All of us have been there. As we start building our arsenal of tools we hit the internet and search for tool reviews. There are more tool reviews than there are tools! We all want someone to give us the inside track before we make a substantial investment. Thank goodness for Tom Hintz’s site newwoodworker.com! His straight forward and honest reviews are delivered with an extremely dry wit that has no BS about it. Tom recently came forward about his fight with Alzheimer’s with the same direct, honest approach. The timing seemed perfect for me to thank Tom for his huge contribution to the woodworking community and naturally to ask him some lighthearted questions….
1-When did you become a new woodworker?
Around 40 years ago I needed a workbench and decided to build it myself to get the size needed. I then made my first true woodworking tool run and bought a cheap circular saw, a hammer and a bunch of nails. I built that bench out of 2 X 4’s, most cut crooked and none to the exact length I meant to but I got it together and then found enough scraps to stuff under the shortest leg to get rid of the major wobble I had built in. The bench sucked but I was intrigued with making things out of wood.
2- Do you buy all the tools you review?
I buy way too many of them but I do get samples from some manufacturers. If you look at the hundreds of tool reviews I have done over the years it is obvious that if I would have had enough money to buy all of them I probably wouldn’t and instead would go live like a minor king on a tropical island somewhere. It is that cost in doing NewWoodworker.com that is slowing the pace of reviews today. With my Alzheimer’s I just need to commit more of my money to medical expenses. Maybe I should have the seemingly endless fund drives I see other sites get away with!
3-What video has gotten the most hits?
The MLCS 6-Piece Pro Cabinetmakers Bit Set Review, now with a bit over half a million views is #1. Some of that is a function of the subject being router bits but a lot of it was MLCS making use of their world-class mailing list! I like to think the traffic was due to my being cute but I think we can all agree their mailing list and my site traffic are way more plausible.
4-Where in the garage do you hide 13 years of tools you’ve reviewed?
The simple answer is that I don’t. From the start the plan with NewWoodworker.com was to sell off one tool after review to help fund the next one and that continues today. I can’t even remember how many table saws I have had on the way to my SawStop. I always buy or accept tools that I like and would buy for my shop. Focusing on the better tools also makes it easier for me to sell those slightly used tools to other woodworkers at a very good price. Over the years my Tool Reviews buy – review – sell plan has subsidized a bunch of woodworkers to some degree.
5- Have you considered making a blooper reel?
At my age I usually know ahead of time when I am about to do stupid stuff so don’t start the video camera until after that. The other big problem is keeping and organizing the huge volume of video I shoot from which the outtakes would come. Keep in mind that I do all of this myself so that would mean another job for me and I already start most days at 2 am. Just storing all that footage would itself would be a monumental undertaking.
6-What would folks be most surprised to learn about the man behind the reviews?
Most people are surprised that there is just me. There are a disturbing number of people out there that “know for a fact” that I am actually owned by one of the magazines or tool manufacturers and just making this look like a small shop outfit on a set in some big warehouse. The truth is it really is just me. I have written every word, taken every photo (and processed them) and shot and edited every frame of video. Also, I have no formal training for any of this. I got into this after being a staff writer at Circle Track Racing and Stock Car Racing magazines, which I did not have formal training for either. I wrote a story and sent it in to Stock Car Racing around 1972 and then Editor Dick Berggren bought it. So, a lot of all this is Dick’s fault!
7- Wood, Metal, Guitars…What other hobbies do you have hiding?
The most recent additions to my hobby stable are radio control helicopters and airplanes. I used to fly RC planes about 25 years ago but now with the Alzheimer’s diagnosis flying RC is actually beneficial because of the focus and concentration it demands. That kind of workout for the brain is known to be good for combatting some of Alzheimer’s symptoms. It’s also a way cool justification to buy grown up toys.
8- Have you ever heard of a tool company experiencing the “Hintz Bump”?
Sure. My audience has grown way beyond anything I could have imagined and those numbers catch the manufacturing worlds’ attention. Tool makers thought it was cool when I was getting hundreds of thousands of visits per year but now with the annual number well over 5-million the manufacturing world perks up a bit, not enough to give me money but they know who I am, especially if I pooh-pooh a product.
9- What type of racing?
Dirt track stock cars. I don’t follow racing much anymore. I worked for years in the stock car world, a lot of that in the southeast where I got fed up with the BS and phoniness in the “big leagues” (no I am not going to give them any print) so when the opportunity to go full time with NewWoodworker.com came along I took it. I have been happy-happy ever since.
10-What have you built that you are most proud of?
Years ago I built a 6-foot-tall, all oak chimney cupboard for our kitchen. It cost a ton to build from all clear red oak and it takes a dolly to move it around but it is nice and looks just as good today as the day we brought it in from the garage shop.
11-What’s the most peculiar email you’ve received?
You have to remember the more than 5-million visits per year that generates around 200 emails per day so picking the strangest is a chore. I even based the whole I Get Email series around the goofy emails and never seem to run out of material for those. (Another new I Get Email segment is coming soon).
I do think that the hardest to understand email came just recently. When I went public with my Alzheimer’s I knew I was opening the door to the lunatic fringe but was gratified by the overwhelming support I have received. Naturally there had to be one in the negative column. I can’t use all of the words he did but he said that since the Alzheimer’s was going to kill me anyway that I should eat #$%# and die and get it over with so I wouldn’t be bothering him with my site any longer. Since getting that email I have found the energy to work a little harder at fighting this disease so I can keep working on my sites to tick this guy off as long as possible.
12- When am I no longer a new woodworker?
I don’t know that you ever stop being a woodworker. I think once we are woodworkers we will always look at a fallen tree or a piece of wood and know that we could make something out of that. I’m not a big believer in reincarnation but I do worry now and then about coming back as a fallen tree and having some guy with a bunch of Harbor Freight tools torture me to death (again) trying to get them to work.
Tom Hintz at 3am