Woodworking Gearheads & Geeks

Article - June 25, 2010

Are you a woodworking gearhead or geek? When I think of those terms, the image of the “tool collector” comes to mind. You know the one. The guy who has every tool in the world and knows every minute detail about the motor and how one tool brand compares to another. Their shop is spotless and in perfect order, simply because it never gets used. It seems a shameful waste of money, but everybody should be able to enjoy their hobby however they wish. And if putting a shop together and never using it is someone’s idea of fun, then so be it.

But recently, I became aware of other types of woodworking gearheads and geeks. How about the “sharpening nuts”? The folks who sharpen their blades up to 30000 grit. Or what about the “benchheads” (borrowing a term from my buddy Matt Vanderlist). These people rack their brains for months stressing over every detail and trying to predict all possible eventualities.

My knee-jerk reaction is, “Stop thinking so much and start making stuff people!”. It sort of puts me in a mindset similar to Tom’s Critical Review of the Schwarz’s Workbenches book. But if you really stop to think about it, we NEED these folks. I know I would NEVER take the time to dig back into archived writings and images to discover some minor detail of an 18th century workbench. I just don’t care that much. But thank goodness Chris Schwarz does (see the current issue of Popular Woodworking)! I will probably never stare at an old building long enough to discover its underlying secrets of proportions and even number ratios, but thank goodness George Walker does. Because they geek out on the subject and share their observations with their readers, I am able to read a short article and glean a few simple details and truths that will help me in the future.

And what about the “tool collectors”? Well even they play an important role. In this economy, every tool sold is on that helps keep my favorite companies in business. So keep buying my friends, buy like the wind!

I truly feel that we all have a place in this little woodworking ecosystem. Enjoy woodworking however you want. But if your ultimate goal is to build stuff, don’t get too bogged down in the details. Nothing wrong with geeking out, but don’t get in so deep that you can’t see the forest for the trees (unless you truly want the pursuit of those details to BE your hobby). Let other people do the hard work for you, and simply skim the good stuff that floats to the top.