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by Steven D. Johnson
Racine, Wisconsin

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Product Tour Videos

Click on any picture to see a larger version.

First, be advised that I can only speak for myself, not others. Therefore the following is purely based on my personal approach and experience with producing Highland Woodworking Product Tour videos .

Second, you may deem me clinically insane, and that's okay… but more about that in a moment. You are clearly free to make up your own mind, make comments (naughty or nice) and make assumptions, but hopefully the following will keep you from making any irrational or unfounded assumptions.

I receive absolutely no free products, no discounts, and no compensation from any tool manufacturer. Period. I receive a store credit from Highland Woodworking in exchange for their use of the video… more about that in a moment as well.

I almost never speak to any tool manufacturer before or during a Product Tour video, and if there is a question that simply cannot be answered via normal research channels, I communicate with the manufacturer in an "anonymous" fashion… in other words, I email the question, with no reference to the fact that I am currently reviewing their product.

Highland Woodworking sponsors these Product Tour videos as a service to customers. The intent is to provide insight and information beyond the product literature and catalog description and to show (when appropriate) how the product is used.

Here is how it generally works: Highland occasionally sends me a tool as a "loaner." They bill me for it if I don't return it. I may do a Product Tour video based on my experience with the tool. Note the word "may" is in italics. That is because my decision to do a Product Tour is governed solely by the "Mama Rule." Surely you know the "Mama Rule." Mama always said, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." That's the "gentlemen's agreement" I have with Highland. Simple… straightforward. If I like the tool, I will shoot a video and try to highlight why I like it and cover details of the tool not normally, or easily, discovered by reading the brochure. If I don't like a tool, I can send it back… no video, no questions asked.

Fortunately, Highland is extremely judicious (downright picky) in the tools they choose to offer for sale to woodworkers and even more so, they are decidedly persnickety in the tools they choose to send to me for review. They would not send me a lathe tool because I am not a turner. They would not send me a set of carving gouges because I am a lousy carver. And they would never send me a tool that they did not believe in themselves and that had not passed their own rigorous internal evaluation. In other words, I am quite confident they would never send me an inferior product simply because they would never carry it in their store in the first place. It is important to note here, too, that several of the tools I have featured in Product Tours are tools I already owned and with which I already had extensive experience.

After working with a new tool for a while I may shoot a video outlining its features, advantages, and benefits. Highland will then compensate me via a store credit after the video is released, much like you would receive a store credit for writing an article or submitting a "Show Us Your Shop" feature .

Often if there is an aspect of a tool that I don't like, or something I feel could be improved, I point that out in the video along with the highpoints. To do otherwise would be a disservice to you and to the manufacturer. And manufacturers do listen… my input has been incorporated into products, hopefully making them better. You might be surprised to know that a couple of pretty disappointing aspects of one product resulted in a letter from the management of Highland to the manufacturer who promptly changed the product, vastly improving its performance.

Some products are fairly complex… either in their design or their use. I already get plenty of comments about my slow southern drawl, and there is always due consideration given to the overall length of videos. If certain (to me) significant aspects of a tool review have to be left out of a video in order to keep the time within reasonable limits, I will always follow up, here in this column, with additional information. You can absolutely count on that.

So with no free tools and no manufacturer compensation, some of you are probably asking, "Why do you bother to do these videos?" If you have ever experienced the time, effort, and cost required to make a video, you are, justifiably, now questioning my sanity. And perhaps I am a bit insane, but read for two more minutes and you will understand.

It's really pretty simple. First, I work very hard, and actually enjoy, trying to produce a technically high quality video, however, I am self-taught, have no crew, and minimal equipment. Composition, lighting, sound, editing… these are all technical challenges. So every bit of practice I get hopefully improves the quality of subsequent videos. Please note I said "technically high quality." I was not referring to content.

Second, I feel strongly that woodworkers should spend their money wisely. Tool-buying information is sometimes hard to get. It is difficult for many woodworkers to get to a store where a product can be examined in person… even more difficult to compare two or more products side-by-side or to actually see a product in use. If I can provide an additional source of product information and help someone make a more informed buying decision, I want to do that.

Third, I'm retired. My time, to a large extent, is my own. I chose to use part of my time to try to help other woodworkers learn about products that may enhance their woodworking and their time in the shop.

Fourth, sometimes I get to experience a tool that I cannot afford to buy for myself, albeit only for a short period of time.

Fifth, it keeps me off the streets. A good-looking woodworker like me could get into a lot of trouble otherwise (cue the laugh track, please…).

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