle). Lately they have been interviewing industry personalities which has been very informative. I love these guys.

Woodchat (uppercutwoodworks.com/woodchat)

Matt Gradwhol carved out a piece of his website to document weekly the #woodchat tweetup. This is where you can find transcripts from previous meetings as well as links to the recorded hangouts. Along with co-host Chris Wong of Flair Woodworks, they discuss current woodworking events and interview other well known woodworkers, including a few mentioned above. If you can't make it to the live event on Wednesday night be sure to catch the recordings, they're awesome.

Start Woodworking (www.startwoodworking.com)

This is the free, newbie oriented website of Fine Woodworking Magazine. Here you'll find instructional videos, simple plans and articles geared towards a new woodworker like myself. I am currently in the process of making my first real workbench based on their video instructional series. I'll be posting my experience with this soon. Also notable is the finewoodworking.com website, but their best content is not free. The online version of the printed magazine is the one subscription I have. If I were to add to my subscription list, Popular Woodworking and Wood Magazine would be next.

I'm going to end this post here, but I could go on and on. Visit any of these websites and you'll find links to great stuff all over the internet. If you have a favorite site you think should be listed here, find me on Google+ or Twitter and send me a note.

Thanks for reading.
Jim

Update 3 Nov:  Here's a blog post about getting started in woodworking from the Drunken Woodworker. Be sure to heck out his band saw boxes too.