A New Tool for your Toolbox – The Internet
Woodworking is a lifelong learning process. Before the advent of the Internet, woodworkers learned from mentors or trade school and experience. Now, every kind of woodworking information is available online, no matter what your interest or skill level is. Here are some of those Internet resources.
Internet Forums are discussion groups or online bulletin boards. They are divided into headings, and someone starts a subject under a certain heading, called a “thread”; then others chime in with their comments or advice.
The great thing about a forum is that it’s a way to connect or network with other woodworkers that you might never run across otherwise, and you can do it as much or as little as you want, any time of the day or night. You can ask questions about a project you’re working on, answer others’ questions, inquire about tools, see others’ projects for inspiration, and buy or sell things in their classified sections. Best of all (in my view), a good forum can be an endless source of humour and entertainment.
In order to say something on the forum, and sometimes to see all the photographs, you have to “register”. That means you have to give a name, a password, and an email address. Some forums let you have any kind of nickname (like “Nailbender”); others ask for a real name. Some people give a fake name. Personally, I’ve never felt compelled to use a fake name instead of my real one. What’s to be afraid of? Someone might learn that I like tung oil better than BLO?
Amazingly, forums often foster friendships. I know of one gentleman who makes a trip every year called the “Tour de Wood” when he spends two weeks travelling and visiting different woodworkers from his forum. On one forum, members from a certain area meet for lunch once a month.
Because there are so many woodworking forums, I’ve limited myself here to a few of the well-known ones. There are ones that are general, specific (just for carving, for example), sponsored and run by different entities (by a tool manufacturer), local to certain geographic areas, busy, quiet, funny and/or serious, and most also have distinct personalities. It’s up to you, the reader, to choose what kind of atmosphere you want to be a part of.
Canadian Woodworking Forum
The one associated with this magazine. Almost all members are Canadian so it’s great for talking about Canadian-specific issues/prices/resources.
Well-known and very busy forum, but not as politically correct as some.
The forum associated with Marc Spagnuolo, The Wood Whisperer. Moderately busy, and very polite.
A moderately busy, very warm and friendly forum. Democratically run with elected moderators.
A very busy, friendly forum that is part of a vast website. “LJ” is run on a different software platform so it has a different “feel” to it.
A blog, coined from “web log”, is like an online diary. If you want to read woodworking blogs, there are ones for every taste, and too many to count.
Below are a few particularly good and well-known ones:
Online Woodworking Courses (Paid)
Believe it or not, there are online woodworking courses, and they’re better than you would expect.
Obviously, in-class instruction would be better, but for some of us that’s just not possible. I was able to find five paid courses. Although at first glance they may appear expensive, try comparing an online course to a real workshop costing several thousand dollars per week.
Hand Tool School
The Hand Tool School is the work of Shannon Rogers, The Renaissance Woodworker. It costs US$150/year. Shannon’s course videos not only show project builds but also concentrate on mastering hand tool techniques. Members have easy access to Shannon.
Chris Pye’s Woodcarving Workshop
Chris is an internationally known wood carver who has authored several books. He lives in the UK. His course
costs £66/year or CAD107/year.
Rob Cosman’s Online Hand Tool Workshop
Rob’s course has two half-hour taped sessions per week about a project build. There is a members-only forum and he tapes additional sessions as needed to answer questions. The cost is US$199.95/year.
Wood Whisperer Guild
Marc Spagnuolo’s woodworking course costs US$199/year and significantly less for renewal. He does three projects per year, for which he does several very detailed project build videos. There is a discussion forum for guild members only and the ability to speak directly with Marc. After paying, you have access to all previous project plans and videos.
If you want to watch free woodworking videos there are tons of them, and they are everywhere: in people’s blogs, manufacturers’ websites, embedded in forums and on YouTube.
The easiest way to find a video is to go to YouTube (youtube.com). At the top of the first page, type in what you want to watch, and you’ll see lots of choices. For example, I’ve looked up (and watched) videos on “hand-cut dovetails” and “table saw safety”. If you find a video that you particularly like, you can click on the name of the person who uploaded the video and go to his (or her) “channel” where you’ll see a list of all of his (or her) videos.
There is one other source of videos that I want to mention. There’s a blog with (free) videos called “Blue Collar Woodworking with Stumpy Nubs” (stumpynubs.blogspot.com). They’re good – funny, down-to-earth, and designed for the Average Joe (or Jane) who is trying to crank projects out of a small workshop.
Podcasts are a type of audio show which are put out in episodes. You can subscribe to them or simply watch one while you’re online. There are many woodworking and woodworking-related podcasts available.