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I am frequently asked what defines a woodworker. I don't see how I am the one to determine that but I do suspect that our surroundings hold clues.
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Am I a Woodworker?

My email suggests that you wonder this about yourself

Text, photo and video by Tom Hintz

Posted – 10-7-2011

I guess I should not be surprised that NewWoodworker.com draws a considerable number of emails from people wondering if they fit the description of a woodworker. My initial response is usually “I dunno” which I think just may be the most accurate. I know that there are those who will happily declare themselves the grand Pooh-Bah of woodworking and are willing to decide who is and who is not a woodworker. I just am not certain that I actually know or that I am empowered to decide who is or is not.

Take Stock of Your Surroundings

I think that we can get a substantial hint about your woodworker status by looking around the area you consider a shop. I think that there is a level of “equipedness” that clearly exceeds the DIY’er norm and moves you toward the woodworker class. Just having a circular saw and a tape measure doesn’t get you there, officially anyway. However, if you have way too much equipment jammed into too small of an area yet are somehow able to use it, you should qualify as a woodworker - honorary at the very least.

Are the corners and walls of your workspace outfitted with “test projects” that you just cannot get yourself to throw away so you “installed” them throughout your shop? I have an eclectic group of cabinets in my shop that are all prototypes I made on the way to the ones I liked best. I had to give those good ones to a neighbor because my walls were already full of the prototypes and those prototypes were full of other stuff that reinforces my woodworkerness. Nobody ever said that woodworkers were good planners of future needs.

Video Tutor

Lots of shops, DIY or otherwise have a First Aid kit someplace. Woodworkers generally have one also but after needing it the first time they hang it on a wall where they can find it quicker next time. Even a small cut could leak onto a cast iron surface and cause a stubborn rust stain because we forgot about it until a day or so later. Woodworkers who are still woodworkers will often have a fire extinguisher in the shop that has never been used. Woodworkers that have needed a fire extinguisher are sometimes forced to convert to metalworkers by what was left.

Don’t Worry

In the end, you are the one who decides if you are a woodworker. Nobody else gets to make that call. Not me, not the know-it-all down the street or the self-proclaimed experts on the Internet. If you are doing what you like and it involves wood, by all means call yourself a woodworker. I believe the whole point of being a woodworker is to have fun, not meet someone else’s criteria.

So have fun, buy lots of machines if that’s what floats your boat and be who or what you want to be. Chances are that the people close to you, the ones that really count are there because of who you really are anyway so what some guy on a forum thinks just doesn’t mean anything.

Have a comment about this story? –Email Me!

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