Some time ago I wrote a post detailing the steps required for your everyday, average woodworker to make the difficult transition to “cool woodworker”. The path I set wasn’t an easy one to follow, even for experienced woodworkers with many projects under their belts. The truth is there are many talented woodworkers out there who will never attain that lofty status. But, I thought, what about those who just want to appear to be cool woodworker? Even better, what if you just want people to think you are a cool woodworker even though you’ve never even picked up a saw or chisel? Let’s be honest with ourselves, being a cool woodworker doesn’t necessarily make you a better woodworker; it’s all about bragging rights. So with that in mind, I came up with a few suggestions for the wannabe to look like a cool woodworker without ever having made a piece of furniture.
It all begins at the workshop. To look like a cool woodworker you need a cool workshop. Firstly, your workshop must be solely dedicated to woodworking, otherwise you may as well just give up and not even make the attempt. Your workshop cannot double as a garage, or your wife’s yoga studio, or your kids playroom. It has to be a woodworking shop that looks like a woodworking shop, preferably a wood barn with tongue and groove walls, a wood rack, a hanging tool cabinet, and the most ostentatious woodworking bench you can purchase. You’re looking for wow factor. You want even the most casual observer to walk into your little slice of woodworking heaven and know immediately that a high level craftsman is residing there.
It gets a bit tricky here only because even the average DIYer may have chisels, saws, a table saw, and a hammer. What you need to do firstly is be sure to have at least 5 times the amount of tools that the average homeowner may have. For example, if the average home owner has 4 chisels, you will need at least two dozen; if he has 2 hand saws, you need at least ten. In fact, hand saws are the one tool that can really set you apart, because you can easily pick up a few dozen old hand saws, the older the better, and hang them prominently along your wall. Remember, they don’t even have to be sharp, as long as they look great.
Hand planes are a bit trickier. Once again, the average Joe off the street will generally know what a hand plane looks like, and he may even have one or two in his tool box. What you need to do is have a plane collection that screams “serious woodworker”. Of course you have your numbered Stanley’s, and for those I recommend #1 thru #7. But you really need to stand out. Wood bodied planes are certainly welcome; moulding planes appear to be “woodworkery”, but I suggest you kick it up a notch and pick up a few exotic infill planes. Be sure they are big, shiny, and visible the moment you enter the workshop.
Other tools to consider are hand braces and drills, many hammers and mallets, and of course you want a nice cabinet saw, planer, and drill press. An added bonus powertool would be a lathe, which is instantly recognizable to most people. A nice added touch would be some rasps and floats, which look like woodworking tools to the layman yet at the same time are obscure enough to emit air of “craftsman”. What you are going for is a large group of specialty tools that can be hung throughout the workshop in a highly visible manner.
This part is tough, because I’ve yet to discover a true cool woodworker “dress code”. I’ve found that it’s not so much the clothes, but how they are worn that set apart cool woodworkers from the rest of the population. For example, most of us wear t-shirts, but a cool woodworker will generally wear some type of logo t-shirt, and like all things cool woodworker, the more obscure the logo, the better. A shop apron is a must, and shorts are another staple. “But”, you say, “we all wear shorts!” True. But a cool woodworker will wear shorts year round. Why? Because wearing shorts year round is an indicator that you spend much of your free time in a climate controlled workshop. Also, clogs, sandals, flip-flops, or any unconventional footwear is always a good choice. Work boots are generally a no-no. A good rule of thumb is any footwear that is completely inappropriate to the task, sort of like wearing sneakers to a wedding.
Maybe the most important look you need to cultivate is your coif and facial hair. The coif is actually easy, you only need not get a haircut for approximately 6 months. The key is not to have long hair, but wear a hairstyle that tells the world you are too busy woodworking to actually care what your hair looks like. Washing (or not washing) your hair on a regular basis is completely optional. The facial hair is a bit more challenging. The goatee doesn’t really fit the bill, and neither does the neatly trimmed beard. I’ve found that the most accepted form of facial hair is either the wildly unkempt beard, or the stubbly, near-beard that never quite fills out. Also acceptable is the late 70’s/early 80’s era Kurt Bevacqua mustache.
In all cases, a beer belly is a must. You also get added points for being skinny with a beer belly, which obviously isn’t easy. Though cool woodworkers are supposedly on their feet and working with their hands all day, they still somehow manage to look like the least physically fit people on the planet, so that is the look you should be shooting for. Think the opposite of muscles and you will be okay.
Once again I’ve laid out a course that isn’t necessarily easy. However, looking like a woodworker should be a bit of a challenge. Still, I have no doubt that if you follow these steps, you will easily convince most people that you are, in fact, a cool woodworker.