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Rejecting my inner Neanderthal

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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.



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