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My current project

DSC_0040My day in the workshop

My current project is a coffee table, Arts and Crafts, oak and made utterly by hand. Most of you will recognise it as the coffee table we have been filming for the woodworking masterclasses we’ve been videoing over the past few weeks of the series. It’s coming to a close and so I had some catch up to do to make it ready for final assembly and glue-up.

DSC_0023In case you think that I go to my mortise machine to chop the mortises I can assure you that I don’t. When the filming is done I continue chopping by hand and sometimes someone else will help me. Phil often does. We did film today and will film again tomorrow most likely, though no guarantees. I say it often enough, but this is where I find sanity in life within spheres of creative work.

DSC_0016You know, it’s not really the filming that keeps me going but making what I make when we film. Some people come by, see my work as tedious and hard, and try to help me escape the tedium by explaining that there are chop saws and routers that will do it better and faster. DSC_0028They think I could make more money doing it this or that way and try to even save me from such mundane and laboursome work. Some people offer to lend me their router or their bandsaw and I gently continue as if I hadn’t heard. For the main part they are trying to help, but I wonder sometimes why work and workmanship is perceived as irksome and a waste. I have learned this one thing from working with some people. I have learned that some people spend more effort trying to get out of work than they would if they just did it. I think that’s how i feel about routers for the main part. As someone who spent many months working with them over many years. DSC_0008Decades. Someone who knows how to strip them down and work on the inner parts. I’ve learned that most often it’s much quicker to do it by hand than machine. One time, 15 years ago, a friend of mine spent many weeks devising a way of making spoons using a power router to scallop the bowl and then shape the handle. DSC_0022Greed took a hold and he started making them by the dozen. At first no one seemed to notice that they now had the cookie-cutter stamp of mass-made stuff. The process became more and more  tedious to the point that making them became a frustration to him, but no matter how much I pointed out how much he had enjoyed making them by hand when he had first started, he would not change. The spoons he had been made completely by hand started at $20 and went up to $40 for a dipper. He could make a spoon or dipper in an average of one hour. They all came out different and people liked the fact that there were no two alike. He felt fulfilled. When he began routing the spoons they all looked the same. He quickly lost interest and trade. He had to lower his prices and soon began to lose favour with the customer base he had developed who believed in him and his way of life. He changed his job working for himself and went to work for another. he never saw what he had had until he lost it.

DSC_0003My day was full. Very full. Working with others, wood, real tools and real projects keeps me sane in a somewhat insane world. I looked from fields toward the castle and saw cattle feeding in the pasture and a plowed field newly sown.

5 comments

  1. i can see where your coming from Paul this week i sold my floor standing axminster mortice machine which ive used twice in the two years ive had it and bought a 3/8 stanley chisel to add to my growing set of bevel edge chisels and ive used it twce today and the shed looks twice the size without it

    • Well, I allow it for about two hours and then I put up and start over. My bench is 3′ x 8′ long but I only actually use half of it unless I making a door, door frame or window frame. It also takes large tabletops and other frames. When i am on my own for a longer period I put my tools on a cart. Every cupboard I have has concealed wheels, so I can move them completely and revamp my creative workspace. Practical solutions.

  2. Thomas Rogers says:

    I discovered and have been watching your videos on YouTube for several months now. I find it therapeutic and inspiring to watch you build things ,and demonstrate the different techniques of using hand tools. You are an excellent teacher, and have renewed my passion for woodworking. I would like to thank you for sharing your talent and expertise,I am inspired and encouraged to get back into woodworking again.

  3. Steve Eastwood says:

    Once again you inspire one and many, dreams of days past working at a bench are sprung back into the light, almost.
    Sunday, after a day of overtime, into the workshop I did go with my N°4 plane now sharpened, to the best I’ve ever had It following your YouTube videos, started on an old roofing member full of dust and who knows what. Before I knew it 2 hour had past and peace did rein. many thank for your inspiration and guidance.
    Steve E

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