Some women woodworkers on the net
April 7, 2017 11:29 PM   Subscribe

If you are just getting into woodworking as a hobby, your first impression might be that it's mainly a male pursuit (and usually done by men with beards). But there are women doing awesome woodworking out there, for example Popular Woodworking Magazine's editor Megan Fitzpatrick. And of course on YouTube:

Laura Kampf lives in Cologne, Germany. She's got all kinds of different DIY projects going in addition to her woodworking. Here she's making a mini tabletop workbench as she didn't want to use workshop space for a dedicated woodworking bench.

April Wilkerson has documented her journey from beginner to accomplished woodworker and DIYer by making videos and documenting what she does. Here she shows how to make mortise and tenon joinery, one of the fundamentals joints in woodworking. Otherwise she creates videos on everything from making furniture to making repairs and improvements around the house and outside areas at home. She mostly works with wood but she has some forays into both metalworking and paving and other contractor type work.

The channel Get Hands Dirty by Christiana from Lisbon, Portugal also covers a lot of different materials and techniques in addition to wood. Her is her sofa/bed/coffee table project, with an interesting scale model prototype at the beginning.

The Darbin Orvar channel is run by Linn from Sweden (now living in Oregon). She does general crafting type stuff in addition to woodworking. Here she is making a cabinet with dovetailed drawers (and a secret drawer!) for her new work space.
posted by Harald74 (28 comments total) 90 users marked this as a favorite
I was JUST thinking this week about making a similar post in the bluecollarwomen Reddit.
Not on the Internet but excellent author of woodworking books : Aime Fraser :

posted by girl Mark at 12:20 AM on April 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

I've always wanted to learn how to do woodworking since I was a child, when I would read descriptions in the Little House books of Pa wittling things for Laura and Mary. So inspiring, thank you!
posted by yueliang at 12:57 AM on April 8, 2017

Skimming some random "top woodworkers on youtube, by number of subscriptions" list, there's noticeable shortage of both women and beards. Maybe the bearded dudes are hiding, I dunno. But Wilkerson is there, of course -- and she may have started as an DIY amateur, but she's runs her channel very professionally.

(well, ok, for serious beards, seems you want carving, not just general woodworking. Here's the official photo page for the Täljfest 2016 event that the Sundberg photos linked above were from (tälja = to carve in wood)).
posted by effbot at 2:54 AM on April 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

I appreciate the post and will be pouring over the links this weekend.

Next week I'm picking up supplies to build a set of floating shelves, a drop counter/table for the kitchen (ideally, using hollow core doors from the Habitat Restore for these projects), an expandable craft table, and a few smaller projects. I dream of working with beautiful wood and doing fancy joints, but lack the resources (including space), so my projects are simple and functional, but not beautiful.

Btw, 15 years ago I would have dreaded the supply trip to Home Depot/Menards because it seemed that employees (virtually all men) treated me—middle-aged woman, alone—as if I had mistakenly wandered in while out doing my female-type errands. I'm happy to say that it's been years since I encountered such an attitude. In fact, I'm guessing that almost half of the employees at the local Menards are women.
posted by she's not there at 4:36 AM on April 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

This is great! I do small woodworking, all the time, as I am starting to do craft shows. Mainly scroll sawing and such, making ornaments and napkin holders and coasters, etc.

Even though much of my stuff has a feminine bent to it, and the name of my business is fairly feminine as well, I am asked, at every sale I've done, if my husband is the craftsperson. He'll be nowhere in sight, the only clue that I'm married would be my ring, and people still ask. I've started to keep track, as a game, how many times the question comes up. 3 times last week. Nearly every time, the asker is female.
posted by jenjenc at 5:10 AM on April 8, 2017 [4 favorites]

Omg how did you know my exact Google search from yesterday? Like, literally. Creepy!

I've started recently, at the age of 41 with no prior experience at all, to get into simple woodworking projects. I built my own chicken coop and run, and have done some smaller projects making toys and things for my son. I really want to go further but it's intimidating for a middle aged mom.

There's a makerspace in town that looks like it has a pretty well turned-out woodshop (because I do not have space or money for a table saw, drill press, jointer, and and and) and I want to join but... twenty something geek dudes are not a demographic that I have an awesome history with.
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:17 AM on April 8, 2017 [4 favorites]

What got me into woodworking wasn't some dude on the internet. It was the bad ass Lissi Øland going to town on a 600 lb walnut log and turning a giant bowl.
posted by Karaage at 5:50 AM on April 8, 2017 [5 favorites]

@soren_loresen - Have you looked into local woodworking clubs that are dedicated wood shops rather than maker spaces? If you have a Woodcraft nearby they also have classes - I took a class at woodworking club and they definitely had lots of diversity in attendees.
posted by Karaage at 6:00 AM on April 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

That's a lot of woodworking channels that I just added to my YouTube subscriptions.
posted by tobascodagama at 6:12 AM on April 8, 2017

Awesome post! I don't get to work in shops nearly enough. It's therapeutic, building things! Thank you.
posted by yoga at 6:20 AM on April 8, 2017

One of my favourite YouTube genres, despite living in a studio apartment. All four from the post are great to watch.
posted by ellieBOA at 7:16 AM on April 8, 2017

I get into the shop little enough as it is; I'd never make it there if I sat around watching YouTube videos. I'd be more interested in a list of women woodworkers who blog.
posted by srt19170 at 7:17 AM on April 8, 2017

Ohhh! Nice thread. I've been a fan of Laura Kampf and April Wilkerson for a while now.

I went to a podcasting event a few months back (run by the guys from the Making It Podcast, Jimmy Diresta, Bob Clagget, and David Piccuto) and it was an excellent event but everyone on the stage was a bearded white dude. Hopefully next time there will be a more diverse group. I think they've actually already acknowledged that.

I was fortunate when I started woodworking that we already had a few tools since my wife got into woodworking a few years ago. She's since moved on to other things but our son's first "big boy bed" was a beautiful rustic bed that Amy made.

One of the things I love about the school I'm currently attending (North Bennet St. School) is that it's a very diverse crowd. My class of ten has three women in it and the teaching assistants have all been women. We took a tour of the full-time program and it was filled with people of all types doing their thing. There's absolutely no sense that it's a School For Manly Men with a few token women. It's a school for anyone. The school was, in fact, started by a woman to help immigrants learn trades and it probably deserves a front page post one of these days.

It should also be noted that not only are these women woodworkers, they are also producers, directors, writers, cinematographers, and savvy businesswomen. The are pretty badass.

If you're at all interested in woodworking I highly recommend Nick Offerman's book Good Clean Fun. Don't be put off by Nick's Real Man Ron Swanson image, the book is filled with chapters by and about people of all types. Men, women, even someone who describes themselves as gender non-conforming, they all get chapters and everyone is celebrated, the only qualification being that they do amazing things with wood.

For makers in general, including woodworkers, I really enjoy the Podcast for Makers. The host, Jon Berard, interviews makers of all types, including many women makers. Some good questions are asked and he really gets into people's stories, how they got started, and where they're going.
posted by bondcliff at 7:18 AM on April 8, 2017 [5 favorites]

Ana White not only has a YouTube channel but she posts plans for her projects on her web site. She even has plans and video for a tiny house build.
posted by Eikonaut at 7:20 AM on April 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oh... love. Wonderful post with great added linkage in the comments! I've never thought to look into female woodworkers (for some reason "women woodworkers" seems weird to me?) even though I do lathe work and small carvings myself. I made all of my Christmas presents last year; candle holders that looked very much like these. I made them in spring, put them in salt water all summer (an actual crab trap in a NJ bay lagoon behind a friend's house) and then put them in sun and weather all fall. I was going for a rustic beachy driftwood look. They were pretty damn gorgeous by Christmas - little worm holes and nibbles all over. I've also made table legs and dowels and that sort of thing. I've turned bowls and it's very satisfying. I've recently started collecting old but serviceable hand tools to use.

Inspired by your post, Harald, I am now toying with the idea of starting a little local club for women who work with wood. Hmmm.
posted by the webmistress at 7:23 AM on April 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Thanks for this! I'm currently studying fine woodworking / cabinetry in trades school! There's a 50/50 split genders in our class, and is largely a super positive environment for everyone ( thought subtle can creep in).
I think I'll face it more when beginning my career in the real world.
Positive women role models is actually so important to me. I internalized some sexism growing up, and I think gender disparity in general means I'm later to finding my voice and power as a creative person, a maker of things in the world....but each day I engage with this and unpack it and prove that I am totally competent. And it's great!
posted by elke_wood at 7:50 AM on April 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

These are all pretty cool! I was just counting up the number of people I know who make actual things out of wood (rather than just doing home repairs, etc.) and it works out to a 50/50 split (cis) genderwise.
posted by conic at 8:54 AM on April 8, 2017

I get into the shop little enough as it is; I'd never make it there if I sat around watching YouTube videos. I'd be more interested in a list of women woodworkers who blog.

She Works Wood

posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:04 AM on April 8, 2017

Awesome post, awesome thread.

I'll add a link to the channel of Mary May, master woodcarver.
posted by biogeo at 10:47 AM on April 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

Hey soren_lorensen! I was just sitting here reading Steel This magazine and read that apparently there is a new, explicitly feminist makerspace here in Pittsburgh (North Oakland), Prototype. The Turner society has also been pretty welcoming although it still has a male majority.
posted by notquitemaryann at 11:11 AM on April 8, 2017

One of the most influential chair makers out there is Jennie Alexander. (née John Alexander)
posted by bonobothegreat at 1:32 PM on April 8, 2017

(for some reason "women woodworkers" seems weird to me?)

English is my second language; I'd appreciate some feedback on whether "women" or "female" is most appropriate given the context.

Anyways, thanks for the great additional links, people!
posted by Harald74 at 2:15 PM on April 8, 2017

Thanks, notquitemaryanne! I know about Prototype, and am really interested in what they're doing, but their space right now is small and they don't have much in the way of a woodshop. I've got my eye on them, though, totally (and their membership is super cheap so I might just throw down for that anyway). I was considering joining HackPittsburgh because they do have a pretty large, well supplied woodshop. I just have to get over my fears that, despite my impeccable geek cred (I have a Doctor Who tattoo! I work in IT support!) I will stick out like a sore thumb and be a target for constant mansplaining/youngsplaining.
posted by soren_lorensen at 2:21 PM on April 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

My great-aunt Elfriede Abbe worked as an artist in many media, including wood for sculpture and woodcuts. There's no website for her work (yet), but web searches easily turn up things like this article on a showing a year or so before her death in 2012. One of her earlier works was this sculpture at the 1939 New York World Fair.
posted by johnabbe at 9:15 PM on April 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

English is my second language; I'd appreciate some feedback on whether "women" or "female" is most appropriate given the context.

I think English is actually undergoing a bit of a linguistic shift around this right now. As you probably know from reading Metafilter discussions, the use of "female" as a noun in place of "woman" of course tends to stick out as a marker of regressive sociosexual politics, and should be avoided if you don't want give that suggestion; "female" is appropriate as a noun really only when speaking of nonhuman animals (or when imitating the Ferengi from Star Trek). However, as an adjective the connotations are less clear. Traditionally, I don't think "woman" would be considered an adjective, and so "female woodworkers" would be the "correct" way to say it (if you're looking for a traditional prescriptivist approach). However, English has been moving towards a much freer syntax for some time now, such that any word can be used as any part of speech when the context is clear from position. (E.g., you can noun any verb you want, and vice versa.) I've heard some women say they prefer to hear "woman" as an adjective rather than "female," particularly when talking about professions. On the other hand, it would sound strange to me to say "men woodworkers," suggesting that the acceptability of "women" as an adjective in my speech community may be in part a "hypercorrection" response to the use of "female" as a noun by anti-feminists.

TL;DR, I think this is actually something about which native speakers currently disagree, depending on their speech community, personal politics, age, gender, etc. In this particular case, I personally like your choice to write "women woodworkers," for the alliteration if nothing else. Others may disagree. For what it's worth, I would not have guessed that English was not your first language from the writing in the FPP.
posted by biogeo at 9:20 PM on April 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

Thank you, biogeo!

And here's another book on the subject, this time by Nancy R. Hiller: Making Things Work: Tales from a Cabinetmaker’s Life
Hiller’s funny and occasionally ribald story is about a cabinetmaker who was trained to work at the highest level possible and how she has dealt with the personal anxiety that occurs when the desire and drive for excellence collides with paying the monthly bills.
posted by Harald74 at 12:52 AM on April 10, 2017

Get Hands Dirty is fantastic. Other than making it myself watching another make it is very satisfying.
posted by judson at 9:00 AM on April 10, 2017

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