When I took this job in 1996, I remember calling my dad to give him the news. His reaction confused me at the time: “That’s great son,” he said. “Woodworkers and carpenters are good people. You’ll be happy.”
It turned out to be a prescient comment. One of the things that has kept me in this job for so long (journalism is an itinerant profession) has been the readers who call to comment, complain or commend. There is something about people who work wood with their hands that sets them apart from the general population.
I know this because as a newspaper reporter, I got to sample a wide variety of the general population. And as someone who co-founded his own political newspaper (that failed), I also got to rub elbows with the elite and the powerful.
As I left the newspaper world behind in 1996, I wondered what sort of people woodworkers were, especially after my father’s comments. I knew only a handful from my classes at the University of Kentucky. There were no woodworking Internet forums that I knew of. I was unaware of my local club in central Kentucky.
And coming from a political publication, I wondered what sort of politics were associated with woodworking. I mean, you can see it both ways. There is the self-reliance and discipline in the craft that you find in many Republicans. And there also is a nature-oriented sensitivity that is common among many Democrats. There is a spiritualism in the wood you would expect from evangelicals. There is a deep river of science and chemistry you’d find in the atheists.
For years, I just assumed I’d never know the answer to this question. Then one day Publisher Steve Shanesy received a survey of woodworkers that had been commissioned by Woodcraft. The catalog and retail company was trying to assess the craft so they could see what should be done to ensure its future health.
The survey was interesting, but what was even more interesting to me was that the survey company Woodcraft hired was typically involved in political research. As I dug into the raw data, I saw that they had actually asked all these woodworkers their party affiliation and if they considered themselves liberal, moderate or conservative. And the survey company also compared this data to the population at large.
At long last, I was going to have my answer.
As it turns out, woodworker’s political persuasion matches exactly that of the population at large. The craft is filled with people from all political persuasions, from Yellow Dog Democrats to Rock Ribbed Republicans. (And don’t forget the Libertarians.) So when it comes to what happens in the voting booth, we’re all over the map.
But there’s still something different about woodworkers. A couple weeks ago a reader wrote me about a sander I was selling (see my column from the August 2007 issue for more on this). So without a single qualm I boxed it up and sent it to him. I told him to send me a check if he liked it. Never once did it cross my mind that I’d be stiffed.
Yesterday the check showed up, right on time. I wasn’t the least bit surprised. Woodworkers are, like my dad said, just good people.