Is Norm Abram a Master Carpenter?

Well, we all know he’s a highly influential carpenter… He ranked #1 in our poll of 3 forums (see’s Guide to Your 31 Most Influential Woodworkers). But is he really a master carpenter?

This is the question that a newbie Woodnetter posted. There are 99 responses, and right off the bat one WoodNet member posted a little icon of a smiley-guy eating a bag of popcorn. That’s my feeling exactly about a post like this – grab some snacks, this is going to be entertaining! :)

I counted up the results for you – some yeses were implied more than written as yes, so you’ll have to take my word for count accuracy here ;)

WoodNet’s Opinion: is Norm Abram a Master Carpenter?

Yes: 21
No: 10

Some folks, in the “Yes” camp, linked to this bonnet-topped Queen Anne-legged tiger maple highboy Norm reproduced

Woodnetter Quotes that Made Me Go “hmm… Good Point”:

The show is designed and presented for novice woodworkers, and serves that market quite well. His projects are meant for wide appeal, if he were to build a reproduction piece like the type I favor doing, it would be a pretty long and often tedious show. It would also be well out of the ability level of the target audience.

From what I’ve observed; Norm is a high level general carpenter and mid level furniture maker. He may be a better furniture maker than the show allows.

In teaching, a Master Teacher is someone qualified to teach other teachers. Following that definition, I would say that Norm Abram is definitely a Master Woodworker.

Whether or not he is a “master” is an exercise in semantics.

There are many people out there who have as much or more technical/artistic ability as Norm, but only he and a very few others have been successful at doing it in front of a camera. That takes more than the ability to do good woodworking/carpentry, which is what sets him(and those few others) apart.

So there you have it folks, conclusive evidence that Norm Abram is a master woodworker ;) If you have opinions, I’d love to hear them.

And of course, visit the post for some fun and interesting debate: Would you consider Norm Abram from NYW a master woodworker?

Additional Resources:
Birth of NYW: Yankee’s Shop True to Name’s Guide to Your 31 Most Influential Woodworkers

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18 Responses to Is Norm Abram a Master Carpenter?

  1. Bob Enderle says:

    Yes, Norm is a master carpenter.

  2. Lorin Brown says:

    Since the term “Master Carpenter” was actually developed for his early days on This Old House to give Norm some since of status in his occupation, I would definitely say YES.

  3. Brock says:

    Norm is a master carpenter in my book, I would be honored to be his apprentice, or even just meet him!

  4. steve says:

    He has the tools. I’m sure there may be someone coaching him, and it is a tv show/production with limitless resources.
    Morash/PBS foots the bill with the help of Ad $$$.

    But like someone said he’s limited by the what can be shown during 1-2 weekly, 1/2 hr. shows that are only 20 min. each.

    You can’t tell from the replay angles, right John

  5. johnny hiimburg says:

    I think Norm is truly a master carpenter you can tell by way that he uses more that just the big high dollar tools he uses to that the average guy with a small shop would and still turnes out some amazing project.You can tell by the way that he works that he know exactly what he doing and I don’t think that he needs any help or needs to be coach along.He defindly know that he doing.He also has a great shop.

  6. Donald Miller says:

    I think Norm is a really good carpenter. I have watched him for years on This Old House & New Yankee Workshop and he definitely knows what he’s doing. He has inspired me to start up my own little shop & do woodworking. He has many power tools and hand tools & he knows how to use them properly.

  7. tony says:



  8. Bob says:

    Years ago I built sets for stage productions and the position was always referred to as Master Carpenter in the credits, regardless of the training of the person in that position. For this reason alone he is entitled to that designation but his skill also qualifies him.

  9. Joe says:

    I’ve been watching Norm for years, yes he is the Master….

  10. Anatoly says:

    yes, Norm Abram is a master carpenter..!He experience about his field a lot.And he know what he is doing..

  11. brad says:

    Tom Silva is the real master… carpenter, builder, and contractor. He can build anything from the ground up including the projects that Norm does.

  12. Jamie says:

    absolutly!! Norm”s abilities are limitless as for as i”m concerned. I”ve watched as many episodes of THIS OLD HOUSE and THE NEW YANKEE WORKSHOP than anybody I know. When you try to compare a master carpenter to a master woodworker where do you draw the line? I think from a whole house construction point of view, you have to be a little bit of both.
    I”ve been in the construction business for 25 years and alot of my inspiration has come from saying to myself “WHAT WOULD NORM DO “

  13. Adam Birken says:

    You bet he’s a master carpenter. Put him head-to-head with anyone else, and I’m sure he’d hold his own just fine.

  14. Norm prefers modern, fast production tools and techniques because that’s what he has most experience with and that’s what made his living. That fact does not denigrate the value of his work or methods one iota.

    Most of us do not have the time or patience to make “Krenovian” art-works, so we use tools and methods appropriate to the task. Like Norm, we want professional results with the greatest chance for success, the least hassle and best efficiency. If that means using a nail gun to get the job done, so be it!

    It is a tribute to Norm’s humility that he admits he “Doesn’t know everything and is always learning.” And that’s coming from a life-long tradesman!

    He has respect for other specialist-craftsmen within the fine woodworking and construction trades. He freely admits his limitations and wisely works around them.

    Norm is a sweet guy and a master CARPENTER. He is also honest and admits he is not a master CRAFTSMAN at fine woodworking.

    No matter how professional a carpenter is, we would not expect him to make fine violins, pianos or other specialized pieces using only hand tools. It’s like comparing classical musicians to Jazz musicians. They both have talent and skills, but they are different genres.

    Norm has no problem with that. I don’t either.

  15. Michael says:

    A very good friend’s father (Dan Hoskins) was a master in the sense that he could and did make anything that he set his mind to. including violins for his grand son. He excepted nothing less than perfection. I thank he would have said yes.

  16. MD says:

    Bottomline…..He has a his own TV show….and we don’t.

  17. Paul Silver says:

    Norm Abrams may not meet the technical definition of a ” master carpenter” but I think we can all agree that he is a ” wicked good ” carpenter !!!!!

  18. Matt Evans says:

    Norm is certainly a top rate carpenter, but “master”? That would define him as the best of all. I doubt that he is better than many other top rate carpenters. I think the people in Old Sturbridge Village 150- 200 years ago were truly Masters, as they did it by hand, WITHOUT power tools and quite often “by eye”. If Norm were to demonstrate this ability and make a piece that lasts for 200 years, THEN he can claim the “Master” moniker.

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