12 Lighthearted Questions for Tom Hintz of Newwoodworker.com

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

Tom Hintz at 3am


12 Lighthearted Questions for Matt Vanderlist of Matt’s Basement Workshop

We woodworking bloggers might not be here without this guy!

Matt Vanderlist of Matt’s Basement Workshop and Spoken Wood Podcast AND Wood Talk Online Radio took time out of his busy schedule to answer 12 of our lighthearted questions.

1- As the grand-daddy of woodworking podcasts: what podcast did you listen to and say: “I can do that!”?

There were three shows I listened to early on that convinced me I could do this crazy thing called a podcast.  First was Adam Curry’s (yep…THAT Adam Curry of MTV) “The Daily Source Code“.  Adam was always talking about how wide open it was for people to make their own content and would ask people to send him clips to promote their shows.  So I took the plunge.

In fact, my sign-off “Straight Grains & Sharp Blades” was inspired by Adam.

Adam’s a pilot and always wished his fellow pilots “Tail winds” in reference to having a good flight with tail winds pushing you the whole way.

Non-pilots would leave a message for his show and end it with “Tail winds”, so one day he said something about ONLY pilots could say that and everyone else would have to come up with their own phrase.

So I did just that, every pilot wants “Tail winds”? As a woodworker I often wanted “Straight Grains & Sharp Blades” when I work on my projects.

The other two shows at the time that heavily influenced me to give it a go were “Dawn & Drew” a couple still podcasting today.  And a now long defunct show, called “Who’s your daddy?”  These two shows convinced me if they could do it, I could do it.

2- What was your first paid commission?

A set of side tables for an old co-worker of my wife. Like so many people, she was convinced somehow “custom woodworking” was cheaper than buying it a big box retail store.

Sadly, I was green enough to say “OK” and take the job. If I calculated the time it took me (minus the materials) I probably made $.25/hour.

3- Did you grow up wanting to be a Cytotchnologist?

I never even heard the word until a college guidance counselor (Mrs. Garza) approached me at a career fair on campus.   She said it was a career with a lot of promise and good pay.

I’ve been doing this for 16 years now, I’m still waiting…

4- Have you ever taken a chisel to work and looked at your sharpening skills under the microscope?  

Nope, I work with a light microscope silly! You’d need an electron scope to get those kind of awesome pics.

All it would look like on my scope would be a re-enactment of the last solar eclipse.

5- What’s with the hat?

Keeps my head warm in a cold drafty basement.

Actually it was a gag gift from my wife on Xmas a few years ago, apparently I didn’t get the joke until much later.   So quite literally, the joke is on me.

6- What tool, that you inherited from your grandfather, do you value the most?

It would have to be two things; a pair of chisels that I underestimated their shop-worthiness for years and a small adjustable square.

The adjustable square is the perfect size for tool setups and so much more, that I go into a complete freak out if I can’t find it.  But the pair of chisels is what surprised me the most.

They’re a set of simple wooden handled chisels from all places…Montgomery Wards…and I remember as a kid using them to pry open cans and as screwdrivers.  It wasn’t until I was attempting to teach myself how to sharpen my tools that I reshaped and honed them and made this discovery that they take and hold a sharp edge like no other chisel I own.

7-  Have you ever built a project and then couldn’t get it out of the basement?

YES!  In fact getting this project out of the basement was probably the closest my wife and I have ever come to divorce.

It happened in my first shop at our old house.  The project was an armoire style entertainment center and I swear to this day I measured for the clearances to get it up the stairs and out the door to my garage so I could apply the finish.

What I didn’t account for was the extra height added by the moulding on the top of the unit (added at the last minute because “it just needed something up there…”).

When we were attempting to get it angled to go up the stairs, the finished ceiling dipped a little lower at the base of the stairs and it got wedged.

Shortly afterwards all hell broke lose and my kids and the whole entire neighborhood were treated to some of the most colorful language anyone had ever heard (almost entirely spewing from beautiful wife).

Needless to say, eventually when cooler heads prevailed we removed part of the moulding on top and discovered we had just enough clearance to get it up and out of the basement.

8- What’s the latest you have ever turned off the shop lights?

I’ve been known to stay in the shop until as late as 1 or 2 in the morning.  Typically when this happens, the wife and kids are off visiting friends and family out of town.

9- How many different woodworking catalogs are in your bathroom right now?

I think only one and it’s from Winter 2009? I now do a lot of my shopping and perusing with my iPad or iPhone when visiting the little woodworker’s room.  I bet after reading, that people will think twice about borrowing them in the future.

10- I know you spend your days staring into a microscope, did you create the Spoken Wood Podcast simply so someone would read to you at work?  

Pretty much yes.  I’ve always been amazed at the number of requests I would receive, before I launched the Spoken Wood Podcast, for more audio only content.  A large part of the audience listens to the show while commuting, working out, walking the dog and at work.

Add to it the requests for recommendations for favorite blogs and authors and it only made sense this would work.  I can’t take all the credit for the idea though, it was largely inspired by two other podcasts I’m huge fans of myself;

Escape Pod – a science fiction podcast in which short stories are read to the audience, and Slate Magazine’s daily podcast – where the host reads articles from their website.

I figured I enjoyed it so much and so did their audiences why not do the same thing with woodworking?

11- How many hours a week do you spend watching woodworking videos and reading woodworking blogs?  

I can’t say for sure.  It’s surprisingly low when you think about it.  I’m slightly preoccupied creating my own content.  But I’d say it’s a fair guess to estimate I spend easily 2-3 hours a day.

12- What project are you most proud of?

This is where I answer with the old “that’s like asking which of your kids do you like better?”.  But when push comes to shove, the one project I absolutely love hands down is our kitchen table.

I haven’t talked much about it before, but it’s big and heavy and covered with scars.  It doesn’t look pretty to most people and I’ve only recently come to appreciate its significance.

Besides being the place we gather around to eat and do homework and play games and talk and…whatever else it is we do there,  it’s also a reminder of the woodworker I started out as and the woodworker I’ve become.

It’s made entirely of ash and I designed it less for show and more for just being used.    There’s a lot of things I would do differently now if I were to build it again, but there’s also a lot of the beginner woodworker foolishness that I wish I still had.

When we first get started many of us don’t realize there’s limitations to what we can do with our materials and our designs.  We just jump in feet first and start swimming to the shore.  At some point we realize we’re in over our heads but by that point it’s too late.  You either finish swimming or drown.

I’m afraid of deep water, so I guess I kept swimming and never looked back.  That’s the personality flaws in myself I wish I could exploit more than ever.  The “I’ve got nothing to lose” and the “what do you mean you can’t do that…I just did  didn’t I?”

I think that’s where conventional thinking messes us up in our endeavors.  If you don’t experiment and fail once in a while you’ll never find out what you can actually do.

Many Thanks Matt!!

12 Lighthearted Questions for Kari Hultman, The Village Carpenter

I am introducing a new portion of my blog entitled 12 Lighthearted Questions.

The idea being that I send out 12 informal questions to a variety of woodworkers on the blogs and publish their responses, unedited.  Hopefully it will provide a unique perspective into some of our favorite woodworkers and to serve as a way for them to share a little more insightful information about themselves, with us, the woodworking community.

Why 12? Well, there are 12 inches in a foot, 12 eggs in a carton, 12 steps in the program, and 12 seemed to be the right number of questions that a woodworker might actually take the time to respond to!

I recently went back and read all of her amazing blog posts from 2007 on and I’ve chose Kari Hultman, of The Village Carpenter, as our first candidate. She was graceful enough to accept:

12 Lighthearted Questions for Kari Hultman, The Village Carpenter

1- Was there a woodworker in your family growing up?     Nope. My Dad is a retired nuclear projects engineer. I learned at a very young age not to ask him what he did for a living, because he’d tell me. In engineer’s details.

2- Who is your biggest woodworking influence?       Probably Chris Schwarz. I discovered his blog soon after I started mine, and his enthusiasm for and research into traditional woodworking helped steer me in the right direction.

3- What book would you buy as a gift for a novice woodworker?         If he/she were interested in working with hand tools, I would suggest Country Furniture by Aldren Watson. I haven’t read many power tool books, but the book that got me started in woodworking was The Complete Manual of Woodworking by Albert Jackson and David Day.

4- Does being a graphic artist influence your woodworking?      Definitely. Principles in design are found in all the arts and crafts: balance, composition, negative space, pattern, hierarchy, contrast…

5- What flavor ice cream?     Turkey Hill’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough!

6- You seem to use a lot of pine, which most woodworkers won’t touch.  What’s your favorite wood to work with?     I do love pine, especially the smell. My favorite wood is Pennsylvania cherry. Its workability, warmth, and depth are superb.  When it’s finished, it glows.  Plus, I can get it for a buck fifty a board foot. I’m never moving from this area.

7- I am a big fan of the drawer hanging jig you blogged about.  What is your favorite Jig?     It’s a jig that holds thin and small boards based on a design I found in an old woodworking book. I wrote a post about it: http://villagecarpenter.blogspot.com/2007/12/my-favorite-jig.html     (I did read all of Kari’s blog posts, honest I did!)

 8- Do you compost your sawdust?      I use it to line the walkways between my raised flower beds, and my dog (Daisy) uses it as a cloak of invisibility.

9- What is the 1st thing you do when walk into the shop?     This is silly, but I’ll often walk through my shop with my arms outstretched, looking from side to side, ala Vanna White. It’s sort of the way I “hug” my shop. Crud. Did I just write that out loud?

10- What is the most complicated joint you have ever attempted?      It’s not a complicated joint, but it was challenging for me—the through dovetail and tenons on my new workbench. The fit had to be such that the joints would hold the top tightly but could be pulled apart for transport. And look pretty.

11- What would woodworkers in the blogosphere be most surprised to learn about you?     I once stood in line for two and half hours to get Norm Abram’s autograph.

12-  What project is on your bucket list?      There are a number of antique tools that I plan to reproduce. Some involve engraving and inlay, neither of which I’ve ever tried, so I’m very excited.

Apparently this is Kari's secret to keeping her nails looking so nice!

Thank you, Thank you, Thank You to Kari for being such a great sport and sharing her “innermost” secrets!  And Thank You for all the years of amazing blog posts!  I can’t imagine anyone reading this does not read Kari’s Blog, but please head over there and show her some love!

Let me know what you think and hit me me up with comments and suggestions.  I’d love to hear from you.