Norm Abram, recording an episode of This Old House at Kennedy Space Center, 2000
Norman L. Abram
October 3, 1949
Early life and education
Abram was born in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, and raised in Milford, Massachusetts. He attended high school in Milford. and studied mechanical engineering and business administration at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he became a brother of the Pi Lambda Phi fraternity.
After college, Abram worked for three years as a site supervisor for a multimillion-dollar New England-based construction firm. In 1976, Abram then went into business for himself, founding the general contracting firm Integrated Structures Inc.
This Old House
In 1979, Abram took a construction job building a small barn in the backyard of television producer Russell Morash, the creator of public television's This Old House. Impressed by Abram's small scrap pile and efficient work habits, Morash invited Abram to help with the renovation of a rundown Victorian house in Boston's historic Dorchester section, with a WGBH camera crew recording the process for the first This Old House project with host Bob Vila. Morash then approached Abram with the idea of him appearing as a regular on the This Old House series, and Abram has been a fixture on the show ever since.
The New Yankee Workshop
In 1988, Morash planned to launch a spinoff of This Old House called The New Yankee Workshop, and he needed a convenient place to videotape, so they used the shop in the small barn that Abram built in 1979 in Morash's backyard. The shop's layout and equipment were mostly Abram's preferences. The New Yankee Workshop first aired in 1989 with Abram as the host. The New Yankee Workshop showcased furniture or other projects over the course of one or more episodes, and emphasized the use of power tools and equipment. The show aired for 21 seasons on PBS.
Norm Abram has authored eight books about carpentry:
- The New Yankee Workshop (1989)
- Classics From The New Yankee Workshop (1990)
- Mostly Shaker From The New Yankee Workshop (1992)
- The New Yankee Workshop: Outdoor Projects (1994)
- Norm Abram's New House (1995)
- Measure Twice, Cut Once (1996)
- The New Yankee Workshop Kids' Stuff (1998)
- Ask Norm (2001)
He has also contributed to Complete Remodeling and Complete Landscaping, both published in 2004 by This Old House Books in conjunction with Sunset Books. Abram also serves on the editorial board of This Old House magazine, published by This Old House Ventures, Inc., also authoring the popular column, "Norm's Notebook."
Abram is also on the board of trustees of Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, and delivered the 2001 commencement speech at The North Bennet Street School in Boston, which is renowned for its commitment to teaching craftsmanship.
In a playful turn with his celebrity, Abram voiced the character of himself in the Freakazoid episode "Normadeus", in which he is kidnapped by a villain to construct a special weapon out of wood. He had also appeared on Between the Lions and twice on Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? (two WGBH programs); and starred in a series of Foot Locker commercials titled "House of Hoops". Norm also was on Fetch! With Ruff Ruffman on the episode "This Old... Lemonade Stand". He also appeared in 2010 on an episode of the Food Network show "Ace of Cakes" titled "Indy, Ice and Improv".
Awards and recognition
The American Academy of Ophthalmology awarded Norm Abram its first ever EyeSmart Distinguished Service Award on April 23, 2009. The award was presented for "his steadfast commitment to safety and the prevention of eye injuries". He begins his shows with a reminder about personal safety, specifically highlighting the importance of wearing safety glasses.
In 2018 Norm was selected for the Ken Burns Lifetime Achievement Award by the filmmaker who, with Old Sturbridge Village, gives the award to “individual[s] who [have] made a significant impact on the arts through a project that is relevant to the history Old Sturbridge Village works to preserve”.
Abram lives with his wife, Elise, in a custom modified-classic two-story Colonial, timber-framed, home that he built in Carlisle, Massachusetts. His fondness of plaid shirts is well-known and at times parodied, a prime example being the character Al Borland on the 1991–1999 ABC sitcom Home Improvement, portrayed by Richard Karn.
- Smith, Andy. "Building a reputation: TV woodworking guru Norm Abram visits R.I. for a This Old House segment". The Providence Journal.
- Boesel, Jim (March–April 1993). "Norm Abram: Carpenter Turned Furnituremaker". Fine Woodworking. 99: 46–51.
- "Norm Abram, Master Carpenter". This Old House Biographies. Archived from the original on 2016-06-16. Retrieved 2007-11-26.
- "New Yankee Workshop Series Ends". October 17, 2009.
- "American Academy of Ophthalmology Honors PBS Master Carpenter Norm Abram for His Commitment to Eye Safety". May 19, 2011. Archived from the original on February 12, 2011. Retrieved May 20, 2011.
- "Video of the AAO Eyesmart Distinguished Service Award Ceremony". May 19, 2011.
- "Norm Abram to receive Ken Burns Lifetime Achievement Award". Telegram & Gazette. Worcester, Mass. January 16, 2018. Retrieved July 4, 2018.
- "The Straight-Up Story From Norm". NewWookiee.com. February 26, 2007.
- "Norm Abram Biography". IMDB.
- "This New House -- TV Host Norm Abram Moves From Renovating Old Houses To Building His From Scratch".
| Ep. 28: Norm Abram, Clever Podcast, January 7, 2018|
Guest on podcast; discusses his upbringing and early interest in woodworking.