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This is a collection of all the different blogs I (try to) read.  A whole bunch!  If you have any comments or suggestions feel free to use the CONTACT page to get a hold of me.  Thanks!

To my brother Ken. Rest in peace buddy. You were one of the best friends that I've ever had. Take care up there, they got no warning you're coming. Pamela, get well soon.  A GoFundMe page for Pam and family has been set up here for those who want to help:

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Paul Sellers

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A Lifestyle Woodworker
Updated: 9 min 55 sec ago

Happy or contented with work?

2 hours 52 min ago

DSC_0274The textures in work are so diverse man merely glimpses them in snatches, little more than flashes but even those flashes far exceed an image and even a film. A mouth moves from smiling satisfaction to abrupt tensity and stock-still shock in split seconds parted by steps of transition in fifty convoluted shapes and each stage reflects the tensions between these two extremes of emotion.

Texture is atmospheric, deeply felt and superficial and we penetrate these invitations of sight to whatever depth we want to. Touching a wood surface and looking at what people call grain is the most superficial level.

My eyes catch moments of texture between workers at the bench and faces opposing one another in conversation. The texture of delicate hands counter the heavy muscle on another bench and both texturise the atmosphere as I sit and glean as if garnering the shapes that show how work is accomplished by the lightweights and the heavyweights. Here I write with my mind a record of how work is accomplished in people learning to work with their bodies that give texture no machine ever can.

I like that man is not a machine until he works with a machine. He isolates himself in spheres so precious when the shape is formed and the kerf cut by a saw extended by his arm. This entry into the material is the extension of who he is; he’s powered to engage the work by this texture of handwork and so the machine opposes this spectacular isolation of textured life.


My students have left and then today the shop seemed silent but for my workbench noises as I make my new chair. Here it’s made as a prototype in redwood pine from eastern Europe. It’s simple in look as yet and needs some more shaping ti get the full appearance I want. 26 mortise and tenons, some of which are compound—it’s a very unique and unusual detail I chose to build into this chair for training. It takes me a day to build this chair and when we film the new one in oak it will look expensive. Someone said IKEA makes one  from pine and I say I don’t care too much as mine are made by my hands to last about 150 years and theirs perhaps only a few.DSC_0353

Many woodworkers are intimidated by chair making and that includes professional furniture makers. It’s also true that the methods making them by hand are very rewarding once you climb over the doubts. Remember the fear of failure is often unrealistic.

DSC_0339Anyway, this is a fairly conventional chair but it’s the steps we take that build skills and knowledge that create the dynamic we need for chairmaking to become part of you. It starts with a chair like this one made from solid wood with the chair joint.DSC_0359

Today was restful to me as I worked alone after the class last week. People came and went as I leave the workshop door open for visitors to see a textured way of living. A lady asked my quietly, “Are you happy?” I am not sure why she asked, but I said that I wouldn’t feel to describe myself that way. She seemed surprised and I think that my answer missed the mark in her book. I think she did perhaps have some picture in her mind of what I would feel in the stillness of my workshop but it didn’t really fit what I felt. I tried for a minute to think how I could express to her what it’s like to draw a picture on a block of wood and then make the drawing become something like a chair with just a pair of hands. The words defied such textures so I left it at that and smiled at my shoulder lines and arches and the way the chair felt when I sat in it and then as she turned for the door I said, “How about contented?”DSC_0364

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Categories: Hand Tools

One door closes and many more open

Fri, 06/26/2015 - 7:16am

DSC_0082I think that is true of our courses. We’re quite different really and we spread the good news of real woodworking all be it on a small scale. I taught my first class in the USA back in 1989 or thereabouts. Since then my hands on courses have shaped 5,500 woodworkers and I have taught every single one of them. Hard to imagine but back then, in that first class, I never thought the outreach would be so wide. An email comes in now and again from someone I taught who forgot until they remind me that they were the one who did this or that and then I laugh and remember something coming out upside down or inside out.DSC_0240

Most days in the course this week I listen and watch and try to guide. Hands seem more skilled to me. Work outcome is very much improved, more accomplished, and of course with that comes a certainty, a level of confidence they never had before.  And here is my success and my reward. How do you measure these things?DSC_0111

What nine days does is of course amazing to everyone, but for me it’s different. I expect this improvement  from day one, even though  I have never had any contact with most of the students. Why do I have so a high a level of expectancy? Well, simply put, 95% of any and all achievement is a made-up mind. They all made their minds up before they came that they were going to achieve. That makes my work all the easier. There is a likelihood with this intake f students that 4 of them will become working craftsmen.DSC_0100

I am not sure if I should give his name and age publicly so I won’t. This man is 74 years old and he’s here with his young son in his 20’s. They are both pursuing the course together, travelled 4,000 miles to be here and went to a lot of expense to learn. It’s a strange thing and I may have told you this before but a man came into the workshop during a class in full progress. “Wow!” he exclaimed, “I would love to do this course. If I only it was nearer to me.” I asked where he was from and he said it was just too far. He lived 18 miles away. DSC_0123So, attitude is everything and for one group 4,000 miles is well worth the trip and then for another a free class in the same town is just too much. But I do understand that behavioural change can begin with an all-expenses-paid course. We have seen that happen many times and we provide that opportunity. I am glad we can afford to do this. Remember please that anyone who cannot afford a class with us here can apply by email to come. Every class we offer we take two non paying attendees if they just cannot afford it.  I have done that for twenty years now and it really helps.DSC_0192

Tomorrow we finish this class. I don’t know if any one class is better than another but I am grateful we can do this. The class size fluctuated because of commitments by attendees but most days we’ve had ten to eleven. I make the same projects just ahead of the students for demonstration and lecture purposes and my projects are used as examples along the way. DSC_0202I have also been working on other things too. I repaired a badly broken ultimatum brace and made the prototype dining chair we will be making for the next but two woodworkingmasterclasses workshop on making chairs. I have also made about fifty mortise and tenon joints in pine and oak for some of my research work.

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Categories: Hand Tools

Woodworking is my lived life

Wed, 06/24/2015 - 12:54pm

I personally think woodworking is a very marvellous thing and it doesn’t really matter whether you do it by hand or use machines or both. I like to do my work as much by hand as is practicable and so about ninety-eight percent of my work is indeed worked by my hands. I think this is the height of wonder to me. No one will ever change my thoughts on this because very few people I have met in the last 30 years or so have worked as much with either machines or hand tools as I have.


Anyway, it’s an unusual percentage in today’s world of course, and I know that. I think three times in the past week I have heard different perspectives on my argument that you can make a living working wood the way I do and that it’s exciting, interesting and creatively solved. There’s a basis for it I could go into but the main difference comes down to the same thing. To work wood well by hand you must develop skill in many areas, you must work efficiently, effectively and be creative throughout any and every given day. These abilities are developed, worked and rarely come without effort and determination. That’s actually all it takes.

DSC_0747This man made these things with his hands and one day he will make his living from woodworking I think.

Developing skill takes time, but not necessarily years, so that’s not usually the obstacle. What the obstacle I saw in my talking to the three people in the last week who told me you cannot make your living from woodworking these days was doubt. One was a woodworking teacher, the other was someone quoting another teacher and the third was someone who couldn’t make a living as a woodworker and became a teacher but then retired early from that. Not the best team to learn from. Three woodworking editors who were not woodworkers said the same thing some years back too.


It was never an option for me not to be a furniture maker and it is no less the same today. It does take determination though. I keep making, drawing and designing and then writing and making new films that pass on the skills I and knowledge that empowers others to learn, change lifestyle, build futures and keep my craft safe.

Most days in the course this week I listen and watch and try to guide. Hand seem more skilled to me. Work has improved but then minds have changed and so too most opinions. We have challenged doubt with lived reality and the guys are making things they never made before and at least four out of the ten never knew that they could make what they made until now. Isn’t that alone an amazing thing?

Now my work isn’t teaching but passing it on to others. We build and we plan and we reach out to woodworkers worldwide. I don’t know if I could ever be a happier man than I am now. Thanks to you all, every one of you.


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Categories: Hand Tools

Working wood makes a good living

Mon, 06/22/2015 - 9:00am

DSC_0094In some ways my blog records a wide range of things I might otherwise have never written down and that includes everything from new tool reviews to my opinions on sharpness and what sharpness is. Some time back I presented something to my students suggesting the question of why we sharpen to 15,000 grit when we can barely if at all discern the difference when we plane the wood to say 400 grit. I did the same thing today as I do occasionally and sharpened two planes in front of them. They watched the shavings emerge from the two planes with ease and were astounded that there was so little discernible difference both in effort and result. To some this is heresy but the proof of the pudding for me came when i started to question why sharpen to such tight tolerances when the result are not clearly and visibly different. DSC_0139My answer today is as in times past. It takes about half a minute to rough the bevel back down to get rid of the worn edge and get to a burr again. Finishing to 15,000 takes about the same time and so it isn’t much trouble to go the extra mile. Now, that said, once the bevel is indeed polished to that level it does take longer to abrade out the steel to get to the cutting edge again. I find it a good idea to keep one plane sharpened and kept at 400 and another one polished out to 15,000. This is of course my opinion. I still keep a scrub #4 hand for taking heavier cuts and to get down close to where I want and finish out with the other two planes. This is what owning inexpensive planes has done for me. This is why, in answer to people asking why I have so many planes lined up on my bench, I keep them close to hand. In sequence and for a given task I look at the wood and see how much I need to remove. I grab the scrub to remove heavy shavings and then the 400 for the next level. That often is enough for me. But then if I want the superb levelling and finishing of a surface I might add in the 15,000. All in all I save time this way and much effort.DSC_0112

Someone came through last week and yet again reminded me that no one can make a living from woodworking these days. I know that that’s not the case but of course what he was saying really is that no one can make money from woodworking these days. That’s a whole different thing. Making money is exchanging what you make for an amount of money you can exchange for a lifestyle you want beyond woodworking or other than woodworking. Making a living is living woodworking and doing it even if you must work differently than other people do. If I needed or to work longer or be better at designing my work to live woodworking then that is what I did or would do. it’s simple enough. Working is not an unpleasant thing for me and that is why at 65 I still put in around 10-12 hours in a given day. DSC_0020Of course my work is diverse. I still make pieces every week but now of course I still teach classes. When I first started teaching I was a maker then as I still consider myself to be now. In those days I worked five days and used my Saturdays to teach classes. i built the benches one by one and added extra students as my space increased. The outcome of my life was furniture makers and woodworking teachers too. It’s been a marvellous life, but if anyone asked me today do I plan on not making or teaching or blogging or writing books yet. Then the answer is as long as I have breath and strength I hope to keep doing everything I can.DSC_0046

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Categories: Hand Tools

EBay groupings can provide

Fri, 06/19/2015 - 11:52pm

DSC_0051Every so often a grouping of tools comes together as a package via eBay and at first glimpse of a poorer image you might pass over it without thinking. This might have been the case when I bought the tools shown here. The image was quite unclear but the silhouette of the small router piqued my interest at first. I had wanted one for some time but they rarely come up on eBay and never elsewhere as far as I could see. This one, (below the larger brothers) had a superficial powder coat of rust but that soon came of with a brass wire brush. I recoated the knobs with shellac and refined the blade and so here you have the baby of the Edward Preston router plane back in service. It makes a nice addition.DSC_0061

DSC_0046For this wooden one it was a question of using it as a kit. The rectangular mahogany base had none of the shaping you see for thumbs and fingers and it was awkward to use. In a few minutes I had it fitting my hands and it works fine. I think I will file the back of the cutting iron flat to automatically align the blade to the depth lock screw so it’s presented square to the front of the plane and to prevent it from twisting under pressure.

DSC_0070The four longer burnishers are comprise three from the ones on eBay collection with the fourth one one of mine. They are very nicely made and came in at just the right time for something I am working on writing. Two of the three of them are made from old files as was mine with the hexagonal handle third from the left. I tried all of them and they work exceptionally well. They were made very beautifully and the thing for me was that one of the best was the triangular file made from a worn out saw file. With these burnishers the maker took off the file teeth and then polished them out. One is a three-square saw file, another a half round file and the other a tear-shaped one that was not made from a file.

DSC_0074The plane with the funny shape is for chair and rung making and has a half round blade in it.DSC_0078 DSC_0075 I can see this being a useful tool but whether I would have bought or made one outside of this collection I don’t really know. It does work nicely and really fits the hand well. The wood is beech.

This draw pin is of course for drawing up components and aligning holes in engineering but it draws up tenons into the mortise for using draw-bore methods for pinning tenons equally well. It will work equally well without adding a wooden handle so I will keep it as is.DSC_0079

DSC_0071DSC_0073The travisher was pretty grungy when I tame in but I was glad the rusted in tangs turned loose as the often don’t in spokeshaves and can break the wood. Of course this is a lot beefier. DSC_0067The tang is stamped Marples and Sons so I knew the blade was Marples but then as I cleaned off the wood there was a feint tracing of the same maker and Hibernia Sheffield stamped in the wood too. I haven’t sharpened it up yet but for chair seats this tool knows no equal.DSC_0065

The reamer here I am thinking will be just right for violin peg holes I think. Otherwise I would have no need for it. It will go to Joseph for his tools anyway.DSC_0082

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Categories: Hand Tools

Bench height adjuster for sharpening

Fri, 06/19/2015 - 11:08am

We had a new intake of students from around the globe today, Sierra Leone, some from the USA , east and west, Netherlands and Spain. Oh yes, and the UK. They will be here for nine days and I am always surprised how easily people from different continents can totally connect in just a matter of minutes when wood and woodworking are the catalyst uniting them. Of course it is true of other crafts too. Working with your hands seems to open up the whole atmosphere in ways machines don’t or can’t and that’s true with those in IT occupations too. It doesn’t take too long to break the ice in class and to then leave the world behind and outside. Gathering around the bench and in the first hour we discuss different options for sharpening ranging from using guides to the different abrasive types, angles, shapes of bevels and so on. After an hour they are ready to do it themselves and from here on that’s exactly what happens.P1040807

First we allocate benches according to the height of the person and the benches we have corresponding to that height. We keep our workshops here to a maximum of ten but usually stop registering at eight. We keep two extra spaces for scholarships and emergencies when couples want to come together. Our lowest bench height is 38” so if people are shorter and need a lower bench we provide a platform. Otherwise we jack benches up to suit and have some extra tall ones.DSC_0035

There is an issue surrounding sharpening at workbench normal height, hence this post. We have a couple of sharpening stations in the shop and these are set at the 38” height. The works fine for taller people as they need the lower height to gain overhead pressure as they sharpen. On the other hand shorter people need extra height. I have taken to keeping a 1 1/2” x by 3” section of wood 18” long under the bench. When I need the height adjustment I kick the stick into position which is bout 18” from the face of the bench and parallel to it. Placing my heels on the stick elevates me to the ideal height for sharpening, which is the only task I need a bench adjustment to work with. It works, feels safe, try it. See if it works for you.

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Categories: Hand Tools

Why I posted on making the Paul Sellers’ dovetail template

Thu, 06/18/2015 - 3:51pm

paulsellers.comSome time back I posted how to make my dovetail template because of all the ones I have made through the the years this was the one I felt to be the best. My reason for passing it on was of course to ensure its future in the tradition of would be craftsmen making their own as had happened with me would continue as a non-commercial enterprise. I have patterns for forty such designs I have either designed or made through the years. The key thing for me was of course making your own.  I recently noticed something that did sadden me though and that was that a commercial maker took the freely given guide and made it their commercial product to sell in their product line. Should they have asked? I’ll let you be the

Of course making your own is free, it provides training and it helps woodworkers to establish new skills. That has generally been the reason we do what we do. It also means that it is very affordable. On the other hand the now commercial version is available in commonly available wood at $25 a pop using materials that cost almost nothing so the profit margins are very high for them, and offering a set of three at the discounted price of $65 means even higher profits of somewhere around say $60. Anyway, they are using something they call resin infused figured maple when just about any ordinary non infused hardwood left for five minutes in thin superglue does the same thing if indeed the wood was even a problem which of course we know is not. The inference that it gives greater stability is of course poppycock when the natural stability of the wood is already way beyond  what’s needed.

My thought is that you still only need one marker with a 1-7 pitch but as they take only fifteen minutes to make you can make others as needed in the moment.

I ask that you continue the tradition and make your own. Keeping it alive to me is important. Students in my classes make them and we have taught over 5,500 students to make their own as part of the courses they take. Online of course the numbers increase to hundreds of thousands and I like the idea that it’s a continuing tradition that was dying out until my blog post.

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Categories: Hand Tools

Why I do what I do

Wed, 06/17/2015 - 7:06pm

Often it’s the unexplainable things of life that make the most sense to our sensibilities. Strange really, when you think about it. The leaf a tree carries and the way wood severed from it’s root in the same stem brings life to what we make from it. These things are things a scientist explains and then fragments what he or she analyses to reconfigure aspects of it to create something saleable to make money.DSC_0043

I think that science proves a few things we already know and understand. Many things, really, but then comes the disintegration of all the constituent parts and we end up with MDF and phenolic resins, pressed fibreboard and plastic laminate. No matter how I slice it, the tool box wouldn’t be the same in MDF.

For a while there, because of a TV show or two mostly, people lost interest in doing it themselves and let a machine do the work for them and we almost lost our sense of wellbeing in the progress of it. Mostly, for me anyway, it’s been more seeing natural things being displaced if you will and then reformed into artificial substitutes commercial enterprises convert into something called economy and industrialism. This includes people too of course–humanity considered as fodder in the pursuit of ever expanding consumerism we call markets. DSC_0032

I am convinced there is a need for human recovery in every person living that results from commerced life to recover some sanity that goes well beyond using commercial methods of industry to give us a place where we can rest from it. I am also convinced that the process of working with our hands contains the whole process to a speed we can understand and recover ourselves from by mastering skills and better understanding the different woods we work with and the tools we use. I think these things are important enough to me for me to write 2-3,000 words every day for people to read. It’s worth giving up my free time in the evenings and weekends to make my days longer and extended beyond my working hours of making, and teaching and building to build a more secure future for people to recover in and at the same time preserve my craft. I do not believe that without this effort, apprenticeships and that art of my work as a crafting artisan will be safe. Certainly no politician or industrialist can be entrusted in any way with it. Of course it’s not just my one craft I speak of. It’s spinners and weavers warping treadle looms and blacksmiths in their back yards learning  to form steel into things of use and beauty. Potters, basket weavers and so on.DSC_0039

When I speak of recovery and wellbeing I speak of progress you see. I cannot reverse the effects of living in a digital era of technology where virtual has secured its tenure as permanent reality, but I can teach people that the mental attitude towards working manually needs to change. That men and women can see work unfold from raw material into something so well made it bespeaks of an era 300 years ago when fine workmanship exemplified a worker’s respected life that was indeed sacrosanct and clean, wholesome and pure. A period when people worked within the sphere of limitation attributed to them. An allocation of time for them to learn and to grow and to understand that work was an honourable place to rest in and enjoy. I can even use that digital era of expression to advance my cause in helping others get off the conveyor belt even if only to recover for a little while and discover their own saneness is still there inside them.DSC_0061

For me and for thousands beside me, work is healing. That’s the other part of recovery. Recovery is to find that which was lost or damaged or abandoned. Machine and hand are not really two sides of the same coin to be flipped and seen as coequal in existence but for the main part to exact opposites. Call me a luddite if you will, but people along the way have protested against the industrialism we live  and claw our way through today. But we can hold to that aspect of respect that gives us the opportunity to live and breath in the cleanness of honest work in an honest atmosphere of minimised pollution beyond commercialism and mass manufacturing. It’s a personal sphere of unindustrialised space were we close the doors to commercialism and learn to live and breath a different way. People fought hard for such freedoms so I could go to work with my hands. It wasn’t altogether the halting of progress in times past but the fight against the very giants of industrialism we face in the everyday of life today.


Two decades ago men laughed at me at woodworking shows with these few tools on top of a joiner’s workbench in Mesquite, Texas, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Kansas City, Kansas. Places like that. They were mostly the salesmen who sold machine routers and who grew bored when sales slowed and they were empty and never knew wood. DSC_0040Eight tools made this whole box—door and panels, frames and dovetails, mortise and tenons—everything. Imagine such a simple thing as this in today’s age and you don’t imagine something stultified and old fashioned but, if you are like me, you imagine a future lifestyle working your hands in your craft and a new life unfolding in the lives of others. You imagine sane afternoons and evenings with your sons and daughters, your wife and your husbands enjoying banter back and forth as you build a new dining table or a new bed. These are the things industrialists know nothing of without making it a money-making enterprise. I think that this is why I do what I do and it’s why people follow my classes at the castle and the videos we make for the future of future generations. I LOVE what I do more today than when my working began 50 years ago because it involves you and thousands of others who love working with their hands.

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Categories: Hand Tools

Sam’s Joiner’s toolbox

Tue, 06/16/2015 - 2:02pm

DSC_0022I was just sixteen when I made mine from the same pine with the same eight hand tools bought brand new that cost me six weeks wages working 52 hours in each week to buy them.DSC_0017

I got paid £3.50 a week back then and the tools meant something to me because they cost me and I still use the same tools and I remember my dad once saying, “Sell anything you own except your tools because only fools sell their tools.”

And one day thieves came stole some of my tools and I was saddened greatly by the loss but all the more by this one thing; those who took my jewels knew nothing of what they’d cost me, or the joy they’d brought me and that they could never be replaced.

But those who know not what they do are still to be forgiven. I was glad they left the bulk of them. It made forgiveness easier. Where I grew up they would’ve cut their hands off for much less. Steal anything but never a working man’s tools.DSC_0024


Sam’s ready to load up now. Here are his dovetails. This is one of the very best toolboxes there is in my view. Those of you who are with can access all of the techniques and methods by following a tool chest build we did nack in 2013.


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Categories: Hand Tools

Draw-bore pins with a difference—How to make and use them

Mon, 06/15/2015 - 8:48am

DSC_0052We recently made the video series on making the trestle table using some very unique methods and techniques DSC_0442I developed partly for training must mostly for rock solid build. I am more amazed by the audience we reach these days and just how quickly people are developing their skills to become true woodworkers. P1050740The online methods we are using are of course based on 50 years of the doing of it and it does make a difference. If you want to watch a video on making solid hardwood dowels and then installing two types of draw-bore pins you will need to take up the free subscription to In the processes we teach we also pass on making yet another poor-man’s tool for making the pins to dead size at no cost.DSC_0441

It’s one thing making the dowels but making the square ends and fitting them to the recess might be a challenge without the right instruction. No routers and no lathes, no fancy equipment for any of it, just stuff you probably have hanging around. Hope that you enjoy it.

Oh, and no we won’t bang on about selling you anything either. No spamming, no adverts just real woodworking free for all who want to master real woodworking.

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Categories: Hand Tools

Frame saw or bow saw, what’s the difference?

Fri, 06/12/2015 - 3:05am

DSC_0015I recently progressed the videos on making different types of frame saw using different ingredients to maximise performance. Visitors stopped by over the days I was working and we were filming and they saw the saws in progress and indeed being used. One man asked my why Europeans didn’t adopt the English tenon saw for their joinery work, inferring this was the improved and better model. Of course in Britain too we had frame saws dating to the middle of the last millennia. Something shifted in the 1700’s when woodworkers transitioned from thinner and narrow blades to wider plate sheet steel and then the addition of the folded spline that pinched the steel and enabled the plate to be straightened by tension.

DSC_0013The progress we made was to introduce a new joint connecting the cross beam to the handles. I did this a few years ago now and have actually used my frame saw on a regular basis. I use it as what I think is the very best metal cutting saw I have ever used. Why do I say metal cutting saw rather than ‘hack’ saw. Well, it doesn’t operate at all like a hacksaw. It’s smooth cutting and it eases through the steel and brass like the proverbial knife through hot butter. I also get double the length of useable blade  and, so, long even strokes that are magic.

DSC_0008It cuts oak equally well.

I have seen toggles and thumbscrews but never liked the look and feel of them and so I retained the toggle and the string method which I find works great. Wood absorbs some of the vibration you get with frame saws but tensioning is key to tensity in the sense of stretch.

The questioner, as with many Brits, assumed that the frames was simply the undeveloped former state of unevolved saws and backsaws were the ultra level of development. I say as with many Brits because the men I apprentice and worked with dismissed frame saws as being European and unBritish.

The bowsaw cuts lovely tenons and shoulders with equal results. DSC_0020This image shows the out-cut of the frame saw and the dovetail saw respectively.



DSC_0030So here you see the joinery results of the bowsaw without any finish on. DSC_0036These dovetails are untouched by chisel except for the shoulder cuts across the grain and came straight from the bowsaw with no further refinements.

Of course I am looking at these saws a little differently. All of the frame saws commonly available have the ability to turn the blade on its long axis and are often called turning saws. These saws are very different to the traditional bowsaws refined as saws for curved work which were never used for joinery but tighter curved work, arches and remove of waste between twin and double tenons. So it’s important here to look at things through different glasses. Frame saws are indeed good for joinery. They do other tasks including ripcutting, crosscutting and turning, and this depends on the width of the blade used, but for me here and now I want to simply present the frame saw as a joinery saw. In answering the questioner I took the saw and cut these tails for a dovetail by eye and without layout. I then cut a tenon replete with for sides and four shoulders and the same saw with the same blade gave me pristine surfaces that actually looked like a finely tuned bandsaw had cut the facets. I crosscut the shoulders with equal alacrity. So herein is the simplicity of it all. The bow saw is the least expensive saw you can use that gives at least comparable results to the more high developed tenon saw range and you can use one blade for everything without compromise. There are a few refinements you must do to make them work but this revolves around the blade and the teeth and not the frames itself. You really don’t need any turning capacity for any joinery practice so a simple saw kerf and a pin through holds the blade perfectly aligned. If someone makes one of these the cost per saw is under £3 including the blade depending on whether you use scraps of pine or some hardwood. Even if you buy decent hardwood the cost is still a fraction of a tenon saw cost.

I really have enjoyed owning one of these and especially so as a hacksaw. I have two finer toothed blades I use and of course I can interchange two or three beams to alter the length of the saw and the blade. So, I will advise when the videos are up on how to make both the simple frame saw and the fancier model. I think you will love these.

More in this and the making of them soon, very soon.

Have a nice weekend everyone!

The post Frame saw or bow saw, what’s the difference? appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

Debunked the mysteries

Thu, 06/11/2015 - 2:04pm

There can be no doubt over the years I have debunked many myths and mysteries surrounding woodworking over the years,mostly to make my world of real woodworking inclusive of everyone and available to anyone. No you don’t need heavy planes, retrofitted plane irons and definitely not thick and excessively hardened plane irons with particularly special steels and cap irons (chip breakers USA for some reason). Saws, chisels and other hand tools have all become more widely understood now and even the very best knife for cutting my knifewall has been distilled down to a very simple and functional Stanley that IS resharpenable costing under £8 and $8 respectively.

A direct result of my work debunking is that thousands if not hundreds of thousands of lost and forsaken Stanley #4’s have resurfaced and found real value in the hands of woodworkers around the globe. When I first blogged on the superb refinements and simple benefits of the very basic and standard Stanley and Record #4 models in defence of Leonard Bailey’s brilliance and to give a well deserved and more global recognition of his establishing the plane of the working man, I was buying the plane on eBay for between £1-4 and paying £3 shipping. Today they sell from anywhere between £15 and £45 and still they are worth every penny and match the very best of the best for many practical reasons. I know we all want a bargain and we don’t mind investing a little sweat equity (elbow grease) into the de-rusting and restoration program, in fact most of us actually want that task ourselves and are disappointed when someone’s done it for us, but paying even much more than £45 for a well used but not abused Stanley is not paying too much. You cannot wear them out. I am still using my Stanley #4 and #4 1/2 after 50 years of daily use full-time six days a week. Yes, I am on my 3rd and 4th plane irons through sharpening (and that’s never grinding them but hand stones only) alone, but no retrofits for thicker or harder irons. I doubt that there are many woodworkers alive that have used a hand plane as much or as long as I have and I can attest to their real value. The only criteria you need to watch for is to buy models from the pre 1970’s and try not to buy the more recent plastic handled models that split. Even so, I have purchased newer models and refitted wooden handles, worked on the poorer finish in the engineered components and ended up with a good plane.DSC_0083

In other areas of woodworking hand tools I have done the same. Cabinet scrapers and saws, are now very much back on the scene and the once much ignored router plane has soared in price reaching in some cases over £100 when in good condition and with all of three cutters. Why is that? Well modern makers made their own versions but removed some of the improved features developed and deemed necessary by Stanley and available with the Stanley and Record models that still had great value to the tool and added versatility too. Now their routers are good tools. Don’t get me wrong, and I am glad they are around, but what looks the same is not necessarily the same. Again, even though it was well over a hundred years ago in some planes, Stanley designers like Leonard Bailey went to great lengths to meet the needs of the users. They tested out their products and added features to reconcile any and all issues brought to them as concerns by the craftsmen using them. So what are these differences. Well, consider the old model wooden counterparts that did indeed remove the fore part of the sole to create an open aspect in front of the cutting iron first. Now hold that though and you will see that the originals were the precursor to the bettered Stanley #71 and Record 071 models. Much of it surrounds the fact that Stanley and the Record knockoffs of Stanley (most of the Record tools were copies of Stanley models) had features surrounding the hump at the front. DSC_0128 - Version 3Whereas one of the modern maker’s planes does have a hump model that at first glance looks quite similar to its earlier counterparts it’s not the same at all. Often people don’t really understand that whereas the open throat design may offer some marginal visibility in front of the tool (that’s the hump bit at the front), that’s not the real reason it’s there. You see the old models provided the addition of a gap filler shoe that enabled you to close the gap for narrow work on grooves on the edges of boards and such. But the real reason for the hump was because the earlier models that had an enclosed mouth by the continuous sole caused problems when the housing or dadoes were stopped rather than through, which was actually typical of most work such as bookcases and staircases where the dado housing are almost never through. The shavings in the recess gathered ahead of the cutter and built up in the recess. This meant that shavings often came between the fore-edge of the sole and the rim of the recess, damaging the rim corner of the recess wall, causing the plane to rise up from registration and otherwise creating flaws in the surface of the wood surrounding the closure of the recess by scuffing and marring with the harsh shaving type you get as typical from routed crossgrain shavings.DSC_0080

The modern versions of the router plane are minus many features offered by the Stanleys and Records. They offer no closure to span the gap and no internal post for controlling depth of cut and guiding from within the recesses of say inlay work and such. So to achieve close parity with the Stanley and Record models they offer two planes—the continuous sole without the hump and the hump-backed model but without the Stanley refinements. But even with these two planes, finely crafted as they are, you still don’t get as much as you get with one of the Stanley #71 or the Record #071 models. Look for a post that receives the cutter on the reverse of the post support because this puts the cutter on the outside of the sole and so the shavings don’t get trapped. The Preston router did this as well as both Stanley and Record and so toDSC_0086o the Veritas all shown above.DSC_0162

So we see once more that things may often appear the same but never quite give full parity with the originals of Stanley. Stanley invested their best designers to become the best tool makers for the worker and were prepared to invest in the details. Now this is recorded here from a craftsman’s perspective. No one has written these things you see. So now you see why you should really consider that possibly paying even £150 for a full set of the older models is worth the money. It’s yet another lifetime tool that’s critical to your kit. Now watch the Bay prices rise again. Perhaps then one or two modern makers will rise to the challenge and give us what Stanley perfected about a 100 years ago.

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Categories: Hand Tools

Buying wood or do you “source” it?

Tue, 06/09/2015 - 2:04pm

Our upcoming stool series uses cherry for the build. You may want to be ready and have it in stock for after we finish the current series building the dining table.DSC_0022

Where do you buy your wood from is a frequently asked, daily question at the workshop. It’s not always an easy question for us Brits being as we used up all of our own natural resources centuries ago building ships to protect the Empire from the tyranny by which the empire was built. We had used up our own supplies of every naturally occurring thing and then shamefully went elsewhere to use up the resources belonging to and being taken care of by others. Then, when plundering was done, we rewarded the mighty warriors with monstrous houses and even castles like this one and DSC_0010enclosed lands with walls, fences and hedges to keep working country people out. What was once common land for common people to work became private land for the privileged. This legalised class robbery denied the commoners a place to live and work with their families and so the workers once living peacefully and in harmony on the no-longer-available common land accumulated in the nearby cities and industrial towns and subsequently prisons and workhouses were filled with people arrested as vagrants. Without a home and job a new resource of free labour was created to further feed the consumerist essentiality of the Industrial Revolution. Under the Vagrancy Act and with returning military personal no longer finding work or a home too, workers became ten a penny. Industrialism of course has always needfully created consumerism and a perfect marriage called eDSC_0073conomy gave birth to the ever expanding seaways of the earth. Global economy became the need of every country on the globe. Actually, Brits no longer say where do you buy your wood from, as they did when I left the UK to live in the USA in 1987. They say where do you “source” your wood from. So, where do I source my wood from?

In the UK we have a strange system where importers parcel up smaller bundles of wood into a certain size and they then supply other smaller companies called distributors dotted about in regions who need their cut and that raises the price. Within that system there are other smaller companies willing to sell small amounts and it’s here that we Brits at least can end up paying £6 per board foot for common American red oak. In the scheme of things it may not be cost prohibitive when making our own pieces, but to sell on our work it can mean our prices are too high for our customers.DSC_0342

You the consumer then get parcelled off to one of those distributors usually depending on the size of your order. Well, that was until the internet and global distribution came along. Now it is actually much easier than it was before because you can buy directly from smaller importers like I do or indeed you can buy via eBay too , which I do from time to time successfully also.DSC_0009 Some small suppliers are growing businesses by buying hardwoods from mainland Europe. Currently I stock oak from Poland and France and then I have walnut, ash, cherry, elm, beech and sycamore too. All originating in Europe. I don’t stock too much, enough fro the coming year or two. The company I buy from in Thirsk in Yorkshire is called Scawton Saw Mill, (telephone number 01845 597733) and they will ship a single board or a cubic metre or two anywhere in the country, but they work with a shipper and have wood delivered in three to four days.

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Categories: Hand Tools

New YouTube Video – Making the Mortise and Tenon

Mon, 06/08/2015 - 11:55am

DSC_0604Some decades ago I walked across some common ground agonising over how best to describe a one-day workshop for 25 people coming for instruction from me. Every day for two full weeks the struggle continued and it kept me awake at night too. You see in 1989 I sensed a need to try to change the face of woodworking to dismantle the idea that progressive woodworking could only be accomplished by using machines. I was in the US where everything then was routed by routers and people spent hours, days and years making jigs to guarantee their cuts would create good joints even if they needed only one joint. The problem was I knew different. I knew that with three joints and ten hand tools a woodworker could make almost anything from wood and that they could do that in a fraction of the time it took to make the jigs. I coined the phrase three joints and ten hand tools and it all went progressive from there as I went on and personally trained the over 5,500 woodworkers what the true art of real woodworking was all about.DSC_0619


So recently we have posted some YouTube videos detailing exactly what I taught. I hope you enjoy this one on making the mortise and tenon joint in oak.


The post New YouTube Video – Making the Mortise and Tenon appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

My creative workspace—what it really matters

Mon, 06/08/2015 - 5:07am

DSC_0027I often see the sphere I work in as a sort of personal ecosystem that somehow belongs to me yet gets shared with others stopping by the door. In an ecosystem all of the components are interrelated beneath the protection of the canopy of the forest. An understory exists within and beneath which fertile life coexists to build up and nurture future life of every kind where creatures, plants, trees and much more engender and procreate new generations within a nurturing habitat of creativity. A workshop provides that canopy and the understory.DSC_0026

My workshop of course is less natural than the woodlands but more natural than a machinists shop and certainly the factories of mass manufacturing. Ultimately my inviting others to participate in it, to see it and sense it, seems to me something of the mystery ecosystems hold to because it’s different than most shops people imagine. Here my tools work, lie still in protection, and of course I find a place to think and design and work and teach all that would nurture the ensuing generations. People of course only glimpse the surface, assuming I make pieces for the castle, repair furniture for the castle and such things like that. About the number one question is, “Is your wood sourced from the estate?” I’ve watched many hundreds of trees culled out for firewood over the last few years. There are only so many green woodworking spoons you can sell to a world of mass made goods. What was cut from the woods in the past few years would have kept every greenwood spoon maker in Britain supplied with raw material for the the next decade.

Amused by the lack of machines, those a bit more savvy with current trends in woodworking are looking for the routers and power equipment more commonly associated with the more modern ways called power tool woodworking. My concepts of woodworking are different, uncommon, rare. That’s why they linger in the doorway and don’t want to leave the sounds and the scents, the conversations with me and Phil and Sam. They want to participate in who we are and what we do. Our ways are different even than those who know nothing about woodworking and in their assumptions consider my efforts old-fashioned, old-world and perhaps outdated too. But there they stand, an informal gathering surprised by the smells and the sights, imbibing as best they can the scents caused by the friction from the sole of our planes and the saws as we release the essences from split, sawn and planed wood, not knowing that the methods we use are not archaic as they suppose, not hard or tedious but exciting, vibrant, enthralling and indeed they don’t even know that they are suspended in an atmosphere to linger and taste firsthand the sense of hand working labour.

DSC_0022Yesterday a retired man, a lawyer he said, passed through and asked if I might consider making a chair for one of his grandchildren. He wanted one that the child would outgrow and then keep as a family heirloom. I was intrigued, even privileged enough to say yes. He looked at the locked sliding dovetail and I explained how it worked. I showed the intense pressure applied to both fully tighten and thereby disallow any future shrinkage or expansion. His fascination rewarded me of course, but I was thankful I had something to offer a man and his wife searching for something made with skill and love and care. Such is the thing we call inheritance and legacy, that symbiosis of workmanship where a craftsman meets his customer, a grandfather and even his granddaughter, to discuss something yet to be designed, yet to be made and yet to be enjoyed. The word customised isn’t a word I like any more. It’s lost the fullness of what it once held and has therefore lost its meaning in describing such developing interrelationships. This is the environment of a more organic cohesion rather than the mere systematised machining of components. It’s the ecosystem I speak of that includes others to relate to the lives of others in the processes of developing designs designed to fit a specific someone or specific space for a direct need. P1030032My work style and type, the way I work as a lifestyle woodworker enables me to share such things knowing I am not over burdening the resources the earth provides. I like not being a deforester or a fracker in the way I live and make things. I’m thankful I am not responsible for the destroyed mountains surrounding me and the enslavement of workers to produce. I know a great deal about my craft, just enough to make me conscious of the need for care and love so as not to strain or drain life from the source. To take just enough to allow replenishment and disallow waste of wood and life. I know just enough in my ignorance to know how ignorant I really am. How I work enables me to think about such things as I make the lasting pieces I know will last and provide for the families that entrust the work to me for a lifetime

DSC_0666Mick Alexander came in too, to work on his rocker again. He’s closing in on the finish line now and has only the rockers to fit and the seat to upholster. I like being able to share my workspace with people. We do talk about life and concerns, of course we do. He was there when the Danish apprentices came in and got to share some of the space with them too.
I made some frame saws for the upcoming video series and tested them out to try to improve their performance. I think I have succeeded in this and have developed a simple system with blade interchanges that cost almost nothing to make. The oak one comes from scraps and the blades costs £2.50 or so. I want something resharpenable and I have that now. The secret in saw sharpening is the ability to change the teeth at will and according to wood type, thickness of wood and things like that. Most people today don’t know these things. Have you ever wondered why new tenon saws fight at the start of the cut and then set up a sort of harmonic as the cut progresses? It’s because engineers are involved and create rigid mathematical formulas for something that’s quite organic that was an engineer’s answer to what was intensely simple before. The last thing you want with saw sharpening is to make everything so rigidly standard you cannot change their dynamic with a few saw file strokes. Whereas I don’t care for micro-bevels on chisels and planes and such, I do like micro-bevels on saws. I like flex you see. I like to change my teeth in shape and pitch in a few seconds, and I like to keep that kind of versatility in everything I do. I like to defy the text books and the industrialists mass making one-size-fits-all saw making that cannot be sharpened. But that’s just me.

Sharing what I do
it wasn’t easy to give up on some aspects of my life to teach and make videos but it became necessary. All of the information and skills i have learned through half a century are not really mine in that I may own them but they are not meant to die with me. I’m grateful that I have been given time and ability to share them with others.

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Categories: Hand Tools

Apprenticing is alive in young Denmark

Sat, 06/06/2015 - 8:56am

Apprenticeships and young people


Today was an inspiring day filled with many hopes locked in aspirations where young men and women apprenticing in their Danish towns and cities live. The came to visit me to talk about their callings as apprentices in different crafts such as organ building, furniture making, joinery and carpentry. Their contribution smiled back at me as they expressed their hopes  for a better future in craft. Sadly of course one major issue was that training in their fields  had somehow managed to dismiss elements of their craft work to pursue mostly  processes of mass making even for the simplest of tasks, paying only a token nod to true woodworking skills. I proved my perspective on the art of true woodworking in just a few minutes of demonstrating and listened to their awe at the simplicity they saw. Suddenly they believed. They could see how what I showed and explained could lead them to an alternative reality in their chosen field and we discovered a true transparency in objectives, hopes and ambitions. We talked of training of course and then though, we moved into developing individuality, becoming maker designers transcending the status quo to new levels of discovery. DSC_0001Watching the glow of aspiration replace despondency and even cynicism was truly inspiring for me and I knew that my craft would not die because of youngsters like these. Imagine 25 people like this, young, aspiring artisans, organising a four-day trip to the North-west of Britain to search out inspiration. Imagine them investing their time and energy into something because they feared their craft could die. Doesn’t that stun you? It certainly was stunning to me. I mean you should have seen the activity of minds, heard the questions, the honesty and transparency was visceral. Who could do anything but give him and herself to such inspired young craftspeople?


I suppose in some ways what thoroughly thrilled me was that they were young and saw their craft as important. As a group I felt that they could become coopted as businesses and that they could easily reshape societies to balance out the imbalances established toward academic study and university for all where students often have no sense of direction or accountability. I mean these people had consciously placed themselves into a discipline of training and studying that required accountability. They weren’t avoiding the future, responsibility and such but hitting smack on. I shared about the reality of lifestyle woodworking as a real thing and not just something many have latched onto from my blog as term but a lived possibility—a reality as mine has been. They are taking hold of their futures, working though systems, yes, but then they are also anticipating a beyond that for them may well be uncharted territory. A future reaching that is no less a new frontier as it was for those who traversed the globe, went west, crossed deserts and conquered mountains. It was refreshing to me to see young workers not taking selfies, not full of themselves and not self seeking but sharing like interests. I never saw it elsewhere in the last 30 years, but I know it exists. These were true amateurs in the fullest sense of the word and it was wonderful to behold.

Was my lecture and demonstrating inspiring? Well, they said it was and I have no reason to think differently. But more than that, THEY were inspiring. They filled me full of hope. 

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Categories: Hand Tools

Another good gouge

Fri, 06/05/2015 - 12:19pm

Many of you have complained that the #7 sweep straight gouges we have recommended by two European makers are always out of stock and do I recommend any others. I do. I have used Pfeil gouges since 1995 and these too match and exceed the UK makers at least.

DSC_0004It works straight out from the box until you learn to sharpen them, which is very simple.

This spoon took me about 6 minutes for the bowl complete and I wasn’t chasing my tail to do it. Eight chops for the bulk and some minor paring and it was done. What you see is straight off the gouge. The back of the spoon and handle comes to this rough-cut stage from the spokeshave and bow saw in about 15 minutes and can be finished out with a card scraper. The whole spoon takes me 30 minutes. That’s in hardwoods like cherry (this one), ash, elm or oak.

DSC_0005Here’s how the bowl looks straight from the gouge.

Pfeil do make good gouges, I mean top quality, and I like their octagonal shaped ash handles butted straight into the heavier bolster too. It feels very solid, directly controllable and is easily manipulated to the wood for such tasks as this.

The post Another good gouge appeared first on Paul Sellers' Blog.

Categories: Hand Tools

YOU are an individual being. Be yourself.

Wed, 06/03/2015 - 1:53pm
DSC_0002Today we finished the next film series for .

I like to remind everyone that it’s good to evaluate why you want to be or become a woodworker if it is in fact beyond just the making to in some measure become an artisan selling what you make. And that it’s good to ask yourself alone the right questions so you can set realistic goals. people use terms like reinvent themselves when in the reality of real life no one really invents themselves but perhaps more realistically define aspects of their lives they need to bring order to. Assessing where you are, what you want to be enables you to establish a true intent untainted by additional influence to knock you off course even a little.

DSC_0017These are some of my favourite sights, seeing people achieve their callings no matter their age or background. DSC_0737Imagine how proud I feel. I have trained 5,500 people who look just like this. This is my success measure now. Psst, pass it on!

My reasons for saying all of this is because when I was 14 or so I decided I wanted to be a furniture maker, or at least some kind of woodworker. I had made half a dozen items including joinery, shaping wood, such like that and some lathe work.  At that age I ably chose to become a woodworker for no other reason and with no other influence than something inside me saying follow this path. It had nothing to do with money and i would have apprenticed with any woodworker for nothing. I actually didn’t know I was in this for a wage and going to get paid. You see there was a pureness to the venture. That was truly how it was. My wage was £3 take home pay and I worked 46 hours for it. It came on Friday evening as I left work and the foreman passed it to me in a small manila envelope that allowed the notes to be fold within the seal so as to be countable and any coins inside could also be counted to make sure what was hand written on the outside matched what was actually inside without first breaking the seal My only, only motive was to become a woodworker.

DSC_0045My cherry stool/bench seat. Designed to train others. DSC_0042No, it’s not fancy at all. The design is simple and clean, but it’s a training project. I make no apology for that. Two joints few have been used that many will never have seen. One for sure, I think.

I’ve lived in a western culture on two continents equally in terms of duration and long enough to see that the quest, perhaps I should say dream, of many is not just to be good enough to sell what they make, but to sell enough to mass make. What started as just a good idea changes to convert and then mass-make what’s made into excess money. This then becomes proof of success. I becomes the validation of a person, a creative and artistic person and yet it has been my experience that many people lose their original reason for doing what they do. I have helped several people get off conveyor belts be even in one case basically giving one of my businesses to them. His own businesses were failed attempts to make money. He saw it as a leg up. What did he do. He made it into another failure. It did make money, but he lost the original intent and went back to his old ways, lost interest and sold the gift that he had. He never saw what he had was a way out.

DSCN0042-copy2This design is mine and it now 15 years old yet it still captures the imagination of people. We sold several every year for between $5,000 and $6,500. But the joy was in making them, designing them and seeing people enjoy them. IMG_9016 2This one I designed as a Macbook Pro computer desk. No drawers, lift up bins for stowing keyboards and components. Of course it suits any computer. I wanted something that would fit the home or office. Very neat. From 2007.

I have succeeded for a long period to be  a furniture maker, live off my earnings good and not so good and at times have a week with no work (that I enjoyed) but much of the time had anywhere from one month’s work to two and a half year’s worth of work ahead with my loyal customers waiting for the work I do. I would be a fool to even suggest money isn’t an important element of work, but the difference is uniting the word  money with making. You see most any business is about money making, but some businesses are about making furniture and violins and boats, canoes, cutting boards on a small scale in say small batches or one-offs.

Before you build, stop, consider what you feel, write down the genesis of the thought and draw what you see. It’s not expanding the vision that leads to success but keeping the seed in its non-hybrid purity. This is how I plan my work, my projects, other aspects of what I do because my success is measured in my calling as a craftsman and the difference I make to other areas of life. You can’t bottle it, but you can live it.

IMG_7238My White House design for Permanent Collection in 2009. Seems a long time ago now.

Someone who doesn’t understand you says you can make money from this or that based on your idea. Was that part of the origin? Many woodworkers start out to pursue making money and business develops. You become a business person of some stature. Recognition and acceptance swiftly follow and a death takes place and the vision dies.

DSC_0128Spoons may be one of the easier woodworking projects, and when little ones come in the workshop I may well show them how they are made. Or a spatula, but there are carving and shaping skills we use in our methods of shaping and carving that make violin makers.

Take care. Pursue your vision, the very genesis of your first thought, and remain true to it. The provision of what you need will follow when you do this. Don’t let anyone stand between you and the origin of your dream. Consider carefully what others say, but stay true to your work.

I chose cherry, hand tools and two joints in making the stool piece above. I stayed true to my vision. Will it sell? I don’t know. It’s not part of my vision.  What I do know is that I made two of them this week from flat or rough-sawn stock. One in dimensional lumber, pine, and the other from rough-sawn cherry. My goal and first thought was the cherry one, but making them in the two woods was an important dynamic for me. Though the design is perhaps more demanding than it looks; I mean getting the four joints to line up, slide into place to perfection and have all four self lock with no gaps and very fine dovetails connect along the final compression, but I can’t even begin telling you how I so enjoyed developing the processes, the joints and methodology. Can’t sell it. Can’t buy it. Pricelessness!


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Categories: Hand Tools

Aldi Chisels in USA Stores

Tue, 06/02/2015 - 11:09am
DSC_0039Well shaped and thin enough for fine work.

DSC_0012It seems that we have succeeded!  Aldi have finally brought their chisels to the US and are either available now or over the next three weeks depending on region.

DSC_0037An Aldi chisel upcycled by me.

A friend of our work is sending us a set over to test and make sure they are the same quality we have here in the UK but I can’t see why that would be the case.

Just to let you know that we have used full sets of these chisels here in the UK for the past five years. The edges have never broken or crumpled. The tangs have never snapped or bent. The chisels themselves have never bent in any way along the length. The handles have never split or come loose of the tang. The tinny steel hoops have come loose in dry periods but they don’t do anything though and so are not necessary. Edge retention is just excellent and so too the hardness, a perfect balance. There are articles on my blog showing how to reshape the handle, which is ash by the way, very nice feel to it.

So, success all around I’d say. Perhaps other countries can do the same. Oh, cost seems to be $6.95. A third less still than the UK!

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Categories: Hand Tools

Amateurism—Such priceless artisanry

Mon, 06/01/2015 - 12:33pm

DSC_0018I think it’s important to understand that amateurism is very alive and thriving in lives that so defy external pressures others impose with business plans, commercial-isms and faceless partnering with sharks and rogues in suits, ties, enforced dressiness and all else. These artisans invest great portions of their free time to develop and grow their skills. It is something I love to invest large chunks of my life in to bring about change and now I see that its gathering its own momentum as all such investments have a habit of doing .

Amateurism has pureness that needs no support, no self-elevation beyond the doing of it in the and working with hand tools equips us to split off from the herd into a wholeness of sustainable sufficiency that defies our being called mere professionals. Because someone masters reading and other such natural ways of communicating with our friends and family and associates; because we learn to form clear sentences and speak our minds, doesn’t mean we became professional speakers, even though we do it well and all the time. We don’t dub them professional readers and speakers. So it is with craft, skill, art and such thingDSC_0057s naturally occurring through due diligence. We have no need to prove ourselves by selling to a high bidder. We just sell as we need. We sell to take care of our families of course, but then we make to share our skills in finished works that extend our lives into the lives of others, technically our customers but mostly people we may not have known but became friends with as we designed and built their pieces. My customers were always welcomed as the build took place. Delivery was one of the greatest joys of course. But then, also, there is the making of things for our families and our parents and our children and grandchildren.

Sometimes, often, alone in my workshop, when my hip leans into the bench, and my arms reach forward into yet another cut, and then over and beyond my working, there slowly wells inside the cleanness of silent praise work alone brings, where work itself becomes the very essence of worship, and the thought inside rises into words of Thank You; edging gently into the silence surrounding me for fear of losing the pureness of amateurism. It’s here where I sense my amateurism reaches the very Source of life and it’s here that peace rests on me. This happens in the process of living out your work.

DSC_0016Sam’s work came together this week as he made his third set of dovetails for his third box—his joiner’s traveling toolbox. Each corner looks this way. The door and back panel are glued up twist-free and the panels he raised with a #4 Stanley came quickly. It’s the three joints and ten hand tools a man and a woman needs to make almost anything from wood. His apprenticing is working well. It defies what our modern world calls apprenticeship these days. No machine will touch his work beyond the wood we buy that’s milled smooth or rough cut to dimensional levels. He doesn’t strain in aspiration toward the machine as a measure of his arriving or his confirming. He knows  machines often interfere with the senses in the same way the computer destroys the senses with artificiality and the shop bot denies a man his learning to carve and shape wood into leaves and sweeps from a gouge edge or a tenon and a dovetail from the chisel and the saw.DSC_0051

Sarah came in to finish off some work she needed guidance with. She’s a serious woodworker with serious goals and little time spare to make and be. The time she spends woodworking defies peer pressure as does my work with Sam and Phil and John, Lea B and others along the way. We don’t always make to sell but to do and to be. That doesn’t at all mean selling is something wrong and unnecessary, just that we see it for what it is and that’s a means of exchange  rather than the ultimate goal some have in life of being rich and well off to the point that work becomes unnecessary. Earning is down there in the list somewhere, of course it is, but learning to live within your means has the greater reward indeed. These are simple limits we see as important.P1040748

Sarah works hard when she comes in. Remember Lea B too, from Slovakia, she does the same. I like to watch the carefulness some people have when they work; those that put love into the work they do reap greater benefit minute by minute. I like seeing the way the chisel rests against the cheek of a tenon to pare away a thousandth. It takes skill that doesn’t usually happen straightaway. These things take time to learn so that force always becomes more measured and meted accurately to the task and when resistance is met it’s seldom harshness and brutishness that develops fine work but care with kindness. The chisel shifts askew to alter it’s path slightly and fibres part, sliced cell by cell by sliced cell. The fibres peel away in upward scrolls and ribbons and the work reveals the hand of a master. This is the work of the amateur. His work, her work, coexists responsively as each sense directs the work. Such things are priceless, non commercial, transparently honest and highly revealing. I think it’s being a master craftsman you see. Of course there is no such thing as a master craftsman because too many things exist to master, but it’s a better title than being a professional.DSC_0107

Anyway, our future extends into changing lives of those who aspire to become fully qualified amateurs. No certificate or diploma exists for this. You need no exam to qualify your work. You see Sam’s work is exemplary of a level of workmanship few professionals actually have. That’s not to say that none do at all. Most professionals I know that do achieve such levels are true amateurs too.

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Categories: Hand Tools


by Dr. Radut