Sunday, January 14, 2018

Shout out to Mike Siemsen

I only know Mike Siemsen from his blog and occasional videos but I am very impressed.  Mike is one of those people who are highly accomplished in some area but are smart enough and unassuming enough and good enough at communicating that they can share their skill very effectively.  I have never seen someone explain how to flatten a board better than this:

My son went to college in Northfield, Minnesota and Mike's style is what I associate with that state (yes I know this is ridiculous).  Maybe it's the extreme cold there that causes people to not expend energy unnecessarily, but they have a way of getting to the point without a lot of excess verbiage or showiness.

You may think that you already know how to flatten a board, and many of us do, but did you learn nothing at all from this video?  I think of my son, who is interested in woodworking but has no background.  Could I show him this video and then let him try it himself on his own?  Yes I could and, if he asked me how to flatten a board, I'd do exactly that.

Someone commented amusingly that this is the best advertisement for jointers and planers he'd ever seen.  It's true that I don't care to do this on a regular basis, but it's also a basic skill that is very valuable and sometimes you do need to do it.  As he says at the end of the video, most of us don't have a very wide jointer, so being able to flatten one side of a board is an essential skill.  This is where I am.  I have a 6" jointer which I hardly use at all but I do use my lunchbox planer exactly the way he suggests.

Here is another one of his videos on workholding without a vise that I really like:

Again, most of us have vises so this might seem irrelevant, but knowing these methods of workholding without a vise is extremely valuable.  In my opinion, despite Paul Sellers' many outstanding skills, a weakness is his overreliance on a vise.  This video is a useful antidote and it shares techniques I use often.

I frequently read and hear that woodworking as a hobby is declining because younger generations are not picking it up the way mine did.  That's a real shame.  The approach that people like Mike Siemsen take provides a viable entry path that is affordable and achievable.  I wish he would create a subscription video service or offer more videos like the one on building a basic bench.  The expense of travel and lodging is a barrier to the best alternative, which is to take classes in person from people like Mike.  Videos may be second best but they are a great alternative.


  1. Starting with straight parallel lines around the outside is brilliant and looks like it makes it so simple to consistently get good results. That's how I'll flatten next time. Thanks for sharing this, Andy.

  2. Andy,

    Thanks for the reminder, it is always good to re-view useful videos.


  3. So much valuable information in this first video.
    (In the second also but I had already seen it).
    Thank You for this link.

  4. I have taken classes from Mike. Excellent! You will constantly hear Mike say... people just make things more complicated than they need to be.