Yes, There are Silly Questions


I would hazard to say that 99.5 percent of our customers are people I get along with, enjoy hanging out with and would trust to watch my kids. But during my 20 years in the woodworking publishing business, I have encountered tens of thousands of woodworkers with questions and suggestions. So you do get some nutjobs.

Here are the craziest questions I’ve been asked while an editor at Popular Woodworking and Lost Art Press. Every one of these is 100-percent true.

I want to build this secretary but I need full-size plans. I want to be able to stick the paper to the wood and cut out every part.

Can you recommend a table saw fence that is adjustable to thousandths, or better yet, ten-thousandths?

Could you give me a list of every tool I need to start woodworking? In addition to that could you recommend your top three favorite brands for each tool and give me a little bit of your reasoning on each brand? Oh, and links to the best price for each tool would be appreciated.

I don’t have internet access, but I would like to read your blog. Could you print out all the articles you’ve written so far and mail them to me?

Could you tell me where to buy Lie-Nielsen planes at a deep discount – something like 50 percent off?

I’d like to build the project from the latest issue, but I don’t have a table saw. If I send you the wood, could you cut all the parts and mail them back to me?

I’d like a bibliography of all the woodworking books in your library.

If I send you the floor plan of my shop, could design the optimal arrangement of electrical outlets, lighting, dust collection ducts and machinery?

I’d like to start woodworking. Don’t you think it would be a great column if I came to your shop, you taught me the craft and I wrote a column about the process in every issue?

Won’t that interfere with finishing?

If I send you my tools will you grind and sharpen them?

I think your magazine should be peer reviewed like an academic journal by a panel of experts like myself. We could critique each article to produce the absolute best way to achieve each operation.

I can’t believe the terrible tricks in your Tricks of the Trade column. You should be traveling to shops all over the country to seek out the very best tips hoarded by woodworkers.

I really need a table saw. If you get extras for testing, could you send one to me?

Your cutting list has an error. I cut out all the parts to the sizes you specified, and the stiles are too short. I want you to reimburse me for the wood I wasted.

I love the project on the cover. Could you give me a list of woodworkers in my area who could build it for me?

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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39 Responses to Yes, There are Silly Questions

  1. countercosta1952 says:

    No comment, just speechless. Gene pool getting shallower by the minute!

  2. Hey…some of those are mine! Can you send me a list of suggestions for improving my questions?

  3. fitz says:

    Those sound…how shall I put it…familiar.

    • tombuhl says:

      new PW contest: identify (in chronological order for tie break purposes) the six questions from this collection that came from Megan before she began working for PW.

  4. rwyoung says:

    The stock answer comes from one of the questions : Won’t that interfere with finishing?

    That will interfere with finishing.

  5. dweeds says:

    Science fiction!

  6. This is a delicacy for the mind. Stupidity is generally infuriating, but sometimes, it’s a joy. Thanks.

  7. blefty says:

    I wouldn’t believe any if this if I hadn’t taught public school for thirty years. How’s that for a sentence!

  8. freonguy says:

    My Dad was a Barber for 40 years. One of his favourite sayings was
    ” There is nothing worse than people ”
    ‘Nuff said.

  9. That almost makes up for daylight savings time .

  10. Tom Dickey says:

    Note to self DO NOT read this blog wile eating or drinking! Getting tired of cleaning the screen.

  11. lbcaterson says:

    Could you send me a list of the best questions you’ve ever been asked? And can you print them all in a book, just for me?

    (tongue firmly planted in cheek.)

  12. knewconcepts says:

    I can assure you that these are typical of the few folks that are totally clueless out there. From this vantage point, they are funny, but at the time you are trying to help, it is pretty hard to keep your cool.

  13. mcdara says:

    I read your blog all the time. Can you make me a list of everything I don’t already know?

  14. tsstahl says:

    To paraphrase Einstein, if you make something idiot proof the world will build a better idiot.

    Good to know the factory is still running in peak form.

  15. From the tone of the blog above I guess you will not be installing the skeletonized pulls on my campaign chest. Please when my packages just refuse shipment and they should be returned to me.

  16. Make that “…when my packages arrive…”

  17. jimlemaster says:

    I’m suppose to be drinking my wine, not chocking on it…humor is good for the soul!

  18. rondennis303 says:

    “Because people are dead, it does not follow that they were stupid.” – David Pye, author, “The Nature and Art of Workmanship.”

    Vice versa works for “Brain Dead”!

  19. Marilyn says:

    I tried to pick out my favorite .. but I was too overwhelmed by the choices.

  20. toolnut says:

    So, to clarify, asking you to deliver books when you are in my area teaching or on vacation, so that I can save on shipping, would be…bad?

  21. Kim Howarter says:

    So what are some of the “Silly Questions” that you actually answered?
    I got asked once to allow using super glue to attach some press-in hardware to a metal part. It takes all kinds!

  22. John Hippe says:

    I once read “There may be no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots…” If I am honest, I have been an inquisitive idiot from time to time. By the way I think I did find “Lee Nealson” planes for about 50% off on an online bargain store…

  23. jankowskic says:

    So I guess that means you wont 4-square my boards, cut them to length and send them back? Sigh……..

  24. “Won’t that interfere with finishing?”

    Hey, wait a second…

  25. Someday I should share my emails.

  26. bkoholliston says:

    I do keep a catalog of all my woodworking books using software called Delicious Monster. I actually started doing this when I accidentally bought some duplicate books that I already had.

    If the book has a bar code, it is really easy, but if not then you have to type a bit.

  27. pathdoc70 says:

    Great questions most certainly and I am sure you answered them with one word, “Seriously” ?
    BTW can you tell me where I can buy screws whose threads allow the slots to automatically align parallel to each other when installed. (Not seriously.)

  28. Paleotool says:

    I have many similar questions sent to me regularly!!! I thought I just attracted the loonies. I recently had someone get very angry that I could not tell him exactly how many fasteners and what size they needed to be to build a small cabin on wheels. I also get requests about every month for the full-size printable plans as that is apparently the only accurate way to cut lumber. The best ones always start out as “do you know what you should have done…?”

    • almartin93 says:

      Oh, that was a softball question…for that cabin you need two 1/2″ x 6″ lag screws to attach the rear wheels and one 1/2″ x 6″-24 hex-head bolt (and a 1/2″-24 nut) to attach the front tricycle wheel. Any “real” cabin is swedish cove with doubole-dovetail ends, so there are no fasteners there. 🙂

  29. brandoncryder says:

    Your title is wrong. There are no stupid questions.

    Only stupid people, who ASK questions.

  30. Ron Harper says:

    I am 68 years old. I spent 18 of them in the real estate business. I am amused by some of tbe questions, but by no means surprised.

  31. Ham Salad says:

    Oh man, 5 years at Home Depot brought alot of these and other questions that would make your head spin.

    Personal favorite? “How do I hook my electric dryer to the main coming into my house?” I just asked for the address to tell the fire dept where to go when there was that loud bang..

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