Ep. 28: Norm Abram

This Old House Master Carpenter Norm Abram charms us with stories of a youth spent building pinewood derby cars and learning the trade from his father, who lives on in the walls of the house they built together as adults. He got his start in TV by accident, but thanks to an unfailing dedication to patience and safety, that’s about the only major accident he can speak of. These days, he’s on a mission to bring today’s youth into tomorrow’s trade labor force. Plus, he reveals the secrets of his famous wardrobe. Listen:

What’s the best advice that you’ve ever gotten?

My father always taught me to be patient and safe when working in the shop or the job site. That advice results in working efficiently, minimizes mistakes and avoids injuries.

How do you record your ideas?

I usually write them down on a small pad I always have on my desk. Lately I use the Notes on my iPhone as well.

What’s your current favorite tool or material to work with?

I have been working with all kinds of material my entire life and I have yet to find a material that I would favor more than wood.

What book is on your nightstand? What’s the best book you’ve read this past year?

Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. Unfortunately, due to a very busy schedule last year reading books took a hiatus!  However the best book I read previously was An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything by Col. Chris Hadfield.

Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Favorite restaurant in your city?

The town I live in does not have a restaurant, but there are a lot in the Boston area, so if I had to pick only one it would be Jasper White’s “Summer Shack” in Cambridge.

Norm working with his dad

Norm working with his dad

What might we find on your desk right now?

All little bit of everything surrounding the laptop I’m using to answer these questions.

Who do you look up to and why?

Even thought my father has been deceased for some time, I will always look up to him. He was my mentor, a man who worked hard to support our family and the most importantly he was the most humble and kind person I have ever known.

What’s your favorite project that you’ve done and why?

The one thing I’m most proud of is the Tiger Maple Highboy I built on the New Yankee Workshop in 2005. It was challenging and took a lot of time to build, but most importantly it made me become a better woodworker.

Norm as a youngster working with his dad on their trailer

Norm as a youngster working with his dad on their trailer

Young Norm and his sister helping their dad, who built the house they grew up in.

Young Norm and his sister helping their dad, who built the house they grew up in.

What are the last five songs you listened to?

I have a iPod with thousands of songs in various genres set on shuffle so it would be different every time I connect. So today: A Road Not Taken, You Move Me, No More I Love You’s, April in Paris and Heart-Shaped World.


Catch up with Norm and the crew of This Old House on thisoldhouse.com.

Learn more about Generation Next here and find out more about the Mike Rowe Foundation and its scholarship here.


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Special thanks to Chris Modl of Yore Studio for editing this episode.
Music in this episode courtesy of El Ten Eleven—hear more on Bandcamp.
Shoutout to Jenny Rask for designing the Clever logo.