Chris Schwarz's Blog

Survey: What is (or Was) Your Day Job?

Trevor Smith, a high school teacher and hobbyist woodworker.

Whenever I teach a class or answer e-mails from readers, I’m always interested to find out what that woodworker does (or did) for a living. What I’ve learned is anecdotal, but interesting.

The ranks of woodworkers seems to be filled with engineers, machinists, doctors, computer programmers, firefighters and police officers.

I’ve met only a few attorneys who are woodworkers. And, even more interesting, only one fellow newspaper journalist. I’ve never met a politician who was a woodworker – though I know there are some out there, such as Jimmy Carter.

What does it mean? Probably not much. But I think it’s interesting how professions that thrive on conflict – journalists, attorneys and politicos – seem less likely to take up our craft. And those who build or serve – engineers and firefighters – are more common.

This might just be dime-store philosophy. So I prepared a quick survey. If you could take it, I’d greatly appreciate it. It’s just one question: What is (or was) your occupation? You click the button by your job and click “Done.” That’s all.

I’ll post the results when we have enough to say anything about them.

Click here to take the survey.

(Don’t leave your occupation in the comments… it won’t be counted.)

— Christopher Schwarz

81 thoughts on “Survey: What is (or Was) Your Day Job?

  1. firewood

    One profession stimulus that brought me to pursue woodwork was the satisfaction of “completion”. In my work the job goes on- some days you feel you made progress and other days you feel you fell back but you rarely get the feeling of completion. As a result, I pursued gardening and woodwork- the gardening lets me beat clods and weeds into submission and the woodwork allows me to “create” and “complete”.

  2. Mitch Wilson

    I am a retired dentist. So I am used to doing detailed work with sharp objects. I seem to see more blood these days then I used to, which, in the light of things, is probably a good thing. With much thanks to the good folks at PW, among others, I’ve been getting an intense education in a short time. One observation that I’d like to share with you. When you look at things under a microscope, working on the parts of a tree is really just like working on a really big tooth.

  3. TomHolloway

    Retired professor of history, after 26 years at Cornell U. and 9 more at UC Davis. My field is Latin America, especially Brazil, but my hand tool woodworking hobby has led me to focus also on the history of tools and crafts, also as avocation. I got into woodworking fairly seriously in the early 1990s when my wife pointed out, correctly, that I needed a hobby. I have also dabbled in traditional blacksmithing. I now volunteer in the reenactment woodworking and blacksmith shops at Ft. Vancouver (WA) National Historic Site, which tries for the look and feel of the 1830s-40s.

  4. Adam CherubiniAdam Cherubini

    I don’t know about the psychology of woodworking, but an attorney friend of mine suggested that engineers have advantages and it may be easier for them/us. As I look back on my woodworking, I’ve relied pretty heavily on my skills and education as an engineer. Basic mechanics of structures has been helpful, certainly materials engineering, I’m sure technical specifications of machinery make a bit more sense to us.

    I’m not suggesting folks without engineering backgrounds won’t be successful in woodworking. I think engineers also have baggage they/we need to dispense with. But at least initially, there are few things that are maybe easier for us.


  5. Carl Stammerjohn

    I teach woodworking at Cerritos College near Los Angeles. My experience echoes yours: engineers and law enforcement seem to be the largest groups represented in our population, followed by the others you mentioned. As for me? Former mechanical engineer and custom furniture maker.

  6. Tim_Johnson

    Hmm. Tried to take the survey but not enough granularity in the selections. 25+ years in marketing and sales in the software industry. After a day of buzz words, propellerheads and user interfaces, I take great joy in the simplicity of making sawdust.

    Just to skew your results back towards the ‘conflict’ professions, I have a good friend (his Jet sharpening system is residing in my garage until he asks for it back) who is the Assistant District Attorney for Santa Clara County in San Jose and is a crackerjack wood worker.

  7. Mary

    Retired Occupational Therapist. As an O.T., I worked with people to increase their strength, range of motion and dexterity so that they could return to activities that were meaningful to them. The sweet twist to all this is that now Popular Woodworking, along with the books from MY favorites list, helps to increase the strength, reach, and meaning I’m looking for in my work. So thanks, P.W. for being not only about the work, but also about us, the woodworkers.

    (Speaking of which, this woodworker is proud of her title as “amateur” . While a hobbyist is looking to fill time, an amateur fills his/her work with the loving gift of time : )

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