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Apprenticing and Intensive Training

DSC_0020Those of you who go back a couple of years will remember John Winter who apprenticed for a year with me in 2010. He lives in the southern part of Argentina in Patagonia where his family is from. John arrived back here on Thursday for three months of intensive making and learning about business and will be working with us on different fronts as part of his continued craft training. Yesterday he was keen to be back in the shop, grabbed a set of tools and started fettling them to his liking. It’s a good time for him to be here because summer just started in Patagonia and it gets hot there. The rains and winds of North Wales greeted him.

DSC_0030Yesterday we were all together filming the almost completed series on building Shaker-inspired bookcases. I cannot say why, but I have enjoyed this series more then any other. I think perhaps it’s the size of the parts – much less fiddly than the ones we have built so far. I think too that bookcases have a certain simplicity about them that defies the increasingly complex life most of us live in. I think of it this way; the pine cone I picked up from a cluster of others seemed so simple. I mean, how complex can a pine cone be? But just like the pine cone I pictured a couple of days ago seemed so, well, ordinary when it was lying on the ground with a dozen or so more, it was only when I took time to look inside that I became suddenly stunned by the immeasurable beauty and a complexity I could never fathom the depth of. DSC_0010I will never see pine or fir cones the same way again. It is very humbling to come to the conclusive reality, and I choose these two words carefully, that you cannot make a pine cone. You cannot even come close to it. How amazingly humbling is that.

DSC_0044DSC_0042So this coming week we have a couple of things happening as we conclude the bookcase. We will be painting the bookcase and the pine workbench stool using milk paint so I will be showing the whole process as I work the two. I will also be finishing the oak version of the workbench stool I made so that all the pieces are completely finished. John Winter will be starting his first project of the ten or so he will be building over the next three months. Phil will be managing things as he always does and of course developing the upcoming masterclass films. But he too will be building and making alongside John. In two weeks we have another friend coming in from London for 9 days intensive and he will join John as they build the tool chest we built on Woodworking Masterclasses last year. Matt came to our classes two years ago now and loved the whole idea of becoming a woodworker and furniture maker so this will give us all time to evaluate his chosen path and see what we can do to get him as far along as possible.

I know that there are many of you out there hovering in the wings, that want to do what Matt and John are doing. I haven’t forgotten you too. I am hoping that what we do through woodworkingmasterclasses is alleviating some of the frustration for you and providing something of an answer to our modern-day demise in apprenticing. I feel so frustrated here in Britain, Europe and in the USA when I hear politicians saying they are revitalizing industry, starting apprenticeships and bringing home jobs when not one of them is at all accountable for selling off the jobs in the first place. I wish just one of these people, just one, that are so confident with the lives of working men and women would just stand up and be counted; that they would at least apologize for their personal input in selling out young people. The pine cone says it all for me. What we see on the outside has no comparison to what’s going on on the inside.

DSC_0046Our next nine day foundational course starts on the 15th February. This has proven to be our most successful course in woodworking outside of our month-long intensive. This year we will not be offering a month long course. If you are considering a nine-day workshop, please sign up as soon as you can. Throughout this year we will only be offering 40 places for students to occupy whereas last year we offered three times as many places. The demands for our work increases each year but we feel excited that we are o the right track. One thing for me that has become more difficult is answering emails and questions. Three years ago I had maybe three emails a week. Now we have hundreds coming in and that takes much time and extra staff to resolve and of course the questions are very specialized so not everyone can answer them.

he thing that makes all of this doable and happen is always YOU! That’s why I do what I do!

10 Comments

  1. Ed on 25 January 2014 at 1:32 pm

    Paul- Suppose you wanted to make a pair of these shelves to stand side by side, flush.The through tenon could be made flush, but what would you do with the top? If made flush, you lose the housing dado. Is there an option other than dovetails? I don’t want the appearance of a dovetail up top. It would be too distracting, visually, for what I have in mind.



    • Bill Schenher on 25 January 2014 at 4:07 pm

      If they are sitting side by side you wouldn’t see the dovetails on the inside. Just let the ends hand over the outside edges.



    • Paul Sellers on 25 January 2014 at 4:43 pm

      Why not dovetail the meeting surfaces only and still leave the overhang on the front and ends. No dovetails would be visible. You could also forget the top being joined in in any way and make a top piece as a separate unit to span the whole of the side-by-side bookcases.



      • Ed on 25 January 2014 at 9:00 pm

        Would a half-lap DT have enough strength here? Then the DT would only show on the top of the case.



        • Paul Sellers on 25 January 2014 at 9:16 pm

          Certainly would. No problem there.



  2. Emilio on 25 January 2014 at 3:14 pm

    Paul, the value of what you and your Staff do through woodworkingmasterclasses is immense. You spread the seeds of a new – or different, because the roots are in the past – culture. Our time has profusely revealed the deep weakness of the big industry system. I think that handicraft businesses and the development of local, little markets will be very, very important in the future. We live – we all know it, worldwide – a “transition time”. Personally I think you’re a Teacher more than who promise to save this world with the idea of an “indefinitely-growing” large industry system. Sorry if I’m not so fluent in English, but I hope it’s clear what I want to say.



    • Paul Sellers on 25 January 2014 at 4:40 pm

      Thank you all for being so encouraging not just to me but those that really make this happen and many other things too. Phil and Joseph, Resi and Katrina and then there are all the volunteers that jump in when they see the need to answer questions on the blog and the woodworking masterclass forums too. I am grateful to those who take the time with no prompting at all.



  3. George on 25 January 2014 at 9:02 pm

    out of every person i have come across on the internet, books ect you have been far the best no dought about it..you dont make out to everyone that you need expensive tools or decades of experience or even huge workshops with sky high priced tools. you make it easy for everyone to be involved. Lots of respect for people like you. and your colleuges.



  4. tman02 on 26 January 2014 at 1:56 am

    For a different comment – what do the “hedge hogs” look like?

    The bottom of that pine cone is really amazing looking.



    • Paul Sellers on 26 January 2014 at 8:44 am

      I will photo one and show



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