As many of you have likely heard, the New Yankee Workshop has just announced that the current season will be their last. I have to say, that is sad news to me. Norm Abram, the Yankee at the center of the workshop, has been such a positive influence on woodworking, for so many years, that his absence will be significant. (He will be continuing with the This Old House show.) I am confident that there are a good number of folks out there who are making sawdust and enjoying the craft due primarily to the influence of Norm and the NYW.
Although the power of the television media is surely one of the reasons that Norm has become a household name, it is the man behind the persona that I feel made the difference. While Norm and I are not good buddies, I have talked to him often enough to know that what you see is what you get. I had the good fortune one day to interview him for the Journal, and in the middle of some serious questions, I teased him by asking him if there were any woodworking projects at home that his wife was waiting for him to complete. There was laughter throughout the workshop, Norm got a good chuckle out of it and then answered the question, straight up. (Not currently, but there had been a couple …)
For another example, the very first time I visited the NYW (Norm and I both had brown hair at the time), I sat down to eat lunch with Norm and the crew. I happened to be heading to Florida the next day to drop off my daughter at college, my first child to leave the state to go to college. That fact came up during the conversation, and in a minute Norm and I were deep into discussing schools (he had a child that was visiting colleges at that time), just two dads concerned about their kids and what was best for them. What you see is what you get.
Similarly, I also have nothing but good words about the entire New Yankee Workshop crew. Over the last eleven years, I have had many interactions with everyone from Russ Morash to their cameraman to the folk who handle their public relations. Good folks, one and all.
While I am sad to see the NYW go to rerun-world (where I am confident it will live on for years), in another way, I am happy for Norm Abram and the rest of the folks associated with the show. In my mind, there is real value to going out on top. (Trust me, it is always better to be missed than to be asked to leave!)
So please allow me to say congratulations to Norm and the New Yankee Workshop crew one and all. It has been a wonderful run and all of us in the field are richer for it. You will be missed.