DIY – An Abbreviation of Craft in the Art of Work

Do It Yourself – Spell It Out

Sometimes I miss the sensibility of what was happening in the self-power days of DIY. It seems there was a century between The Arts and Crafts Movement’s birthing years that established the art and craft of deindustrialised self working on your property, in your own property and  the 60‘s era of DIY I became exposed to. In my years it was the birthing years from Black and Decker hand-held stuff and that birthed a rejection of hand work to more embrace an age called progress and the machine woodworking we know today.

My first DIY project in 1983

PICT3199There is and always will be something dynamic about taking stock of your home and deciding to give this or that a go. My DIY era was laying bricks for a barbecue pit, plastering a ceiling or installing a new stud wall. People tried their hand. Sometimes I do a blog on something and I get emails or comments saying you can buy this or that rather than going to the tools and making it yourself. Different cultures approach things differently depending on what’s available to work with and use. Here’s the thing. My blog is mostly about, well, doing it yourself and doing it myself, lower case, quiet, easy, self-relying sustainability. I like the concept of this with a family and decided many years ago that I would live it. When I looked for some hardware piece or another I asked myself if I could make it. Time wasn’t the determining factor. The question was, could I make it and if I could I did. John, this week, needed to finish his oak clock and I asked how he was going to hang it. He wasn’t sure. I gave him a a scrap of brass plate, drew some lines, added a drill, a bit and a file and suggested he make a plate bracket in brass. DSC_0071

My First DIY Bench-build Video

Forging a piece of tool steel into a spokeshave blade or a plane iron is relatively easy when you have the right tools and some basic instruction. I do what I do here, in my blog, online, in videos and via emails, forums and as much as I can because I believe you might want some of this too. Yes, I bought a Stanley knife for my layout knife, and I use it every day, but I have made dozens of nice knives I love to use. My thought in using my Stanley is this. When people are starting to work wood with hand tools for the first time, they don’t need to go to knife-making straight away, Soon they can make their own knives. I make knives and made knives for making violins. I designed a tool for inlay work called purfling and other such things. DSC_0236Sometimes someone warns me of a danger involved in a procedure. I listen, consider and make adjustments if I need to. Life working always has dangers. Chisels slip and cut our flesh and so too our hands slip when the wood splits unpredictably. We assess the work we practice for dangers and minimize risk, but life and creativity has always had unexpected risks. Do we stop and forsake the task, allow intimidation, or do we tense muscle and sinew to take charge of something that might not be if we are persuaded to down tools. Do we, must we, always build in protective barriers that means a task cannot take place and so stymie creativity. The outcome of self-work is self-worth that’s worth different risk types. I think safety is our personal and individual responsibility. We take charge of our lives as much as we can. My brothers are a bit like me. They can weld, work wood, beat iron into handles and plaster ceilings, plumb in a central heating system and wire a house. Jack of all trades master of none? Not at all. I don’t generally believe that. Their work alway excels. I think that for some, unused to hand work, they may not make masters of their craft, but for others, many, mastering skill is a vibrant possibility. A man, woman can master as many crafts as they have time to study and work at. Mostly, becoming an artisan is a made up mind.

My Last Big Bed Build


We have made much progress through the blog, the online broadcast videos we’ve made and of course we have ongoing development that means we can grow in our ongoing do it yourself. Who can name the era we live in as we see a century and a half passed since the Arts and Crafts era? Technology has changed many things, but the digital age has yet to replace a chisel paring the face of a tenon and a plane lifting grain in wide ribbons with the indescribable scents that fill the surrounding air. 


  1. In western society too many people are so worried about failure that they would rather do nothing than risk it. We have been so miss taught and miss led to think that mistakes are some sort of negative personal reflection instead of part of the natural progression of all learning processes.

    We always learn more from what we do incorrectly, and like a ship constant course corrections are the only way to get to one’s destination. We have to defeat ‘fear of failure’ and replace it with ‘make as many attempts as it takes to succeed’ thinking. What more can one say about being positive and willing to fail so that one may eventually succeed.

    1. Bravo. Very good comment. It is true ,in all aspects of Life. Often frustrating thought… Thank you.

  2. Paul another great post, I have mentioned this before you and I are very close in age and I love your “no nonsense” approach to working. Unfortunately Today’s Society is way to fast pace and we are loosing good work ethic’s, this is another reason why I retired. Since discovering you, you are fresh breath of air and I really appreciate what you have done and doing now and hopefully you can revive this dying trade. Please keep up the good work.


  3. Howdy,

    Indeed, another great post. Paul’s blog, YouTube site, and videos have given me the confidence to begin using hand tools more than power tools. I now have more confidence in using hand tools when I want to achieve quality results. I am learning to slow down and enjoy the process. Thanks Paul, I wish there had been this type of media in 1977 when I started woodworking in earnest.


  4. I like the Do it Yourself philosiphy. In fact I learned at a very young age to do that very thing. I could not aford to hire things done or make exspensive purchases so if I wanted to get it done, I had to do it myself. My wife will ask me on occasion how I learned to do that. I just laugh and say “in the school of hard knocks”. It has taught me self reliance and in some cases boosted my self confidence. Another of my favorite philosophies is “if someone else did it, so can I”.

    Your blog is refreshing to read Paul. Thank you for teaching and sharing you thoughts so freely.

  5. I have always felt the need to create. Through the years I struggled along with a few hand tools and built some basic items. I fell into the mass media trap that in order to create items of quality and refinement, I would need to purchase the latest and greatest, usually power, tool. Since I could not justify the expense nor had the room for all of these power tools, I resigned myself to mediocrity in my woodworking. Then, a little over a year ago, a came across this blog then Masterclasses. You have shown me that with the right skills and those same few hand tools, I can produce quality woodworking limited only by my imagination and proficiency. You have also shown me that I can produce tools of my own to further expand my capabilities. I am now looking at woodworking in an entirely new light. To create something of quality with just a few hand tools is very satisfying, but to produce something of quality with tools that I have produced, is liberating!

    I think we are at the dawn of new era….the era of the Artisan Liberation.

    Thank you Paul for showing us the way.

  6. Thanks everyone. I thought to myself when I wrote this, “Who is going to read this?” Then I thought to myself, DIY was dynamic, there should be more and more of it.

  7. Paul, I always really enjoy reading your blogs, even though I don’t always comment. This has been one of my favourites. I also love the Woodworking Masterclasses.

    Possibly in terms of creativity and woodworking we are in some kind of a 21st Century Renaissance era? …or at least some of us are. There certainly seems to be a greater appreciation for real craftsmanship, and an understanding that traditional techniques were used for a reason, now than a few years ago, and I’m very glad these time-tested techniques are now being re-discovered and revealed for the benefit of many by such excellent teachers as yourself, Paul, so thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience with us!

  8. Nice article which I really enjoyed. Totally agree as regards the tendency to go about things with an overabundance of caution so prevalent nowadays, even with children this approach is done, stifling and hindering their natural creativity. While it is important to avoid unnecessary risks, a culture that looks for the bogeyman of danger under every rock will be a culture unable to push learning and creativity forward.

  9. Thank You Paul I have always tried to make things myself. Whenever my wife takes me shopping for something that she may want for our house I look at it and make it. I have been fortunate enough to have worked as a fabricator and mechanic in my youth. I learned how to weld and form steel. I can make anything I want with very little tools. I have always been fascinated with making my own tools to finish a project. But I must say that I really like working wood now. My family thinks I have lost my mind when I stop my pickup truck and pick up a piece of wood that someone has thrown away. It is a useful commodity to me now and I love it. When we go to swap meets and I see old rusty tools I have to save them. It is as if they speak to me. Save me make me useful again. So my collection has grown rather fast without very much expense. Once again you have given us a very good article and hit the nail on the head. We are blessed to have someone to lead us and teach us what really matters in this life. That is to pass this way of life on to the next generation so that they can enjoy the pleasures of creativity and the pride of craftsmanship. THANK YOU.

  10. Hello paul, two questions I am starting a carpentry apprenticeship and I was wondering would I need a tendon saw? Also I have an abundance of pallet wood what would you suggest I make?

    1. Yes, I cannot imagine not having a tenon saw, but in some carpenters minds they will possibly laugh at that. Site work including trim must be fast and is mostly done with power equipment; mostly chop saws, sawsalls, air nailers and such.
      Re the pallet wood, you can make all kinds of projects from wooden spoons and spatulas to stools and benches. Pallet wood can be a free resource for a wide range of things.

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