I have been thinking about this issue for a while now. Since getting stuck into all the wonderfully useful information and experience being shared by so many (mostly) amateur/hobbyist woodworkers that forms part of the online woodworking community, I have noticed a trend where there seems to be a stigma attached to the guys and gals who works more on their shop than what they spend building furniture. I have an issue with this (probably unintended) marginalization of an important (and most certainly just as passionate) subculture within our ranks.
It might be a question of being over sensitive (I am a psychiatrist after all) given that I am a member of this congregation over the past 3 years or so. Since October 2011 I have been setting up shop focussing on building my own tools, restoring vintage tools and constructing custom shop structures to make working there a pleasure. Very few bits of furniture and useful stuff for the house emerged from the shop so far. Only a few spice racks, chopping boards, a knife rack and a sun oven to be precise.
I see this phase as an apprenticeship were I hone my skills, learn about the tools (how they work, how to fix them, how to set them up etc etc), try to understand the principles of proportion and design better, and get to know the properties of the various species of wood in my collection in order to make better decisions in choosing wood for particular purposes once I start building furniture. If one considers that the time tested apprenticeship model was based on a seven year full-time program, it would take a hobbyist woodworker like me more than 20 years to get even close to the same amount of shop time completed. I would rather make my mistakes while building a sawhorse (for example) than a Windsor chair. To add to that it is probably also more likely that one would do a descent job if you have the correct tools and shop structures available by the time you take on the fancy stuff.
Another angle on this topic would be to compare it with other leisure pastimes. How about something like shooting for example. In my experience, most gun-nuts (I used to be one) spend most of their time loading ammunition, and testing the loads at the riffle range etc etc. A relatively small amount of time is spent killing things, either while hunting or going to war. One could probably argue that a riffle is designed to kill stuff and if your are not using it for that purpose you are (similar to the poor sod that works on his shop rather than building furniture) wasting your time.
I would like to challenge the perceived discrimination against these members of our phalanx. As far I am concerned, most of us do this as a leisure pastime. Therefore it seems as if the craft serves it’s purpose as long as it yields pleasure. Whether it also yields furniture or tools or whatever is immaterial. The sole point of it is the creation of joy. As long as everyone in the tribe enjoy what they are doing, learn a few new tricks and skills along the way which is shared around and passed on to the next generation, we should embrace each one of them. It really does not make any sense to try and make certain people at different stages in their journey (compared to your’s) feel inferior, however subtle it might be communicated.