The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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When the woodworking “powers that be” make a statement in writing, should it be countered? When that statement defines a philosophy, or is a call to change, etc. should it be questioned? I used to think so, but now I really don’t care enough to bother. I bring this up for one reason, because quite a few people have asked me why I’ve stopped my rants, or put nicely, my “op-ed” blog posts. I told them what I just told you all: I don’t care.

Continually pushing a large boulder up a hill only to have it roll back down over and over again gets tedious after a while, in particular when it really wouldn’t matter so much if I ever did, in fact, make it to the top of that mountain. For good or ill, woodworking (ers) is what it is now. Ranting, or writing satire, or writing “op-ed” posts won’t change that fact simply because most people involved with woodworking forums, blogs, and media prefer it this way. That is fine. The ‘people have spoken’ as they say.

In all of my ranting and raving I’ve had only one real, bona fide contention with the entity of woodworking, and that is the fact that it was once a working class trade and it is now an “upper-class” hobby. That in and of itself is not a bad thing, but now most hobby woodworkers are what I refer to as “professionals”, most of these professionals it seems love to bash the furniture made today (in the sense of furniture made in factories etc.). I’m not saying people don’t have the right to criticize; they certainly do; but in reality they aren’t criticizing the furniture, they are criticizing the people who make it. That part doesn’t sit too well with me. As I’ve said in the past, everybody has the right to criticize, and that includes myself.

Woodworkers in modern cabinet shops use dados, and pocket screws, and biscuit joints because that is what they are told to do, no more, no less. So if somebody out there wants to criticize the manufacturing process I’ll say that I have something of a problem with that, too. It’s pretty easy to bash factories, and production lines, and call them “mindless” or “soul-sucking” or a dozen other insults. I’ll be the first person to tell you that I don’t necessarily work at a job that instills in me a lot of passion. A good part of what I do every day involves sitting at a desk, and tracking parts, and talking to vendors, and a hundred other things that are frankly boring. 7-5, every day, week in, week out, isn’t easy or fun. Yet, while the ins and outs of my job may not leave me beaming with pride every day, I do take a lot of pride in knowing that because I drag my ass out of bed every morning at 5 am and perform a lot of “mindless, soul-sucking nonsense” to the best of my ability, my family has a decent place to live. And though every factory worker, or assembly line employee may not feel that way, I would bet that at least some of them do. Trust me when I say, being a starving artist is easy; being a person that contributes to society by doing the jobs that need doing is not.

I’m guessing that a lot of the hobby woodworkers out there, who happen to be “professionals” at their day jobs, and who happen to be among the group that loves to criticize all of those mind-numbing jobs, likely have never actually performed one of those jobs. It’s pretty easy to criticize something you’ve never done. I, for one, respect anybody who gets out of bed every day and does an honest day’s work. I would never have the audacity to call another person’s job mind-numbing, in particular if I have no real idea of what that job entails. Or to put it another way: I have no desire to be a garbage man, but I sure as hell have a lot of respect for the people who do it day in and day out. I have no way of knowing this, but I am guessing that people who collect garbage for a living aren’t necessarily passionate about their jobs, but they do it nonetheless. If that isn’t commendable I don’t know what is, because in my neighborhood the garbage man is a lot more important than the starving artist. And while a world without art (in its many forms) would not be a nice one, the same too can be said for a world without garbage men.

So when all is said and done, my ranting, and satire, and “op-ed” posts really amounted to nothing. They weren’t going to change anything, they weren’t going to change anybody’s line of thinking, and they made me a lot more enemies than they did friends. So that is why I do not write my little rants anymore. I know that some of you enjoyed them, and I truly appreciate the fact that you did. I just hope that you will enjoy some of the other things I plan on writing about during the upcoming days and months ahead.





  1. Greg Merritt says:

    I for one enjoyed the rants. They were thought provoking and helped bring a dose of reality for us commoners. Changing the status quo is difficult, pointing out the problems may not bring about change, but goes a long way in preventing others from falling victim.

    • billlattpa says:

      I generally enjoyed writing the rants, because most of them were “tongue-in-cheek”. There were times I had tried to get a message across without being overly dramatic. And sometimes the posts were a bit more heavy, depending on the topic.
      In a broader sense there are definitely things that I would like to see change, nothing major, just some tweaks as they say, but in reality that won’t happen because from what I can see, woodworking is thriving relatively (for it being a niche, even though it always was a niche hobby).

      But I can pretty much guarantee that there are more hobby woodworkers now, both in numbers and population percentage, than there ever has been. It could very well be that some of the things I’ve ranted about in the past are actually things that have drawn in more hobbyists. Because as I’ve been discovering, people from my background are the exception in the world of woodworking, not the norm.


  2. Steve Diogo says:

    As someone who lived through the NYC garbage strikes, let me be the first to second your point that the garbage man is far more important than any starving artist.

    • billlattpa says:

      I remember the strike in 1991 in NYC (not as a resident, just on the news). I went through one in Philly, but thankfully it wasn’t nearly as bad. At that, I think it proves my point even more. A lot of those “mindless” jobs are extremely important to society, and allow those “starving artists” to be oh so very creative in the first place.

  3. Kinderhook88 says:

    I liked the rants as well, but everything in this post is very well said. I used to bash the methods of the cabinet shops I’ve worked in, and spoke ill of the mass-produced furniture that’s widely available. In the end, I decided to shut up and do my thing.

    You’ve got a talent for writing. I’ll keep reading your posts, rants or not.

    • billlattpa says:

      Thanks very much! I enjoyed writing the rants, but for the most part I think their time has come and gone. I hate to say I’ll never do anything again, but I don’t plan on writing anymore.
      I generally don’t criticize a line of work because to me it’s difficult to separate the person from the job. Meaning, how can you insult a person’s job without insulting the person doing that job? Some people out there may feel it’s possible or even okay to do that, I on the other hand, don’t.

      Thanks again for the kind words! I appreciate it.


  4. nvmepeter says:

    Whilst I’ve never come across your “op-ed” posts, I find myself in total agreement, with your train of thought. I personaly do Have a adversment to the catogry of people, I label of Sheep. Good on ya for your honesty. cheers Peter

    • billlattpa says:

      I can’t say that I’m innocent of making general statements, or sometimes speaking broadly, but I would never insult a person’s line of work. To me, anybody who puts in an honest day’s work 5 or 6 days a week is a person to be commended, not insulted.
      Thanks very much!

  5. Art Watson says:

    We are still enjoying your insights Bill, the medicine just has a bit more sugar in it to make it more pleasant to ingest.

    “I have no desire to be a garbage man, but I sure as hell have a lot of respect for the people who do it day in and day out.”

    I love this and I completely agree! I tell my kids who are beginning to reach working ages, “I don’t care what job you do as long as it is legal, you are content in it and you pay your taxes”. (The last bit is a jab at the tendency for socialism in youth.)

    • billlattpa says:

      Thank you Art! And you’ve touched on something that has bugged me for quite a while, in particular with some woodworkers/woodworking writers.
      Systems like Socialism/Anarchism on paper look great, and they appeal to teenagers and immature adults. In reality we all know that they don’t work, they never have worked, and they never will work. Yet it’s so easy to live in a place and claim that you hate everything about it and you are not part of it and have nothing to do with it. It’s easy to say those things, but guess what? That soul sucking, mindless workforce is still picking up the garbage you put out on your curb every week.
      I cannot see how a person can have no respect for certain lines of work, or for government, or for religion, but still claim that is no disrespect for the people who do believe in those things. How can you honestly respect a person if you don’t respect their belief system? You can’t.
      That being said, there are certainly religions, and jobs, etc. that are not “my cup of tea”, but it’s generally not my place to question those who enjoy them, in particular when, as you said, it is all legal. Many, however, in the woodworking media circle have thrown their opinions in the mix concerning this topic, mainly with snide comments, or what I like to call insults. But the many times I’ve pointed out these indiscretions pertaining to woodworking, I was painted as some sort of “bad guy”. Whatever I may have been, I was nowhere near as bad as some, I just happened to use coarser language. But you can frame insults in as flowery a language as you like, and they are still insults.
      Whew! I’m out of breath.
      thanks again!!

  6. Art Watson says:

    Exactly so. How can you want the iPhone 6 yet hate the society that provided it for you?

    • billlattpa says:

      The answer, as you know, is you can’t. The one that rankles me the most is “Church is for fools..” or something to that effect. Firstly, let me point out that I am not religious. I am a Catholic, I went to Catholic school for 12 years. I don’t attend Church on a regular basis, I believe in a Creator, if that makes sense, and I certainly do have some issues with organized religion. But I would never, and I can’t stress the word ‘never’ enough, insult somebody or a family who finds comfort in religion. To call religion foolish, or dehumanizing is some of the worst insults I’ve ever heard, even worse than racial slurs IMO. To deride somebody’s belief system, something that families live their lives by, and then to call me rude because I’ve used the F word on my blog. I can only say “Wow”.

      Thanks again, again!

  7. I believe it was Churchill who said “if a man isn’t a liberal at twenty he has no heart, if he isn’t a conservative at forty he has no brain.” Most of what I see out there in the “woodworking press” is lily-white, pseudo-intellectual elitism. You at least aren’t that, and from someone else whose native language is Anglo-Saxon…Give ’em Hell!

    • billlattpa says:

      That was Churchill, and he was absolutely correct.

      I can’t even say that I have a problem with the individual who is a pseudo-intellectual elitist, but I do have a problem with somebody using a public to push their own agenda. Now that has to be expected to a point, but so-called ‘journalism’ is also expected to be objective.

      I’ve always felt that most of us are born to a certain station in life, and that station where we are born is usually where we end up at, more or less. So I can’t necessarily fault somebody for being born into their station, rich or poor. I do have a big problem with somebody being born wealthy, pretending they’re not wealthy, and then telling everybody how to live. And that behavior is generally what I’ve seen in print and on some woodworking forums (though in all honesty I don’t visit woodworking forums much anymore.)

      Either way, I appreciate the support.


      • I see a lot of “I’ve got mine…” out there. Worked all my life for wages or less, and suddenly have a tremendous amount of freedom (comes at a cost…), some major gifts of tools and property, and if I play it right the possibility of doing some building that I could only have dreamed of before.

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