By: Chad McClung
WC: 10 years ago, when you started The Wood Whisperer, you were filling a void. There wasn’t much information available in the way that you were creating it. But these days the internet is inundated with woodworking education. What do you do to keep relevant?
MS: My goals are to be as high-quality as I can be, and to keep the videos clear–use good lighting and a good camera. Of course the other side of the quality is the information. I vet the information that I push out to people, so no one can say, ‘hey, I tried that, and it didn’t work, you’re full of it!’
We were originally trying to boost our furniture-making business. I wasn’t expecting to teach people woodworking and encourage them to join a movement, and get into the craft. But within the first few months we realized that our real audience, our new customer, is the woodworker. We thought ‘maybe we should talk to them directly’ and that’s where The Wood Whisperer was born.
When I started, if you wanted to be recognized in the woodworking world, there were only so many things you could do. Magazines were the gatekeepers. If you weren’t being published in one of those magazines, it was very difficult to break the barrier from nobody to somebody. But social media allowed me to build an audience without asking permission. My content existed on its own merit. If people liked it, they liked it, and if they wanted to follow me on social media, they could. It was the presence of social media and burgeoning technology that allowed me to spread my own message.
WC: Who are the ‘somebodies’ that you would cite as mentors?
MS: Woodworking for me comes down to the two shows I watched growing up: Woodworks and The New Yankee Workshop. Norm was like an awesome uncle. He had such an amazing television persona that is inviting and makes you feel good. It was inspirational. Norm and David Marks, taught me that woodworking is a great way to spend my time. I owe both of them a huge debt for inspiring me to follow this fun and rewarding career path.
WC: What about non-woodworkers?
MS: I’m a big fan of Mike Rowe. He’s a proponent for the blue-collar worker–people who make a living with their hands. Not everyone is college-bound. In the U.S. we’ve been brainwashed to think that for success, you must go to college. But there are so many good blue collar jobs out there, people working with their hands in a trade where they can make a living and provide for a family. That should not be put down or seen as lesser than white collar work. That’s an incredible message.
WC: What advice would you give to a beginning woodworker?
MS: Focus on hand tools early. This is not about tradition, it’s a about technique. Once you understand how a hand plane works and why you can’t run it in on a board in any direction, why to pay attention to grain direction, why to keep it sharp, you’ll be a better woodworker. You’ll get better results out of power tools if you have the hand tool fundamentals in place.
WC: Where does a woodworker like you travel?
MS: I highly recommend The Gamble House in Pasadena. The Gamble House was designed by the Greene & Greene brothers. Greene & Greene is divisive, people love it, or hate it. But as a woodworker, whether you like the style or not, you have to respect the work, the design, and the execution. The Gamble House is just mind-boggling. It’s chock-full of woodworking yummy stuff. It was a transformative experience for me. If you think you’re a good woodworker or a good designer and you walk into The Gamble House, you’ll see that it came from brains that work on a different level. It humbles you immediately.