Rejecting my inner Neanderthal

When it comes to facial hair, woodworking has to be the second most common profession to espouse it. Only Geico cavemen seem to have more.

Most woodworkers I know, and that’s a lot of people, sport facial hair. Some just mustaches, but a surprising percentage have full beards. Then there are the TV woodworkers we all know, and if there’s any common thread among them it’s on their faces: Norm Abram, Bob Vila, Roy Underhill, Scott Phillips, etc. Sure, there are some who are clean-shaven – Tommy Mac and Amy Devers come to mind – but you can’t argue that woodworkers don’t love their whiskers.

I enjoy amateur theater, and for a local play I’m doing the director has asked us to stop shaving. I’ve had two beards in my life (both grown for plays, as it happens), and both were exceedingly ugly, scraggly beards. I hated them. But that was decades ago, and both times were when we lived in the hot, humid South where it was just too uncomfortable. Now that I’m a Northerner again, I thought I might like a beard better. Wrong. I hate it even more. All the original reasons I hated it remain, but now there’s a new reason: I’m woodworking every day.

How do you woodworkers – especially you turners – stand working with a beard? I get it full of sawdust and flying shavings. I feel constantly dirty. I’ve painfully caught whiskers in my face shield twice. And it’s still hot and uncomfortable.

Now, I love my mustache and have shaved it only once – oddly, for another play. I was miserable without it, and short of someone offering me very large sums of money I’ll never shave it off again. But the thing about a mustache is that it just doesn’t get in my way in the shop.

I’ve agreed to let the beard grow a full month just to see what it looks like. If it looks good, I’ll just bite the bullet and count the days till the play is over. But with only a few more days till the one-month mark, I’m pleased to see that it looks just as ugly and scraggly as I remember.

Worse, now it’s gray.

A.J.

COMMENTS

  1. Lee Gordon wrote:

    When Steve Thomas was hired to replace Bob Vila as host of This Old House, he had a full beard, but since Norm Abrahm was also fully bewhiskered at the time, the producers thought that would be too much facial hair so they had Steve shave his off. Eventually Norm also cut back to mustache only.

  2. Mike Smith wrote:

    I have had a full beard, most of my adult life. I started my first beard when I was in my mid 20s. Shaved it for my weedding at 30, then just last week, my beard trimmer went hay-wire on me and when I went to trim my beard, it shaved my beard off. So after 30+ years, I’m growning my beard again. I live in the south, my beard has never bothered me. I keep my beard to about 1 1/2 to two inches long. When turning, I wear a face shield, so no chips in my beard. I consider a face-shield mandatory for turning (you should to). Otherwise bad things can happen. Supprisingly, most people who saw me without a beard, did not notice that I had shaved it off.

  3. Clint Struthers wrote:

    A.J.
    I too have worn a short beard for forty years and with the exception of a period following a nasty bicycle/pickup truck accident (I lost and so did my bike!) have never shaved it off for any reason. Before the accident it was probably to piss my dad off but the accident left me with 200 stitches along my chin, jaw and left lower cheek so now the beard does a nice job of covering the scars! I also became a posterboy for wearing bicycle helmets but that’s another whole story.

    Keep it or shave it whatever makes your boat float! Enjoy it while you have it and like Mike said I’ll bet folks don’t even notice when it’s gone!!

    Enjoy,
    Clint

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