Earlywood: 'Kids Today...' (Oh Shut Your Pie Hole)
Publisher’s note: Free for curmudgeons and optimists alike, Earlywood is a free excerpt from one of the thousands of pieces I’ve written since 1996. Sometimes, it’s from a magazine article. Or a book. Or (in this case) a blog post from 2017. Each entry has been updated or annotated with some modern context or point of view. We hope you enjoy it.
One of the things that makes me nuts about woodworking shows is listening to older woodworkers complain about 20-year-olds and how they (among other vices) have little interest in woodworking.
2017’s Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event was no exception. What was exceptional is that I listened to much of this drivel while people in their 20s and 30s wandered around Braxton Brewing, used the hand tools and talked to the makers.
A lot of our customers are young adults, and the only difference I see between them and the older generations is the younger woodworkers are apt to use materials in addition to wood – metal, plastic and ceramics. And they are more likely to adopt technology into the things they make – robotics, 3D printing, CNC, laser cutting.
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Historically, interest in woodworking goes up and down a little bit but remains fairly steady through time. (Unlike interest in scrapbooking or personal journaling, which peaked at crazy heights then almost disappeared.)
The urge to make useful things is an important part of the human experience.
Last week’s Six-Board Chest Class led by Jerome Bias is a good example. The enthusiasm and drive of these students were infectious. Our Stick Chair Class with Aspen Golann of The Chairmaker’s Toolbox (which we’ve held twice now) is another good example (check out five videos of our 2022 classes here).
Woodworking has long been dominated by people older than 50 because they have more money and aren’t chasing around their kids or changing diapers (generally). Younger woodworkers don’t have the same kind of time to devote to the craft. But they are out there. And when their kids get older, they buy a place with a garage and they have some disposable income, they are going to buy a handplane or a table saw and build a workbench.
Yes, it sucks that many schools have eliminated shop class. And it’s stupid that we now encourage kids to go to college who would be happier in a trade.
But despite all that, people find a way to learn woodworking. It’s just not the way you did it (see also, YouTube). And they might not build the same things you like to build. And they might use different kinds of tools. And they just might not like hanging out with old dudes who complain about the younger ones.