The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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Angry Eyes

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There is a common misconception that words, whether spoken or written, are meaningless, and that we should just ignore the insensitive, rude, or stupid comment and chalk it up to “trolling”. Well, I write a publicly open internet blog mostly concerning woodworking, including my projects, and my opinions on the topic. This entire blog is “word based”, as are most blogs. As far as I am concerned, words are pretty important. Words have forged nations, toppled empires, and started wars. Words have recorded world history. Words have moved people to great deeds, and brought ruin to others. Nearly every person on the planet communicates with words, both spoken and written, so yeah, I don’t think words are meaningless by any stretch.

There may be another misconception that I am paid or sponsored to write this blog. For the record, I am not. I receive absolutely nothing in terms of money, goods, or services. I am not a professional writer and I am not a professional woodworker, not even close on both counts. I do not sell anything here. I have done my best to support woodworking products such as books, videos, tools, and magazines that I have enjoyed and thought that others may enjoy. I have done my best to write honest reviews of those things (when I happen to write a review). Once again, I receive no compensation for those reviews, not in the least. In fact, I would go as far as to say that there are reviews that I have written, even though they were favorable, that the individual or company who distributes the product may not care for all that much. To that I say: If that is the case, please feel free to contact me and I will gladly remove the post with no hard feelings whatsoever. I’m not here to generate hard feelings. That being said, sometimes I do generate hard feelings, and sometimes I have them myself.

I’ll say this again because it is worth repeating: I have NEVER gone on another person’s blog or forum, in particular with regards to woodworking, and deliberately insulted somebody in the comment section. I have left comments, and almost always those comments were very innocuous, that were responded to by others in a sometimes not so friendly way. When that happens, and I see it, I will and have responded. Because the internet is filled with “Jack Wagons” as Greg Merritt so eloquently put it, a comment regarding something as simple as a hand plane you happen to like can easily turn into a name-calling, insult fest. If you are one of those people who think that woodworking blogs and forums are immune to that behavior you are woefully misinformed.

For my own part, if I feel the need to say something that may be considered “controversial” I do it on my own blog. The way I see it, another person’s blog is not the place to rant; there may be people who happen to read that blog who don’t particularly want to read somebody else’s ramblings. That is why I do it here, because there is no chance that somebody will accidentally read something they do not want to read. Otherwise, I freely admit that on my own blog I may say some things that other people don’t care for, or I may have an opinion that is not popular. Because I read a fair amount of blogs on woodworking and other topics, I sometimes read things that I don’t agree with. If I read something that is open to debate that I happen to disagree with, there are times I will comment. Once again, I do my very best to keep my comment civil and fair. If I read something that I completely disagree with, to the point that I may even become angry with it, I do the smart thing and leave no comment at all. There are some blog writers out there who want to generate controversy and a heated discussion on the comment board. They generally aren’t the problem, it’s the other commenters who are. So, rather than get into what I know will be a long, drawn out war of words, I avoid it completely.

The other day, I wrote a post about an exchange I had with a commenter on Popular Woodworking Magazine’s web page. There are people who didn’t agree with my handling of the situation, which is fine. I handled it in what I felt was an appropriate manner. Maybe the problem wasn’t with how the situation was handled, but the fact that I discussed it on the blog. Once again, I have no problem with that. But I do have a problem with explaining myself. As I said to a commenter the other day, there are things I write on this blog that I am serious about, and others that I am not. I leave it up to the people who read the blog to figure out the difference. That may confuse some people, and rightly so, but “it is what it is” as the cliché goes. A while back I wrote a post about the “Paul Sellers Controversy”, where he made a statement concerning woodworkers who use power tools. Was I really “outraged” at Paul Sellers? The answer is: “no, not even the tiniest atom sized bit of outrage”. But I will tell you what did bother me; afterwards, when the woodworking forums turned into an insult-filled, name-calling festival among those who both agreed and disagreed with Sellers. I took a lot of flak for that post, not only in the comment section, but much more so in emails. I spent far too much time explaining the point I was trying to make: I had nothing against Sellers one way or the other. At the time, I was only vaguely aware of him, and I read his comments second hand on another forum. I had a huge problem in that every “Jack Wagon” who read Seller’s post used it as an excuse to be a “Jack Wagon”.

We all have a right to an opinion, and he has a right to say what he likes on his on forum, just as I have the same rights on mine. I like to say that any opinion should at least be an informed opinion, but sometimes that isn’t the case. Either way, had myself or Sellers charged a fee to read our respective blogs because they contained a specific content that was expected with each entry, and then decided to change the format, then complaints would be warranted. But that is not the case with my blog, Sellers blog, or many, many others. However, it’s one thing to say on your blog or forum that you don’t like cheaply made tools or furniture; it’s another thing to tell people not to buy them, and it goes even farther when you make statements such as “The people who buy cheap tools and furniture are ruining woodworking!”. Your typical “Jack Wagon” who reads statements such as that suddenly has a whole lot of ammo to fire around the nasty comments and more importantly, they feel that their nasty comments have been validated.

So when it comes down to it, if you think I’m the “bad guy”, I don’t care. I’m finished with explaining myself or my style of writing. If you get it, and get what I am trying to say, I’m happy to interact with you even if you may not always agree. If you don’t get it, I can’t help you and I’m done trying. If that makes you angry then tough shit. I know who the “bad guys” are, and there are times I’ve pointed them out subtly and not so subtly. I’m not trying to sway anybody’s opinion one way or the other. I’m just putting my opinion out there. I am not leading the horse to water and asking it to drink; that is not why I’m here. I don’t want a flock; I want to interact with people who can think for themselves. Hopefully, there are still a few of you left out there.

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12 Comments

  1. Greg Merritt says:

    ROFL…at least I expanded your vocabulary.

    I read your blog because you always speak your mind. . I was taught, from as early as I can remember, everyone has a right to their own opinion and the right to express it. I was also taught to be prepared to reap the consequences when you exercise that right. Having a differing opinion is vastly different that just being a jack wagon on the internet.

    You were dealing with a jack wagon and called him on it. Something I also believe we have a right to do…is defend ourselves. Be it from physical or verbal assault.

    Keep doing what you do, the way you do it!

    Greg

    • billlattpa says:

      Who would have thought that admiring the Studley cabinet would have been so controversial? There are woodworkers that I admire greatly for their work, not so much for their personal opinions. It’s not that I don’t respect their rights to an opinion, and it’s not even that I disagree with them so much, it’s always what comes of it. When it comes to woodworking, there are a few dozen men and women out there whose voices carry a lot of weight. It’s not necessarily their fault that whenever they voice an opinion, we get a group of fools who take those words, twist them, and use them to be insulting. Nonetheless it is a fact, and it gets even worse when those opinions are printed in a book or magazine.
      What we do on our own personal blogs really isn’t debatable in essence because we aren’t selling it. At least that’s how I feel. Somebody may tell me that they don’t like what I am saying, and I’m okay with that. But because my blog isn’t a subscription that was paid for with certain expectations on what it’s content should and should not contain, I do not feel the need to explain myself anymore. I’m going to leave it up to those who read what I’m writing to figure out when I’m serious, kidding, or a little of both. If they don’t agree, they can stop reading with no hard feelings.
      Thanks for your support!!
      Bill

  2. Polly Becton says:

    A lovely parting gift:
    I’ve been here a few times. This post, the Oh Henry post, the Sellers post are not what I come for. When you post on woodworking, I have liked what I’ve seen.
    If you shout too loudly, you’ll get hoarse and lose your voice.

    • billlattpa says:

      I appreciate your honesty, and the fact that you’re willing to interact.

      I’m going to go back on what I posted and briefly explain myself. I used to write posts usually every few weeks that were “woodworking rants”. They would be on topics like: “When I take over woodworkers will ban the metric system..” and stuff like that. They were supposed to be fun, and funny; lighthearted stuff. You would not believe the amount of emails I would receive, in particular in the beginning, some from supporters, and some who were dead serious. Stuff like :How dare you disparage the #4 plane! The metric system is far superior to the imperial! You must be too stupid to see it!

      I spent hours trying to explain that those “rants” weren’t really meant to be taken seriously. But, there always was a little ring of truth to them, otherwise I couldn’t have written about it, but it was never vindictive.

      Using the Sellers post as an example. Do you really think I was angry that Paul Sellers said that power tool woodworkers suck? I’m not even a power tool woodworker. But I will say this. Let’s say I ran into you at a bar, or a party, etc. and we got to talking, and I casually mentioned that I did volunteer work and asked if you did the same. You say, “no, I don’t do any volunteer work”, and I say to you, “well you’re part of the problem”. At best, you think I’m an arrogant jerk, at worst, you might even want to give me a good shot to the chin. So why, then, is it acceptable to make statements similar to that in a woodworking blog or magazine? If you haven’t noticed, they are made a lot, and that is the reason I stopped subscribing to magazines period. In my own humble opinion, these guys are given a free pass far too often just because they are good woodworkers. But, it’s not my place to say that, anywhere but here at least.

      Either way, I appreciate what you had to say. I’m glad that you liked my woodworking. I’m not great by any stretch, but when I get the time I can do some pretty decent work. Trust me, I don’t like yelling, but sometimes I feel the need to nonetheless.
      Bill

      • Polly Becton says:

        So you mean these to be light-hearted “semi-rants.” I was shrugging off most of those posts I read – even the Sellars thing that I thought was a bit of an over-reaction to an icon in the handtool rejuvenation. (I think he’s earned a little slack when he overstates his case.)
        And I was in agreement with your self-defense against the troll. Up to the point you dragged CS into your defense.
        It was okay in my mind for you to trash the troll, but I couldn’t then and don’t now agree that the appellation “Chris Schwarz fan boy” was justifiable. And you went farther than that. You were very close to the line of trolling CS yourself and seem to continue to want to consider that defending yourself from the troll. I think that’s absurd and I think that’s wrong.
        Think about it.
        Polly out.

      • billlattpa says:

        I don’t think there was anything lighthearted about this post. I meant everything I said here and then some. I’m the first to admit that I’m not a great writer so it may sound a lot more clear in my head than it does in print. Thanks
        Bill

  3. bloksav says:

    Hi Bill

    I read the O Henry post and also the original comment on the PW page.
    Why those pages go on without moderations I have no idea.

    I am truly amazed that people actually write emails to you concerning stuff that you have written on the blog. The only blogger email I have ever had was from you, where you kindly asked how I was doing.
    I guess my blog is so much more boring and beige that it can’t upset anyone 🙂

    Oh yes, I also had an email from a guy in Brazil who would like some more information on my semi famous horse based stain. But that is it.

    It is perfectly OK to disagree on a subject, and I really have a hard time understanding how it can spark such feelings in people that they need to use abusive language etc.

    Keep up the fantastic blogging.
    I am still going to stick around.

    All the best
    Jonas

    • billlattpa says:

      Thanks Jonas! For a while I had my personal email address attached to the blog, and I would get a relatively large amount of emails, some nice, some not so nice, and some not one way or the other. Now, people can still email me if they like, I have attached another email address elsewhere that is easy to find if somebody cares to look.

      I have no issues with any disagreements, they happen all the time. I like to think that through debate we actually learn new things and become smarter. The guy on PW was pretty much a jerk, but I’ve seen far worse. What I didn’t care for was how his disagreement pertained to the subject matter. I can’t see how the statement “I wish the Studley Tool Cabinet was owned by a museum so it could be permanently displayed” can be taken as some sort of derogatory remark or insult. If I had remarked that I thought the cabinet was ugly, or not all that great, I could understand that some people, probably many people, would disagree. But just wishing that the cabinet would be available for permanent display is hardly an argument instigator.

      I know it’s always easiest to just ignore the nasty comments, and most times I do. But there are times I feel justified in doing it because the easy thing isn’t always the right thing. Maybe these people are looking to start arguments, but they have slowly but surely ruined most of the woodworking forums, and I’m just sick of bowing down to them. There are others that don’t wish to see me do that, and maybe it’s understandable, but I don’t care anymore. This blog is not for the “masses”, and I have no hard feelings for those who do not wish to read it.

      So thanks again for your support. And if your blog is “beige”, that is a truly good thing!!
      Your Friend
      Bill

  4. dzj9 says:

    I was busy these days. Missed the posts you speak of. So I looked them up.
    Yeah, he was very abrasive. No need for such a tone. Should seek professional help.
    And all this because of that tool chest.
    It’s a nice bit of kit, but I can’t help noticing that most woodworkers
    who made a mark in the business did so through their work and not with a shop project.
    I guess business was slow in the late 1800s.

    • billlattpa says:

      I once saw a commenter remark that the Studley tool cabinet was completely impractical to work from. I would say that could be true, but I’ve never seen the cabinet up close so I have no way of really even guessing. I’ve seen others call it a monument to tools, and that is probably accurate. I’m fascinated that he managed to fit all of that stuff in such a small space. I’m even more fascinated that each chisel sits in a holder that looks like a gothic cathedral.
      To me, what sets it apart is it’s “one-of-a kind” nature. There really hadn’t been anything like it built beforehand, and nothing like it since, unless it was a copy. That being said, I would never get in an argument over it if somebody disagreed with me. That guy on PW was out there. I’ve removed PW as my home page just so I don’t have to be reminded of it.
      I’ve dealt with far worse, but those arguments were at least worth arguing.
      Thanks.
      Bill

  5. Kinderhook88 says:

    I’m glad I found your blog. I’m also one of those people who can think for themselves, and I don’t put anyone on a pedestal. The fact is that woodworking has been around almost since man first stood up, and there is no one way to do anything. Opinions are like armpits, everyone has one and they all stink. If I’m entitled to mine, you’re entitled to yours. Period

    • billlattpa says:

      Thank you, and I agree with everything you have said and I couldn’t have said it any better. We all have opinions, sometimes people disagree, but that doesn’t mean it has to get nasty, in particular when it’s concerning a hobby that is supposed to be fun.
      Thanks again. I appreciate everything you’ve said.
      Bill

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