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Paul Sellers

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A Lifestyle Woodworker
Updated: 4 hours 49 min ago

Lifestyle From a Lifestyle Woodworker

11 hours 45 min ago

Lifestyles Encompasses Work

I have always pursued work as a lifestyle, partly because I always needed to work to earn a living and partly because I always need to work – there’s a difference. I need work because I love it, I don’t love work because I need it you see. Getting up in the morning and going to work stimulates much of my early morning before I leave for the shop. As a boy I rode my bike or walked a couple of miles to work through cobblestone streets, rain, snow, sleet and occasional sunshine. I left at 7am and looked forward to stoking the boiler, reading the newspaper as the heat built up and then the banter that went back and forth over the morning news between theme I worked under. When other boys clambered over the stacks of newly milled window and door parts I walked around them, stared at them, picked them up and smelled them one by one. Oak, Kerruing, Merranti, Hemlock, Spruce, Walnut and more wood types were new smells to me and imbibing multidimensionally seemed to satisfy the very soul of my newfound craft. I savoured each different smell and retained the new knowledge as I asked about the woods from foreign climes. Rot resistant kerruing for window sills and sills to doorways. Ugly, dark, wiry, stringy, coarse-grained wood hard to work with planes, gummy substances exuding with every stroke of my plane and sticking the sole to the wood itself. I’m 15 years old, skinny, so skinny, and I am looking into every nook and cranny for new things to learn about wood.

Man and Boy
Some of the men were full of themselves whilst others had humility and peace about them. Some were crude and vulgar, others quiet and refined. All of them could work wood well. No, all of them could work wood very well. When a machine failed to make a cut for whatever reason they would do it with hand tools just as well an effectively but with more strain on their bodies. The difference between woodworkers then and now is that they could do it by hand, knew exactly the right tool to use and nothing ever stopped the work being done. One time, when I was too cocky in myself, I said something out of order to an older man of around 40. He lunged at me over the bench, grabbed my lapels and lifted me off my feet as he pulled my skinny frame up until his nose touched mine. He remonstrated, “If you ever say anything like that again I will kill you.” I felt the truth in what he said as he dumped me on the benchtop. Respect became mine as I saw the boundary I had crossed. It took a few months before things were healed between us and the past forgotten.
The Boy Finds His Place
Knowing my place became obvious in the first few weeks as everyone called me “boy” or “the boy”. I recall the first day in work as I was shown around and things were explained to me by the man who was to become my mentoring craftsman. Where to clock in and out at the start and end of the workday, where to brew up, where to stoke the boiler, how to bag the shavings from the power machines (never had dust extraction), I was the dust extractor. My boss, the owner of the company, was a man called Idris Owen. Mr Owen was the biggest conservative snob in the world. He drove in on my fIrst day in his Rolls Royce Silver Cloud all gleamy and silvery and asked me who I was. I told him I was the new apprentice. “What’s your name, boy?” he asked. I said, Paul Sellers. In the five years of my apprenticeship including working on his home, his property in Wales and seeing him most weeks at the workshop, he never called my by my name. He always called me “boy”. One day I was in the workshop when he drove into the physical shop itself. I climbed out of the Rolls, stood facing me about 15 feet from me and asked one of the men to “tell the boy to wash the Rolls”, even though I was in plain sight and nearer to him than the man he was talking to was. Such was the conservatism of the time and day. Did it put me off wood and woodworking? I didn’t really realise that the man in the immaculate pin-striped suit and highly polished shoes was so sad a man. I never saw him smile or flip a board of pine to smell the pocket of sap. In all of his riches and throughout the five years of my apprenticeship he never altered, never associated with anyone beyond the most superficial level yet I was immersed in a richness of scents and sounds and shapes and textures I would enjoy for the next 50 years. Class is very much a British phenomenon. I know it exists elsewhere too, but I found my place as each day I learned my craft, absorbed those things that mattered and discovered my lifestyle future.

Beginning Your Lifestyle as a Woodworker
My path has been different than yours. I learned to respect my fellow craftsmen because they earned it. I saw what I wanted to be as a lifestyle woodworker and made the most of every opportunity until I could come to rest in the knowledge and experience knowing what I could and could not do. If someone tells a child they can be anything they want to be they do that child a disservice because it’s really not true. It’s more important to help them discover their honest potential and what they are supposed to be no matter what that is. It should never be tied to economics or politics, social standing or the successes their parents measure success by unless they truly want the child to find their place. Life has limits and a craftsman finds his limits, the limits of his tools and the woods he works and finds rest within those limits. I found rest in my work. You can plan your lifestyle too. Getting of the conveyor belt and the production line of life doesn’t mean working it full time. You do what you can with the time you have and do it to the best of your ability.

The post Lifestyle From a Lifestyle Woodworker appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

From Picture Frames and Making Wood Work

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 2:03pm

Today I made picture frames with different moulded shapes using moulding planes, smoothing planes, rebate planes, scratch stocks, screws and tenon saws of different types and sizes. The work was different using so many tools for so small a project. The demands were high, tight tolerances essential and I felt the tension build until alI the parts came together in exactness. The tools were cast iron and steel as well as wood and steel. I used dedicated tools and improvised by making tools as I went. DSC_0076 So many times we think making a tool for a task takes longer than setting up a router and sometimes that’s true but often not. A tool made is seldom a one time use tool so economy figures in in different ways. I can make a temporary rebate plane in about 10 minutes from a chisel and a piece of scrap wood. It’s not complicated to do this and most of us have an old chisel or a spare one. Anyway, I was rewarded with a new tool to use and all the components for the next filmed series making picture frames that are very different than anything you might have seen before or ever bought or made or ever considered. I will be interested on your take on it when it’s online in a couple of months DSC_0104 There are a series of rebates formed and some of the methods I use to form them will be quite unique to see I think. I am so glad we don’t need to use a chopsaw or jump through the hoops of making a tablesaw sled for the mitres and that we make a perfect mitre guide with two knife cuts and two saw cuts in under a minute. DSC_0071 Much of what I do is about speed and efficiency yet without compromising my lifestyle of lifestyle woodworking that’s so effective and tangibly real I would find it hard indeed to live without it. I know, some of you out there might be saying ‘get a life, Paul,’ but this is the life I love living.The neat thing for me is that I don’t need to prove anything and at the same time I prove everything I believe in. There is no competition between the machine and the hand in my world. I have used both and find both useful. I find undeveloped skill is often diverted to machine dexterity and thereby skills, I mean the skills that could be passed on, apprehended and lived with, lie dormant and unused in most people’s lives. I find that simple and honest. Trying to prove one over the other seems to me to be like comparing an apple to an orange or even say a sledgehammer to a nut. DSC_0096 Another thing I did this week was restore a couple of tools I picked up from the Woodfest Show a couple of weeks ago. Here is a very ugly paring gouge used mostly in pattern making. The gouge itself fell victim to someone who knew nothing about the tool and thereby a careless hand at sharpening. The important part of this type of gouge is only partly the bevel on the inside of the hollow. The very important part is the rounded outside. In this case and the case of a second one I retrieved from a mass of rusted tools in a box the bevel was badly ground and hacked at and the outside round was badly distorted by inappropriate abrading. I felt the best tack was to break off the end and rework the cutting edge. DSC_0064 DSC_0061 I clamped the main body of the gouge in the metalworking vise to reduce the risk of an uneven fracture into the cannel. There is no guarantee. Two swift and firm strikes with a cross peen hammer effectively separated the waste from the wanted. DSC_0008 From snapping off the former bevel I squared off the end of the gouge to give a new start point to grind the in-cannel bevel. DSC_0018DSC_0024 I used the corner of the grinding wheel to create the new in-cannel bevel of 25-degrees. It works well to do it this way and frequent dipping in cold water keeps the temperature of the steel tolerably low enough to prevent excess heat build up resulting in burning the steel. It’s best to take your time with this. Especially strive not to burn the steel and keep the tool moving from side to side around the cannel and so avoid stopping at any fixed point on the corner of the wheel as this will definitely burn steel away fast. DSC_0052 I got very close to the edge and left only about 0.5mm of a square edge left. From here its abrasive paper on a suitably sized dowel going from 250 to 400 and then in increments of 200 to 2500 in steps of around 200 or so. DSC_0065DSC_0066 Beyond that the same dowel can be wrapped with leather and charged with buffing compound. The bevel is now completed. The outside round surface should be polished already, but a final buffing with a leather strip or strap or the rough side of a leather belt charged with buffing compound completes the sharpening and I have vary nice gouge for the rest of my life.

The post From Picture Frames and Making Wood Work appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Supporting One Another Around the World

Tue, 07/22/2014 - 3:07pm


I often look at our supporters following our various ways of reaching out to woodworkers worldwide and at one time only two or three countries were following our work. That’s massively changed; exponentially. Over the last two years we have seen an incredible increase to every continent and in the remotest of parts at that. The world seems suddenly to have become quite small as people interested in the simplicities and complexities of hand craft work are seeking international input to help them discover ways for working wood that are simple but relational, sustainable and skilful.

I have always been concerned when I write about inexpensive tools available to me and feel guilty that we in the UK are so privileged to have such a wealth of tools available to us for almost no money compared to others. I don’t have an proper working knowledge of eBay and secondhand markets in the rest of Europe, Asia, Australasia, South America, North America and Africa. I am fully conversant with what goes on in the USA having lived there since 1987 but I want we teach to go to the wide audience of followers we have seen grow over the past five years around the world. I do truly care about all of you and the principles of what we are teaching that  and is being adopted and adapted everywhere else. What tools do you use and have access to, what could I teach that would be adaptable. So many of you keep a piece of wire drill holes with or recut steel plate to make a saw from. You are all important and what can I do to help you  if you are Sommieres-du-Clain, Kuala Lumpur, Genoa, Melbourne or Bucharest and everywhere. I mean to say I would love to hear from you all wherever you are so that we can be more inclusive. What makes woodworking difficult to you and what’s available or not available to you. I talk about planes and saws you may never have heard of and that seems something we might be ably to adapt our teaching to or look at at least. More than that though, I have learned so much from friends in Japan and Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland and Sweden. What you tell me inspires my work and spreads the good news of working wood with your hands and other methods too. 


The post Supporting One Another Around the World appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

On Closing the Spokeshave Series – Last One for Now

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 8:31pm

A difference between cast-metal spokeshaves and wooden spokeshaves is the dynamic of bevel-up and bevel-down cutting iron I spoke of in an earlier post in the series. The two differences may possibly appear to present the blade similarly but that’s not the case. Regardless of spokeshave type, the bevel forming the cutting edge will be ground and honed at 30-degrees. When the bevel-up iron negotiates the wood, the bevel being 30-degrees (or what is on the blade if ground and honed differently), the presentation to the wood will be 30-degrees. On the other hand, because the blade is elevated to 45-degrees on metal-cast spokeshaves, and the bevel is on the underside of the blade so that the bevel faces down, the angle of presentation to the wood is then 45-degrees. Some say that this 15-degree presentation makes the spokeshave useless for planing or shaving endgrain and this again is not true at all. The marginal difference is discernible but don’t be put off. Sharpness will make all the difference and you can indeed shave endgrain just fine. The physics of the two different presentations are important because often the bevel up presentation will not tackle certain aspects of wood grain and vice versa. The ability to switch between the two types is highly valued and so you will eventually need both. My suggestion is that you but the bevel down #151 type first and when you think you need the other, go for it.


The Bevel-down #151 -  Blade Presentation Strategy

The blade on the #151 protrudes through the sole of the spokeshave and so, when you place the spokeshave on the wood it immediately enters the surface wood and starts the cut from penetration. This causes a slight step-down in the surface. To prevent this we lightly present the spokeshave to the surface and at the same time push forward so as to feather-entry into the work in an elongated sweep starting from zero and, over a couple of inches, follow through to full depth, which is indeed governed by difference between the sole and the protruding cutting iron. 


The Bevel-up Spokeshave – Blade Presentation Strategy 

On the other hand, because the sole of the wooden-bodied spokeshave is the blade itself, we create an additional feature that toes-in the leading edge of the spokeshave, the wooden part. This angle allows us to lead the spokeshave forward into the cut and it is best to do this with firm but gentle pressure until the cutting edge starts from a feather edge that is more controlled by the beveled leading edge than the sole or underside of the blade itself.


Do you need adjusters?

This is another question I am often asked and my answer could be yes or know. Yes they are not essential, and, yes, they do make life much easier. Here again the misinformant says there is lots of whiplash in poorly engineered models and that’s true, but whiplash makes almost no difference at all. Once the spokeshave is adjusted and you tweak an extra 1/8th turn on the setscrew to cinch the blade tightly to the bed the blade will not move. Adjusters are the way to go if you are intent on working efficiently. Comparing say the non-adjuster model #150 to the #151 adjustable spokeshave is night and day to me.

Why I Did this Series

I posted this series to counter the culture proclaiming that the Stanley 151-type spokeshave will be found badly lacking and that using the standard Stanley 151 spokeshave model results always in “chatter, screeching and cursing.” This erroneous and misleading statement saddens me because it’s a statement against hundreds of thousands of professional and amateur woodworkers who used them through ten decades with no such results. Between the 1950-60s, when a spokeshave came from the manufacturer, mostly Record and Stanley, we expected to have to fettle them and take care of manufacturer’s flawed workmanship in their products made here in the UK. This included planes and other tools too. It was and still is a sad condition pandemic throughout British-made goods made mostly in Sheffield. Those manufactures now relied on the past reputation of the industry fathers who earned their reputations. This demise resulted from complacency and perhaps a lack of competition and I am glad that US makers stepped in a few decades ago to make up for the shortfall and created high quality products that replaced them. British industry should be shamed by this indeed but I haven’t seen that. Even today much of Sheffield tool manufacturing for woodworking tools still survives despite shoddy workmanship even though much of what does survive and exist is because US demand for traditional tools has created a market and Americans still believe that UK and Sheffield goods have a valid reputation. What Sheffield makers have in most of what I see are good materials poorly prepared and assembled.  They indeed spoil the ship for a half-penny worth of tar and forsake their reputation for the sake of a few minutes invested the final refinement of product.

So, that settled, and though we shouldn’t have to, it takes only a few minutes to rework the bed of the spokeshave and prepare it to receive the blade. Once done, you never need do it again. Of the hundreds of spokeshaves I have salvaged from neglect, almost none of them had any remedial work done to them. They all worked just fine as far as I can recall.


The post On Closing the Spokeshave Series – Last One for Now appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Wooden Spokeshave in Use

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 9:34am

Wooden Spokeshaves
Wooden spokeshaves predate the cast metal ones by centuries and more if you delve into the histories of ancient worlds. Spikes and spokes give some limited indication as to why these tools are called ‘spoke’ shaves, but so limited a definiendum only serves to undervalue the breadth and scope of a tool that multidimensionally defies limitation as a specialised tool. I cannot think of any other hand tool shaving tool that so capably spins in the hands of experienced woodworkers and amateurs too. With every shifting, twisting wrist and slight adjustment of hand the spokeshave creates unlimited possibilities for shaping and shaving wood.


Traditional Tanged Spokeshaves Can be Large and Small

Watching trainees through the many years I’ve spent training apprentices and teaching students and then literally thousands of them, I have seen what makes the spokeshave most effective and what renders it almost useless. A common thread creates many problems affecting almost all hand tools in a world that has devalued skills, devalued real and practical knowledge and lost sensitivity in craft work handling wood, materials and hand tools. This common thread is sensitivity and the desensitised use of tools throughout every aspect of work.

We tend to see sensitivity in its most very limited sphere surrounding a sort of gentleness and yet it’s more expansive realm includes developed sensitivity that enables us to feel for and know how and where and when to apply the right pressures, great, small and every level in between. Sensitivity determines the exactness of direction according to felt pressures at the tool’s cutting edge. It’s only by sensing the minute by minute changes needed that we can shift and change so as to present the tool’s cutting edge to its most effective cutting position according to small shifts in grain direction and configuration in the wood. By sensitivity we determine sharpness and the need to sharpen, change the bevel slightly and much much more beyond.  We may not even be capable of defining in words alone what sensitivity means when it comes to the way we respond to a tool’s cutting edge or the grain in the wood we work. We may not even be mentally aware of the subtle changes we make by effectively changing a hand and finger position as we work the tool but we do it every second if, when we work, we sense what needs to change and make the changes immediately.


A Round-bottomed Spokeshave for Convex Work

Though spokeshaves are indeed forgiving tools when it comes to making and taking shavings, and it’s because of this that sharpness is indeed neglected, sharpness affects the work much more than we can appreciate. Green woodworking and working bark from round stems and branches do not rely on the sharpness we might rely on say for shaping a cello neck or a queen Anne leg. Green bark and riven green wood is probably the easiest wood of all to work, so sharpness, although I still think it’s important, may seem less critical to say a chair bodger.

I say all of this to say that there is much more to a spokeshave than making spokes and spindles for chair parts. I have used them for refining arched doors and indeed making them. Shaping narrow sticks for chair spindles is important and so too the crinoline stretcher for an English Windsor. The seat itself and the comb too all come from the cutting edge of a spokeshave. Long bows and wagons, wagon wheels and ox yokes all come from this very humble woodworking tool as do a vast range of highly refined and defined furniture pieces including Chippendale and Sheraton, Hepplewhite, Queen Anne, Colonial, Federal, Stickley, Mission, Craftsman and so many more dating from as far beyond cabriole as you can go.


Yesterday I replaced the worn down forepart to my Padauk spokeshave with some boxwood salvaged from an old boxwood chisel handle. No it’s flat and square again. I own three of these and love them. They work identically to the old tanged ones of old and I can say that without compromise. The older spokeshaves rely on two tangs passing through the wooden handle of the spokeshave. When the tool is well used the tangs often become loose so the the adjustment is less reliable. Progressing a cut into the wood can be subjected to pressures that act like a wedge between the spokeshave blade and the body if the spokeshave. This drives the blade out and the spokeshave develops an unintended heavy cut.


Using a fixed blade on the other hand, that has controllable adjusters, guarantees no such movement can take place and that’s what made me invest in making the Veritas spokeshaves using their component parts. It really is a lifetime tool. It looks complicated but following the instructions step by step gives a guaranteed outcome. What I like too is you can also create your own round bottomed model and use the same blade assembly. Switching the components takes only a minute.


Here you can see the shaving emerge from the rear of the spokeshave as I push the spokeshave into the wood…


…and here you can it rise up as I pull it toward me.


Adjustment is truly simple though at first it’s hard to wrap your mind around it. The larger diameter disc at the bottom, beneath my thumb, seats a threaded tube into the body of the spokeshave. The knurled knob I am turning here secures the blade stems that pass through the tube against the end of the tubes either side and so the distance between the body and the blade is set.


Very simple. The kit you buy includes the taps to thread the holes in the wood.

The post Wooden Spokeshave in Use appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Questions Answered – Why Nibs on Old Handsaws

Sat, 07/19/2014 - 10:54am


Hi Paul,

I bought an old saw a some time back and can’t work out what the indent at the end of some older handsaw is for. Can you help answer this?



About once a month or so I am asked this question and I always say that there are some good enough theories but most make no real practical sense for the simple reason that something more practical was around or the suggested use would not be something practiced enough for makers to build the feature into every saw for the few decades they were made. That said, there is no reason for not using what exists for a non intended use of it works well and here is a practical use I find works fine for me.

Measuring in the exact distance you want from the edge of a board or panel places the mark where you want it but the tape may not be rigid enough to hold a pencil against and pull the line like you would with say a square. Remember that this was the pre-tape measure era but straight rods and rulers were the common way.When the distance is more then the length of a square blade you can mark the distance and use the nib on the saw to pull the line as can be seen.


Mark the distance you need from the tape.


Place the indent nib next to the pencil mark and place the pencil in the recess.


Place the indent adjacent to the nib against the pencil.


Pinch the distance on the saw between the thumb and forefinger of the less dominant hand.


Pull the saw and pencil along the panel for a parallel line to saw to.

The post Questions Answered – Why Nibs on Old Handsaws appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

A Lighter Touch On Wooden Spokeshaves

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 10:57pm

Wood on wood is light, frictionless woodworking at its best and no metal-cast spokeshave offers anywhere near the senseasesiness to the hands of woodworkers than a wooden bodied spokeshave. There you go, it’s said and done. I was really raised on the Stanley and Record 150’s and 151’s and have used them all through my life.

My first time with the all wooden tang-type spokeshave shown here came at the same time and remains etched in my brain as an ever present physical impression of total harmony. Until this happens for you you can never understand why they were and are so ever popular for certain types of shaping work. Shaping and shaving a mahogany neck for a new guitar, a maple cello neck or carving out the four-foot outspread wings of a soaring eagle seems little more than peeling skin from an apple or a potato. The wooden spokeshave can still be had from secondhand tool dealers and of course eBay fairly easily and inexpensively but there are no guarantees until you have it in your hand and can actually test it out on your own wood.


Above you can see a well-used traditional tanged spokeshave showing the wear that occurs when used on narrow work. This still has many decades of use for my work.

Things can and do go wrong, and several things make this type of spokeshave work or work not, but usually you will be able to tell if they are neglected by the images provided. Two woods make the best spokeshaves and were indeed the most commonly used, beech and boxwood. These two woods resisted wear well and left no marks on the wood being worked.


Several years ago I bought some Veritas kit components (shown above) for making spokeshaves with. I wasn’t sure if the results of these would give me the same feel as the twin tanged ones shown higher but, thankfully, I was satisfied they were close enough to the traditional models for me to recommend anyone to go ahead and make them. Since then I have bought them to teach others how to make and use them in classes on tool making I used to hold in the USA..


Adding the brass wear plate defies the lightness of use by introducing friction. It’s the choice you make determined by what you will use the tool for. I have both. I found it better to use it without and then repair as needed as shown here. The reason for the change of wood to maple was the Padauk I used leaves red marks on light coloured woods.


Here shows the repaired padauk spokeshave


These brass adjusters give very precise setting to the cutting iron in relation to the wood or brass forepart to the sole. The instructions come with the fitments you buy as a kit from Veritas but you should not hesitate to consider other shapes that you might want if customising handles and such. This is an interesting all-day project and everyone interested in owning a good wooden spokeshave should set aside time to make one.

Also, I am looking forward to the time their designers come out with a similar kit for a chair travisher.

There’s more to be said on wooden spokeshaves, much more, but we can save that for another day.

The post A Lighter Touch On Wooden Spokeshaves appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Final on #151 Spokeshave Restorative Work Series – Maybe!!!

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 12:12am

Restoring and preparing the cutting iron and the cap iron DSC_0021 The #151 flat-bottomed spokeshave is now the commonest of all spokeshaves in use for general woodworking and the traditional wooden pattern from 17th century origins is no longer a production model because it generally ceased being produced in the 1920s because of the #151 success. Buying them new or secondhand usually requires some remedial work to different parts of the tool. The following will show you the important steps to making any #151 spokeshave work beautifully regardless of the work you do with it. It’s almost always best to dismantle all of the parts of any tool and remove all of the components. This is good advice provided you know how to reverse the steps and put it all back in the right way. A problem occurs if the seller puts the parts together without actually knowing which things should be where. The most common problem I encounter with the #151 is that the blade almost always arrives with the cutting iron the wrong way round. No matter what you do with the spokeshave assembled incorrectly it will never take a shaving. The photos given here show the different parts assembled correctly. Study them and keep them close to hand when your spokeshave arrives to compare what you have. It’s not a bad idea to still take a picture to recall how things arrived anyway regardless of right or wrong. Degrease and derust the blade and cap as necessary using the same tools we used in the previous blog post for restoring the body of the spokeshave. The blade will flex to flatness in the extender holder when you cinch down the cap iron but flipping the bade over to remove the burr and polish the flat face cannot usually be flexed to flatness by hand and so hopefully the blade is indeed close to flatness. We will assume it is flat as in 99% of cases that are indeed flat. If yours is not flat and you are using the extender holder you should flatten both sides of the blade so that it is not flexed in the holder when holding the bevel to the abrasive otherwise the bevel can be curved along its length when removed from the holder. DSC_0051 Establishing the bevel at 25-degrees begins with the coarsest abrasive at 250-grit. One advantage of installing the blade in the extender is you can use the 25-degree angle of the extender to guide you for the bevel angle if you are sharpening freehand. You can also use this extender in a honing guide of you prefer. I find one important advantage of using the guide and extender in tandem with one another is one, the amount of pressure you can apply and two, it virtually guarantees a square result almost without thinking. With the bevel established at 25-degree we can further hone with a few strokes at a slightly elevated angle, usually up to but never more than 30-degrees. The 30-degree cutting edge is now refined on a 600-grit and then a 1200-grit abrasive. Doing this effectively ‘thickens’ the cutting edge to an acceptable and effective working cutting edge. The band width width of this 30-degree secondary angle or bevel is best around 2-3mm only. This creates a strong enough edge to maximise resistance against edge fracture. DSC_0024 Finishing at 1200 is usually a fine enough cutting edge for 95% of work. Removing the extender from the honing guide allows you to draw the bevel in the extender on a strop charged with abrasive chromium oxide. Working the flat face is the same as a plane iron except it is not as essential to create a dead flat face unless you want to. You should remember that polishing the bevel is only half the sharpening. The flat face should always be finished to the same level as the bevel, so if you went to chromium oxide abrasive, which is around say 15,000, then the large flat face should be the same. The extender does not allow work on the flat face but it’s not necessary anyway. Abrade, hone and strop the flat face. The flat face is best polished out on a flat piece of hardwood such as maple or beech. Apply the abrasive compound directly to the wood and trail the cutting away from the abrasive rather than pushing the edge into the abrasive and the wood. Now the cutting iron is ready for installing and using. DSC_0042 DSC_0043 Its important to check the inside face of the cap iron. The above two pictures show the result of introducing the cap to the coarse plate and then further abrading until the whole edge is flattened. DSC_0044 It must be flat or flattened along the very edge where it will meet the large flat face of the cutting iron. Flatten it on the coarse abrasive only. It’s not the whole face that needs to be flat, just along the cutting edge. DSC_0046 Along the end edge of the lever cap, the face-edge that leads and faces into the throat of the spokeshave, file a straight edge with an 80-degree (or thereabouts) back bevel along it. DSC_0049 You can soften this rake with abrasive 250-grit abrasive taking care not to round the underside of the edge formed as an gap will provide a leading edge for shavings to lodge and cause clogging in the throat. DSC_0047 With the blade in the spokeshave and registered on the adjusters feel in the mouth (carefully) for the cutting edge and advance or withdraw the iron unit it feels somewhat even or flush with the rims of the throat. DSC_0054 Now install the cap on the centre setscrew and advance the adjustment screw at the top of the cap until it feels relatively tight but not fully cinched. Often times you will find the setscrew in the centre cinched down, which people feel is the way to lock the blade in place and that can easily seem right because the blade is indeed tight and immoveable. Cinching the cap onto the cutting iron this way negates the ability to adjust the blade but also causes other important elements to be non functional too. The centre setscrew is there to use as a fulcrum point to transfer pressure to right behind and along the cutting edge with the lever cap. Adjusting the setscrew so that a reverse fulcrum takes effect necessitates a precise setting of this setscrew. We work both the centre setscrew and the cap setscrew in unison until the proper distance is set for the centre setscrew. To establish this we look at the gap at the top of the cap. That’s the red component. Look at the gap . The larger the gap without bottoming out the adjustment screw at the top of the cap, the nearer the cap iron marries to the blade at the cutting edge and the greater the pressure where it’s really needed. This translates into a vibration-free assembly capably engaging the work. DSC_0040 DSC_0042

More images of #151 
I have used three different types of #151 spokeshaves in this series to show that they are very similar and have the same basic constituents.

The post Final on #151 Spokeshave Restorative Work Series – Maybe!!! appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

In Defense of #151Spokeshaves…and Wooden Spokeshaves and Veritas Spokeshaves too

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 2:51am

CB12I am often concerned that when people discuss hand tools of different types someone declares that a particular make or type is the only one to get because of a particular quality that that tool might have. All too often and in the same breath they then dismiss other types in order to bolster their opinion or choice or purchase of that tool. Those of you who read my blog will see that through the years I have tried to counter adverse opinions on say the Stanley #4 plane because so many untruths have become accepted yet the basis for its being rejected is actually unfounded. Point in case is the declaration that the #4 Stanley plane with its thin iron chatters. If I give a #4 plane to someone to use I defy that them to make the plane chatter. Some years ago an ‘expert’ woodworker declared that the #151 spokeshave couldn’t be made to work and probably would not be made to make a shaving. Of course that was far from true, but the problem was that 12,000 people and more read the erroneous article and the editor said it was too late to counter what was said.


Whereas I do know a well-made and well-set and sharpened wooden spokeshave performs exceptionally well, there are many aspects of woodworking that a #151 will do better. The reason for this is the simple fact that the blade of the 151 doesn’t form the sole of the spokeshave but passes through the sole in like manner to say a plane. In a wooden bodied spokeshave the thickness of the shaving is determined then by setting blade deeper than the wooden body so as to form a step-like presentation to the wood. In the very narrow field of chair bodging, generally making parts from green wood and even dry wood, this spokeshave is more ideal than the others. That doesn’t mean that the others will and do work well also, just that it works better. In essence this sets it apart from the 151 and others in that the 151 cutting action is very different. In the bedded angle of the #151 the iron is presented at a steep angle and protrudes through the sole so that the sole is continuous and level on both ‘fore and aft’ aspects of the cutting edge.


Of course the other dominant feature distinguishing these two spokeshave types is the bevel up aspect of the wooden bodied spokeshave (above)…


…and the bevel-down of the metal-bodied type of the #151.

As I say, for chairmaking, where a bodger might decry the #151 as inferior to the old wooden ones, the wooden spokeshave works best and is therefore declared superior. On the other hand, others might declare the Veritas superior to any other because of its tighter mouth opening and superior engineering and metal alloys and such. Indeed, I love these spokeshaves because of these features which are well thought through aspects of the design. You see each perceives and expounds from their small and even very narrow sphere of working wood and therefore declare the merits bests suited to their sphere. Fact is that these statements can be true only on a very limited level. Further fact is that they are all good, all indispensable, all highly developed and all provide uniquely different services in the field. Then for some reason the #151 in the minds of the uninitiated becomes some kind of clunker because  of adverse press by writers, bloggers and magazines. Some time back I blogged that the UKs The Woodworker magazine writer wrote something very close to “it won’t make a shaving” and pits himself against a hundred thousand woodworkers that have owned and used a #151 for half a century and people stop buying what is a truly remarkable tool.

The #151 spokeshave emerged from the casting foundries of western makers to provide a lifetime tool that worked less well for chair bodging than it did woodworking joinery and furniture making. On the one hand the wooden spokeshave was indeed used mostly for making spikes, spindles and spokes of every different shape and size. Ladder rungs and chair slats, wagon spokes and spinning wheel components came from the long, with-the-grain cuts that peeled and pared the wood along the grain. With its different presentation, the #151 performed much different work in cutting coves and convexes with equal alacrity. Did that mean the wooden spokeshaves couldn’t do this? Not at all, just that here there was a new alternative that worked and worked well.


Veritas came ut with their version of the spokeshave with wooden handles for comfort and shock absorption, tighter mouths and finer adjusters. Superior in quality the tool works well and especially so in those areas where really fine work is required. Will it take a heavy cut like the #151? No, not without changes to the mouth, but that wouldn’t be practical because that would change its performance for fine work.

My conclusion is this. With spokeshaves there is no one size fits all although you could choose one of these and be happy making adjustments to make them suit the task each time you reach for it. Each of the types discussed will perform differently for different tasks. Bodging chair makers work primarily with long grain cuts and minimal crossgrain work and so like the wooden spokeshaves best because that’s what they do best. The #151 type spokeshave with its open mouth is a work horse of a tool and will tackle almost any and all work well and can be refined for fine work too. I like owning the Veritas spokeshaves for fine-tolerance work but have no hesitation pulling them out for almost anything I do.

The post In Defense of #151Spokeshaves…and Wooden Spokeshaves and Veritas Spokeshaves too appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

#151 Spokeshave Restoration – The Paul Sellers’ Blade Extender

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 9:25am

Sharpening Spokeshaves Needs Good Leverage

All too often punching a keyboard doesn’t strengthen the right finger, hand and arm muscles for sharpening super short blades like spokeshave blades. I do freehand-sharpen without any such associated problems but I have taught enough students through the decades of training to know many do find great difficulty applying sufficient pressure where it’s really needed right behind the actual cutting edge. An extender works well but this retro extender of mine works better than any I ever used. It will work well with any maker’s iron including Veritas, Lie Nielsen, Record, Kuntz, Stanley, Marples, Record Irwin and even some of the rarer makers. If you are a free or paying member of woodworking masterclasses you can access the videos on making one and see one one actually being made and used in full HD action.


Making the extender is simple enough with a piece of hardwood, two 3/4” brass or steel woodscrews and a 3/4” M4 setscrew,  threaded bolt or the setscrew directly from your spokeshave.

I used hand tools to form the main body of the extender because they are more efficient, safer and they simplify the whole process. Making this one takes under five minutes and it’s a lifetime aid even if you are under 10 years old.

Most blades will be somewhere around 2” wide, so cut your blank from 1/8” to a 1/4” wider than the blade. I made mine 2 1/4” x 7” long and 1/2” thick, but these sizes can be adjusted.


On one end of the extender blank mark the angle of 20- 25-degrees on the end.


Cut the angle with a tenon saw to form the underside of the extender.


I planed the angle smooth but that’s optional.


Place the blade on the extender so that the blade extends past the end of wood by about 1/4” or so.


Pinpoint two holes in the adjustment holes of the blank near to the inner edges.



Use an awl to open up the holes and then drive two screws into the holes leaving a gap between the underside of the screw head and the wood.




Cut off the heads with a hacksaw.


Place the blade on the extender and on the protruding brass pins and mark the centre of the centre hole through the blade…


…and the cap you took from the spokeshave using the narrower end of the hole toward the top.


Drill an undersized hole into this centre point using a twist drill that is under the diameter of the threads but larger then the diameter of the main shank. This allows the threads to bite into the walls of the holes and chase a thread to receive the setscrew. You can either find a separate setscrew, a regular woodscrew or use the one from the spokeshave itself. If you use a regular woodscrew, allow the screw to pass through the wood and snap the point off on the opposite outside.Slip the blade onto the pins and adjust the setscrew in the wood to receive the cap. Adjust the setscrew in the cap to tighten the blade in the extender as you would setting the blade in the spokeshave itself.


DSC_0007 - Version 2

At the top end of the extender it’s best to round the end to make it comfortable in the hand during use.. I used a can to mark the round.


Use a coping saw to cut the rounded end. A rasp will remove the corners for comfort.


If everything fits well the extender is ready to use, but if you want to use the extender in a honing guide it is best to chamfer a 10-degree angle on either side of the extender using a smoothing plane.


An angle guide protractor will help but just bevel the sides to fit the dovetailed sides of the guide you will be using.



DSC_0007 - Version 3

The extender in the honing guide fully loaded and ready for use.

The post #151 Spokeshave Restoration – The Paul Sellers’ Blade Extender appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Restoring a #151 Record, Marples or Stanley Spokeshave

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 3:38am

I bought three #151′s via eBay recently to show what could be had for under £10 knowing the steel cutting iron, cast body and associated adjusting mechanisms will be original Sheffield steel of quality rather than an Asian import under the banner of say Irwin or Stanley or whatever. In this series I want to dismantle comparisons of say the wooden spokeshave with the #151 or the Veritas spokeshaves. Some say the wooden ones are superior, but I want to show something a little different from the furniture maker’s perspective rather than the chair maker’s and the joiner’s from say the instrument maker’s. Anyway, I hope to both inform and educate you and at the same time entertain you. We also have videos out that help with the whole and this series of blogs will bring absolute clarity to this most useful of tools.


My spokeshave restoration process is simple enough with nothing more than common sense and common materials and oil needed, although I will as always be using diamond plates and diamond hones for the sharpening, flattening and so on. In place of these you can use any other sharpening stones and abrasives or files.

It’s best to derust and degrease first and so disposable rubber gloves keep your hands clean and give good grip through the processes. Any abrasive paper works for derusting and for starting and often finishing I use 250-grit or thereabouts. Grease is not usually a problem but a brass wire brush will work for most if not all of this. I don’t really like to use solvents but there are several greener solutions for this step too.


Remove all loose paint and find a paint to match the original if you in fact plan on getting the tool to a near original state. The Record blue and red can be had from B&Q here in the UK in a small section of the paint department.


One of these pots will restore about fifty spokeshaves and for under £4 that’s inexpensive. These spokeshaves are quite dirty with some grease to boot.


In this case I used the end of an old knife as a scraper to fit into hollows and then followed with the wire brush in all the nooks and crannies. I tend not to use wire wheels and brushes in power tools unless the tools are way off because of deep rust. Remember I restored some Old Record vises some time back and I did use an angle grinder to get through the mass of work for that, but these spokeshaves should take only minutes of time to derust, degrease and remove flaking paint.


In this case the handles have paint flaked on the handles front, back and underside so I sanded over the whole. On the convex surfaces I padded the flat face of a stick with a cotton rag wrapped around several times. Wrapping the sandpaper around the whole meant no flats but gentle curves that gave me an even surface cleanness ready for applying the first coat if paint.


I checked the spokeshave bed for high spots that cause the blade to bend in the body when the pressure is applied through the cap. The best tool ever for this is the diamond stone and hone medium grit from EZE_Lap.


It gets right into the throat and does the whole surface very accessibly and creates the flatness I like. Notice here some indicated points showing high spots that were never corrected by the former owner. Why they didn’t is lack of someone showing them. These small bumps result in flex that can cause chatter marks in the surfaces being planed or shaped. The image aboe shows a more than adequate level of evenness for a spokeshave of this type.



Before painting I flattened the sole of the flat spokeshave and sanded the round bottomed one.


I taped off the areas I want to be paint free with masking tape because it’s easier and quicker to apply the paint and prevents paint from clogging or gumming up.


Even so, I still try to apply the paint exactly where I want rather than daubing it on. The paint I am using is a low-VOC, water-based gloss? paint that is amazing as far as drying, hardness and final  appearance. It costs just under £4 for this tub, which would be expensive penny per litre but for small projects like this it’s unbeatable. Used a disposable foam brush which washes out easily or you can wrap it inside the rubber glove  to choke off air and apply subsequent coats before cleaning with water.

On this spokeshave I applied two coats to get the thickness, fullness and evenness I wanted. I then touched up any areas that I saw where the paint drew back from tighter edges and such; to ensure even colour.


I cleaned out all of the threaded parts with the brass wire brush and applied  a drop of oil before reassembly. Some parts can be chucked in a drill driver and spun into the wore brush locked in the vise. The knurled parts too benefit from this.


The post Restoring a #151 Record, Marples or Stanley Spokeshave appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

The 151 Spokeshave – Where I Mastered This Unique Plane

Sun, 07/13/2014 - 10:28am

 More on spokeshaves – How I Got Started With One

Growing up in the 50s and 60s and then throughout my apprenticing years in the mid 1960s I worked considerably in restoration work on older houses that had settled more solidly through two world wars, much demolition from bomb droppage and of course normal settlement over a couple of centuries. UK houses are mostly stone or brick and not timberframed. There is no American stick-frame 2×4 construction with sandwiched dolomite between skins of thick paper as such. In fact, for the main part, everything internal and external seems to me anywhere from 12” to 2′ thick masonry of one type or another with 1/2 to 1” of plaster on the walls that is then evened out and finally surfaced with a skim coat of even finer plaster.


I say all of this to say that skirting boards and floors,  architraves and doors and window frames were all suspended between fixed stone anchor points and then trimmed out with moulded wood and it’s here that the spokeshaves came into its best usage for me. When the floors curved, cupped and twisted after a bomb blast resettlement or a stone wall jumped and settled back on it’s newly situated foundation, trim and doors, window frames and so on either needed replacing or refitting and that’s where I learned to master the spokeshave the most. Replacing door and window frames with curved headers or circular frames too required the refining work that came from the spokeshave edge and although we did use the spindle moulder to shape the main frames when first made, during assembly and then when fitting the frames on the jobsite often required extensive use of the 150 or 151 spokeshave. This effective tool could refine and scribe any board or frame to an exact fit within a fraction of an inch and could remove much more material than a plane ever could and this is something few woodworkers would recognise as a need or solution to today. I cannot imagine how we would have done this work without the humble spokeshave, even though we today have jigsaws and routers and circular saws and more.


Scribing wood is a simple way of fitting a piece or length of wood to an uneven surface. Most often this need occurs where a wall meets a floor or a door frame meets a wall at a 90-degree angle and because the meeting points is irregular and not straight or angled rather than square, we must fit the edge of a covering bord or trim piece to close off any gaps. Here in the UK it is a more common need because although plastering creates a flat looking and level surface, the final result is most often less than we might want. In the USA on the other hand, plasterboard (Sheetrock) is used as the finished surface with tape and plaster used on the jointed lines only to create a seamless jointline. In the UK we have a 1/2″ of plaster onto man-made blocks or bricks of some type which is then skimmed over the whole surface with about 1/16 to 1/8″ of plasterboard; a process we call floating or skimming. The end result is a super hard glass-like finish pretty much impervious to life that will last a hundred years plus and maybe another hundred years depending on the care given to the home by the owner.

Cabinets and door frames often butt up against a wall to form another situation where an internal corner needs trimming out with a bead or piece of trim and this bead is trimmed to perfect fit with a spokeshave to. In the USA it is most common to but the trim up to such surfaces and then caulk it with a seam of caulking. It’s fast and effective and gets the job done. A skilled painter can make a perfect cove to the internal corner straight of the caulk gun and a less skilled worker draws a finger along the caulk line to finish the work. All in all it’s another substitute for skill and care.


So, it’s in the pre-caulking days that I learned to master using the spokeshave the most. Three strokes when heavily set takes off a good sixteenth and then a lighter set with the tweak of a setscrew refines the final shaping by a quick thou’ and you are done.

My second exposure to spokeshaves big time was working with a man named Dennis who had the job of converting an old railways sidings warehouse into offices for a man named Gunter who owned a trucking company. The new walls were timber lined and it was me who had to make the new wood fit the old floors and walls wherever the wood touched either. I was there for about four months doing this each and every day and I loved it. We only sharpened to 250 grit for this and that worked perfectly well.

I say all of this to show that the spokeshave is as much or more a plane than a tool used only for shaping spikes, spokes, rails and rungs yet I rarely if ever see anything written on this today. The basis for the restoration of a spokeshave comes from decades of finding them, fixing them and of course using them. This is my next blog on this.


The post The 151 Spokeshave – Where I Mastered This Unique Plane appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Retrofit Your Vise and Bench With Dogs Video Up

Fri, 07/11/2014 - 11:54am

To show I like dogs we made a video to show how you can retrofit your existing non-dogging vise with a simple addition.

On the benchtop we added some spring loaded additions that provide the opposing dogs for holding your workpiece securely for planing and scraping. The system works really well if you like benchtop dogging. Hope you enjoy it.

The post Retrofit Your Vise and Bench With Dogs Video Up appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Upcoming Posts for My Blog – Exciting Stuff Old and New

Fri, 07/11/2014 - 4:52am

These are the next blog post series I have been working on. I’ve taken traditions of the past and kept them and  turned some of them upside down and inside out:

Restoring a Fall Front Writing Bureau


Spokeshaves I Use and Why

DSC_0321 2DSC_0321

Upcycling Spokeshaves

DSC_0321 DSC_0005

Making the Paul Seller’s Spokeshave Blade Extender


Shaping your Kitchen Knives to Task



And one more…



DSC_0058Turning tool handles for replacements and restorations.


Could the unique and simple Paul Sellers’ saw sharpening method be the very fastest saw sharpening method in the world????

The post Upcoming Posts for My Blog – Exciting Stuff Old and New appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Fingers Hurt Sharpening Spokeshave Blades? There’s an Answer!

Tue, 07/08/2014 - 3:24am

Here is the way forward for making the Paul Sellers’ Spokeshave Blade Extender

There is a lot more besides hurting fingers and hands when it comes to freehand sharpening small blades like spokeshave blades. Applying effective pressure is hard and keeping even pressure across the width of the iron with just fingertips is nigh on impossible. Another thing is that you can’t really install a short spokeshave iron in a honing guide because the blade doesn’t extend far enough from the honing guide to reach the needed angle or angles. This simple wooden extender makes the whole process solidly practical and even pleasant.


I have thought this through through the years and seen so many students using spokeshaves at the shop struggle more with sharpening spokeshaves irons than any other type plane iron. The main reason is finger strength but also the fact that you have so little to grip on to with hands wrapped as you would with say a regular plane iron. My extender is effective, compact and simple and it works with just about every type of metal cast spokeshave ever made which includes those made by modern-day makers too.


The video we made shows both how to make the holder and then how to use it. Watch for yourself and make one in just a few minutes. It will give you total control of the spokeshave blade throughout the sharpening process regardless of whether you use freehand methods or a fixed or adjustable honing guide and you will use it for the rest of your life. More than even that, this guide works not only the same with round bottomed spokeshave irons but also with curved edges whether round or hollow too.

The extender I designed is uniquely different and, as with all of our tool and technique videos, available to watch for free online when you sign up for the free subscription side of woodworkingmasterclasses. Simply subscribe to the free subscription membership of  woodworkingmasterclasses go to Video Library and then Tool and Techniques and then look for Spokeshave: Sharpening Holder and enjoy this and 20 more free training videos.

By the way, we will not expect anything from you once you sign in and neither will we bombard you with emails or adverts and…no more aching hands and fingers!


The post Fingers Hurt Sharpening Spokeshave Blades? There’s an Answer! appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Upcycle For a Good Layout Knife

Mon, 07/07/2014 - 2:23pm


I am not the first to do this and I will not be the last

DSC_0021 - Version 2

Perhaps it is to our shame, but consumerism has rendered good knives like this to become obsolete by fashion on the one hand and an inability for most men and women to sharpen their own knives on the other. t’s not too far fetched to say people have an attitude of throw-it-away too, and that means we can’t be bothered to sharpen something that is good and well made because it seems, well, easier to simply throw it away and buy another. Perhaps also it is the fact that knives with throwaway blades cost so little. 

I sometimes lose sight of the fact that in Western Europe and the USA, perhaps other countries too, we have a rich and diverse range of different tools available for almost any purpose and almost no money at all. New and secondhand markets, internet sites like eBay and many more give most of us an unlimited variety of options to go to.

John reminded me today that this abundance of tools we take so much for granted would not be available in many countries around the world and whereas I can buy my favourite knife from two dozen internet suppliers for a few pounds or even fewer dollars, it is the simplest thing to adapt an existing one in under a few minutes. ready made kitchen knives are more widely available than the type of knife I like so well so this blog is for those who have no spare, the poor and the thrifty. This knife will work as well as any other. Secondhand knifes will of course be cheaper than almost any other. The above knife cost 50 pence.

Most kitchen knives are made from thinner stainless steel or a similar looking steel alloy. Generally these steels are developed to take a keen edge, keep a keen edge and to be resharpened readily. This will not be an inferior knife in any way even though it is said that stainless will not take a good edge. I sued this one today and the edge was definitely as keen as a surgeons knife or even better. If you need a good knife, progress with impunity.

Knives like this will make a good woodworking knife and will likely be comparable to any you can buy for joint making and creating my knifewall. 


I put my knife in the vise and snapped off the bulk of the excess leaving about 2” of steel to shape into the new blade. Snapping is quicker than sawing or grinding. 


I like the shape to be rounded on the back as shown in the finished knife above and so I used a grinding wheel to reshape and define the knife blade. You could snap further and then use a file to form it too.


Right on the very tip I ground the tip to a steeper point for resistance and strength.


DSC_0021The very thin and fine point is the most vulnerable to burning but frequent quenching will keep the steel cool.


Of course the cutting-edge bevels are already formed with a shallow, hollow-ground bevelled edge to both sides to form the cutting edge. The hollow grind is of no real consequence but the two-sided bevel is and I generally find this more useful and versatile than a single-sided bevel and definitely better than diamond or spearpoint knives too. 


The post Upcycle For a Good Layout Knife appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Update On the Shaker-inspired Deacon’s Bench – It’s Finished

Sun, 07/06/2014 - 1:06pm

Being well is a healthy thing and working with your hands really brings helps.

Yesterday my handwork was concluded and I have written as deeply as I know on the value simple conclusion of almost anything brings to our personal wellbeing. As I mouthed the words ‘it’s finished’ yesterday I felt that physical resonance inside. It’s an unmistakable sense and I always feel it, but I want to explain the feeling and the sensing as I see it and feel it.


Wellbeing is almost always deep after completing almost any work but all the more when the work demands something from you and indeed you enter realms of uncertainty starting out. Chances are you may never have used the methods we used in making this bench seat. It may well start out with some level of doubt and perhaps an uncertainty, but I think this is important for any craft and skill development.


Integrity in work deepens with hand work and many of you are now realising this more and more.

The more integrity you strive for in being honest throughout your work the greater the level of fulfilment and the more your honest work stands in the face of scrutiny and that includes your own. For me my work’s resonation always comes when something I was making is no longer a ‘becoming’ but an ‘is’.  My speaking three seemingly insignificant words is as much of the making process as the first thought preluding the pencil stroke I make in my sketchbook. The words may not seem consequential in the scheme of things but most of it is about taking something from the very birth of a concept in a man’s mind to its final conclusion where there is nothing, absolutely nothing, left to be done. It’s not anything super etherial but I do know that just speaking these words somehow releases the deepest sense of wellbeing after hard working. 


The different woods I decided on complemented one another and using a brush and a pad to apply the shellac filled the grain quickly. I think the overall finish took me from raw wood to a fully filled surface in about two hours sepalled  in between by cure time overnight before I applied soft furniture polish as the final surface. Buffing the wax is very fast and the softness to my fingertips was like the tool chest we built a few months ago.


Shaping the legs and rails using common hand tools like drawknives and spokeshave becomes quickly intuitive and you will be surprised how accurate and well they look when shaped using traditional and uniquely different methods as apposed to any type of lathe. 

In closing I look forward to what some of you will soon be building as shown here and think toward that day when I will be feeling what you will be feeling again as you too work through the different phases in zones I can relate to. It will be an upcoming project on the woodworkingmasterclasses.com



The post Update On the Shaker-inspired Deacon’s Bench – It’s Finished appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Does Paul Sellers Know Anything About Woodworking?

Fri, 07/04/2014 - 10:46am

Who is Paul Sellers anyway?

The question posed to me is this; “What is the relevant technical skill and experience of [Paul Sellers]?” This question is asked in relation to my technical skills and abilities in woodworking, writing on woodworking and presenting woodworking.
It seems an interesting request and although I will be responding by pointing to many photographs, drawings and videos, it would be great to have some personal endorsements from you. I think this kind of personal testimonial will mean much more than just my own presentation.


How you answer this is up to you. You may have met me decades ago, months ago or only a few days ago or you may only know me from social media, my blog, online broadcast or somewhere else.

I think it would be helpful to capture the testaments from the length and breadth of the work I have done as well as the substance and depth where this applies.

I receive dozens of comments and emails in a given week that express warmth and appreciation of what I do but this is an opportunity for us to organise your input in a systematic way.

So, please let me know how long you’ve known about me, what has impacted your life by my work or anything else that you feel has helped you personally. 

This is not me fishing for compliments but for a specific purpose that will not be publicly available immediately. but we will find some way of publishing the results here or another site in the future so that you can see the results. 

Thank you for taking the time to do this for me.

  • Your real name*
  • Would you like us to use a different, or abbreviated, name if we publish your testimonial?*
    • Yes
    • No
  • Tell us how you want to be identified if the testimonial is published.
  • Your testimonial*
  • Your email address*
    We would like to be able to get in touch with you if we need any further details. We won't sell your email or add it to any marketing lists.
  • Paul Sellers may use my testimonial, along with the name I indicated above, in any published or unpublished format.*
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Categories: Hand Tools

Historical Perspectives Still Holding Good For Our Future

Thu, 07/03/2014 - 2:01pm

The future of woodworking seems ever brighter when I look in on times past.. I spend time still after all these years looking at the work of those who went before me. Tenons and dovetails aren’t at all new to me but they are filled with information about standards of workmanship, methods of work and working, material types, sizing  and of course the obvious things such as style.


For much of my life I have seen dovetails nailed with a single pin through each dovetail. People today often describe this as slipshod. When I made my first dovetailed Joiner’s tool box I was told to nail the dovetails and that’s what I did. Just like the ones shown here but with oval nails. In most cases the nail mattered very little because boxes in pine were always painted for protective sealing and appearance. Boxes were of course the pre-plastic days and ways for transporting dry goods, storing them and of course keeping them safe. Today we see poor substitutes for wooden boxes that have no real joints but glue, staples and wood filler that might look good but have no built in longevity. What a difference to think a box might last over a hundred years and even two and three and still be going strong.

A close look at these boxes shows gauge lines that actually seemed to make very little difference to the maker.


Looking in closely the shoulder lines were often strayed from and so too as ever the depth of cuts of saws.


The alignment of angles too seemed of secondary importance and all of this shows my point. The boxes were made quickly and with tolerances close enough to guarantee strength yet without being overly concerned with accuracy.

DSC_0004 - Version 2

Look at the marking gauge lines on this box corner above where I have enlarged the area around the meeting point where the lid is parted for the opening. This was the greatest discrepancy of about 1.5mm. Not a close tolerance at all but the joint is tightly made.


DSC_0004 - Version 3In the next image of course we see the nail head holes in the dovetails. Notice there was no filler used. No putty.


Saw kerfs rarely stopped at the lines on vernacular boxes like these. New woodworkers may not be aware of this. What’s your box for? Tools or a fine secretaire. Perhaps a beehive or a kitchen box holding onions and potatoes.


The angles to the dovetails are all different and though close not close enough for the maker to have used a dovetail guide. The spacings are different too. Layout was unlikely.

Fast, effective, practical woodworking at its best. Economy of time, materials and real woodworking.


I liked the last box quite well. Added decoration nailed in place and then signs throughout of paint removed. If the craftsman who made this was never known we know he passed on the traditions of dovetails purely by sighting his dovetails too. You are right again, they are not brilliantly executed but simply and effectively done to store things he really valued.DSC_0007 DSC_0006

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Categories: Hand Tools

Making the Most of Your Hands

Wed, 07/02/2014 - 3:07pm

Look at this. Do you like what you see? Ask yourself this question if you haven’t been following me for the past few days either here or on my facebook page. How were these shapes formed? The typical answer is of course going to be, “On a lathe of course!”


Why have I asked this?


It’s a simple answer really. I wanted to make people who are interested in woodworking to consider an alternative possibility as many thousands following my blog do. Looking back at the above image, try to wrap your mind around the fact that, yes, these spindles could be turned on the lathe but they could just as easily also be made without one. Look at these legs and tell yourself they were made with a spokeshave, a card scraper and an axe. Then add in a drawknife, a Stanley number 4 smoothing plane and a handsaw. What about a brace and bit or two, a nickel, a penny or an old shilling piece. Doesn’t that just blow your mind just a little bit.


Rounding legs and rails and spindles with beautiful rounded tapered shapes is a process we will be teaching for the first time through a new woodworking masterclasses series that begins in about five weeks. In this instructional there are no machines needed, not one. Here is my most recent work using these techniques and they have never been shown anywhere before. The design follows an ever-popular traditional Shaker style but all the sizing, shaping, angles and all other details are developed completely by me as my own personal design and my contribution to the future of real woodworking. The techniques and the  methods used can be applied toWindsor chairs, any of the Clissett-style chairs, Welsh stick chairs and so many more including even many chairs that defy being turned on the lathe. I was excited developing this project and the curriculum for video teaching and I am excited to put it together for one of my new books and DVD instructionals as a how-to for release in the not too distant future.



The thing I have worked on for three decades now is a process that tangibly deindustrializes the commerce of working wood in the private lives of individuals and small businesses as a lifestyle alternative that’s viable, vibrant and progressive. It’s not old fashioned or outdated but intensely fascinating for those who love working with their hands and want to become masters of skill through determination, hard work and self discipline. To take my craft and all that I have learned and used for five decades has become an exhaustive work but now, gradually, it is becoming available to anyone anywhere regardless of background, gender or financial status.  Learning these methods puts the skills in the hands of parents to teach their children, grandparents and friends and relations and it means that children at an early age can be involved in woodworking again as in times past instead of being left outside the machine shop door. Its a way that woodworking can truly return to being woodcraft again and a way that gives the greatest levels of fulfilment ever.

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Categories: Hand Tools


by Dr. Radut