You Don’t Get To Tell Me What To Do

I’m a hobbyist woodworker. I’m by no means an expert. I learn a lot from a variety of sources, including videos, the interwebs, books, magazines, and by practical experimentation. I am part of a growing group of Google+ woodworkers of various experience, and it’s cool to see the things they make and how they make them.

Recently, a member of this group on G+ posted a video from Fine Woodworking Magazine, which was basically a couple of guys from the magazine talking about how individuals online are posting “how to” or project videos online, and how they should be “vetted” by a professional group (such as a publishing group like Fine Woodworking) before they are posted. Entitled “A Perfect Storm of Stupidity”, they basically bash hobbyists like myself and the people I follow online that post videos or project information (although honestly I haven’t posted anything yet). Now a couple of the people I follow, they are professionals. As one of them put it, if you make your living doing woodworking – meaning feeding your family – you are a PROFESSIONAL. You don’t have any higher “vetting” process than that.

This caused a bit of backlash from a number of people, and rightly so.

Woodworking to me is a hobby. It’s fun, and if someone can use what I’ve done and enjoy it, huzzah! I always learn something (or at least get ideas) from watching online content from people. And if there’s some reason that people aren’t performing safe work with no safety equipment, googles, no table saw guard, or poor working conditions, the community is right there to tell them so.

But no one can tell me I can’t do something unless it is harmful to someone else, someone else’s legal property, or against the law. So far, none of these videos have harmed anyone. Rather, they’ve helped me learn something new. Sure, not everyone looks fantastic on camera (neither do the FWW guys) but it doesn’t have to be an expensively produced video for me to learn something from it, nor do I need a panel of snobby experts reviewing said videos beforehand for content issues. Bah.

Fine Woodworking, this has completely turned me off from your magazine. I will not purchase any of your magazines or supplements (the Workshops supplement you do every year was cool too) any longer due to this. It’s a shame, really, because in the long run you’re only hurting yourselves alienating the woodworking community like this. We are the people that keep your dwindling magazine market alive. If you continue to have an elistist, snobby attitude, we just will go somewhere else.

And now for something completely different…

Today on, we go to knitting class!

Yes dear readers, I have jumped into the pool and have imbibed the Kool-Aid. I decided to take a knitting class at my local Arts and Crafts center of learning, Sew Make Do. It is a two night class, taught over two weeks. The class is taught by a good friend, Sharon. I met Sharon through my wife, and both my wife and Sharon are expert knitters. Sharon is also a fantastic seamstress, as is my wife.

Sew Make Do is a very nice little studio in my hometown that holds all sorts of craft classes. The classes are mostly sewing, but they also encourage other craft classes as well, including knitting. The studio was very well lit, clean, and sparsely decorated, which implied that the important focus was on the particular craft being taught. I was pleased to note that a lot of the furniture was IKEA (my favorite). The proprietor of the shop was very personable, kind, and offered beverages as we arrived.

On the first night, we were given a ziploc bag filled with a ball of yarn and a pair of knitting needles, size 6. Since I arrived WAY too early (which is typical), I got to choose the color of yarn.

The rest of my classmates (not surprisingly all female) arrived in short order, and we all settled in for class. Sharon, our instructor, began by talking a little bit about knitting in general. She then showed us how to cast on, after describing a few basic details about how to actually hold the needles while knitting. The styles, English or Continental, can roughly equate to comfort while knitting and help aid right vs left-handed people (Sharon stated Continental was more comfortable for left-handed people). We were being taught the English method, but she showed us an example of Continental.

After the preliminaries, it was announced we’d be knitting simple square coasters, and Sharon showed us an example of what our coaster will look like when complete (using the garter stitch), along with an example of stockinette stitch as well to give us an idea of an alternate way to knit.

After we completed a row, with Sharon wandering around guiding each of us through our first 20 stitches or so, we proceeded onto the next row. Sharon helped each of us through the steps and said we all did really well for first-timers. None of us were dropping stitches badly or making gross errors, and I think that’s a compliment to Sharon’s very patient teaching style. She asked us to make sure that we had 20 stitches at the end of each row, to ensure we weren’t dropping stitches, which is a good double check for accuracy.

We did a few more rows and then it was 8PM, and time for class to wrap up. Our homework was to finish our coaster (and do more if we wanted), but making sure to check for square by folding the coaster diagonally every so often. When it makes two perfect triangular halves, we have a square.

Next week we will be learning how to bind off our coaster, and then how to purl (which I’m not sure I can even explain yet).

All in all, I had a wonderful first time knitting. In all truth, I had learned the basics with my wife teaching me, but I promptly forgot how after not practicing regularly. I will make sure to keep my hand in by working on regular projects, and I hope to get into socks, scarves, and other nifty things as I learn.

And before I forget, I finally get to join Ravelry, which is a fantastic site for all things knitting. I felt strange joining Ravelry before I started knitting, so now I get to join the exclusive club too. Here’s the link to the project I worked on for class: Coaster Mk. I


Workshop complete with an Attached House

Huzzah! The Bushwood shop is moving to a new home! My wife and I recently closed on a workshop with an attached house (at least that’s the way I see it). Here’s a preview of the new shop, which will be completely dedicated to my favorite hobby. This was as it was purchased, so everything you see in the picture was already there. There’s electrical circuits surrounding the walls, a 220 circuit for a larger tool (table saw), and plenty of overhead lighting. It has good access from front or side, in addition to a vent fan. It will eventually get a window for natural light and cooling/heating as well.

More coming soon when I get my tools in and organized, but for now:


Legos, Friends, and Petitions, Oh My!

Originally posted as a comment on Geekmom: regarding the petition mentioned here:

I have 3 wonderful children. They range in age from 18 to 4. All of them play (or played) with Lego. All of them share my passion for building or making things, being creative, have awesome imaginations, and are the crux of my life that I share with my wife (who incidentally is also exhibits all of those qualities as well).

It comes as no surprise that each of kids is different. My oldest (a girl) grew up watching very little commercial television, disliked pink from the beginning, and was not what I would call a girly girl. She loves science fiction, inherited my nerdiness, and has a Hellboy figure standing on her desk along with Indiana Jones lego minifigs. She draws beautifully, wants to study art, dances, and loves her dog.

My son is all boy, but is taking sewing classes (at his request), and plays basketball. He plays with Legos, loves making guns out of anything that remotely resembles a weapon, and is brilliant at reading. We don’t promote guns or even own any, so throw your theory about

My youngest girl is the girly girl. This was evident when she was very little. She loves pink. She wants her hair done constantly in pigtails. She dresses up constantly. She sings in the bathroom. None of which we enforced by buying any sort of “gender specific” toys. She has watched no movies she hasn’t chosen for herself, she preferred Hello Kitty over Super Heroes.

There’s a theme to this. We aren’t the sort of parents to adversely influence how kids will grow up past them knowing the difference between right and wrong. We don’t watch excessive TV. I don’t force my son to play sports (although he does because he wants to). They don’t watch regular commercial TV at all. My youngest girl has never owned a Barbie. She’s had her share of dolls, an American Girl clone (mostly because American Girl Dolls are expensive). My oldest had an American Girl as well. I don’t see this as forcing them into a stereotype. I visited the American Girl store in Chicago when I was there for business. Yes, you heard that right. A male voluntarily visiting a doll store. I have 2 girls. Of course I’m going to visit a doll store, as equally as I would visit a Lego store.

I see nothing wrong with the way American Girl presents their toys to a specific market. They do a good job. They promote girls and issues that girls can relate to. They teach girls history, and how women have been seen in many different times and cultures. If you are the sort of parent that doesn’t like that, don’t buy them. Same with Lego. They are just trying to make a more comprehensive toy line in a ever growing sea of competitive products. They make a great toy. One that my kids play with for hours without stopping. I can’t thank Lego enough for that, and for my 30+ years of Legos that I own (I own the complete Galaxy Explorer set!).

The Lego Friends collection is fantastic. I love the new sets, and am very pleased with Lego for bringing back the colors and feel of the Paradisa sets, which I missed and are now discontinued. The new minifigs are just compatible enough to work with the regular Lego minifig stuff, but different enough that my daughter can readily tell her Legos apart from my son’s (which believe me is an issue when you have siblings). The sets are still challenging to build for her (at 4) but she enjoys playing with them. I look forward to more new ones for her to enjoy, as much as I look forward to the latest Architecture set.

To the parents who are petitioning the Lego Friends to be eliminated. Get off your high horse. Stop your whining about ruining the gender neutrality of Lego. You can guide your children to knowing right and wrong. You can choose what they watch on TV, but ultimately, they will become what they are destined to be and sometimes they will surprise you. But don’t blame the company for spoiling your children. That’s your responsibility as parents. You have the ultimate say in what they grow up with for values. Lego is just a company trying to compete in a free market economy, just as the company you work for that makes widgets is as well. Don’t spoil it for the rest of us who enjoy a good Lego set just because you can’t make a decision on your own about what to allow your children to play with and constantly whine about how your kids are being bombarded by popular culture and gender stereotypes.

Lego Friends won’t ruin Legos just like pre-built Lego Castle wall pieces didn’t. My son builds huge structures with those wall pieces. He uses them just like he uses every brick. I’ve seen amazing stuff built with Bionicle parts. It’s all about using your imagination. They make a solid product, and I’m still using the same bricks that are 30+ years old with bricks I bought yesterday. Want to whine about pre-fab bricks, and specialty pieces? Send them to me. I’ll use them.

My youngest daughter could be an engineer. She might not be. Whatever she is, I won’t look back and say: “Gee, maybe I should have not let her play with those pink Lego bricks or the girly looking minifigs…” Same goes for all my other children as well.

I’ll be proud of my kids, no matter what. And I know they’ll have my values, my philosophy to live by. And that will always, ALWAYS involve Lego. No matter what color the bricks are.

Full Disclosure: No I don’t work for Lego. I do however have a Lego tattoo. Long live Classic Space!