Starting Out on Your Own – Don’t Get Discouraged

Paving the Way To a Future Generation – We Have Already Started

DSC_0068Starting out on your own means preparing the way. You must lay a good foundation to build from. It need not take years, but there are some things you must be sure of and there are times when you must take risks. I hope we can minimise and even eliminate any and all failure and that you and I can support one another along the way in the same way other organisations do.

In 1975 I first went self-employed as a working artisan specialising in built in furniture. I was 25 years old and ever since that time I have worked as a woodworker and furniture maker, project designer, teacher, photographer, writer and blogger. At different points during those years I have put myself on and off the conveyor belt because I wanted to develop businesses for others to earn from and then again I didn’t want a mini factory of any kind. From time to time I got discouraged and there was little help along the way, but I always stayed true to my dream in working from or near to home and being with my wife, my children and family to see them grow. DSCN0042-copy2

Now I make pieces like this Rocking Chair ,which is my original design from 2010. One of the US presidents owns three of these unique designs with flowing lines that appeal to people who I have made furniture for. It may not be a starting place for you, but what we plan on DSC_0614 ties right in with this series, which will in the near future include both the beginning projects for new woodworkers to gain skill that result in the more advanced pieces we plan that will include this now famous piece. I suggest you join woodworkingmasterclasses.com because much of what we will be doing in this series will tie in with online video and the subscription to techniques and so on is always part of their free subscription, so take a look, subscribe for free and learn.

DSC_0081DSC_0028Some of the following articles will tell of the excursions and diversions I took to help you not to make the same mistakes I made and to take some of the steps I took that changed my life for the a wonderful future working with wood and hand tools and people. There are others who have taken a similar stand against commerce and commercialism to become lifestyle woodworkers, some of them I know and some of them I don’t. They are real people and real woodworkers; Garrett Hack for one. Graham Blackburn is another I think of. There are many others you will likely never know or hear of too. They live off the land in some measure or wholly. They harvest their wood from woodlands and coppices and they even live on less than around $5,000 a year because of the decisions they have made. One couple I know own only bikes, make baskets and wooden spoons and harvest only what grows in the wild around them and from their own garden. This may well not suit you as it might not me, but, you know what? They are happy minimalists who made a decision to carve and shape their lifestyle. So just what does the world of being self employed and going on your own look like? That’s the start-up picture I want you to look at and consider for you and yours personally. Make YOUR list of how you envision the ideal world might work for you. What do you want? It will not necessarily be anything like the same as mine and no one else may ever see what you dream of becoming. Uniqueness is key to your personal future not mine. One theme I hope will be woven throughout this series will be ‘getting off of the conveyor belt’ and working real wood. Getting started will depend on your input, questions, suggestions and concerns. Some of you have children and grandchildren, husbands, wives, friends and even enemies. These things will influence how you decide your future. Few can make it alone. I might suggest a guild or fellowship that draws you all together. A forum that discusses these and other issues might have a valid start soon, but for now let’s simplify things and look at some of the core issues.

Today I want to thank you for all of the emails you sent in response to this. They show that there are hundreds of thousands of people who desire something like what I am mooting here.

DSC_0038In my present workshop of ten who working through this month-long hands-on, at least four or five have the desire to change aspects of their worklife and their reasons are not at all selfish. One thing I notice as a general rule is that they want to become true working artisans and invest their lives in different measure to work with the material they love best and feel the most about, which is of course wood. In my last ten-day workshop, which is a Foundational Course, I had 19 people attending. Seven of them wanted the same thing but couldn’t feel the confidence that they could do it and make a living until they came to my course. We talked most days about aspects of this. I am used to it. I have seen it happen for at least 20 years now. Not many do it because of conflicting interests; family pressures, economics, politics and of course the usual social pressures. Some states in the US are apparently like the experience I just heard from a German supporter where he says licensing is a prerequisite and hard to get without jumping through a zillion bureaucratic hoops. I say it can still be done but you must work out the exact strategy for how to. We will try to do what we can to help and I am sure there will be woodworkers out there with some legal backgrounds on every continent to help us as we go.

DSCN0045If you are new to my blog, please go through some of the posts and pick out those that might interest you. I have written on these issues before but now I feel inspired beyond measure to help others to become masters in their craft in the true sense of becoming an established artisan woodworker. For some it will take a matter of months and for others a few years. Let’s not wait for government talkers to shift with every wind of change but take charge of our own lives ann make the dream a reality. I don’t merely teach woodworking in some sterile state college, I answer hundreds of emails myself, I record what I know, write what I know and pass on what I know wherever and whenever I can. As I say often enough, I have now trained at least 4,000 woodworkers to work wood using hand tools and in 2014 we will be introducing start-up machine woodworking to our offering.

Before I close for today, please, if you feel anything about what we are doing, if you want to show your support, why not share it with others and hit like on Facebook here:

8 thoughts on “Starting Out on Your Own – Don’t Get Discouraged”

  1. I’m not big on posting links to everything I happen to be interested in to my facebook account but I posted this series there. I know several people working hard to get off or stay off that conveyor belt and more who value the effort others put into it. This series has value beyond the realm of woodworking.

    1. Everything we do to this end is going to help. Many of those I have taught, trained and consulted to this end are successful lifestyle woodworkers whether by way of working at their craft to earn their living or following their dream to become skilled regardless of anything else.
      Thanks for your help.

  2. I really like where this is going. I know my time at the Foundational Course made me think a lot about what I wanted to do with my time and energy. It would definitely be dream come true to be able to be a practicing artisan. I’d like to think I’m on my way to that, but having a group of like-minded people to discuss and support each other on the journey would be invaluable.

  3. Trevor Anderson

    Hi Paul,
    I can’t thank you enough for everything that you do. This is so important and I just wanted to sound a note of encouragement and let you know how much I appreciate it. I am following along as a subscriber in your masterclass and want you to know that your ideas and methods of work have really helped me to rise above a plateau that have felt stuck on for a while. Cutting through the noise with such simple and practical ideas (that work) is refreshing and noteworthy in our age. These ideas you are talking about here are a great help too. I hope enough to really accelerate some changes I have been working towards for a long time. Keep up the great work and I hope to meet you one day in person.
    All the best,
    Trevor Anderson

    1. Thanks for writing Trevor. It’s very encouraging to the fruit coming from our labours and know people can see our objectives in passing on what we have gained through many decades of working wood.

  4. What a great idea! I too am jumping ship and will try to get involved as much as my growing young family allows. I have already signed up for the master classes, built a workbench (at 40″), purchased a set of vintage stanley hand planes, hand saws, and chisels (which I have tuned following your techniques and video instructions). All I am missing now is a thickness planner and a bandsaw (I know, shame on me), but I am making headway. Oh, I guess making some furniture I can sell wouldn’t hurt either 😉

    Thank you Paul and eveyone else there, you are my inspiration!

    As an asside, do you ever give seminars in Ottawa or Toronto? It would be a privilege to attend one of your seminars or courses.

    Kind regards,
    Ward Normandin
    Ottawa, Canada

  5. Randolph Chrismon

    I don’t know where i stand on this issue. Living here in the USofA, my number one, by far and away, concern is health insurance; specifically, the lack thereof. Why the allegedly richest country in the world can’t join the rest of Western civilization and offer national healthcare is beyond me.

    Beyond that, there’s a trap around that conveyor belt. My current salary barely supports our very pedestrian, non-acquisitive, lifestyle. Several years of excessive medical expenses (there I go again), and the high cost of suburban living, make it almost impossible to get by on what I bring in now. I’d have to make, and sell, 5,000 spoons per year to keep our heads above water… and that’s not counting the cost of materials to make the spoons!

    On the other hand, or maybe in the same vein, I’m not far from retirement (I’m about a year younger than Paul). And, through _all_ fault of my own, have little in the way of retirement savings. The bright light in all this (sorry about the doom and gloom), is that in the time I have left before retirement, I might get good enough at something I enjoy doing — working wood — that I won’t spend my declining years as a greeter at Wal-Mart. (Paul, folks on the stuffy right coast of the Atlantic might not get the reference. Suffice it to say, it’s pretty grim seeing an old codger, carrying an oxygen bottle, hobble around greeting people most of whom want him to get out of the way.)

    As for sterile state colleges, at least it gives me a place, and time, to develop and hone the skills I need. How does one fit a workshop into a small two bedroom apartment with no garage?

    Well, that’s the way it goes.

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