A note for clarity on the Real Woodworking Campaign

In formulating the RWC we have attempted to leave the exact details undefined until we could reach a somewhat democratic consensus with the founding members when the campaign is formally launched. This purposeful lack of definition has led to people coming to erroneous conclusions about what the RWC is all about. This is unfortunate, so let’s try to  define this more clearly for people interested in the future of RWC.

We feel that most realms of woodworking today, which also includes craft instruction and education, are heavily influenced by manufacturers and salespeople. These people give out mostly partial or total misinformation to gain sales and have no real interest in real woodworking in the way many of us are. Think of this from the perspective of new woodworkers with no guidance from knowledgeable artisans who more than likely know exactly what really works and works well.

Where do you go first?

At woodworking shows you are bombarded with contradictory and misleading information on what you need to buy. If you want to make a box for your girlfriend’s birthday do you really have to buy a £200 jig, a router and bits to cut something as simple as dovetails?

Magazines in my opinion often devalue our craft in many different ways. Most of the mainstream woodworking magazines are over one third advertising. Most of the advertising is for goods that I would have difficulty finding a use for in a real woodworking environment.

The biggest online woodworking forum is owned by an advertising company. This then directly affects the way it operates.

The people who are held up as gurus of woodworking usually descend to backing one tool manufacturer or another or manufacture tools themselves. They are not unbiased. Can they really be relied on for full information?

This then begs the question; Just where do people go to learn?

Most of us as woodworkers, amateur or professional, are not trying to mass manufacture anything, are we? The owner of a factory mass making wooden goods will never even read these words because their interests are so totally different to ours. We simply want real woodworking in the garage or the shed or wherever we can work the stuff.

It is unrealistic to think that the relatively few of us who do woodworking could provide beautiful handmade furniture for everyone we know. That is the place of IKEA and such. We are not trying to compete with IKEA. Who said we were and therefore why are we acting like we are?

This is not about handtools vs machines.

This is not about solid wood vs man-made boards.

It is about what is truly economic, quick, safe and rewarding.

We recently showed how to make a lovely dovetailed box from mahogany and poplar cutting each of the dovetailed corners by hand and set the hinges with chisels and home made gauges. It took around 45 minutes to complete. The box will last for at least 100 years.

That is economy!

That is quick!

That is safe!

That is rewarding!

We are not trying to compete with IKEA. IKEA cannot compete with us.

We would like to see a strong community of woodworkers who are willing to share honest and real experience in a number of mediums outside of the reach of those who tout one tool over another because they can gain from it.

That is what we call real woodworking.


  1. Paul’s writing on the Real Woodworking Campaign has really struck a chord with me, and I’m very excited for the official launch and hoping to play an active role.  I have two objectives in my garage shop: to build artisanal heirloom quality stuff for my own family and others I care about, and raise my 7 home-schooled children with some craft skill and an appreciation/love for craftmanship that is nearly lost from our culture (at least in the US).  The tough row for me is that I’m trying to do this while developing those skills myself (outside my full-time job).  Sort of a shop run by apprentices, where I’m just the first among equals. 

    How much more pleasant to be able to have my young daughter sit on a board on my saw bench while I rip it with a 100-yr old Disston and carry on a nice conversation than to run it through the table saw with all the associated dust and noise.  I was helping her make a pair of stilts for her brother’s Christmas present, and we did it all with handtools except for a few holes on the drill press.  And she helped throughout and used the rasp and the spokeshave and the plane and even tried her hand at ripping with the handsaw.  Now that’s Real Woodworking.

    1. I home schooled some of my children and they all have craft as part of their lives though usage may differ and vary according to their callings. Some experiences in the woodshop were life changing for me and my kids and my grandchildren. I think that this is the only way we can address why we use mass manufacturing methods that preclude children from the woodshop and why on earth we use them for doing something as simple as making a dovetailed box. The reason I did the YoutTube videos last month was to show that a man can make a complete box in about 45 minutes. I can do the same by machine once set uo, but I cannot alter my decision to allow for compressability in the wood. Lots to really think about but I am here to help where I can.
      Love the thought of your daughter sitting on the board. These methods allow here to be there.

  2. I know it sounds legalistic, but I never called “power t***s” tools and when I came to the US in 1987 I was shocked that that was what they were called. When a guy came into my shop he asked if he could see mt tools. I looked at the bench where I was working and at the walls and I was surrounded by the 3000 hand tools. I respectfully said sure and with the sweep of an arm said, “Help yourself.” He looked and said, “No, your power tools.” What we called machines in Europe he was calling power tools. That puts the perspective of what I have been trying to counter and shows what was sold to American woodworkers by makers, salesmen and advertisers, and especially magazines worldwide. It shows how powerfully TV personalities shifted the whole ethos of working wood to the point that few really know how to address basic skills because the big companies have somehow managed to put their product so far ahead of what I consider to be the real power tools which have no machine behind them at all. But we are making a difference.
    You know, I use machines and I like machines. It’s a matter of finding the balance and that is all that the Real Woodworking Campaign is really about.

  3. You can watch four videos on YouTube if you haven’t followed this from beginning to end.

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