|Norm Abram Raises Tinkering To An Art|
David: Norm Abram Raises Tinkering To An Art
There's nothing Hollywood about Norm Abram, but as the master carpenter on two popular PBS how-to programs, he has a Hollywood-like following. After 15 years on "This Old House," the granddaddy of home-renovation shows, and another six on the woodworking "The New Yankee Workshop," he's become a cult figure to home tinkerers everywhere.
"People come up to me like I'm their next-door neighbor, "Abram said recently over lunch, in a Manhattan restaurant where men in suits were buzzing over his presence. He admits the recognition encroaches on his privacy, although at the same time he realizes his approachability is a key to the programs' success.
"I tell people it just turns out that I have a lot more next-door neighbors than anybody else."
Abram attributes the popularity of the PBS shows to a desire on the part of viewers "to get more involved" with projects around the house. "There was a period of time where it was easier to let someone else do it," he explains. Now, he says, some people find working on their homes to be a recreational activity. As for his own activities, Abram is currently balancing three book projects, as well as the two shows. He recently started production on 13 new episodes of "The New Yankee Workshop" (4:30 p.m. Saturdays on WTTW-Ch.11), to air next January, and shooting on the first of 26 new episodes of "This Old House" (5 p.m. Saturdays on WTTW-Ch.11), which should start airing shortly. Abram said unlike last season, which focused on kids projects, "The New Yankee Workshop" episodes don't have a central theme. On the list of projects is a tray table, a gazebo and a computer desk. "We always let things of the past be our inspiration," he said. As for "This Old House," Abram said, "We never know where we're going until we get there."