The New Yankee Workshop was a a fascinating show, and Norm always built amazing things and had this amazing shop filled with amazing tools I had no idea even existed. Seriously, his shop was the size of a barn and he had more tools than the Home Depot.
At the time, a lot of the time the terminology was way over my head (I didn’t know the difference between a planer and a joiner and I never understood why anyone needed 100 types of saws.) And of course, the finished projects were so complicated it was mind-blowing. I mean seriously, in episode he built an entire BOAT. A few times projects would require more than one episode, but typically, everything was wrapped up beautifully in just under 30 minutes. He made everything look SO EASY.
|“I’m Norm and I built this chippendale dresser in 20 minutes, including hand carving it and turning my own legs!!”|
When I was searching for images of Norm’s workshop for this post, I came across this one, which shows the entire set. You can see it isn’t a workshop at all but has been turned into a soundstage with the light booms, the director and producers' chairs, and even a crew member in the shot. That really stuck me. The New Yankee Workshop was about so much more than just the woodworking. I mean, yes, the woodworking was awesome, but it was also about instilling the belief that maybe, just maybe, we could make something Norm demonstrated on the show.. one day.
The reality was, that only a small fraction of viewers probably ever did. (And before anyone emails to tell me that they built something from the show.. I will acknowledge that many people did, but probably not the majority.) Even now, (30 years later) I have never built (nor even intend to build) anything from that show even though the build plans are still available online.
But that doesn’t mean I haven’t learned anything from Norm Abrams.
In fact, the opposite is true.
The New Yankee Workshop, and Norm in particular, gave me something more precious than build plans. He was a model for what was possible. He brought me (and all his viewers) into his workshop and showed us (in a step by step fashion) how beautiful things were made. And even though his projects were typically super complicated, it was just the push I needed to believe I was able to make something wonderful, with my own two hands. (Granted, my beautiful things weren’t exactly fine furnishings, but that didn’t matter.)
And so today I am asking to be YOUR Norm Abrams. Even if you NEVER build anything from my blog, I still want you to come away from it thinking “maybe one day I’ll attempt something like that.” I want you to scroll through the tutorials believing that it really can be as easy as it looks (even if your version requires you to re-cut the boards four times because the measurement was off or the board was upside down on the table saw.) The reality is that Norm probably had his own screw ups that we never saw (I know I have plenty!)
I also know that sometims you think plans are too complicated or would be too difficult so you don’t want to attempt it. And that is okay. I still read other bloggers’ posts and often think the same thing. But I still appreciate and enjoy the work they put into their projects and take something away from them.
Now I’m not even going to pretend I’m a master carpenter with the mad building skills of other bloggers out there who focus solely on that niche, but I consider myself a DIY’r who isn’t afraid to try anything. I also believe that almost anyone can do what I do too. I don’t have Norm’s awesome workshop or tool collection, and maybe yours is even smaller than mine. That is okay. We all start somewhere. And now matter how ‘good’ you are, you can always learn from someone and someone can always learn from you.
That is the beauty of being just one blogger in this huge DIY blogger community. We all have different skill sets and methods of ‘teaching’ our readers how to create things. 17 bloggers may all attempt a project with a single board, and the results will range from the mediocre to downright amazing. But from every project you can learn something.
And I know many readers are just following along with NO INTENTION of building anything we post about (in exactly the same way I watched Norm) but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn something too.
I can’t speak for the entire DIY blogger community, but I know that many of us would agree that we don’t really mind if you don’t duplicate our projects exactly. That isn’t our motivation for what we do, but we do hope you are taking away something. If nothing else, we hope you feel inspired and motivated.. and maybe even step out of your comfort zone and try something new.
Everyone needs a Norm Abrams in their lives; To make it look easy.. and give us the hope that one day, we will be there too.