This weekend is the first hands-on workshop of the season. The class is full and it’s nice to be in a fixed location after three months teaching on the USA tour. I still miss my US friends though.

The mountains are looking lovely above the castle.

Opening-skills workshops continue to increase across the continents and I am glad to see more and more people developing core skills in the tradition working with hand tools even though what they do, these days, defies the limits of tradition.

I knew 20 years ago that there was enough gathering inertia to break through the barriers into real woodworking because the people I met in the US were determined to be master craftsmen and women in their own right. Amazingly, the tools and skills they would start using were actually becoming lost, if that makes any sense.  Once they learned a few basic skills, they were launching into both paid and  unpaid careers as lifestyle woodworkers. It all began with an at-the-bench lecture, a  30-minute demonstration, a craftsman sharing his skill and friends gathering in a show and tell club meet. How to sharpen a chisel, a plane, a scraper and a saw was the prelude to watching them being used and people started believing that they could do it. That’s working wood.

When joints started coming together, no matter how roughly, they felt that inner reward only one word can describe – ‘fulfillment’. For some, that was something they had never experienced in this way before. Their hands were working, arms, muscle and sinew united in a common goal. The experience was electrifying and that’s something you cannot put on a conveyor belt or in a bottle or can and sell. Every joint seated was pristine joy. They tried again, got better and practiced more. Stroke by stroke confidence grew and then projects were limited only by their own imagination. From day one, 24 years ago now, we started teaching hand sharpening. We knew you couldn’t work wood without it. Progress was so fast, much faster than we expected and right there at the bench things became so amazingly coherent. Then there were the exercises we undertook throughout each day. Immersed with no distractions meant a deep quality of workmanship for everyone there. That’s how we got where we are today. It all boils down to dedication. Not only mine, but those who help, who make, who study and research with us and care about the future of woodworking.

We ended up with the ideal starter course for men, women and young people and especially children, everyone attending must be over 18, but then they can help others younger than themselves to get started. Grass roots knowledge begins at the bench. What’s a combination gauge and what does it combine? Why is pine considered a soft wood and oak a hard wood? Is one hard and the other soft? Not always easy questions when they have more to do with growth patterns and leaf shape than wood hardness, density, colour and smell. Tomorrow, we begin.

I love this workshop, which has as much to do with bringing down barriers and eliminating intimidation as it does to do with working wood, even though we work wood to do exactly that. Part of this class takes place in the woods and a walk of the Penrhyn Castle grounds where we look at hardwoods and softwoods growing side by side (weather permitting). In the US we have to settle for the beauty of Upstate New York woodlands. Equally lovely but no castles. We already sent out the welcome letters for this coming weekend and I look forward to seeing everyone as I prepare the table for dinner and a feast in working real wood begins.

Next week we start a nine-day Foundational Course. three workshop modules all in one. Just two places left right now. The class runs Saturday through the week to the following Sunday. Keep you up to date!!!


  1. BrianJ on 5 April 2013 at 2:43 am

    Would love to be in the presence there physically someday…. will be starting my initial work bench planing this weekend, so I think I’ll pause often and perhaps ponder what it would be like to be there under the guidance working wood with Paul and his team in his space. …

    • Paul Sellers on 5 April 2013 at 3:21 am

      There is a time for everything under heaven, I am learning slowly how little I know, but one thing I do know. Nothing compares to creating in your own workspace. This weekend I will be doing my bit to help craft the future for people wanting off te conveyor belt starting with a two-day break from “punching a keyboard” a “punching a time clock”. Now that’s creativity in action.
      I know there is nothing more rewarding than sharing my creative workspace with a few friends I have yet to meet.

      • BrianJ on 5 April 2013 at 4:16 am

        one never know’s I guess – I’m of the opinion that you have so much knowledge and guidance to offer those that make the choice to slow down and listen. All the best Paul. By the way I got all 3 of my diamond stones now from Lee Valley and put together a base similar to the one you have shown. love it so far and the chisels and plane irons are coming along nicely.

  2. Mick on 5 April 2013 at 10:28 am

    Can not wait! Setting off early tomorrow morning to be there for this weekend. See you tomorrow.

    • Paul Sellers on 5 April 2013 at 11:45 am

      Table is set, multi-course dinner will be served in the castle starting at 9am prompt. Look forward to seeing you tomorrow.

  3. Crance59 on 5 April 2013 at 6:13 pm

    Paul, if I could catch a ride to the Castle, I would take one of those 9-day class openings you have. I hope England has found you well and you are enjoying your time home for a while.
    Steve Follis

  4. Paul Sellers on 6 April 2013 at 7:02 am

    We start in two hours time. Everything is ready after our longer than usual winter break. See you there, or should I say here.