Why Yes, I am a Dandy Woodworker
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We receive letters from our readers on a daily basis. Some praise us, some don’t. So I’m not typically caught off guard when I read one. But we recently got one from a reader, who I won’t identify, that threw me at first. (You can read the letter above.) In essence, the reader was unhappy with the cover photo for Fine Woodworking #205. He thinks that the person pictured, who happens to me, is a dandy, too clean and well-dressed for a woodworker. He thinks that the photo shows a false image of woodworkers, and he implies that I’m no woodworker at all. Well, a criticism that personal is bound to set you back a bit.
But I soon realized that the reader is full of it. I am a woodworker. There is ample proof of that on our website (for example: workbench, garden bench, tool cabinet). How I dress, what style of glasses I wear, and whether I’m clean-shaven or not is completely irrelevant. So the picture does not present a false image of woodworkers. I am a woodworker and that’s what I look like. The photo was taken in my shop. I’m using my bench, which I built, and you can see my tool cabinet, which I also built, in the background. What’s misleading or false about that? Nothing.
I thought some more about the letter, and here’s what I’ve come to realize. Sure, there might be some woodworkers who have beards or scruff, and who might be covered in sawdust most of the time. They might be a bit chubby or older than me. They might wear glasses that aren’t designer (and, by the way, mine aren’t). But not every woodworker is like that. In fact, many aren’t. And here is one thing that I do know. Woodworkers my age (I’m 37) and younger most likely won’t fit the stereotype of a woodworker. I’ve met many woodworkers around my age (both men and women) and none of them fit the image that this reader seems to have in mind. We’re from a different generation, and our appearance will reflect that. Nonehteless, we’re woodworkers. And some of us are very good woodworkers (see: Jamie Cumming, Peter Aleksa, Dan Chaffin).
So, in the end, I don’t really care if some reader (or many readers) think I’m a dandy. I’m a woodworker and what matters is what I make, not what I wear.
Oh, to set the record straight, I don’t wear designer glasses, my shirt was not (and never is) pressed, and the dovetails are in fact crisp and hand cut by me (a testament to my abilities as a woodworker). And the cover does not suggest that you have to look like me or dress like me to do good work.
My first fan letter. We received this letter in response to the cover photo on Fine Woodworking #205, a photo that shows me using my bench in my shop.
A custom card, how precious. Shutterfly is a service that makes cards from photos you send them. The reader who accused me of being a dandy used this card to write his letter of complaint. The envelope had a matching custom stamp. And I'm the dandy?
A new job title. Of course, I've taken a good deal of ribbing about the letter. And I've been given a new position. I think I owe a thanks to Asa Christiana for that.