Canadian Woodworking

Old woodworking photos are rare

Blog by Rob Brown
Rob “Helping”

For many of us today, woodworking is as much about the images as it is about actually getting work done in the shop.

Whether it’s social media platforms like Instagram, YouTube or Facebook, or whether you’re sending photos of a work-in-progress to a friend or mentor, woodworking photos are plentiful. Since just about everyone has a smartphone, photos are as easy to take as they are to share. And in many cases, thousands, or even millions, of people can view these photos. There are also lots of photos published in a wide array of woodworking publications like ours for folks to see.

The good ’ol days

Even 20 years ago there wasn’t an abundance of woodworking images for us to look at. Sure, there were woodworking magazines around, but social media wasn’t even a phrase back then. The images we all saw were usually professionally shot and showed either a technique to work wood, a project being made or a finished piece. Very few of the images were even vaguely personal to many woodworkers, but rather showed generic compositions that were meant for all.

Although there aren’t that many photos showing kids in the shop, I’m sure there are some images out there of parents teaching sons or daughters, or someone teaching another friend to work wood. Teaching someone a new skill can be a lot of fun. I’ve introduced a few of my friends to woodworking, and they ask me my thoughts whenever a question arises.

My old photos

The first woodworking photo I took was likely around 2004. I had recently started my business and was working in a basement in the Willowdale area of north Toronto. The ceiling was just under 6′ high; thankfully I’m not tall. A three-legged mahogany table I was making had a limestone top and the aprons that surrounded it had to be shaped to fit the stone. I remember thinking I should take a few photos of the process, but to be honest, I’m not even sure why. I ended up writing about it in a “Finer Details” column many years later. I even used some progress photos from the build in the column. They’re the shots that show me cutting joinery for the frame that surrounds the limestone slab. You can read it here: The photos aren’t overly special, nor do they bring back any strong personal feelings for me, though it was fun looking back on them as I wrote this column.

I also have a photo of me when I was about two years old “helping” my dad build a shed at our cottage. Although I wasn’t really doing much, it’s the first photo of me that even remotely included some building or woodworking. As you can see, I was draining a beer he left nearby of its last few drops. I’m certainly not one for drinking in the shop, and I’d strongly recommend anyone else stay away from alcohol or other drugs while working with power tools, but I do like the old photo of me.

Do you have any good old photos to share with me? Send them my way and I’ll share them over the next few weeks. Include a little bit of info with any images you send.

Me “Helping”

Here I am when I was just a few years old, helping my dad build a shed at our cottage.

Rob “Helping”

Me Working

This was at one of my first woodworking jobs when I was about 20 years old.

Rob Working
Last modified: April 5, 2024

Rob Brown - [email protected]

Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement. Instagram at @RobBrownTeaches


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  2. I know it’s hard to believe, but I had hair when I was 2-years-old AND when I was 20-years-old, Steve! Not much left at 49-years-old!

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