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How We Measure Success

DSC_0028As my hands seem stronger than ever and my lungs fill and exhale with the pressures of planing and sawing, I catch myself  as I reflect on my work training new woodworkers to become truly skilled and competent. Very few courses offer what we have given these past 25 years. Imagine making a dovetailed box within a few hours of finding out the difference between a marking gauge and a mortise gauge or a tenon saw and a gent’s saw. Imagine knowing that sharpness comes in a few minutes at the bench with a few short lectures and that your hands are but hours away from mastering the same skills I have used for 50 years. I’m talking about a fully dovetailed box with rounded edges and not a single trace of machine work in the whole.DSC_0034 Recessed solid brass hinges that have no gaps and an heirloom quality project to boot. More than that, you then make a wallshelf unit with through dovetails and then go on to make an oak table and thats nine days. Also, it’s not just a box or a shelf  and a table. PICT0071All of that translates into box making, big and small, book shelving and even dining tables and more. That’s what will happen as I close this year with yet two more Foundational courses and 8 more online broadcast videos that will go to thousands of people around the world. DSC_0061The courses are about full yet again. There may be one or two places left but that’s all. I’m gratified by the support we have gained over the decades and now as we plan the 2015 schedule I’m gratified all the more by invitations from around the world to spread the good news on other continents too. The 2015 classes have been well received too. I am looking forward to meeting you when you come from Israel and New York, from Sweden and Denmark and Switzerland too. Thank you for booking your bench spaces early.

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Our year has seen tremendous successes too many to number and we embrace the prospect of a new year ready to unfold. How you measure success in my line of work is not by the bottom line at an accountants pen or a spread sheet but by the number of people who we feel have been transformed in the way they think and work and live their lives. DSC_0025Consistently throughout this year we have managed yet again to debunk myths and mysteries and false statements and claims. Yes, all this is true, but more than that we have equipped a new generation of people who love the idea of working with wood to become real woodworkers on the different continents of the world. In India I see many of you searching for peace and a simpler way of providing for your families and you tell me that our video teaching has helped you to better understand how to make changes for an alternative lifestyle working wood. DSC_0132 You say you now are better able to question false hopes and aspirations and search out real ways that you can master skills and establish yourselves as skilled craftsmen and women. These are success stories for me. In the USA and Canada  you say that you are now wring with your sons and daughters in the evenings in the workshop and on the weekends you are building projects you never dreamed that you might. You’ve unplugged some of your machines and left them that way for months. Your are splitting and riving materials and making joints that look as though they were made by an ancient crafting artisan. This is how my accountancy measures success. You can’t really buy this because it isn’t for sale and it cannot be bought. It’s whole new way of erudition and I see fruit in people’s lives that they know was well worth the investment of time and finance because, quite simply, it changed them.

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As  I work towards this weekend and the start of a new class of foundational woodworking my hear begins to sing inside somehow and for some reason. Why is that? Why after 25 years of teaching over 5,000 people to work with their hands do I feel the same as I did all those years ago. Well, let me tell you. It’s because I have learned that I can change the way people think about woodworking. It’s because I prove you can live and work successfully in an unplugged shop with compromising quality and by delivering skilled craftsmanship to men and women. DSC_0245My pulse beat pounds and my heart races as I just think about these things. One by one people get off the conveyor belt and discover what they were searching for when they began woodworking 20 years ago and couldn’t find it. Now they sharpen their saws and there planes and chisels. They split tenons to lines with exactness and cut the mating parts of dovetails one by one and put them together knowing that they will be married for one hundred years. 

The projects we make are major for foundational work because we feel we can press people to a level that they feel they accomplishing good standards of workmanship as they learn. Look at the boxes and the shelves and then look at the people’s faces. It’s all about relationships. That’s how I measure success!DSC_0040

13 Comments

  1. Tom Benim on 12 November 2014 at 12:06 am

    Dear Paul,

    I took your foundation course about 7 years ago while you were in Texas. The only difference was the table was in walnut not oak. I retired this year and found your website while looking for additional woodworking classes to attend. I would love to be there in person, but failing that, the Masterclass series, and the you tube videos are fantastic. Keep up the good work, and if you have any classes back Ian US, I hope I can be first to sign up.

    Regards,

    Tom



  2. medullaryray on 12 November 2014 at 12:57 am

    Thank you Paul for all you do! I can’t find the words to tell you how truly fortunate we are to have you guide us out of the darkness, slaying the dragons of woodworking misinformation that clog the vast, impenetrable internet forest!



  3. gblogswild on 12 November 2014 at 3:21 am

    I’m still hoping for Minneapolis on his next US tour. Aim for summer 😉



  4. Carlos J. Collazo on 12 November 2014 at 5:51 am

    Paul, I look forward to meeting you and the rest of the stellar artisans in the workshop. As I prepare for the journey, I reflect on the projects we the students will build, and the fun to be had in the journey. I think I have learned much of value through this blog alone about the the value and nature of true work, and craftsmanship in general. I’ve found the insights apply across many fields and life areas. I’ve found it true in my field of providing language and translations services for LE (Limited-English) speakers and others here in the U.S. A translator, as a type of writer, does well to look to the crafting artisan as an example of a pure type of work, real work, worlds apart from a machine that would replace him.



    • Paul Sellers on 12 November 2014 at 9:00 pm

      So looking forward to meeting you Carlos and talking through some thoughts I have to make my blog available for Spanish speaking peoples around the world. John of course speaks Spanish as his native tongue although his English is perfect as he lived here and went to school in the UK for much of his school life.



      • Carlos J. Collazo on 15 November 2014 at 10:00 pm

        So glad to have finally met, Paul. It’s great to be hearing about so many fascinating and life-changing projects going on and upcoming with the School. I too look forward to discussing and sharing ideas on extending the reach of your writings and teaching beyond any language barriers. Though many know English, I agree the knowledge would be more powerfully communicated and widely dispersed if received in their dominant language.



        • Paul Sellers on 15 November 2014 at 11:16 pm

          Well, we can make this happen if we have the help.



  5. Steve Massie on 13 November 2014 at 2:41 pm

    Paul another great Blog. I am one of those people that has a shop full of all the power tools minus a table saw which I sold I sold to a friend when I moved back to Florida from Atlanta. Other than my 3/8″ electric drill and my band saw once in a while I haven’t used any of my power tools since I discovered you.

    I would love to attend one of your classes but being retired now and having to watch my budget it is not possible. However your You Tube Video’s and Woodworking Master Classes and of course reading your Blog daily has made me a better wood worker. I really enjoy working with hand tools and learning how things were done way back when, wish I had started earlier in life. I have learned so much from you and I Thank you for that, perhaps one day if and when you get back to the States I will be able to meet you and shake your hand or attend one of your classes.

    In the mean time I enjoy what I have and if I get stuck on something I can revert back to your blog or video’s which I have done many a time.

    Please keep up the good work and can’t wait to see what you have for store for us in 2015.

    Steve



  6. Xavi on 14 November 2014 at 4:52 pm

    Congrats!!!! 1000 Thanks team!!!!



  7. mmelendrez1955 on 14 November 2014 at 4:56 pm

    As I feel compelled to reply this blog has left me speechless in a wonderful way. I am at peace and all I can do is smile and say Thank You.



  8. Erik Hinkston on 16 November 2014 at 8:39 pm

    More success in the future for you, I hope to make the trip there or somewhere in the US to take a class from you. Meanwhile I will learn from your writings and videos, thank you for your service…



  9. Erik Hinkston on 16 November 2014 at 8:44 pm

    One of the best blog posts I’ve ever read, spectacular. Choked me up as I read it to my wife. I really hope to take a class some day, the best to you and yours. Thank you for your service.



  10. Marty on 6 October 2016 at 8:44 pm

    Folks define success in many ways. For me it’s more about contentment and being pleased with my life as opposed to my earlier years when failure seemed so disappointing. Now failure is a learning opportunity to which success is so much more obtainable.
    You’ve reached a great deal of success to which you have worked hard for and I suspect brings a great deal of contentment. For me every day is a success even if all I do is drink coffee and watch a football game on the television, but making things with my own hands brings success even when it doesn’t look exactly how I pictured it starting out.



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