Woodworkers in Real Woodworking

Hello paul!

I’m a beginner woodworker from Israel, that recently discovered the joy of hand tool work.

I want to thank you for all the knowledge you  provide for all woodworking out there, and for myself in particular.

I’m following you on YT and i really enjoy your videos!

I am amazed with your reading and understanding wood.

I specially liked the sharpening videos you made, and it was very helpful to me, with getting my tool to perform well. (no’4 Stanley plane, no’5 record plane and a bunch of chisels).

 I still  have issues with well setting my planes, in term of frog position/mouth opening and cap iron setting.

 Can you please explain that issue a bit deeply in a blog or video?

I hope you will keep on spreading your amazing knowledge for many many more years to come!

Best Regards.

O E

Israel

Hi Paul,

I like your clips. Each time I am watching them I laugh, because you have your own simple way to attack the problem. …..

In simplicity genius; like In vino veritas.

We, in Sweden, should also have such a person like you! We are like orphans here. Nobody can give us advise how to do it.

For instance: Many of us have bought a very expensive backsaw, but nobody can sharpen it. We have no courage to do that by us selves. Yes, we have read about how to do that, but we do not dare to. For instance:

I bought for some years a very expensive ripsaw in UK and it is not possible to use it. 

I just wonder: Is it because I´m stupid or …or why?

Have a good reminder of the day!

Jiri

In Sweden

I picked all of the images below to show that woodworking is not an exclusive craft and that anyone anywhere can do it with very few tools and little equipment.

DSC_0016I received this email from Sweden. It’s not unusual that people feel inadequate to the task and that always pulls something out of me no matter where they are, who they are, what age they are or anything else. This is why we do what we do and sponsor so much to make certain things work for others. I received the other email from Israel and then another from New Zealand. Actually, I received emails from a dozen or more countries from around the world in the last couple of days that I understand highlight a severe educational flaw on each continent and in each sphere of education. DSC_0391Basic lessons in woodworking and metalworking, not so basic as today’s offering though, have either disappeared or are about to disappear or will disappear in the next ten years. What people associate as woodworking in schools in the UK is not really woodworking any more but part of a programming system to make young people conform to a political and educational system that seems more destined to worsen the dilemma than improve it.DSC_0003 I ask myself a simple question from time to time and that is why do we in any way feel that politicians, usually or mostly non-skilled emotional motivators, make so many of the decisions surrounding working people’s lives. It seems to me and many others that they sold out local jobs by political and educational decisions to globalise economies and leave young people isolated in spheres of unemployability through various shortfalls in their education. It all shows the need for what we do to reestablish woodworking and metalworking in the formative years of life and that those teaching not be just teachers but skilled in hand work and even business themselves. DSC_0066The break between academic and non academic seems more complete now than ever.  and many like me was abandoned by my teachers when i made the decision at 13 that I wanted nothing more than to be a woodworker. Teachers in more general subjects often have no interest in students less inclined to academic subjects and so became detached and even impatient. I was left to work out my future and no one really offered any help. I wanted to be a woodworker not a construction worker. Go to any careers advisor in school and say, “I want to become a woodworker.” and they automatically think carpenter and construction. DSC_0076It’s a turn off in the mind of the advisor unless they think you are thick or, as in my case, declared ineducable. Then they might deem that woodworking was site carpentry rather than furniture making or building boats and so the best or only course for your life was building construction. Hey, they say, we all need plumbers and carpenters to build our nice homes, yet not everyone is supposed to be a plumber or a carpenter. DSC_0177My concern comes in the emails I get. Engineers and lawyers, plumbers and joiners find their lives untasked, unchallenged and often lacking because they don’t work with their hands in the way almost all people once did. Well, again, going off the emails, that’s changing day by day and week by week and year by year. Since Christmas and the turn of the year I have received hundreds of emails thanking me and the team for changing the face of woodworking. I believe that what we are doing is indeed changing the way people now consider what real woodworking is and that’s important to the future face of woodworking. Getting to the core of real woodworking (and genuine hand craft of almost any kind) is to repossess an intrinsic value we seldom see the importance of in today’s culture. I think that our state of wellbeing exponentially increases when we work with our hands and our brains to make things we construct for different uses around our homes and places of work. DSC_0189Henry Ford did more to demoralise the hearts of workers when he developed his mass-manufacturing production lines to produce cheap cars. DSC_0117How much more are people demoralised today than then when we see skilled work relegated to robot manufacture and programmed CNC machines.No matter which way the machine slices it, a CNC carved sign using a router does mean that you didn’t make it. When a gouge and ‘V’ tool shapes the letters, carves the shapes, and your hands guided the tools and decided how much force to use, you did. I tried to imagine how we would feel if we set up the computer to carve the work with a guided machine compared to doing what someone like Mary May does here. Mary teaches all levels of carving and just to get a feel for it go to her YouTube channel and take a first impression of how she teaches. I am a carver too. I quickly found that my woodworking skills were transferrable to other areas as I progressed my own training on my own in my workshop over the decades following my apprenticeship. Of all the things I have done throughout my working life, the thing that has made me happiest has been work working with my hands using hand tools.

DSC_0040DSC_0138I have found that the D&T (design and technology) teachers really love what they started out to do and they also love the kids they work with. Most of the ones I meet on courses here seem frustrated teaching to curriculum that seems so short sighted and inappropriate. I don’t know if that is a general malaise, I do know that most if not all feel inadequately skilled to actually teach even the most basic craft levels. I wish we could all unite to reintroduce woodworking into schools and more so beyond schools and have only teachers teach with developed skill to teach the classes. I met a student recently, I think it was last years sometime, who went to grammar school in the 60‘s here in the UK and who came to us to refresh his skills from when he was 14 years old. He brought with him a small but neat fall-front writing desk he’d made over a period of a year. Remember he was 14 years old. It had  such nicely executed half-lap dovetails to the drawer, not perfect but hand cut, breadboard-end fall front desk top and mortise and tenon joinery to the main frame with plywood panelling. I too made projects that had these complexities from my woodworking classes in school and also made live mousetraps, cast alluminium into sculpted art work I made in art classes. CB12This doesn’t mean I cannot program computers and use InDesign or Photoshop now that I am in my mid 60’s. It doesn’t mean I can’t calculate my materials and indeed write books. Most of my formal education stopped at 15-years old and I started to learn and be trained for life at that age. Now I am due to retire but I can’t. Why? Well, to be honest, there is too much to do to equip the next generation to discover woodworking by hand is a true art form they can own for themselves. That they too can find real value in working out their future without becoming a mass-manufacturer feeding a machine of any kind for the remainder of their lives. I have now proven this to others through my own work, my worklife, those that work with me and of course you who are out there proving that it’s worth the struggle and it’s worth doing it.

28 Comments

  1. Reinoud Delporte on 1 February 2014 at 7:49 pm

    I feel the same about your thoughts on education and jobs.
    I’m a dental technician, at least that what I learned in school. A nice craft in a lousy industry. Dumped by the company I worked for after just three months I ended up on the conveyor belt building trucks. After doing this for eleven years I got the chance to start fixing the trucks in the final touch up. Anything from a single bolt that’s missing to replacing a huge engine is now my job.
    As a kid I liked to take my bicycles apart and put them back up again (I still do). Just as i liked to make stuff in our basement, which was actually off limits 🙂
    Although there is nothing I’m really good at, I do find a have a certain feel in my hands suited for hand work and a fascination for “how stuff works and how it’s made”.
    Unfortunately the school system at that time could not notice this since we had hardly any hand related work of any kind in school. Finland seems to be the exception where for instance every child learns knitting and sewing together with other hand working skills.

    But somehow I’m glad I never made a job from a hobby. For instance I really like building up bikes, but if I would have been working as a bike repair man I would have never build a bike that traveled half the globe. And I would never have done this for free for people I didn’t met before. Which was of course the nicest part.
    I would have never helped restore a 1967 Porsche for a trip to China for free if it was my job. And of course it would have not had so much fun doing it.
    I feel the same about woodworking. I really like it, because it’s not a job. I like to try things in my garage, most of the time I fail, but that doesn’t matter. It’s still fun to do, because I don’t have to.
    And of course it’s about people. Of course it’s nice to carve a spoon, but it really becomes fun once you can discuss this with people who enjoy this too.

    I think that making stuff with our hands, because we want to, not have to, is what makes it so nice. And tough I think it’s fantastic to have a job you really love, I do think it’s near to impossible for most of us. Mainly because it implies making difficult choices we’re not always willing to make.
    That’s why I have so much respect for the people who are “living the dream” and , like you, enjoy sharing this with us.

    Thank you.

    Reinoud



  2. handguitar on 1 February 2014 at 8:25 pm

    Hi Paul,

    Thanks to your foundation course and following your blog and woodworking masterclasses, I’m making a conscious effort to build up my skills so I can spend more of my time woodworking and hopefully be able to get to a situation where I can cut back on my office job.

    I recently came across a campaign by Plymouth College of Art, which is campaigning to get physical facilities back into ‘creative education’. I thought you might find this interesting in relation to what you wrote above:

    http://www.plymouthart.ac.uk/latest/blog/use-yourenergy-to-show-your-support-for-physical-facilities-in-art-educatio/

    Robert



  3. Dave Cockayne on 1 February 2014 at 9:03 pm

    Paul, I have told you before that I am roughly your age and was educated in England.I started my woodwork education in 1965 and my teacher held values that you demonstrate daily.Following your masterclasses has taught me so much that I regret not finding such a teacher years ago.I feel that your views about woodworking reflect life today in general.The bottom line in education seems to me to be more about schools achieving Government targets than about equipping youngsters with life skills.Please be reassured that what you are doing is of immense value today and is clearly appreciated by many who follow your classes and blogs.Please keep up the good work.Tkankyou, Dave.



  4. James Edey on 1 February 2014 at 9:06 pm

    I agree with most of what you say Paul but how many of us really know what we want to do with our lives at age 13?

    Surely at that age it’s more important not to force people to specialise but to keep all avenues open.

    I am a child of the 60’s and 70’s and attended a grammar school where woodwork and metalwork were taught until age 14 when a level of streaming occurred.

    Our education system has to be geared to educating people to be able to earn a living first and foremost. Unfortunately woodworking with hand tools is too specialised to be mainstream in this respect.

    Really enjoy all of your good works though…..oh, and how about that video on planes that the person from Israel requested?



    • Russell on 3 February 2014 at 2:20 pm

      James, I thought I was doing well with Paul’s videos but I decided I should get his book Working Wood. He talks about every tool and how to sharpen and adjust. There is no comparison. I have the Essential Woodworker by Robert Wearing, which is a good book about how to plane straight etc. but none of it can be accomplished with out a well sharpened, adjusted plane, saw, spokeshave, cabinet scraper, scraper, chisel, auger bit. This book is an excellent summation of Paul’s knowledge with a few projects as well.



      • James Edey on 3 February 2014 at 2:30 pm

        Thanks Russell.

        I will check out Paul’s book and save up my pennies!!

        I have been struggling a little with an eBay Stanley #4 purchase which needed sharpening etc. Spent hours trying to get the iron to sit straight and eventually worked out it was the frog that was not seated correctly. Hard yards but an experience that will stand me in good stead going forward!

        What a beginner like me needs to know is “what is normal”? i.e. how should the frog be bedded on to the plane body? I am sure there are numerous other examples. Hopefully Paul’s book can help in that regard.

        Thanks again.



        • gav on 4 February 2014 at 1:12 pm

          Hi James,

          I have found that whenever I have had a chance to do a search and churn through all the information that comes up, the information I need generally appears at some point. Quite often the videos that Paul demonstrates with have little bits that initially I do not pick up on, but upon further watching become clear and relevant to what I am trying to do at the time. The struggle is worth it as the nuances become clearer as the understanding grows. Specifically to your plane setup Paul has mentioned that he has several smoothers set up differently for different purposes which also points to what use you are putting it to at the time. Keep plugging at it, I find it worthwhile. As an extra reference Paul’s book is great, my wife obviously pays attention to what I am doing as it appeared as a gift and has been a great help.



  5. John C on 1 February 2014 at 10:09 pm

    It is absolutely true that we live in a throw away, fast food society. I served an apprenticeship in the carpenters union in my mid 20’s. I came from a long line of flooring installers and started going to work with my dad when I was 5. I loved the tools and especially being with my dad. He has always done high quality work. The apprenticeship program was a huge let down for me I expected much more. Quality craftsmanship is not the goal, speed is, time is money. Having worked with my dad for many years I actually knew more than my instructors and some so called journeymen. When I became a journeyman after the designated time to be an apprentice, had nothing to do with skill, I had an apprentice with me on a job. He was a second year apprentice and could not read a tape measure, didn’t know what a sixteenth of an inch was. Completely sad. For the two days I was with him I tried to teach him what I could, keeping it simple.

    Even after I became a firefighter/paramedic I still worked in the trades and took pride in doing quality work. Some of the older customers I had appreciated the work I did and knew what they were getting. I believe most people hadn’t a clue what the difference between a quality job was or a shoddy job was. The only thing that was important to them was the price and how fast it could be done in.

    I wonder how it must have been to have lived in the time when a boy, of say 14 years went to live and work with a journeyman to learn a trade. I am sure there were both good cases and not so good, but I am willing to bet craftsmanship was more highly regarded.



    • Andy in Germany on 2 February 2014 at 7:54 am

      In Germany we still have the system of apprenticing and to some extent it is great because we have a lot of people learning a trade from which they can make a living.

      On the other hand I’m hugely dissapointed with the apprenticeship I’m getting because of the reasons given above: it is about speed, money and feeding machines, not skill and love of woodworking. I try and make ssure I practice and learn what I can but it is tough: yesterday I was making tenons on a bed with japanese saws and a drill inherited frm my grandfather and I caught sight of my boss looking at me with horror and amazement on his face. There was an electric drill on my workbench and at least four machine drills a few metres away.

      My boss asked me why on earth I was doing suche a strange thing. I told hime that I needed the practice as the exams next year cover this skill, that when my son sleeps on this bed I wanted the knowledge it was me who made it and not a machine, and because I wanted to build a future in working with my hands and not a computer screen.

      He didn’t get it.

      Another friend at work pointed out that some of the joins aren’t perfect. I suggested that you can get a thousand perfect beds from IKEA and they will all be identical, soulless and break in ten years. This one was full of imperfections, and full of love.

      Then the tenon cracked the bedpost. Ah well…

      The goal now is to finish the course, get the piece of paper, and then head ofer to Wales and do a nine day intensive to get my confidence back as a woodworker: please don’t retire until after 2015 Paul…



      • Paul Sellers on 2 February 2014 at 9:00 am

        So discouraging and yet I know it’s true. Eventually you will find others that feel like you do. Machinist woodworkers cannot feel what we feel if they have never worked with their own hands. It’s impossible because it isn’t just that we feel with our hands and arms, chest and shoulders. It’s what we feel in our hearts and minds in response to the whole wood we cut with saws and chisels newly sharpened and fit for purpose. Machine only workers never feel what we feel. Machine woodworking is like watching TV where actors play the part and we imagine we are the people they are on the screen. The senses are only charged by visual emotion and not by the senses sensing by smell and sound and sight, touch and so on. Hang in there, Andy. What we are doing is making a difference. Before people jump all over me, I have full machine shop with mortise machine and planers and jointers. I use a bandsaw most days. But I still cut 99% of mortises by hand and I shall never ever cut a dovetail by machine methods. My tenons come from tenon saws and what you see me do on woodworkingmasterclasses is real and not falsified. I made two of the workbench stools in oak and in pine and it was fast and effective. I think if I had half a dozen doors to make with rails and such I might choose the mortise machine, but if I was learning to make a door for the first time I would use hand methods so that I could develop the skill. Andy, your letter just won you a free nine-day course here at the school. Just let me know when you want to come by choosing a date on the scheduled classes. Now all you have to do is make your way here.



        • Andy in Germany on 2 February 2014 at 9:29 am

          Wow, thank you. Er… when do you run a course in 2015? I’ll finish on Sept the 31st, and after that I’m flexible.



        • Reinoud Delporte on 2 February 2014 at 10:04 am

          Paul, you just made my day!
          I truly believe good things happen to good people. It’s so nice to see such generosity in today’s money driven society.
          Andy, congratulations. I think you will enjoy this course more than anyone. I’m already looking forward to the blog posts from your stay in Wales.



          • Andy in Germany on 2 February 2014 at 7:53 pm

            Thanks Reinoud: I’m still in shock to be honest…



          • gav on 4 February 2014 at 1:23 pm

            I agree with everything that Reinoud just put down. Sometimes the written word can be the highlight of your day. Go for it Andy!



      • Andy in Germany on 2 February 2014 at 9:24 am

        I should add, this is despite sterling work and masses of encouragement from the course tutors who work ery hard to teach us about things like dovetails and hand tools with enthusiasm and generosity, but he system here is financed by the trade guilds and the guilds want machine operators so there’s a heck of a conflict going on…



        • Matthew on 2 February 2014 at 1:08 pm

          Andy keep striving for your goals it can be easy to conform but often hard to follow your hear. Without the valleys there are no mountain tops.



          • Andy in Germany on 2 February 2014 at 7:56 pm

            Thanks for the encouragement Matthew.

            I’m not known for conforming but it is hard to follow a path when almost everyone else is intent on pushing you the other way: it is good to know I’m not alone…



  6. Luke Townsley on 2 February 2014 at 3:36 pm

    Paul, I love this article! I love tools of all kinds, but it’s no wonder we feel disconnected today. Somehow in striving for efficiency we have lost the human touch in our work, our food, our housing, our music, our surroundings, and even in our relationships. We have become disconnected from our own souls.

    Society dictates, figuratively speaking, that when hammers are needed, then all tools should become hammers. And when planes are needed that all tools should become planes. And yet we know intuitively and from personal experience that this will never allow the fullest expression of the abilities of those tools when they are misappropriated.

    It’s time we as humans went back and found that young 13 year old boy within us and rediscovered our God-given passions, abilities, and talents and then shaped our lives around those, working out what God created within us, as you have done with your life.



  7. Ed on 2 February 2014 at 4:36 pm

    As a college bound middle school kid in the US in the mid 70’s, it was hard to get into a shop class, but my parents convinced the school and I got to do wood shop, drafting, electronics, and a bit of sheet metal. Later, in high school, I needed to learn to type and got permission to sit in the typing room during some of my study breaks. The business/typing teacher asked me one day if I knew how to write computer programs because her machinist husband was machining a spherical hollow and need a table of depth vs. radius. I wrote the program and this led to me getting a job in a plastics shop during college summers. In this shop, parts were pulled over molds made of wood by pattern makers, then trimmed with shapers, routers, bandsaws, and scrapers. Things I learned about cobbling jigs for production runs carried over into production running for data analysis in my physics career. It’s odd how things interact. It is a huge mistake for any educational system to close doors and compartmentalize although the discipline of focus somehow has to come through.



  8. Zeil on 2 February 2014 at 10:03 pm

    In my previous life in the 1980s I served a 5 year engineering apprenticeship, 4 years training to be a craftsman and 1 in the drawing office. I then went onto become a computer programmer but constantly yearned for an opportunity to make things again. I stuck programming out for a bit too long but in 2002 trained as a D&T secondary school teacher (in England). I was driven by a want to give something back and remembered my craft lessons at school as the one area in which I did really well and for the first time impressed some of my fellow pupils.

    My teacher training occurred in some very tough schools in which resources where low and risk aversion high (this is now widespread). Ironically the various socio-economic indicators show, to my mind, that these are the schools in which craft skills along with some risk taking and hence trust, are more likely to have a positive outcome. In too many schools it seems to me that D&T has become more of an academic rather than a hands on subject (its largely to do with money). Which again is the last thing that some pupils need. At least the system I experienced as a 11 to 16 year old taught real skills which allowed a pupil to experience an area of the curriculum which might influence career choices never mind make them feel competent to do things around the home e.g. make rather than buy something. Maybe, politically, that is deliberate. Yes, I know things have changed, the industrial base is a fraction of its size 30 years ago and yes you can buy many items of furniture etc. relatively cheaply. You can also put young people through school and then pay them to do nothing at home and let their self-esteem get lower and lower. Perhaps for some it might be better to specifically offer them the opportunity to gain real craft skills at school and then support them to advance those skills further post school and yes along with some business skills. Which would have the greater impact on society in the long run? Soon though I fear there may not be enough people in secondary schools with those skills to pass on. Most of the younger D&T teachers I have come across know only what they have learnt during the process of teacher training.

    I very quickly left mainstream teaching in order to work with a group of pupils termed ‘school refusers’. I hence became a school refuser myself. I was appalled at the narrow minded approach politicians and many teachers applied / accepted in the name of education. Education seems to me now to be largely about giving young people an industrialised method of passing qualifications rather than providing opportunities for independent thought. It definitely is more about a schools targets and reputation rather than the education of individuals. In my current role I teach English maths and science and every now and again I meet a pupil for who none of this works. I am then allowed to pack my folding workbench saws and files in the car and I get the chance to make a boomerang with them. First they cannot believe they have made something and then they cannot believe it works and then there is the chance for their self-esteem to grow. With the pupils I work with self-esteem is all that matters. If they achieve that through mainstream subjects or by making a boomerang its does not matter but what does really really matter is that they get the chance to experience a hands on subject.

    Let me finish by saying that I work with pupils from a range of backgrounds from a range of schools and I know some schools really do embrace a form of D&T that people of my generation and beyond would recognise and yes some brilliant young teachers are delivering this but they are the minority.



    • Paul Sellers on 2 February 2014 at 10:39 pm

      Thanks for this update. I meet and teach many D&T (design and technology) teachers and technicians who appraise me of trends and changes that have left them gagged and bound, headmasters and fellow teachers who simply cannot and are unwilling to understand and as far as politicians go, I think they should try to find some real work to do.
      I really do appreciate your email. I would indeed like to hear more from teachers involved in this area as well as art and craft teachers from any sphere of general education. I am not just blurting out my opinion here. I have listened to hundreds upon hundreds of students struggling to find ways of working earning their living from what they make who took jobs purely based on promises of a good job if they got any kind if university degree only to find it wasn’t true. I love the idea of seeing things made by other countries, but globalising our filth and shipping our filthy industries to other continents instead if getting it right is shameful. Politicians, as yet, never admit that they were wrong. They should be brought to task on issues and tell the people they apologise every time they get it wrong and not wait to be found out or forced to.
      I think your personal experience is very important and very valuable. Can we please hear from more like you or even those who disagree. My experience is that teachers are wonderfully caring individuals just like our nurses and doctors in the NHS.



  9. ray on 3 February 2014 at 10:31 pm

    Mr sellers have you ever done site carpentry?????????



    • Paul Sellers on 3 February 2014 at 10:39 pm

      Yes, I started out as an apprentice bench joiner and then I spent two years as a carpenter. I’ve built two of my own homes in my lifetime as a woodworker, but my first love in craft work has always been designing and making furniture. I loved roof carpentry especially and did all the various levels of what we called first fix, second fix and finish carpentry. My first business in 1975 was called Timbercraft here in the UK. I was 25. I started a second business that ran parallel to that that was a joinery and furniture making business called Makeright. I left them behind in 1987 when I migrated lock, stock and barrel to the USA where we built our first home there.



  10. CarlosJC on 4 February 2014 at 3:57 am

    Great article written and a great gesture made.



  11. ray on 4 February 2014 at 10:55 am

    thats history right there…



  12. Matt on 17 February 2014 at 8:33 am

    An Australian perspective,

    At the age of 26 and having had more jobs then I care to mention, I found my self with nothing to to but follow my dreams of being a woodwork teacher. So I signed up for uni to study education. There were 3 D&T teachers in my cohort, that’s not enough to sustain the facilities that many schools in Australia still have. so…

    What if old saying “Those that can, do and those that can’t teach” can be applied in the best way. In my case I cannot do “fast enough” (due to a hand disability), but it occurs that the real solution for woodwork education in Australia at least, might be injured tradesmen. To bridge the skills gap left from the early 90’s to now, we need people who were trained before that period. A person with the building site experience has been teaching apprentices for decades. While not every semi retired chippy/cabinetmaker would be suited to the school environment, some would make great teachers and hopefully encourage the next generation of woodworkers.



    • Paul Sellers on 17 February 2014 at 5:40 pm

      I don’t know if the Australian teacher training for craftsmanship and skilled workmanship is like here in Britain, but if it is the course will be to train the teachers to teach and not to become crafting artisans who can then teach from their established working knowledge. That was how it used to be. That does not qualify them nor makes them capable of passing on skills because very few D&T teachers are actually capable craftspeople. Pre 50 years or so ago most woodworking and metal working teachers came from a background in those crafts. Today it is a non relational approach to knowledge rather than a relational one. Educators are controlled by educational administrators operating under political management, manipulation and control. At age 16 one of my sons knew more about metal working and woodworking than all of his D&T teachers, technicians and so on. His workmanship far exceeded theirs but their teaching role was to teach him to pass the exams. The sad thing is that, for the main part at least, teachers genuinely care about the students and have their interests at heart. It’s not the teachers’ fault. We have D&T teachers come to our courses because of what they could never get in teacher trying. They often find financing for this but when they don’t they make alternative arrangements and all of this is because they really care. Politicians remember are the ones that sold out young people over four decades by transferring skill-based industries and crafts to import suppliers. Politicians promote consumerism and base their aspirations and future on selling more and more stuff. It’s unfortunate that they measure success on how much people buy, how much money we can measure success by and rarely about “bringing jobs home” until for some weird reason they suddenly listen to the cries of young people saying why can’t I get a job in my own country and in my own town?
      Whereas teachers can be inspiring, today, they are not necessarily best at teaching and transferring skill-based work. When I talk to people about their experience in school, college and university, I would say 65-75% said their experience was very negative but their aspirations high. The remaining percentage had a positive experience in that the teachers cared and inspired them with real insight and input. I think that many felt their experience was a waste of time. So, where does that leave us? I think that you could be right. That, provided there was some way of assessing the skill levels of working craftsmen and women, training could become something of substance as it once was. I hope so.



  13. Joe on 17 March 2016 at 6:55 pm

    Hi Paul,

    I know I am late to the party on this blog entry. I only discovered you a few months ago. I’ve noticed that job satisfaction has been steadily declining and this perplexed me. I am in a thriving industry (pharamaceutical), am paid well, have good benefits, and I know that the drugs I help develop have a real impact to very sick people. Yet, there I was not as satisfied as I used to be. Your blog today hit it spot on. I am a Ph.D. organic chemist and was in school till I was 30 years old learning my craft. In fact, I would say my chemistry training through college, graduate school, and my postdoc (in the UK nonetheless) was more like an apprenticeship. I had developed excellent skills to work with my hands at making and purifying molecules. Yes, there was great technical knowledge but at the end of the day, I got to go in the lab and make and purify things.

    Now that I have shown promise in industry, I have been promoted and no longer work in the lab. Rather, I manage others. There is still an intellectual component but no more hands on. Having a fume hood and a lab in garage is essentially impossible as authorities would just assume I am making illegal drugs. It would also be very expensive.

    What I am finding is that woodworking is allowing me to use my hands again to develop skills that can only be developed by doing (and not watching or sitting in a classroom). I suspect there are many more folks (like engineers and laywers, etc that you mention above) who have a good job and an intellectually demanding field and are dissatisified but don’t know why. I think you are spot on that it is because we are no longer being hands on like we were in our schooling and early in our careers. We now sit behind desks and manage others who get to do the hands on work. No one I know who went to school for these skills every said we want to sit behind a desk. We all felt very passionately and loved the craft (organic chemistry in my case) and wanted to do it ourselves.

    Great post today. I better understand what has been digging under my skin for the better part of a decade.

    Oh, by the way, two and half years ago I spent a great deal of money remodeling my garage (much of it hands on myself). I had intended to go power tools and have a state of the art dust collection system (I know the hazards of wood dust). Then I came across others writings on hand tools. A lack of dust, noise, spinning blades of death. It all made sense almost immediately. Fortunately, I hadn’t bought the power tools yet. The only regret in the garage (which I can live with) is that I have more electrical power and outlets than I will every need. Power tools are deeply imbedded in the American mindset as the way to work with wood. It almost now seems silly that I didn’t even think of hand tools at the time of the remodel.

    Keep up the good work.