Making My Bed – Footboard Palings in Place

Friday 14th December 2013

I just got the footboard together before I left Penrhyn Castle dead on 5pm. The day, the week, went well and I spent most of my time on the mortise and tenons, planing wood and restoring an older bandsaw I bought on eBay two months ago. DSC_0106

The time seemed to pass more quickly than ever as I chopped and sliced to fit and seat the tenons. It always feels good to see the main joints in the frame come together but all the more with the palings held in place as one unit in the footboard too. Today I am working on the centre panel I think. I am making that with some beautiful figured oak with ebony and mahogany burl inlays I am making from scratch. Perhaps I will get to the glue up by the end of the day. I like to think that I will but I am enjoying the work and when that happens I don’t always want it to stop.

DSC_0102 The oak has been nice to work throughout. Somehow oak brings a sanity to me in both it’s solidity and the strength I feel in its fibres as my hands work the tools and lift and twist the wood to suit me. At different points in a day I stare at my tools and in the same way the tools that lay waiting on my bench give me that same sense of strength and solidness. The wood planes easily and in a way that only oak does. My reward comes when each adjacent surface, glistening and glinting in reflected light as I pass the plane from one end of the wood to the other, glimpses back with a smile. The shavings rise in the throat and I clear them away as they wrap around my left thumb. Though there is sound from the plane passing over the wood, it’s as if I am watching a silent movie as I see the surface improve and a smoothness seems now to rest my work. These are feelings, no more, but they are restful feelings, thoughts, really. I have had this all of my life. Somehow my work elevates me in ways that defy gravity.
I always look forward to going to work and it seems that way regardless of the task. Though my great love has always been working wood in one form or another, I also love to compose sentences that have some meaning. I like to write almost as much as woodworking and then I like to draw and sketch what I want to present to others. When I left school at 15 the head master told my parents I could never be educated. I like that thought though I am sure it seemed to my parents to be negative. For me it meant that I would be freed. DSC_0110 Of course I knew that what was said was not true, but now I would be free to work wood all my days and that without being programmed by my teachers. To them I was just another failed being in a classful of successes. Better I be gone. DSC_0115 Here I am still loving my precious work. Is it really just another bed I am making or the expression of a man’s creative freedom in and through the work of his hands. I was just another one of those thick kids that slipped under the radar. No one in school could help me because they didn’t, couldn’t understand. When I began work at just fifteen I could read a ruler and the men I worked with taught me maths and those essentials of geometry that made my craft possible. In college they filled my head with social studies and tried to program me to think like them so I would become like them. I was unconvinced because their lives reflected who they wanted to be but not who they had become. Perhaps that’s all changed now, but if that is the case, why do I meet so many who always want to change their job to become a woodworker or a furniture maker?


  1. Wish I could answer your last question. Probably school/parent pressure is against what is seen as manual work, rather than creative living. As I worked away this afternoon, I was trying to think of which of the many things I have learnt from you, was the one that stands out. I think its the knife wall, if you can’t saw straight there is no future! Thank you.

  2. Hi Paul As a retired principal teacher and still working in teacher training I must say I learned a lot from your teaching in the past 2 years.In the past a child’s ability in maths and language only were honoured and all other gifts and intelligences were ignored. The teachers back then showed little respect for the child. I am glad to say it is changing but slowly unfortunately. Keep up the good work. Joe

  3. Totally unrelated to the content of this blog post, but in the last picture I see through tenons rounded over. I’m, just today, learning the process of planing these round overs while building my hanging wall shelf. A basic planing skill that is obviously going to be used in later projects.

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