Woodworking Icon Retires?

October 21, 2009 at 2:03 pm 1 comment

For 21 years Master Craftsman Norm Abram has been showing woodworkers how to build all kinds of things on his show ‘The New Yankee Workshop“.  According to a press release by PBS station WGBH Boston the currently airing 21st season will be the last for the series.

Norm was one of a few craftsman on TV that got many hobby woodworkers, home owners and even professionals into the craft including myself.  In the 21 years that the show has been on the air Norm has taught us how to build furniture, both indoors and out, workshop aids and accessories, even a whole kitchen during one season.  The plans for almost every project are available now and will continue to be available on the show’s website according to WGBH.

There was quite a stir when season 21 was announced to be just a ‘best of’ season.  Norm recorded new intros to each of the episodes.  Then the rest of the show was a replay of the original episode.  Some people guessed that Norm was hanging up his toolbelt.  Others guessed that he was just taking a break.  Now we know the reason, the series has come to an end.  Norm is not calling it quits altogether though.  He will still be working on the series that gave him his start “This Old House” also on PBS.

While Norm may be scaling back his educational efforts there are others who are stepping in to try and fill his work boots.  These new pioneers in the woodworking craft are practicing their craft in a new medium, the internet.  These folks range from the funny yet informative Marc Spagnolo ‘The Wood Whisperer” and Matt Vanderlist of “Matt’s Basement Workshop“.  Both of these gentlemen co-host Woodtalk Online.  The other end of the spectrum is a beginning woodworker himself, Rick Waters of The Sawdust Chronicles and The Splintered Board.  The list of people talking about woodworking in podcasts and blogs are too numerous to list here.  But if you visit the sites I link to above you can find links to others.

This internet woodworking community is not just limited to podcasts and blogs.  There are also community sites and forums all over the web.  Sites like LumberJocks, Woodnet, Sawmill Creek and The Wood Whisperer where woodworkers of all areas and ages are posing and answering questions.  These sites and others like them are growing at a tremendous rate.  Some are geared to a single type of woodworking such as woodturning while others try to cover all types of woodworking with different forums or groups within their sites.

This new era of woodworking knowledge sharing is taking the start that Norm has given us and expanding on it in ways that he couldn’t.  Is this the reason why The New Yankee Workshop is ending?  I don’t think so.  My guess is that what caught up with Norm is something that we all face, growing older.  Age has it’s effects on all of us in one way or another.  It is likely that Norm couldn’t deal with the schedule of two shows and appearances around the country anymore.  This is understandable I see the same effects on my Dad who has been in construction for more than 40 years.

However I feel that even with the losses of Sam Maloof and James Krenov this year and the scaling back of Norm Abrams the woodworking craft is not dying but growing.  The torch has been passed from one medium to another as it was passed from these great woodworkers to the new educators.  The amount of information in this new age has grown as exponentially as the internet.  It will continue to grow and evolve as more people join us, learn and experiment with ways of creating with wood.


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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. henryjones2  |  November 3, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    Norm, you were the best. Keep on building.

    Jake Behlen, Jr.

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He who works with his hands is a laborer.
He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman.
He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.
– St. Francis of Assisi
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