Making My Bed – Palings Next

DSC_0120 I think that I cut the mortises in 2 minutes because they are not deep. Only half an inch or so. Chopping mortises, I drift into thoughts of different things, people I know and hopes I have for future woodworkers. I hope these future woodworkers will pursue the lifestyle of woodworking and do it as I have because they just love it. As each mortise deepens, so too my thoughts as I look into each hole I cut. The oak as a  feel about it at the chisel tip that no other wood has. Oak is easy to work mindlessly. The grain lends itself to thinking about other issues as it yields so willingly to planes, saws and chisels. DSC_0102 The saw glides in and out smoothly and evenly  and four or five strokes takes me to the knifewall. I stop just shy of it and then cut the opposite side the same way. I think about my saw as it cuts and rests. I love this saw as much or more than any I have owned. There’s one on someone should snap up right now at its Buy-it-Now price of £122. They don’t come up too often and this one looks like is has lots of plate and a good looking handle. Anyway, there are 72 mortise and tenons in making the palings into the head and foot board. DSC_0119 That gives me lots of thinking time to think about my family, my grandchildren and children, times past with them and hopes ahead for them.

DSC_0106 The tenons somehow emerge from the ends of the palings stroke by stroke. Soon the fit the hole and I move to the next. The shoulders are only 11″ apart and side by side only 1 1/2″ apart, the shoulders must be dead on length. If one is too long it holds all the rest off. Too short leaves a gap. Tomorrow I hope to have the footboard done and dusted, but we will see. I also have to film some things for you. We’ll see how that goes.

DSC_0111 As I go I plane every surface with my #4 or 4 1/2. They feel silky smooth and as I press the joints into their mortises I see a line where the shoulder meets that is crosshair, hairline perfect. I remove the arris to make the wood feel right in my hands. No sandpaper can do this and no machine either. I only sharpen my plane to 1200 and I do not buff with buffing compound. The surfaces are as sweet as can be. Remember we are often caught up in the illusion salesmen project into woodworking that some tells us that its the shaving we are making. That’s not the case at all.

DSC_0118 Anyway, I had a blast today thinking and working and finding control of my hand work. I find that whenever I use machines I feel them pushing me as if they tell me what to do and at what speed. I think it’s because I can’t wait to switch them off, but at other times I think the inventor intended for the user to be driven, and I mean driven not driving, in their work. Anyone else fall for it and feel like that some times? It’s more rare for me these days. I watch for it though. When I sense it I stop and take a walk through the woods or past the fields so I can watch the sheep and the boats in the harbour. It takes only ten minutes of this and I recapture what is rightfully mine. Another thing. There is a rhythm of work I enjoy that people no longer speak of. You can’t get it the keyboard I don’t think. If you can I haven’t found it in ten years. But sliding a tenon into a mortise still pleases me. Sliding the plane in a glide still makes me smile and I still touch the surface with my now printless fingertips to sense the softness and smoothness of the wood.


  1. I’m sure you have spoken elsewhere on this, but do you use mortising chisels or bench chisels for your mortises?

    On an unrelated note, your blog and work has provided much inspiration for me as an amateur woodworker. I began with power tools and have migrated heavily toward hand tools. As you speak of, the work seems much more fulfilling and living in Oklahoma (where woodworking isn’t much in vogue) people are perplexed that anyone can do that kind of work by hand. That gives me just as much satisfaction.

    1. They used to have woodworking show in Tulsa I used to go to with Joseph when he was smaller. At one of the three-day show he and I made one of my tool boxes out of mahogany together. It was a small show with low attendance but I liked it.
      No, I generally don’t use mortise chisels. I find that bevel edged chisels cut faster and with less effort. My mortise chisels stay in the till until I have large mortises and even then, once you get past a 1/2″ wide the chisels are far to ineffective to work as well as thinner lightweights because of the law of equal and opposite forces, you know, Newton.

  2. Paul you are so right IMO, since I have started using Hand Tools 99 1/2 % of the time I really crave for it. I am still a rank amateur when it comes to using Hand Tools and some of my joints have been less than stellar but I so enjoy it. Each time I am in the shop and pick up a tool it gets better and better.

    I do not miss the noise, dust etc. of the power tools one bit, in fact I believe I have mentioned it before I sold my Table Saw a couple years back and certainly don’t miss it. Also this is great exercise and I now work at a more gratifying pace.

    Thanks for all you have shown and done !


  3. Hi Paul,

    Sorry for being so on this one, but I keep forgetting to ask…

    What size timber are your legs and rails on the bed? Looks like 8/4? And, did you use “bed bolts” and dowels to hold the frame to the headboard and footboard?

    thanks again for everything.


    1. The bed is made from 10/4 and I used steel hardware from Veritas for connectors as they are heavy steel and recess into both headboard and rail and tighten when they interlock.

  4. Being driven by the machine. I know how that feels. Rather too well. I started using machines a lot about 20 years ago and having now under Paul’s influence returned to hand work just feel so much relief. I can see now that the machines bullied me. I ceased to get much satisfaction from making. That is all coming back again. I feel really in touch with the wood and get great pleasure from that. We have almost lost an important meaning of the word “skill.” Nowadays you will find the word everywhere but almost no mention or implication of hand work or craft skills. It will be management skills in a thousand varieties, none of them involving skill in the craft sense. To play my instruments really well I have to practice them daily. Management skills are not at all like that. What Paul is promoting is. A feel for craft skill develops a feel for quality. Or to be more precise for the quality that arises from craft skills. There are many other types of quality. The quality that arises from hand skills is a great pleasure in my life. I think my machine phase took me right away from this. I could do it but it was somehow not as gratifying as Bailey plane or chisel to wood. Keeping ones own tools really sharp and fully fit for purpose is a joy in life. What Paul is also teaching me is about balance. Handwork will not have the regularity of the best machine work. My mother’s exellent lacework doesn’t compare with machine made lace if one sees the best values of machine made lace as outranking all else. But her lacework has a personal quality, it has something of her, and the machine worked lace does not. I am pleased to be returning to the workmanship of risk. My satisfaction is much greater.

      1. TLDR…. as should you. Traditionally, we don’t use a space before commas and question marks.

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