The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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December 28, 2012

Why women are now into power tools

(Continued)

NEW YORK —

White's conversational tone is a far cry from many male-oriented woodworking sites like Popular Woodworking magazine, which tends to feature blog entries on wood-nerd topics like "All Oilstones are not Equal" and "New Crisscross Hardware — Very Excited!" Here's White: "The lumber aisle is huge, and everything might look the same. . . . Ask an associate to send you to the 'whitewood or pine board section.' " And: "Okay, so here's how to cut." She discourages her readers from buying more tools than they need, especially if they're just starting out. Eventually, she writes, you will want "an expensive compound miter saw," but to start, go with something less pricey: "I think a jigsaw is less intimidating than the circular saw."

When you think about it, it makes sense that woodworking would be the next extension of the contemporary DIY movement, much of which has been quite visibly female, from Martha Stewart to Pinterest. For a long time, DIY seemed to adhere to more narrow gender roles, with women sticking to small endeavors like making Christmas ornaments out of pine cones and spray paint. The more ambitious female DIY-er might paint a nursery mural, or refinish a bedside table.

But lately the DIY movement seems to be flattening gender roles. Men have gotten into artisanal mayonnaise-making and lampshade-crafting, and, according to The New York Times, Martha Stewart has become for a certain set of male hipster what Streisand is to the gays. Women, meanwhile, have wandered into the realm of sawdust motes. Once you buy a circular saw, you can no longer be considered merely "crafty."

Which is good, because why is using a power drill considered so much more complicated than, say, refinishing a table? A drill is, as White puts it, really just "a handmixer with a different bit on the end." The physicality of working with wood may be one of the reasons why it's taken women awhile to come around to it, even though you don't actually need great upper body strength to hold a drill, or to feed a 1 X 8 plank of pine into a wood saw. (If you had any doubt about this, scores of out-of-shape male handymen exist to make the point.)

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