The Real Woodworking Campaign begins

Woodworking organizations offer no help

I have interacted with magazine editors, educators on every level, writers, authors, parents and grandparents and tool developers for two decades about the sad demise of woodworking for or should I say with young people. Few understand the dilemma; some do, but only in part, and so I conclude that they cannot truly comprehend my concerns. For people between the age of 4 and 18 years of age real woodworking does not exist for them and during their formative years, when all of the senses should be deliberately infused with the essence of this and other crafts, we find them unaware of even the possibility that working wood might be for them. Because, regardless of what they or anyone says, most organizations are governed by overarching industrial bodies of some kind, and rely heavily on funding from such sources, there has always been a very measured control of woodworking knowledge and education culminating in general around the machine.

Public education holds sway in the wrong direction

Teachers in ordinary everyday schools at the secondary levels categorize students into two pivotal student types; the academics and the non-academics—the intellectual and the non-intellectual or the ‘thickies’. Trade school (US) is where you divert the thick kids who have either not applied themselves to academic subjects or show no interest in the subject matter. Rarely if ever do they consider that they have no guidance from school or home or those advising them have no real knowledge of work ethic, work life or work options. Rarely do they make the two worlds of creativity and intellect mesh together. Only after I left formal education did the two wonderful worlds unite for me. Most teachers I know were in formal education from being toddlers until they went to college or university and so were trained entirely in an educational stream and then became teachers. Their not so expansive knowledge inhibits their ability and though they present themselves as ‘experts in their field’, their knowledge is rarely from the perspective of producing, trading, marketing product of any kind and nor is it from living within the world of commerce and enterprise. Rarely have they worked in the world of that kind of work. In the UK we unfortunately have careers advisors and I shouldn’t even go down that road so I won’t. Dig a little deeper into the world any of the movers and shakers above and you will rarely find that they have much of a woodworking background of any substance yet we rely on them as the new genre experts to guide us.

How do we reverse the trend and raise awareness?

The question then is this. How do we reverse the trend of non-woodworking for children? For my part I plan to release a series of serious project based articles for you to work on with your kids and grandkids, students, friends, nephews and nieces and so on. If you will do one thing and sign up for this I will make certain to include you for my newsletter RWC (The Real Woodworking Campaign. I will seek input from other authors as well as myself to contribute to this online. Please join me as we progress this. Whether you support me this way or not I plan to continue and invest in the new genre woodworker at every level as I have for the past two decades. This could develop into a woodworking magazine for parents and youngsters. Please pass this on to any outlet you think can help raise awareness that woodworking could easily become a craft of the past because unlike other crafts, the machine manufacturers have bombarded the world of woodworking with erroneous information and dumbed down woodworking to a machine-made substitute that now eliminates children from learning and mastering skill.

Those who have attended my seminars through the past two decades can really help in the USA. You guild members have the key too. What about woodworking stores and such. Get the kids in and train ’em up.


Thanks for listening,

Paul Sellers

3 thoughts on “The Real Woodworking Campaign begins”

  1. Yes I think many of us hand tool woodworkers will agree with a lot of what you say there. If we are to start a real woodworking campaign we need to define precisely what it is we wish to promote. Clearly your passion is for traditional bench joinery with hand tools. Do we disprove of all power tools? A battery powered drill? A bandsaw? I would argue that both these tools are positively beneficial and whilst they need a little training in order to be safe so does a chisel or handsaw.
    What is it exactly you don’t like about power tools? is it that they are dangerous? or that people don’t need to learn the skills in order to use them? There is a danger that those of us who teach traditional skills could appear to be in this for self centred reasons, you make a living from teaching the skills where the machine tool man makes a living from selling the tools.
    I personally do not like to run folk down that buy, sell or use power tools. I do believe there are very many good reasons for learning skills to work with simpler tools. For me real woodworking also means getting closer to your raw material, so starting with a tree rather than a board you purchased though woodworking is a continuum from a high degree of hand skill and knowledge of raw material at one end of the spectrum to high machine input at the other. Neither is right or wrong but like you I feel for many hobby or amateur woodworkers more skilled use of hand tools would increase their pleasure.

    1. Hello Robin,

      I have striven to offer a blanked approach at all levels to help woodworkers discover the enjoyment of working with their hands and developing real and substantive skill. Unfortunately machine manufacturers have had a free hand for 50 years and more convincing people that the real power is in what we now refer to only as “power tools”. I use machines also. I have no problem using them and say so in all my blogs and in my book. My goal is to show people that we have thrown out the baby with the bathwater and that there are people now, young people, who see machine woodworking as the only way to go. In the craft of woodworking this is indeed less of a problem because its about the only machine that suspends and feeds the wood into the hand tool which is manipulated to task. In most machines the wood is fed into the machine or cutter head. Machines are great, as I said, for accurate donkey work. In my next book I introduce the bandsaw and the hand planes to establish planing skills and to minimise the intrusion of the machine. My experience shows that people want to work with practical solutions and this does not necessarily mean a garage full of machines that in my view dumb down woodworking and more importantly eliminate children from the woodshop. Ask around and see if i am not right in this. Most adult parents no longer take their children into their workshops because they, the adults, no longer have the skills we have.
      I actually make my living from working wood not teaching. I train others to teach and to make furniture. My next programme in the US is to open a new school in spring 2012, but in the process I have four men I am training that will replace me and carry on the vision to both make and to teach real woodworking, furniture making, instrument making, timber framing and so on. Some of them already practice these crafts. My goal is to do the same in other regions in the UK and the US and Canada – before I get too old. I simply want to pass on my skills not make money. Anyone can look at my financial statements and yearly accounts. They will see how little I own and how little I have made even though my designs and work are in the White House, Presidents Bush’s home and many more prestigious places. It’s lifestyle woodworking and that’s swimming upstream and against the tide off the giants like B&D, De Walt, Bosch and so on. I have all of their equipment in my shop, but I treat them for what they are.
      Thanks for for response, Robin, I am concerned also not to be too in your face in my striving to resolve issues I feel concerned about.
      Best regards,


  2. Paul, while I understand your desire to not be too “in your face”, you also stand almost alone in a crowded field of voices, manufacturers, and media entities who would seek to reinforce The concept that you must have tens of thousands of dollars of tools and be an adult in order to work wood. As a machine Woodworker Who is still a hybrid Woodworker, but now focused more on handwork, I have found much greater satisfaction in working wood with handtools. I find my creativity is increased and perhaps most importantly I am now able to introduce hand tool Woodworking to a younger generation. I volunteer my time giving handtool demonstrations in a Local farming Museum in order to expose young people to the Beauty, satisfaction, practicality, Simplicity, and relatively low-cost practice of handtool working. I for one, and exceptionally grateful that your voice exists and I hope that you continue to advocate for something that is in danger of becoming a lost art. I don’t know that you were any of your followers will be able to turn the tide, but it is my great hope that we can at least Stem it for the benefit of humanity.

Comments are closed.

Privacy Notice

You must enter certain information to submit the form on this page. We take the handling of personal information seriously and appreciate your trust in us. Our Privacy Policy sets out important information about us and how we use and protect your personal data and it also explains your legal rights in respect of it. Please click here to read it before you provide any information on this form.