Say it Ain’t So, Norm

Norm1As 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 …)

RobNNorm2For 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.

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This entry was posted in Legends of the Craft and tagged , by Rob Johnstone. Bookmark the permalink.

About Rob Johnstone

Rob Johnstone has been part of Woodworker's Journal's since 1997, becoming editor of the print magazine in 1998 and editor in chief in 2007. He began woodworking at age 13 in his family-owned cabinet shop and, as an adult, trained to become an accomplished luthier. He eventually opened his own cabinetry and custom fine woodworking business. Rob has brought many of the most well-known authors in woodworking to the Journal's pages and introduced Woodworker's Journal Online Survey. When, in his free time, Rob isn't woodworking, he enjoys hunting for sharp-tailed grouse with his bird dog, playing music and/or listening to his son's rock band and cooking on his high-tech stove.

15 thoughts on “Say it Ain’t So, Norm

  1. I will miss “The New Yankee Workshop”. “This Old House” has too much “history”, and not enough wood working for me.

  2. Sorry to see NYW go to Valhalla. I always enjoyed the manner in which Norm does things in his shop, reminds me of myself. I’m sure I did not see all the programs so I will have to try and pick them up on reruns. Good luck Norm.

  3. It is with sadness that I read about Norm Abram leaving the New Yankee Workshop. I started watching him 11 years ago and have not missed a show since. It is because of him that I do wood work today. I have taped over 1000 shows of him and refer to them regularly. All I can say is “Thanks, Norm, you have taught me a lot. No one will be able to fill your shoes.”

  4. Norm Abram and the New Yankee Workshop have changed my life. I have been learning the craft from Norm for the last 15 years of so. I remember very clearly setting up my wood shop one piece at a time to make some of the NYW projects. Having made several for family and friends over the years I truly believe I have benefited greatly from the fine example set by Norm Abram and the crew at NYW. Thank You for the last 21 years. I will keep the drive alive in my shop.
    Sincerely, J. Reid

  5. Although I am a bit sad by the demise of the New Yankee Workshop I am not too surprised. Norm did a great job with the limitations that I am sure were placed upon him (like a thirty minute show and 20 minutes of actual show time). There was no teaching done in that short time. Show the project piece, go through the motions of doing the work and show the end results. The latest version quickly became boring because there just simply was not enough time to actually talk about the tools, show the tricky parts of a project, teach a mastery portion of the project and make it a great learning experience. Unfortunately the show became a “look what we’ve done” coupled with the Antique Roadshow. I hope that the carriers and producers learn that television is supposed to be more than a video clip. Richard V.

  6. Been a fan for many years. Have Beta to Vhs tapes of past shows. Now have a DVD recorder to get my PBS slice of heaven here in San Diego (NYWS, TOH, Ask TOH & Hometime). Thanks Norm for the help & Inspiration over the years. –Luke–

  7. Sorry to hear Norm is leaving NYW. As an active member of the furniture business community, I have always enjoyed Norm work with his hands and machines. He’s proven with the right set of tools and knowhow, anything is possible. Good luck Norm.

  8. Norm, Iam sorry to hear that you will not be doing anymore presentations on the New Yankee Workshop. It is the only show I have seen that has any benifit to me as a self taught woodworker. Here in Australia we do not have this type of show that says you can do this. Thank you for your help and good luck for your future.
    Regards David

  9. Norm, thanks for the many wonderful ideas and especially the safety tips. Some times my son wouldn’t listen to me about safety, but if Norm Abrams says to wear your safety glasses he puts them on. I wish you weren’t leaving and will no longer have a reason to watch PBS on Saturday. Nothing else on TV is worth watching.

  10. The news of an expiration date for the New Yankee Workshop is a sad moment, but has helped me to reflect on myself, just as I am sure Norm is reflecting on his glorious run on the show. Norm Abram is the sole inspiration that attracted me to woodworking. I am only 25 years old, and have not been enjoying the show, and the host as long as most of the fans, but I feel the Effects it has had on me will show just as well as I pursue this wonderful love that has been sparked in me. This may sound a bit like a eulogy spoken at a funeral, but I feel that in a way, I am saying goodbye to a great teacher who is walking out of his classroom for the last time. Thanks for everything Norm.

  11. thank you Norm for all the years and projects, I became interested in woodworking watching NYW and have followed almost everyone of your seasons of shows.
    Good Luck in the future in what ever you do.
    Don Shaw, Republic, MO

  12. I am sitting here reflecting on this New Years Eve how Norm has affected my woodworking skills. I’ve been on vacation this week and building a somewhat similar version of the Deluxe Router Table.

    My Dad was my first teacher explaining the basics with hand tools and a limited stock of power tools.

    When Norm first came on, I was initially bothered with the wondrous amounts of pneumatic nailers and the wide selection of power tools. Now I look at my shop and all I see are examples of Norm’s huge influence.

    2010 is going to be dramatically different on Saturday mornings. Where do we go from here? No offense to the journal.

    Happy New Year?

  13. Norm: You helped me make a lot of saw dust over the years and I “Thank you” for all of it.

    PS: You got me out of the “Designer firewood stage”.


  14. Thanks Norm for all your good teaching about all things related to woo working projects.
    I am 80 years old and looking forward to many years making saw dust and wood shavings.
    Best to you, Rex

  15. Hey Norm, Many many thanks for all those educational years filled with expertise and good humour.


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