Beyond the bench and the clamps…

…there is the life I lived and grew to love that goes beyond the words and opinions people pass. My lifelong work working wood as a lifestyle woodworker was decided in 1963. It was chosen not picked, planned not happenstance, directed as a vocational absolute. My experience, tells me that seldom do those I meet make a decision to follow a course not based on pure economy. Some do, but few rather than most. I wonder what happened to references where a man could say his work is his vocation rather than his job. Occupation is a little closer than ‘job’, for where we occupy our days can be measured by what we make I believe.

Some say I am at the other end of my course, but I don’t know if that’s true. I have done many things that shifted my course periodically, but I never strayed too far from the shavings around my feet, the clamps and the bench, my tools and making something. I have never questioned my life as a craftsman and even when what I made took little skill the pile of wood, the rough-sawn limbs and the logs I milled into boards meant something. They, the boards and logs and limbs yet to be converted and made into something, rated who I was.

My vocational calling meant I would at least be equipped for working with my hands. Tangibly twisting the arguing chisel and sharpening the saw I have now used for almost fifty years meant working with my hands. By choice I could stay off of the conveyor belt in some measure because skill developed in my hands and arms are never lost. I mastered abilities passed down to me by those I served under as an apprentice. For most, such days are now gone. That’s my sadness not yours, for what you may have never had you never missed. The closest I can offer is through my blog and the Youtube videos we now produce to transfer the new legacy to new-genre artisans. All that I learned will be there for my co-woodworkers worldwide. I challenge the traditions and the imitations; the substitutes of pretention that contend to destroy true and creative workmanship. Life of working wood goes beyond the bench and discussions on the bench to discussions around the bench of the work  in hand.  It’s fun to build the bench but more fun is gained in the using of it creatively and to hold our potential in the vise grip as we chisel and plane and saw and fit each component we created to build our violins and our guitars, our canoes and our boats and our relationships that engender the future of woodworking.

2 Comments

  1. Mario Harrison on 4 July 2012 at 7:03 am

    My calling for becoming a true craftsman came a couple of months ago, it was a calling for refining my abilities to create with my own hands something that is pleasing to myself and hopefully for people around me.I chose woodworking as my vocation but that trade is sadly dying here in Central America. In my technical school, there is no adequate education for craftsmanship, it looks like they endeavour to teach conformism.

    What I can tell you, Paul, is one thing, Around my workbench, my woodworking classmates gather and question my new abilities. They are eager to learn on my “new” techniques and why are they so accurate, fast and why they work so well. I am glad that I am part of the new legacy and like you, will humble and share them to anyone looking to become artisans, like I hope to become one day.



    • Paul Sellers on 4 July 2012 at 9:08 pm

      That’s the real Woodworking Campaign in action on a global level. Well done!



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