WT396 – Who Is the Average Woodworker

On today’s weekend show we talking about what defines “the average woodworker”

Robert wrote in to ask about the right table saw for the average woodworker and Marc blew it up into a socio-political commentary about tools and woodworking

8 replies on “WT396 – Who Is the Average Woodworker”


I think the problem that most “average woodworkers” have is not a problem of not having the same/right tools. I think the real problem is woodworkers who can’t figure out how to do the same task with a different tool (I was such a person once). I’m sure Shannon will agree that you can do similar work as a Domino with a brace and bit, chisel, saw and plane not that anyone except Shannon would want to (seriously, what’s wrong with you Shannon). If you asked Matt to do the same job he’d find a way to take a tree and remove everything that doesn’t belong with his super industrial nuclear powered sawmill. Just saying. Figure it out people . . . that’s half the fun.

P.S. to all the woodworkers that don’t have the right tools. They have a support group at IKEA . . . spouses are welcome. . .

I really enjoyed listening to todays show about the average woodworker. I find that the internet is full of misinformation and morons who know little to nothing about the topic being discussed, only repeating what they have heard. What sets Wood Talk apart is that it is clearly above average and is for woodworkers who endeavor to be amongst the upper echelon of the craft. I find that I can relate to everything you guys are discussing and that your answers are right on target with what I have learned over the 25 years that I have been in construction. In the past we have had great craftsman like Norm Abrams, Roy Underhill, Jim Tolpin, etc, and we need a breed of woodworkers like you to continue the tradition. Ignore the haters and the derelicts, and please continue to produce great content. In other words, dont change a thing!

The problem is you guys are using “average” in a figurative and subject sense. So your answer is going to be dependent on that subjective viewpoint.

In a pedantic sense, the average woodworker clearly does not have a quarter the tools you guys do. I’ll limit it to tools just to constrain the scope a bit.
I don’t have real specific numbers, but I used to work at a hardware store. I can tell you handheld circular saws outsold tablesaws probably 20:1. Circular saws to routers, probably 3:1. Circular saws to jointers? probably 75:1. Start talking about specialty tools such as a hollow chisel mortiser? Probably 200 to 1. Now, you could probably justifiably cut those ratios in half or more if you wanted to exclude carpentry. Point is the average is numerically skewed very low.
The numerically “average” woodworker probably doesn’t even own a table saw.

Of course, that in no way should be taken to mean you guys shouldn’t keep doing what you’re doing. I think you’re on the right track to talk about niches and audiences. I don’t think the “average” woodworker is your clientele. I would see it more as perhaps the “aspirational fine woodworker”, or even more likely, the people who just like to watch woodworking videos online, hah!

I’m with Ross, kind of –

There’s a lot of ways to get to “average”. You might have an average number of tools, but have a completely different list than the next guy who has an “average” number of tools. Just like 2 people with 2 quarters each – they average $.50 a person… but so do two people when one has nothing and one has $1.

There’s highs and lows that make up and average, so there’s always the possibility that I might not conform to what the true average is, even though I’m part of what defines it.

Now, with all that being said – what kind of jag complains about the free advice, free entertainment, on a variety of free media platforms. The people leaving comments like that seem to forget that they are getting significantly more than what they pay for.

And as Matt Cremona would say – “Happy Woodworking”

Is the “average woodworker” listening to woodworking podcasts? I think they’re building simple projects they see on HGTV or Family Handyman magazine or something similar (that’s what got me interested in all this, at least.) Then, I think those that are really drawn to the hobby seek out more in specialized magazines or YouTube or podcasts.

I’d venture to say the “average woodworker” enjoys the hobby and has a nice array of tools and that the “average WoodTalk listener” is obsessed with the hobby and has either a killer shop or dreams of owning one.

Please keep doing what you’re doing. I’ve only been into this hobby for three years and, for example, only got a jointer and bandsaw this year. But I still loved hearing you guys talking about using those tools that I didn’t even have because I learned so much along the way.

I wanted to affirm Marc’s comment that people can do things different ways. I’ve been doing guild builds and custom-designed furniture, as a novice, without a table saw and at the beginning without a router. I figured out how to use the tools I had, and I appreciate how Marc is sensitive to that in his videos. (Sorry Matt and Shannon–haven’t seen yours). It took longer and was sometimes less precise, but it works.

p.s. circular saw and finesse with a handplane–that’s what I have to do other than those precise table saw cuts.

I always find it fascinating that the hypothetical “average woodworker” gets up in arms about at $750 Domino being used, but doesn’t bat an eye at a $2000 table saw.

But the concept of an “average woodworker” reminded me of a great conversation I had at Fine Woodworking Live this spring. Dyami Plotke, Kyle Barton, Wilbur Pan, Carley Ferrarra, and I were enjoying some adult beverages in the hotel bar and Dyami said something like: “The coolest thing about woodworking is the diversity. We’ve got a roofer, a doctor, a programmer, a blacksmith, and [I never remember what Kyle does, but it involves universities and hospitals] and we’re all brought together by a love of woodworking.”

And we couldn’t work in much different ways. I work mostly with hand tools, Dyami works mostly with routers, Kyle only makes chairs, Carley works mostly with steel, and Wilbur pulls his planes the wrong way. I doubt you can find anything “average” I that motley crew!

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