Woodworking Ramblings and Rabbit Trails

New Sharpening benches – at last I found a use for a lower bench height. Two reasons for a lower bench than 38″, sharpening hand tools and scraping.DSC_0046 I am into reuse of rejected materials and two solid core (solid hardwood core) fire-resistant door centres were being discarded by the National Trust. I retrieved them as too good to be chucked and used them as 2 1/4″ x 24″ x 46″ heavy tabletops and here is the result. My research has shown the most perfect bench height to be 38″ for a 5’10” tall male and that people 5’5″ to 6’0″ work comfortably at this height with reduced back pain being the end result. This is of course long-term testing over 20 years now. DSC_0053One area that does seem to benefit from a lowered height of about 34-36″ is sharpening where bearing down on the cutting tools benefits from over-the-bench pressure.

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paulsellers.comThis week was to conclude the workshop revamp, but then I decided on additional improvements not the least of which is making two new sharpening benches, restoring an eBay-purchase 14” bandsaw and making some new films for future training and teaching. One of the films we did concludes a series on making tools and so we made mallets and the one on the right is the one we made this time. DSC_0070All in all it’s been a great week and today I can put everything away and focus on the new intake of students a week from today.

paulsellers.comWhereas I have taught these workshops for about two and a half decades, quarter of a century, they have never grown old and have never become at all outdated. Demystifying the work of working wood still fascinates me and my research only intrigues me all the more. Imagine, I will have worked with wood for 50 years in another five months time. I have never not enjoyed it and had I the opportunity to start over I wouldn’t change a thing. That’s what finding your calling has meant to me. I didn’t stumble across it and there are many exciting things happening in the next few weeks and months based on my lifelong work working wood. We have a two-day workshop specially designed as an introduction to woodworking for women planned for early new year. You can let us know if this interests you and book your bench space as places will be limited to ten and it will be on a first come first served basis. Our one-day free workshops are well under way now too and these will be our contribution to provide craft training for working people in every sphere of life.

Someone called from Finland to book himself in for a nine-day class and then someone came in and said I wish you were closer to home. Finland is 1,124 miles away. The local visitor lived 18 miles from the castle. We often have students from Scandinavia, other parts of mainland Europe too. They come from Canada and America, David came from Dubai and then we had another come from Iceland. We become friends and talk about wood and tools most of the time. Woodworking is a sort of a rambling craft with all sorts of rabbit trails that take you down paths you might never have discovered had you not put down your plane to break away and answer the phone or walk in the woods and look at trees with big bellied burrs or burls or whorls. A man stood on the porch of a workshop one day and said to me and a friend I was with, “Do you want to buy these for a dollar a piece?” We said, “Sure.” The wood was dark, rough sawn and pretty much unidentifiable, but it was dense enough to know it wasn’t native to the US. $300 lighter, we owned 300 rosewood 2 x 4’s four feet long. The phone rang on another occasion and another voice said, “Mr Sellers, we just tore down an old mercantile building in San Antonio. We have 200 old Longleaf pine joists 2” x 12” by 12’ long for 25 cents a board foot, can you use them?” I made tables and beds and desks and chairs by the dozen. This is what fascinates me about working wood. It rambles and turns corners and you meet people you end up friends with for life. Sometimes you design pieces for Presidents and sometimes your son gets married and you make him a table to eat from. When my daughter had her third baby I made her a rocking chair. Memories are carved in shaped wood with joints that last through the lives of your children and your grandchildren. This is what working with wood means to me.

3 Comments

  1. Hi Paul,

    I noticed that the base for you sharpening bench used what appears to be haunched mortise and tenon joints. So I wondered why the haunch in this case? Is the haunched joint stronger than one without it? Or is it a matter of preference?

    Thanks again,
    Pete

    1. It has been the standard practice for centuries. I think it is the enclosure of the tenon which is obviuos and can obviously be done woithout one, but I fing it quick and easy. Easier than cutting a square shoulder on another face. I also think it adds deeper integrity to the joint, ensuring alignment of the rail all the way to the top. old patterns die hard!!!???

  2. Thanks Paul. A a newbie I’m sure to have a lot of questions. I guess the haunch gives some additional gluing surface that isn’t end grain too. Appreciate your patience answering these queries.
    Pete

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