Thursday, 1 April 2010

"He's baaackkkkkk"...WoodTreks...



Of all the digital blogs in all the digital servers in all the world; I had to choose this one.

Ok, that old Bogart movie line didn't quite translate as well as I would have liked it to, but you get the drift. It is my belief that there is one blog out there stands head and shoulders above all the others, and that blog is WoodTreks.
After a hiatus of God knows how long, Cruickshank is back behind the camera making us all better woodworkers again. Having taken time out to move his family to a new part of the country, building a new home, shop, and of course, a new film studio, it has been quite a while since those once anticipated emails started to show up in my in-box again. After viewing the postings on this site more times than I have watched the Law and Order rerun series', I am beyond thankful to see them again.

I would be surprised if you don't already know about WoodTreks, but if you haven't been exposed to the finest woodworking how-to videos on the web today, then you should take it in. Put aside some serious time to do so though, because this is one very serious woodworking blog.

I, like thousands of other amateur woodworkers around the world, like to sit down and yak about what I did, what I bought and what I would like to do when it comes to all things wood. While, in many cases, a lot of information can be gleaned though the thousands of posts that go online every day, the truth is, a lot of woodworking processes are unexplainable in words, even when they are supported by images. Keith Cruickshank, however, has taken a different approach to this information-sharing stuff, and actually kicks it up a serious hundred notches or so, even though talking, ok, writing, isn't his thing. With each post, Keith pretty much says nothing more than; "Hi, I'm Keith Cruickshank and welcome to WoodTreks. In this video series, we visit..."

What Keith does is locate and arrange a film session with some of the best craftsmen in America, all working in different fields. Keith hauls a studio set-up to their location and films them putting on a complete and in-depth demonstration. Where he finds these craftsmen is beyond me, but find them he does, and they are all at the top of their crafts. The results of both of these craftsmen; the one doing the demonstration and the one filming it, are - as appropriately put as I can - just bloody amazing.

One of Keith's latest releases covers Hammer Veneering, as demonstrated by Patrick Edwards, a San Diego based artisan and teacher. In it, Patrick shows you how each step is accomplished, demonstrating each method, shows the wanted result, and explains the pitfalls you can fall into getting there. In this 13 minute video, this pair of masters give you more insight into this process than what could be had in a month's worth of reading.

But it doesn't stop there. In the usual Cruickshank manner, he then follows this movie up with another that discusses only the glue. Hide Glue is a topic very few of us know much about, In this second latest release, the video; "Hide (& Animal Protein) Glues: Background, Selection and How to Prepare", Patrick delves into the many aspects of working with this historic material from explaining and showing all the different varieties, to giving insight into such things as how to determine the holding power of each.
We all have had a home movie camera pointed at us at one time or another and it would not be stretching it to say that the moment we see the lens directed at us, most of us turn into frozen popsicles. Having watched all of WoodTreks' films, each a number of times, I have yet to see one craftsman struggle with their demonstrations. Each and every one of them is relaxed, confident and open. While I have never been privy to one of Keith's film sessions, having worked in this industry many times over my career, I can tell you that this relaxed appearance has little to do with the star, and everything to do with the person behind the camera and the one directing. As Keith wears both of these hats, the credit for relaxing his subjects and letting them do their demonstrations as though they were explaining it to you directly, in their own shop, lies squarely at his feet. It is obvious Keith has nothing but pure talent for relaxing his subjects and allowing them to connect with their unseen audiences.

While Keith has come up with winning content for each movie, the way that content is captured is equally important. Poor lighting, camera angles and a lack of interest all serve to make a very good project go very bad, very quickly. This doesn't happen in Keith's movies as each and every one is far and above some of the best produced and captured productions of this type that I have ever seen. They all are professionally staged, professionally lit, professionally shot and professionally edited, all by a guy with a marketing background who never took a camera lesson in his life. If credit goes to the teacher, than not only do I have to take my hat off to Keith the Videographer, but I have to do so as well to Keith, the Videographer Instructor.

Keith's attention to detail and quality stand out in each production, but if I had a complaint about the site, I would have to say that Keith, the woodworker behind it all, doesn't. There is a person behind every blog out there and coming to know him or her is what adds so much to this insane style of communication. Keith, however, prefers to let his camera do the talking for him. While that camera, in his hands, is very articulate, I would like to see more of what Keith is about.

In the opening titles for each movie you are presented with an absolutely stunning example of quality workmanship; the corner view of what appears to be one hell of a great looking workbench. Some time ago I cornered Keith into admitting that he was the craftsman who created that bench, oversized dovetails and all. When he told me that, I asked that he do a post on it as I would truly like to see it all, not just that one amazing corner. I'm still waiting.

WoodTreks. Far and above better than any old Bogart movie.

Peace,

Mitchell