Without a Challenge There is No Achievement

DSC_0047 The nine-day class starts its fourth day on track today and as usual it’s heads down and no need to crack the whip. Already I see new levels of confidence even though at times they may feel they are floundering. The chisels are held more accurately now and so too the plane cleans off the nubs of the dovetailed boxes ready for hingeing the lids. Today we start shelf building and that means stopped housing dadoes and through mortise and tenons.

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I see more and more the need for my work and of course some people arrive with skills and knowledge where others come to get them. All in all there is a lit to learn for both camps and those somewhere in between. Most of the time its a smooth flow throughout the day but then glitch comes and everyone learns from what happens. Dealing with high expectations is usually the biggest issue for some. DSC_0026 False expectations and a microwave mentality can be difficult to shift from but when I explain that unrealism causes more distress than the real we move on and become increasingly more aware that the process brings fulfilment and not falling into the pit of wanting being approved. If you are already there then there is no achievement. Without a mountain there is no challenge. We are learning that life is indeed like wood in that it comes with knots in it.

All in all we are already making great progress and new reality is beginning for everyone. In this class we have three from the US and one from Switzerland as well as the Brits. Personalities start to show and people relax with one another a little more hour by hour. New friendships are formed and smiles come more quickly. Willie from Switzerland takes the jokes of high expectation because everyone expects his work to be as a Swiss-made watch and Steve, our retired symphony violinist, takes my suggestions of risk at the tool edge alongside my comparisons with tweaking the pressures on the strings to achieve perfect cuts with good humour too.


John made another masterful box with a sliding lid from secondhand oak and mahogany. DSC_0081 DSC_0094 DSC_0075 Its very fine with 1/8” mortise and tenoned frame and panel and shaped sliding lid in quartersawn oak. We are al inspired by one another. Fires rarely burn with a single log but when two logs and then a third and fourth and more ignite and spark you start a blaze of spontaneity and inspiration.


  1. How I wish I could be there attending the class with you! John, that is a beautiful box; the lid sets it apart. Paul, my highest regards to you, your family, and your students.

  2. Paul,

    I often envy your joy! For me sometimes the challenge is when I get out of the “zone”! Did some woodworking yesterday. Felt good!

  3. Paul.

    perhaps this is not the right forum but I thought you would not mine. My son is 4 years old and he loves woodworking. I am a police officer by trade and a hobbyist woodworker. I want to buy my som a small hand saw for x-mas and i was wondering would you would recomend. Also what projects would you recommend for him to start.

    thanks Elvin

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