Presently, the loudest woodworking voices on the internet are what some people would call traditionalists. Many of the most popular blogs focus on purely traditional woodworking techniques while forgoing more modern ways of woodworking. I have no problem with that idea. On many levels I consider myself somewhat traditional. Yet, I’ve been noticing that the definition of what traditional is has been changing on a nearly monthly basis. You like to woodwork the same way a guy circa 1900 woodworks? Well Joe Blow says that you really should woodwork like it’s 1860 if you want to call yourself a traditionalist. Oh, you like to woodworking in the tradition of an American colonist? Dick Johnson thinks that the woodworkers from the 17th century were better. You like to fell your own trees with a chainsaw? Dick uses an axe. You pull your tree out of the forrest with a horse? Dick uses a mule. You use a goat; Dick uses his bare hands. It all comes down to a bunch of childish one-upsmanship when you get down to the nitty gritty, and it probably pisses me off more than anything in the woodworking world. One of the favorite sayings of the pure traditionalist is: “Just because somebody is dead, doesn’t mean they weren’t smart.” Very true, doesn’t mean they were smart either. I don’t say that to insult some long dead woodworkers; I have a ton of respect for what they did. But just because something is traditional it doesn’t always automatically make it better. There are a lot of traditions that I hope are never seen again, and for once I’m not the only one who feels this way.
Robert Lang, of Popular Woodworking Magazine, threw in a bit of satire with a blog posting on the magazine’s website today. Before I go any further, I feel the need to point out that I do not know Robert Lang. I’ve never spoken to him in person. We aren’t friends or pals. I have nothing against him, though I don’t always agree with him. That doesn’t mean I dislike him. I don’t always agree with my wife, either. I hate that I need to put disclaimers in my blog every time I mention a name, maybe I brought it on myself, but I do it in an attempt to clear up any misunderstandings. Anyway, Lang wrote what I thought was a pretty funny post poking a little bit of fun at the ridiculous levels some woodworkers go to in order to call themselves “Traditional”. It was refreshing to me that at least one professional woodworker is seeing the levels of absurdity that some of these people are reaching. It brings to mind my much maligned fictional woodworker, Yodel Vanderschnooten, who I still maintain is a lot closer to reality than he is to fiction. Maybe that is why I got so much hate mail over him.
So, if you happen to get a free minute or two, check out the post. I added a link that hopefully works. Lang gets in some funny stuff, makes some good points, and manages to knock a few people down a peg or two. Of course I would love it if he had knocked them down around twenty pegs, Lord knows some of them deserve it, but I’ll take what I can get. Mr. Lang wrote a funny and interesting post and I think he deserves credit for doing it; he brought a little humanity and humor into what is becoming a really humorless hobby populated by a bunch of humorless zombies. It’s nice to know that at least one professional woodworker doesn’t have a giant stick shoved up his ass all the time.