An Emerging Craftsman — John Winter

DSC_0013 2The past couple of days are indelibly impressed in my inner being having watched John work on his toolbox to create something so uniquely him. There’s a saying we hear often, “You have to see it to believe,” but I might favour a slight shift and say, “It’s got to be seen to believe it.” His hands move so quickly now, deftly, responsively sensing the wood beneath the tool’s edge. He twists in minute degrees of realignment and the wood responds submissively to the pressures he flexes and suddenly a joint fits as he presses the two parts together. The hammer drives them deep until all the air between them is gone and so too the glue that presses out along the joining lines. I feel the weight of responsibility as I toss advise from my bench and then I step in close to tell him something no one else knows when they drive a wide array of dovetails together. DSC_0031I speak quietly of the method he knows nothing of. I tell him the two corners cannot unite with the tight tolerances he has perfected each tail and pin with, but there is a method, only one, we use that few will know anything of. We use it and the joints settle to perfection. I share this secret in the next video series on making a traditional joiner’s toolbox. It eliminates the inevitable glue freeze and corner fracture normally associated with so many dovetails in one lineup. All the way through John’s being here I have shared everything I know with him and I have watched him drive himself all the deeper into his working knowledge. I don’t believe this ends with wood or woodworking tools and his skills. He’s developed the deep and ever-deepening insights into a world craft and the art of craftwork alone holds.DSC_0053 2 I remember the day I too crossed the threshold of knowledge that somehow defies the academic and the analysis — the day I know I consciously and subconsciously possessed my craft and knew that no one and nothing could take away what I then understood. Being absorbed into the art of work, discovering the art in your craft being applied to all areas of your worklife, means there are no separations to piecemeal your creativity by the starts and stops of commerce. The machines and machinery of industrialism’s buzzers and whistle warnings, unions, employers, fellow employees and things that often subvert creation itself are all left behind. Discovering these things and living in them is a rare and marvellous way.


As the dovetails formed through many days, with spaces between bouts, a rhythm developed. It’s the rhythm of an uninterrupted confidence craftsmanship alone seems destined always to hold. A rhythmic pulse beats its steady beat in pace with each stroke the saw cuts  and severs and I see dovetails forming in the reflection of his eyes. DSC_0069The chequered contrast between the tan of oak and the brown mahogany spaced intermittently reminds me of how thankful I am for wood and woodlands and the forests that so richly reward us but, and all the more, watching as an emerging craftsman becomes ever creative with his own hands for me is icing on the cake.


  1. Steve Massie on 26 November 2014 at 11:51 am

    John has certainly turned into a very talented Craftsman in the time he has spent with you, good for him, I am sure he is very proud and thankful of his accomplishments. Is John soon to be leaving you ? And if so I wish him well onto his new learned craft and hope he carries the legacy on.


  2. John Peterson on 26 November 2014 at 8:30 pm

    That is so cool. Paul what an awsome tribute to you and your training program. Another great woodworker emerging. Very inspiring. Thank you for posting this. John Peterson

  3. Andrew Wilkerson on 26 November 2014 at 11:38 pm

    I’m trying to guess what this secret dovetail method is. Does it have anything to do with a different glue method perhaps? I know Rob Cosman showed a trick once in his boxmaking videos but I’m thinking Paul has something here no one else has ever mentioned. I will try to refrain from playing the guessing game. My mind is ticking over. Can’t wait for the toolbox build.

  4. Brian Lowery on 27 November 2014 at 1:56 am

    Can’t wait to see and hear your dovetail assembly “secret”. I wonder why there is an obvious long grain joint that splits the 4th pin.on John’s toolbox. Must be there for a reason.

  5. Jim Chrisawn on 27 November 2014 at 2:10 am

    thank you for sharing. You are indeed passing yourself on to the next generation. I am so impressed that someone his age has stuck to it and that both you and John have been able to share with each other this special relationship. You both, no doubt, have much invested beyond finances and from what you have shared it has been and is worth it all. There is something about working with someone who wants to learn that cannot be expressed in our limited vocabulary. Keep up the good work it does pay off. Blessings to you both! Jim

  6. Brianj on 27 November 2014 at 11:15 pm

    Fantastic looking pins and tails! Well done John, it seems Mr Sellers is impressed and that should say something. all the best in whatever the future holds!