Coming To Your Computer: “Stump the Chump”

As you may know, when I’m not doing something Arts & Crafts, I’m often in my workshop, which began as a two-car garage, but only has to serve that purpose when the weather threatens my wife’s car. My pickup truck sits outside.

My dual interest in woodworking and writing started when, as a high school English teacher, I spent my free periods down in the woodshop, hanging out with the students taking Industrial Arts. Unfortunately, Industrial Arts classes, which evolved from the Manual Training Schools of the Arts & Crafts era, have largely been phased out of the high school curriculum.

I exchanged my classroom keys for keys to my first business, Knock On Wood Antique Repair & Restoration, and soon wrote my first book by that same name. Two books later I was offered the position as spokesperson for the Minwax Company, which I have held now for 22 years. Turned out standing in front of high school seniors for five years was the best preparation I could get for standing in front of a camera crew or a room full of woodworkers (or Arts & Crafts collectors).

Along the way I learned that even though I never got too excited over the latest technology, I was always willing to try it, especially after writing my first book on a manual typewriter using quarts of white-out and reams of carbon paper. I did it for the same reason that Gustav Stickley and Frank Lloyd Wright endorsed power machinery: to eliminate drudgery, freeing time and energy for more creative tasks.

A friend assembled my first computer (using floppy disks that really were floppy) about the time Steve Jobs was still tinkering in his California garage. I switched over to Apple in 1988, but that was a big bite to swallow: five grand for the Mac and another five grand for the printer. Big, big dollars, especially in those days.

But I figured out different ways to make a living using just two fingers. I wrote monthly articles for Country Living magazine, a refinishing column for antiques newspapers, was a freelance journalist, wrote a history of the Grove Park Inn, and typed name badges and catalogues for the early Arts & Crafts Conferences.

In the years since then I’ve stepped up each time technology has beckoned: smaller, faster computers, color printers, fax machines, photocopiers, paper shredders, cordless phones, digital cameras, cell phones, the internet, email, websites, and now Facebook. Ironically, all in an office furnished with 100-year old Arts & Crafts library tables, oak desks, hammered copper lights, and a tall antique drafting table I rescued from an old schoolhouse in 1972.

And now, as the next step, my computer is going with me to my workshop where next Monday, November 7th, from 1:00-2:00pm (EST), I am going to be broadcasting live via the tiny camera in my MacBook Pro. You can tune in by going to the Facebook page of Minwax, who is sponsoring this live Q&A session. You type in your question on staining, finishing or refinishing, I read it, and hopefully can answer it. Perhaps even correctly. Live, right there on your computer screen.

For you “Car Talk” show fans, I’m calling it my version of “Stump the Chump.”

It should be interesting. No producer, no director, no sound engineer, no lighting crew, no prop master, no host, no guest — unless the UPS guy comes by with a package, which you will know in advance by the sound of Daisy and Jasper barking through your computer speaker….

Tune in, check it out, and type in an easy question!

Until next Monday,

Have a great week!