Working Wood Has Depth and Meaning When You Use Your Hands.

DSC_0019Today begins the new Shaker Deacon’s workbench series that deploys hand tools to the whole of the project and no lathe or machines at all. Getting people off the conveyor belt is really working and all the more through our master class videos, which has been something lacking for us over the years. The written word will always be integral to what I do in providing training for woodworkers around the world partly because of my love woodworking and the other part because I love to write. This tandem bike means both riders push and pull on the pedals in equal measure to get my training out there and I should tell you how many page views that is each month. We now have over a 150  videos out there in one form or another and hard to imagine but at least 60 of them are free. DSC_0016The Shaker deacon’s bench series was a pretty bold step if you think about it. No lathe-turned components, no machine jointed edges, no tablesaw cuts and no band sawn shapes at all. What does that translate into? Well, the important thing to remember is this. This bench can be made in about 100 square feet. More is better but it’s still a fraction of what you might need for half a dozen machines. In feed and out feed for a five foot deacon’s bench is 10 feet from the cutter head plus some. Same for the tablesaw, bandsaw and power planer. I calculate about 100 square feet per unit but you can crossover the same space some for a slightly smaller footprint. This is progress everyone. Progress!!!!

Adding into the equation that you provide all of the energy and get your exercise at the same time is one thing, but on the other hand it’s you that’s doing it all too. This the very training I intend for you get and imagine how well you will handle a spokeshave when you are done.


We finishing filming one of the next upcoming series today. It’s not a large piece of furniture like the Deacon’s bench but look at this frame and imagine such neatness without yet again using any kind of machine. In this series we create different moulds in under a minute but I have no router in my shop anywhere. The moulds are made using methods you may or may not have heard of and we use different methods just incase you don’t special planes. We make inlays, and moulds and we use no metal fastenings such as screws, nails or metal curvey bits.


When I run the moulds or cut the rebates (rabbets USA and France) I feel my heart beating by the time I’ve taken around 50 strokes. I push and pull sometimes until my arms or hands ache but I don’t sweat much even in hotter climes. I like the honesty of sweat too though. It doesn’t bother me much at all. 


It takes me an hour to make a frame and when I’m done and frame a picture of my son or my grandchildren or a wedding for a friend I feel a certain sense of happiness I rarely feel from other things I do. Working wood with hand tools is different than letting a machine fill your shop with poison and your lungs along with it. I feel my skills working for me and I feel fulfilled. A man came into my shop two days ago and asked me if I made things for people. At first I answered in the negative because I have a lot of work on hand to do. We talked and he picked up a dovetailed corner I made to show a dovetail. he told me he would like to buy something like that because it was so beautiful. he said he would like to give something like that to his grandchildren even though they might not know what to do with it or even want it. I understand when people stop in busy lives to like things skilfully made. I like to make things for people who enjoy what was once called by its simplest of names, workmanship. Workmanship was once the measure of a man who’s work had qualities that needed no proving The man rested in anonymity and peace and pay came with it.


  1. Erin on 6 August 2014 at 10:53 pm

    Hi, Paul. For a person who has been building for awhile but with power tools, screw and glue joinery, and using manmade sheet goods, would you recommend doing the book and DVD series before starting on the master classes? Want to sign up for the master classes but not sure if I need to get the basics down with smaller projects first.

    • Paul Sellers on 6 August 2014 at 11:24 pm

      I am not sure what to say here. I think woodworkingmasterclasses has developed quickly and everyone seems to enjoy the weekly presentations. You have access to over 100 videos and that increases every week. I wrote the book as a foundation course over 20 years or so and it seems to have served its purpose. It does cover the basics and so does my blog and

      • erin on 8 August 2014 at 11:23 pm

        Thank you, Paul. I will do both the book and the class. Really love your videos on YouTube. Your teaching approach is so calm and smooth. 🙂 -Erin

    • brianj on 7 August 2014 at 2:04 pm

      Hello, allow me to jump in here, I purchased the book, then very shortly after joined masterclasses. SO much to gain no matter what you choose, the masterclasses allow more interaction with other likeminded folks from around the world if you enjoy and find gain from that. Brian

      • rin on 8 August 2014 at 11:21 pm

        Thank you, Brian. I think I will follow your lead and do both the book and the next project on masterclasses. 🙂 Erin

      • Erin on 8 August 2014 at 11:25 pm

        I think it ate my comment, so thank you Brian! I will get the book and try the next project on the Masterclass. -Erin

        • Paul Sellers on 9 August 2014 at 7:40 am

          Erin, sometimes comments get stowed until someone here approves them. Mostly its quick but sometimes not, and sometimes things do disappear. I keep all my files in a file and then copy and paste so as not to lose my work because of that.
          Thanks for persevering.

          • Erin on 9 August 2014 at 1:59 pm

            Paul, thank you so much for your replies. I know how busy you are, and appreciate you taking the time. I love how friendly and supportive the people on this site are! -Erin

    • Andrew Wilkerson on 9 August 2014 at 9:06 am

      I recommend the dvds and book. I ordered mine on Amazon and it arrived (to my house in Australia) within a few days packed in a nice box all together (despite Amazon’s estimated delivery date saying it was weeks away). Well worth the money.

      I was a paying masterclass member for a while and will probably start paying again in a few months once I’ve watched all the dvds and read the book but at this stage I can just watch at my own pace without worrying about wasting money each month for content I haven’t had time to watch.
      Not that I think masterclasses is a waste of money but it just suits me more at the moment to have the dvd’s and book to work through at my own pace. I will join up on masterclasses again in future and then I’ll be able to catch up on all the new videos I’ve missed.
      That’s my opinion anyway, just thought I’d share. My biggest problem now is trying to keep up with Paul’s blog entries and video’s and still have time for actual woodworking. It’s addictive. I don’t know where Paul finds the time to do all he does but I’m very grateful he does and only wish I’d discovered him years ago. Thanks again Paul.

      • erin on 9 August 2014 at 1:53 pm

        Thank you, Andrew! That was my concern, really – I am slow and might not be able to keep up with the pace of the weekly classes. I will start with the book and DVDs and work through them an d hopefull be ready for the next class project. -Erin

  2. snekkerbua on 6 August 2014 at 10:58 pm

    Dear Paul, I could write for hours how impressed I am of the work you do, not only the woodwork but also the writing and teaching about life philosophy. I have always liked to work with wood (my father used to be a carpenter) but I always used powertools, simply because I thought I had to. Now they are all stacked away and secondhand real tools from ebay and friends are in use, it’s for me another and much better world, the real world. So thank you very much for having inspired me to start real woodworking, actually if I don’t get to work some wood every day I get frustrated and grumpy! Keep up the good work you do! Greetings from Benny in Norway 🙂

  3. Jean-Luc Coulon on 7 August 2014 at 1:21 pm

    Hi Paul,

    Why do you say: “or cut the rebates (rabbets USA and France)”?

    In France, rabbet has no meaning at all. The direct translation of rebate is “feuillure”.


    • Paul Sellers on 7 August 2014 at 5:14 pm

      Never looked it up but as a child was was told that the French for rebate was rabbet so it stayed with me.