Profiles: Mike FarringtonComments (0)
This article is from Issue 99 of Woodcraft Magazine.
Woodworker, content creator; a lesson in contradictions
Colorado cabinetmaker Mike Farrington began our conversation by telling me he wasn’t comfortable around people. Despite this introversion, the hour that followed was filled with friendly conversation, woodworking insights, and philosophical tidbits often cloaked in his distinctive dry wit. Despite an aversion to woodworking instruction on social media, Mike produces videos for his eponymous YouTube channel that have gained him a broad following. While he demonstrates diverse abilities in the videos, his preferred styles stand at opposite ends of the spectrum — simple shaker and complex Kumiko. Even the music he listens to in his shop and recommends at the end of each of his videos runs the gamut from classical to classic rock to rap. If he wasn’t a woodworker, he would be a musician, he jests while acknowledging that he can’t carry a tune in a bucket. Tying all of it together, though, is a love of the craft and a desire to share it with others despite his confessed misanthropic nature. —Derek Richmond
WM: What gets you out of bed every day and into the workshop?
MF: I work hard and do my level best, but I don’t like taking orders. I like to physically build something. It’s cool to work on a project for a couple of days or weeks then stand back and say, “Hey, look, I built that.” That’s what drew me to woodworking. It is physically challenging, but it does make you feel good too.
Then you have something like Kumiko that’s an escape from the normal stuff. Once I figured out that a hand plane and a jig can give me a perfect angle on the end of a tiny piece of wood, Kumiko came easy. It’s just figuring out the jigs. I like being able to sit down and make a piece without having to do a ton of thinking – you can just zone out, put on some music, and enjoy the sounds of the woodshop.
WM: How would you describe your style?
MF: The best thing about working with customers is it forces you to be all over the map. That’s given me the chance to work in a million different design styles. Variety is the spice of life. I’m a simple guy. I like modern, not ultra-modern, but a really good execution of a contemporary shaker look. Then, once in a while, something like a highly complex Kumiko panel catches my eye. Maybe it’s not normal to be pulled in a couple of different design directions, but that’s part of the fun — to put together two things that don’t belong together and figure out how to make it look nice.
WM: What made you decide to start producing woodworking videos?
MF: I get a kick out of teaching. That’s been a big motivation for me to jump on YouTube. My channel has allowed me to teach at a high level. I want to create an educational and fun feel for anything that I put out there. I never had the dream to become famous on YouTube. If you can develop a social media machine, whether you are an idiot or a master craftsman, you can get people to believe whatever you say. Good camera angles and good lighting make you seem like an expert. That trend annoys me.
I wouldn’t necessarily say YouTube videos are the way to learn woodworking. I would turn people toward magazines and other publications. At least they have editors looking at them. On YouTube, if you have a cell phone and a table saw, man, you’re a professional woodworker.
WM: How has your social media presence changed your perspective on woodworking?
MF: On social media, people want to show only the best, and I attempt to combat that. Your project will have flaws. Accept and learn to love those flaws. Be at peace with those little things. Focus on completing the project and relishing in the achievement, and woodworking will be a much more enjoyable hobby. A lot of woodworkers will build something and then point out their mistakes, “Well I screwed up this part, and the door is a little off blah, blah, blah.” Don’t ever say that to anybody; just know that the mistakes are there and be ok with them. It’s a beautiful indicator that the piece was handmade. Never forget what an honor it is to be able to take a piece of once-living material and turn it into something, no matter what the project is or who it’s for or what tools you have.
WM: You have an array of large woodworking machines in your shop.
MF: Every tool in here, I bought used or broken for pennies on the dollar and fixed them up. I just bought a 16-inch jointer for three hundred bucks that was in some dude’s barn for 35 years. I bought a 20-inch planer that weighs more than my wife’s car, and cost even more when it was new. I had to drive 1,098 miles in a day but I picked it up for fifteen hundred dollars. Rather than paying for a new tool, I’ll work on it here and there over a few months and at the end of it, have a very nice tool.
If you have the means to pick up a new tool, design a project around it. If you’re going to buy a lathe or a bandsaw, use that purchase to create a project and learn a new skill set. The best thing about woodworking, either as a hobby or as a profession, is that the learning will never ever end. There are so many facets to explore within woodworking that if you get bored of it, that’s kind of your own fault.
Advice for Novice Woodworkers
- Experiment in different styles.
- Accept the flaws in your project. Learn from them, but don’t point them out.
- Buy used tools and fix them up — be patient.
- Design a project around a new tool purchase — get a new tool and a new skill set.
- Keep learning and exploring the many facets of woodworking.
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