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. Nick Nicoll

    I have been a fan of the show since it started and a fan of Norm since I first saw him on TOH way back in the late 70′s early 80′s. When I got out of the service in 1980 I was inspired to be like Norm. I went into contracting and made it my mission to be the best contractor I could be (just like Norm). When I decided to start my furniture business my inspiration to make the highest quality furniture also came from the teachings of Norm (I have your picture hanging above my workbench). Many thanks for all the inspiration and teaching through the years. I will miss having new episodes to watch, but I hope through syndication I will be able to continue to watch and learn, Thanks Norm.

    Nick Nicoll
    Hawk & Thistle Custom Furniture
    hawkandthistle.com

  2. richard armstrong

    its a shame but norm deserves to try new things anyway the wife must be putting presure on him to fix his own house, LOL,

    and for the workshop, turn it into a school or hand it over to a local public to use as a comunity workshop, after all if you leave the tools to rust it would be a shame,

    all the best norm

    richard armstrong (UK fan)

  3. Dennis Vertrees

    Norm has been an inspiration to me all my teen years and into adulthood. I am 46 and started watching him with my Father when This Old House started and then on The New Yankee Workshop. He kept the spark alive that I got in high school shop and taught many young people that working with your hands can be much more rewarding than video games or watching tv all day. The projects I have made with Norms inspiration and teaching will grace my home and many others for years to come. Dads been gone since 1997 but Norm will live on for generations to come.
    Thanks old friend, enjoy your time off, You Deserve It. Dennis

  4. Nick

    Wow, I really hat to see the show go and wish Norm luck in his semi-retirement. I still look forward to learning from him on TOH. And yes, I would most certainly visit the Smithsonian if only to see Norm’s shop.

  5. Dave Anthony

    Thank you Norm for 20+ years of teaching! I’ll miss your down to earth style. I know you’ll never really leave the shop… even if it’s in the Smithsonian. You are an American Icon. Enjoy your semi retirement with your family and friends.

  6. Scott Lewis

    The show will be missed here as well but I’m not sad. I’m happy for Norm. After that many years offering us useful and interesting programming he deserves a break.

    I guess if there’s no show to watch we should all go spend more time in the shop. Maybe bring along the video camera too. Perhaps the next phase of The New Yankee Workshop will be a participative web site where Norm has an occasional new project but lots of us share projects too.

    Mine will feature routing done on the router table I built from Norm’s plans when I finally got off the couch and followed the inspiration he provided.

    Thanks Norm.

  7. Dave Migneron

    Like everybody I looked forward to watching TNYW every Saturday and it won’t be the same now.I have learned so much from you over the years.Thanks Norm

    Best Wishes

    Dave Migneron

  8. Gary

    Started watching TOH when I was an undergrad. Then happened to discover TNYW one week in grad school. It’s been a long time, Norm. I’ve learned a lot from you. You deserve a break, even if we’ll be sad to see you go.

  9. Ron Miller

    Can’t believe Norm will be leaving the workshop. I, like many others, started watching Norm from the very beginning. I too bought a Shopsmith starting out in my single car garage. Much later I build a workshop 18′ by 28′ due to Norm’s influence and put a beautiful Delta Unisaw in the middle of it. I was in heaven. I looked forward to Norm each Saturday morning. Breakfast and Norm, then to the workshop. I pray that Norm will come back in HIS own show to continue the outstanding work he does in promoting woodworking and teaching us old dogs new tricks. Best of luck in whatever you do Norm, you certainly deserve it and will be greatly missed by us all.

  10. Stan Bell

    I rarely watched TV when I was young as a lightning storm killed our set and it was five years before we got another one. Then one Saturday morning I discovered this guy doing the same things that I liked to do, and he was doing it on TV! It was amazing! I had no idea that so many people would want to watch someone making things out of wood. When the weather was bad and I wasn’t busy doing something else, I was glued to the TV watching Norm for the entire ten minute show. What’s that? Thirty minutes? That’s not how I remember it.
    Norm is doing more of his own things and I bet He’ll enjoy the freedom. Best Wishes Norm
    Stan Bell

  11. openid.aol.com/PhilJD

    Well, I did get up from being sucker punched last week upon hearing Norm is quitting New Yankee. Like many others, I figured something was up when Season 21 was a "best of" compilation.

    As I’m reading through these comments, it’s apparent to me from the huge outpouring of good wishes by appreciative fans that Norm would have no trouble jumping into the internet fray with some type of woodworking show or other. I imagine at this point in his career, he could pretty well write his own ticket as to what he wants to do online. It could easily be something less hectic, free from TV production schedules and the accompanying grueling pace. I can fully relate that he wants to power down a bit.

    To Mr. Morash’s comment regarding someone else taking over as host of New Yankee that "Comparisons would be inevitable (between Abram and a new host)," I say well, yeah, but so what? Woodworkers come in all shapes, sizes, skill levels, and have widely-varying preferences. That’s no big deal. Offering different perspectives just helps us learn that much more about the craft. There has been and will continue to be room for all who wish to participate.

    Norm, please don’t say "goodbye" to your fan base–maybe just "see you later", instead. Your inspiration to many woodworkers and other fans is akin to George Bailey in "It’s a Wonderful Life"–you’ve lassoed the moon for us, man. So let us down a bit easier—say, over the next 20 years…

    Best wishes to you with future endeavors, be they personal or professional.

    Phil D.
    Franklin, OH

  12. me.yahoo.com/a/ESpCLBQSyeeN76wVUaZfTtfGwKXk1AUG9Q--

    Norm came on when I was 16 and I knew everything. My father was the one who statred watching, he was the woodworker. As time went on and my father seemed to get smarter, I too started to watch Norm with him. I, now at the age of 37, love woodworking and will miss Norm very much. But, Norm gave me something better than the love of woodworking, he gave me my best friend — my dad.

    Thank you Norm.

    Travis Walsh

  13. Art Benson

    My father was a woodworker, but I never learned the craft from him before he died. Norm got me interested again and I am forever thankful for teaching me the things I wish I’d learned from my father. Thank you Norm for everything.

  14. TS Jones

    Thanks for the show, teacher. The checkered shirt, the unprentious attitude, everything.

    …….now about that Timesaver wide belt sander, will you be putting that on Craigslist per chance? I don’t think the Smithsonian will be interested that, really.

  15. www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawkCU48Glyjky-yj9lB5c-AiPU718VH6IHE

    Norm is the greatest and he is the reason I have the shop that I do. The things he made for us on TV, a lot of us have made at home. New Yankee Workshop will go down in history as one of the greats. Thank you Norm!!
    But..
    After 21 years, might Norm be limited in how many projects he can make before repeating?
    Also, if you remember, when This Old House was doing so well, Bob Villa left because he was not getting a big enough piece of the pie. Bob pointed out at the time that TOH and NYW both belonged to Russell Morash. Perhaps this might be an issue with Norm as well?
    Also, Morash is a smart guy. If he did say "broadcast is dead", he might be right. He did NOT say video is dead but that the internet is where everyone goes for information now.
    What if? :)
    What if Norm comes back on in a while with a whole new website, (not NYW, which belongs to Morash) with a whole new theme and all kinds of new information, video, tutorials, etc? That could even be greater than TOH?
    The NYW website will stay up a long time because they are still selling the video’s and all the plans. (a real cash cow)
    Thank you Norm and Russell.
    May you both be even more sucessful in the future.
    Thanks,
    Smitty

  16. Clint Hoerner

    Thanks Norm for all the work done in 30 years time. I started watching TOH with Bob Vila and Norm Season 1 show 1 and NYW since the beginning. You helped make the long, rainy winters in Seattle as the go-to shows on TV.

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