Chris Schwarz's Blog

Norm Abram Closes Up Shop

After 21 seasons, “The New Yankee Workshop” is closing its doors, and its much-beloved host, Norm Abram, is going to focus on his personal projects and PBS’s “This Old House,” according to Russ Morash, executive producer and director of “The New Yankee Workshop.”

“Norm has done this for 20 years, and he thought it time to step back and do a little less,” Morash said in a phone interview. “And because the show was so tied to him, we didn’t want to replace him.”

There has been lots of speculation among fans of the show and the woodworking press that the show was looking for someone to take the reins when Abram left. But Morash said he didn’t think that would be a good idea.

“Comparisons would be inevitable (between Abram and a new host),” Morash said.

The decision to stop production of new episodes of “The New Yankee Workshop” was a mutual decision between Morash Associates Inc. and WGBH Boston, Morash said. But that doesn’t mean that “The New Yankee Workshop” is gone forever.

A spokesman from WGBH declined on Tuesday to comment on the matter.

The show’s web site, newyankee.com, will continue to operate. And Morash foresees putting shows or segments from the show on the Internet in a “You Tube-like situation” so future generations could enjoy and learn from Abram.

Morash also noted that Abram may some day change his mind and want to crank up “The New Yankee Workshop” again.

“Who can predict the future?” Morash said. “He may want to do this again.”

In the meantime, Abram will continue to work on “This Old House,” and his own personal projects, both building furniture and improving his house.

When asked why Abram chose to stop working on “The New Yankee Workshop” instead of “This Old House,” Morash laughed.

“‘This Old House’ is a much easier deal,” he said. “Norm actually had to work on ‘The New Yankee Workshop.’ It was a lot of work. And I certainly respect his decision to step back.”

With the loss of new woodworking programming from “The New Yankee Workshop,” many bloggers and woodworking writers are wondering if the craft itself is on the decline or if TV woodworking shows are no longer viable.

“My own view is that broadcast is dead,” Morash said. “That’s my personal take on it. Newspapers are dead. And print is dying. The only hope is the Internet. And it’s my hope that you’ll see lots  of Norm on the Internet in the future.”

And what about the craft itself? Is that swirling around the drain?

“No. There is a fundamental human need to build,” Morash said. “People will always want to polish their craftsmanship.”

The other question is what’s going to happen to the shop itself, which is stocked with all manner of machines and hand tools. Morash said he’s personally looking forward to some free time so he can build a few things in the shop. As for the long-term plans for the shop, Morash suggested that the shop could be put on display at the Smithsonian.

“It could be like Julia Child’s kitchen,” Morash said, “which I’m told is one of the most popular exhibits there. Who wouldn’t want to visit Norm’s shop?”

– Christopher Schwarz

102 thoughts on “Norm Abram Closes Up Shop

  1. Jerry Lease

    Norm has certainly earned the opportunity to pursue his woodworking interests apart from The New Yankee Workshop…but I feel like I have lost my mentor, my woodworking godfather, my inspiration and my guiding light into projects I would never have undertaken without his calm and down to earth approach to everything he ever built on the show.

    Please don’t disappear Norm! Russell and PBS don’t let the shows already done sit on the shelf either. Keep the plans and DVD’s available. We’ll continue to buy them. Print is not dead in my woodshop Russell. Just ask my wife who recently measured more than 600 lineal feet of bookshelves dedicated to woodworking and DIY books…all less than 10 years old.

    Good luck and best wishes to everyone connected to TNYW for all the years folks. You grew me from a total novice to a pretty decent woodbutcher building Frank Lloyd Wright and Mission furniture and artifacts for my FLW inspired house in Worthington, Ohio.

  2. Shawn Stambaugh

    I have literally been a Norm and New Yankee Workshop fan since the beginning at age 14 and I’m almost 35 now. I have been an avid watcher throughout and credit Norm with a lot of the skill and knowledge of tools and woodworking that I have today. I will miss the teaching, the show and most of all the plaid shirts. I wish Norm luck in future endeavors and I hope to continue seeing him around on other shows.

    Shawn

  3. Robert Roy

    My father gave me the woodworking bug. I didn’t continue with it much until seeing The New Yankee Workshop. It inspired me to buy more tools and now I can just look at something and build it. I will miss watching the show were I learned new methods to build furniture and how to make better use of new and different types of machines. Norm is not only a master carpenter but also a great teacher.

    Rob

  4. Geoff

    It’s sad to see Norm go, but I’m sure he has a lot of personal projects to take care of in his house. I think someone should shoot video of him building those projects and post them on a blog/iTunes. It wouldn’t have to be fancy, just Norm doing his own thing in the shop.

  5. Robert W Stanbary Jr

    It is truely a hard blow to the industry to see Norm go, he has been an icon to the woodworking world. I have learned so much from Norm I wouldn’t even know where to begin. Alot of us younger woodworkers grew to see Norm as a master and us his pupil, now is the time for the younger generation to pass on the knowledge he gave us. I know that I will proudly say "I learned from one of the BEST, NORM ABRAMS". GOOD LUCK AND GOD BLESS YOU NORM, he already did us by sharing YOU.

  6. John Wood

    Sorry to see the show go.

    Thankfully, I have rows and rows of recorded shows that I watch over and over again. I could never complete one of Norms’ projects without a recording to re-watch. The "live" 1/2 hour goes by way too fast for me!

    Good luck with all of your future projects, Norm. Know you will be sorely missed!

    Beulaville, NC

  7. Larry

    I am truly stunned at Norm’s decision. Can’t believe it. There is a photo of me in my HS yearbook complete with a flannel shirt and beard in the school shop working on a hutch for my mother. It was taken in 1979, before The New Yankee workshop ever aired; but somehow it tied us together. I try to build a nice project each year and always looked for Norm during his show to explain the tricks of the trade to make wood working easier. I have learned alot over the years. Many times I would stop what I was doing on Saturdays to come inside and watch the show; I am gonna miss that. Good luck completing your own projects Norm.

  8. Joe Caputo

    I first saw the shows a long time ago and wanted to do woodworking. Never realy did it back then. After seeing my son do woodworking, and my wife needing a cedar closet, I focused on The New Yankee Workshop. I got so involved I took classes and became certified in Industrial Arts. I started a wood working program at school and it was great. Too bad administration thought it was not needed. I then taught Math. But I still kept woodworking and watching Norm. That inspiration was all I needed. The pleasure of building, the craft, skills, creativity and fun – the same thing my students learned – will always be there.

    Thanks for everything

    Joe Caputo

  9. SCOTT HOLLIS

    LIKE MANY OTHERS NORM INSPIRED ME TO GET INTO WOODWORKING AND CARPENTRY. AS A YOUNGER MAN I BOUGHT THE BEST TOOLS I COULD AFFORD AND TRY TO DUPLICATE WHAT I SAW ON THE SHOW. NEEDLESS TO SAY THAT FRUSTRATION TURNED ANGER THAT I COULDNT GET IT LIKE NORM. DIDNT REALIZE AT THE TIME THAT HE HAD A LARGE BARN/STUDIO WITH ALL THE TOOLS HE WOULD EVER NEED. STILL I WATCHED FAITHFULLY WHEREVER AND WHENEVER I COULD. AT 40YRS OLD NOW I CAN APPRECIATE EVERYTHING THAT THE SHOW HAS BEEN DOING FOR THE LAST 2O YEARS. SO, THANK YOU NORM FOR YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE CONSTRUCTION OF WOOD AND BEING A PART OF THE FABRIC OF AMERICAN CULTURE.
    I DO HOPE THAT YOU COME BACK AFTER SOME WELL DESERVED TIME OFF.

  10. Charles Miller

    All good things must…etc, etc. But Norm and NWY were and are beyond good. Watching, I always felt like I had a calm, knowledgeable friend guiding me through techniques that I never learned as a youth, but which give me satisfaction today. I have a great hobby because of Norm.

    His family are very lucky now that he has more time to devote to his own abode (too many fireplace mantles not gotten to yet, huh, Norm?)

    He has my thanks for years of a wonderful program. Hope to see him on the reruns (if PBS has any smarts!)

  11. me.yahoo.com/a/2hJcZQZwtckszvfg_orIqliVyRU-

    I started out watching norm with my father when i was little. We didn’t get a lot channels then, but even if I had i am confident that we would have still watched TNYW. Norm was a big player in getting me started in woodworking. I have always felt that he chose projects that targeted his audience. He is the reason that I am an amateur wood worker today. I still review his shows before a project to look for tips. There are a few woodworkers out their my age, but often at 28 i still find that i am the youngest one in the Rockler store.

    Norm you will be missed, and I hope they will contiue to show your old shows!!! I know they will inspre others like me.

    THANKS

  12. Larry

    I started in woodworking before Norm, but in the early days, before the tool endorsements, when he had his choice to pick what he wanted, those tools helped guide me to buying what I still use today. That distinctive blue Makita router, the D-handle one he used for so many years.

    He showed that you can just add a few brads to hold it until the glue dries. Some purists including other TV woodies made fun of him and his style, but he made it seem easy and got a lot of us off our duff and into the shops, woodlots and tool stores.

    Thanks for the memories Norm.

  13. Chris

    I just "discovered" woodworking about 3 years ago and much of that interest came from NYW and of course, Norm. When I learned that this season was built as a hodgepodge of past episodes/projects, I was a bit concerned – was Norm getting tired of this, does the show not have the audience needed to sustain new production? Regardless, I loved this show and am sorry not to have Norm in my living room every Saturday morning. Let’s hope we can have the show available to us as a podcast on itunes or via a youtube channel.

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