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After 13 years and thousands of entries, it’s time to shutter this blog and move on to other things with my research, writing and – above all – woodwork. But before I stop, I’d like to say a few things during the coming weeks, things about which I’ve held my tongue.

For the last 13 years I’ve written these blog entries for you. These few are for me.

This blog began in May 2005 when we were trying to launch Woodworking Magazine without any help (meaning money) from our parent company. Woodworking Magazine was publishing once or twice a year, and we needed a way to remind people between those issues that we still existed.

I suggested a blog – what some people called a “weblog” – and I volunteered to write it. Here’s the first entry, if you’re interested.

I wasn’t seeking attention for my work. Hell, I got into writing for its solitary and somewhat anonymous aspects. But it soon became clear that if I was going to write almost every day for the blog, I had to write about my personal woodworking, my research, some animal idioms and my views on the craft.

A blog is a gaping and insatiable maw.

Even as a cub newspaper reporter, my writing has always elicited a love-it-or-hate-it response from readers. The hate used to bother me, but I’ve got too much scar tissue to notice the jabs anymore, or to even drowsily consider a response to them. Until this morning.

Contribute or Shut the Heck Up
If you nitpick the mistakes of others but are unwilling to show your own work, even crappy phone photos, you are nothing. You can say you’re a professional woodworker who builds high-end pieces for clients with 40+ years of experience. But if you don’t have a website, blog or even an Instagram account, you’re just a pimply 30-year-old man-child living in your momma’s basement – until proven otherwise.

Show your work – a lot – or shut up.

No One Asked for Your Advice
If you begin any comment with “You should…” you’re a blowhard. If your comment is longer than my blog entry, get your own blog. If you haven’t tried the operation/joint shown in the blog entry, your opinion is just noise.

And Stop Mansplaining
I have to add a special section on this bad habit. When a woman posts something, don’t tell her how to do it better. Don’t tell her she’s doing it wrong. Don’t offer advice or tips from your special Y-chromosome perspective. There’s a reason you don’t have many close friends who are women, and this is it.

Reading is Not Knowledge
About 23 percent of the stuff written about woodworking is untested, untrue or just misleading. So there’s a 1-in-4 chance that if you repeat something you have read but have not tried, then you are the problem. Even if you begin your sentence with “I read that….” you are not helping anything except your ego.

Look it Up
Don’t ask for information that you can find via Google. Want to know where to buy a Tite-Mark? Try typing “buy Tite-Mark” into your browser. I recommend trying at least 20 searches before leaving a question on a blog.

I Know You’re in Pain
Woodworking commenters aren’t good at masking their IP addresses. It’s easy to learn the identities of anonymous wanks with a little sleuthing. I tracked down a few of the most vile commenters on my blog and (with some additional reporting using public records) learned something interesting.

Most of these people were suffering from some serious physical ailment. Many were taking painkillers and dealing with a level of pain that will make any human angry and bitter.

It was that moment when I stopped worrying about hateful remarks and started feeling only compassion for them as people who were damaged, both physically and mentally. This revelation also helped me deal with the death of my father and other loved ones. I came to realize how physical and mental pain can twist a person horribly.

I know this sounds like an odd way to end a rant, but it sums up my feelings about communicating on the internet:

  1. If you’re just an insensitive idiot, then shut up, listen carefully, put down the keyboard and build something.
  2. If you’re truly wracked by pain, I hope you get some relief and can return to being a constructive member of a civil society. Until then, however, your comments will only fill my digital trash can.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 6 comments
  • matteddy

    Chris – Despite years of fandom, I’ve never a comment here. But this bittersweet post has broken me out of my silence.

    I started woodworking in 2005, when I was a debauched and not-very-successful Hollywood screenwriter. I thought it’d be good “old man” hobby someday and a great way to feel tangible and productive in the present.

    It turned out to be a good call (well, the old man part’s not quite there yet but it’s getting closer by the minute). Woodworking has become one of the great joys of my life, and no small part of that is thanks to you.

    I have every issue of Woodworking except the very first one, and every issue of Popular Woodworking. Via those magazines and your blog, you’ve been THE guiding voice in my woodwork. The clarity of your writing, the integrity of your craft and — most of all — your humanity and wit were inspirations that made my shop time exponentially safer, more productive and enjoyable.

    Congratulations on moving on. I wish you the best in this exciting new chapter. Just know there are those of us who’ve treasured the contributions you’ve made to our craft (and, hell, our souls), who are really gonna miss taking refuge from the pressures of life in one of your great posts, articles or books.

    I hope you’ll be letting us know how we can find out about your next adventures. It’s still high on my bucket list to someday take a class taught by you. And certainly anything you write, I’d want to read.

    All the best,

    Matt Eddy
    Los Angeles, CA

  • BLZeebub

    I was one that you put in his place a few years back. You did it with grace and a pointed refute to my offhanded remark. I apologized as you were spot on. I was a putz. I didn’t know the guy and my remark was unwarranted. Your friends should be proud to know you. Heck, I don’t know you and I’m proud of you. Keep it up, bubba. Here’s to the sawdust down our shirts and mud in your eye. Cheers, mate.

  • Paul Lenhardt

    Your writings have inspired my woodworking interest.

  • rheilke

    Love it! Very well said.

  • Clbogart26

    Honesty takes courage. Will always appreciate yours. Best of luck in future endeavors.

  • Derek Cohen

    Chris, I love this post. Thanks for the years of blogging.
    Regards from Perth

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