Journalling for woodworkers – Drawing and sketching your work

A good place to get drawing started

I realise that this is not Sketchup, it’s something really different, but just like real woodworking with hand tools should never have been abandoned to the degree that it was, so to the simplicity of sketching and drawing. I like to sit and sketch at different times of the day. It relaxes me and offers me pockets of sanity in a biocidal world and enables me to encapsulate what inspires me to think I can draw it.

An Inlay Design to Size. Not a Place to Start Really

DSC_0190_2 Sometimes we complicate our world and so too we often complicate what we want to draw and how we want to draw it. Other times we want to draw something unrelated to anything we are involved with. I suggest that we start with something that will increase our understanding of wood. Something that relates to what we want to know more about. Remember what I said when I said if you haven’t drawn it you haven’t seen it. Well, here’s a place we can make what we draw relational to our passion for woodworking. How often when we were young did we sit for twenty minutes trying to think what we could draw when we were surrounded by a million subjects. As a woodworker you will have more difficulty deciding what not to draw. Wood, tools, hands and arms, bodies, joints, projects and so much more. There is no end of perspectives that offer value to your world of working wood. Soon you become a person who notices things and becomes interested in what you see.

DSC_0182 I suggest that first we go out into the woodshop and find some pieces of wood, almost any wood will work, but not aspen or birch and not even maple if they are squared and planed. These woods are generally too plain to capture anyone’s imagination. Woods with no colour or grain configuration are not the first choice. Let’s look at other woods to get started. Pine is perfect, oak is good if you pick the wood. Cherry might be OK but not as interesting when it comes to inspired sketching.

DSC_0198 The pieces don’t have to be long or wide or indeed particularly big. You could choose split firewood, a log itself or perhaps something planed foursquare and chopped on a chip saw. When you start to look at the pieces, roll them around and flip them, your mind starts to arrest pockets of information and suddenly the wood species becomes categorized by colour and configuration. You start to notice tiny aspects of the growth rings and see history recorded in what you see. Droughts that stunted growth three decades ago show locked tight growth ring and so too deforesting released full warmth and sunlight to let new growth reclaim nature’s right to reforest what was lost through greed and careless working. These will provoke new thought and stimulate interesting conversations hitherto unknown.

Tools are simple

Before you start any sketching, I suggest you get a sketchbook, some different pencils, a No 2 will do much of the work, an HB and perhaps even a 3B, a ruler, eraser, and perhaps at some point a protracting rule like the one shown. Eventually we will add in a scale ruler, but that’s down the road. Let’s keep it simple to start.

Tomorrow we can get started proper; when you have your sketchbook. Remember! This is not just for a few people.It’s for all of you. this is not just drawing but more SEEING. I hope that I can open your eyes too. Tomorrow we will get ready for some drawing over the weekend, when you leave your work aside , and you have a couple of hours to spare.


  1. Paul, I am so glad to see you promoting the use of a sketchbook for woodworkers, it’s a habit I’ve carried from my days of art classes and while my sketchbooks are no where near as public ready as yours appear it makes me happy to see someone as accomplished as you use the same humble practice I do.

    The fun part is I just finished writing a post promoting the use of sketchbooks on my own blog for “Get Woodworking Week”

    I thought I heard you were attending all the stops on “The Woodworking Show” train this year and I was looking forward to meeting you in Milwaukee WI, but as I look this evening you don’t appear on the itinerary. That’s a little disappointing to me but I’ sure we will run into each other someday in the future.

    From a fellow hand tool advocate, I wish the best to you sir,

    Derek Olson
    Oldwolf Workshop Studio

    1. Hello Derek, I saw a cross link to your blog about ten minutes ago and checked out what you did and I was so happy to see what you did there. This is exactly what I wanted to inspire people with. Well done and I am so sorry I couldn’t make it to Milwaukee this trip, but rest assured I won’t miss it next time around.

  2. I’m really excited about this series Paul…its been a while be had a go last night at dusting off my drawing skills. Looking forward to future posts!

  3. That sound like me, 25-30 years ago when I started to teach my boys. Treasure those years in your journalling and you won’t regret a lick of it.
    Blessings everyone!

  4. Dear All,
    who are about to draw.
    I found an extremely useful book : Drawing fof the absolute and utter beginner by Claire Watson Garcia.

    It teaches drawing recognizable objects and eventually the human face if you follow the book all the way through.


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