Another Busy Week in the Shop

P1010625 The past week has been busy with a variety of things accomplished, partly done and planned to be done soon. We finished off the toolbox series all the way down to lock and handles and we will most likely make a 10 minute video on painting it using layered milk paint or similar. The mixture was fairly typical for a new-year start really and launching into it means a new batch series of smaller, carry-away projects to build stock up for selling in the spring when the tourists come to Penrhyn Castle—things like spoons and oak clocks, painted boxes, cutting boards and such. We’ll make furniture and sell off some of the projects we made for the films as well as sign people up for workshop classes too. The increase of students from other countries and continents to raise the percentages to anywhere between 60-70% this last year. This makes our training more of a business business than we might really want. Working to find the balance can be challenging because when everything becomes a priority you really have to start setting limits and prioritise in order.


Lea made really good progress this week as I expected. Not sure if I mentioned it P1020060 previously but she attended one of my month longs a couple of years ago. Anyway, she’s been making the splay legged table we made on woodworking masterclasses last year, as an upcycling project from an old mahogany table. She’s prepped her mahogany, chopped the mortises, tapered the legs and started fitting tenons.

P1010841 I have been splitting my time between between working on my new book, sketching and drawing, photographing and spreading the good news about lifestyle woodworking. The shop is undergoing a bit of a makeover around my bench area to fit new aspects that make the filming easier and more versatile P1020172 so new equipment means squeezing my working area and renewing a few things. One question I wanted to ask is this. Some of you have asked me to walk you through some of my tools in the cupboards behind me and to the side of me. You know, unpack them and talk about them as we film. To show what they do and how they work as I lift them down or out. What do you think about the idea?

eBay more than cheap searching

The blog yesterday seemed popular and I think with good reason. Here are a couple more thoughts to flesh out what I said. I use eBay mainly because of the leg work it saves me and because of the demise of DIY shops, hardware shops and other sources we once had. No single shop can stock the diverse amounts we have access to at the click of a key and delivery for me is often next day. Whereas I strongly dislike wasting time trolling through the excesses of the internet, I have established a protocol that works well for me and my searches take a matter of minutes not hours. 

This week I found several items I needed that saved money and gave me good value in tools and shop supplies. 10 metres of 240-grit open coat sand paper in the local supply merchant cost £13. 50 metres online for the same make and product costs £19 with free 2-day shipping to my front door. Whereas I would much prefer using a local retailer and wouldn’t mind paying a normal markup of 100%, I owe them no loyalty when their mark up rises to three times and often more. P1020158

One thing I liked about living and working in the US was that most hardware stores have little bins with harder to find items like small screws, nuts, bolts, thumbscrews and so on in a range of materials ranging from brass to plastic and wood to mica. We don’t have that here and so locating them can be time consuming and costly. At least that became the case even before eBay came on the scene. An unusual sale of 10 boxes of new, old-stock Nettlefold 1/2”, #4 English-made brass screws fuelled my nostalgic juices for a better product and coupled with a genuine need for more stock. This gave me a saving of 75%. That’s a saving of a year’s searching and buying too. These are the things I find useful useful to me.

P1020149 In my searching for a more economic knife to try out for spoon carving I came across this and another knife. This one costs £5 with free shipping and I am pretty certain that it will make a good knife.  It’s not so much hammer forged but then most sold are not either. For someone trying out for the first time those available might be too prohibitive  so I thought to find an alternative for starters that aren’t so highly priced but will work to get started with. P1020147 Something like the Aldi chisel syndrome snapped in my synapses when I thought, “Yes”, this might just work for those intent on fashioning spoons with knives. It’s actually well made with a hard and dense-grained wooden handle, brass rivets peened in and a well-shaped steel blade with cutting edges to both sides. My thinking on looking at the knife is that the blade could be reground along one edge for a single sided blade and buy a second knife for an opposite one or use this one as is as a push or pull knife. The wooden handle can be shaped to suit or left as it is quite comfortable already. First I want to sharpen the blade and test it out and then I want to see how it reshapes under the hammer.

EBay is not my favourite choice and neither is Amazon, but it’s become one of the best resources available to me in a world of ever-diminishing local stores. There are other aspects to eBay, even just to look for images alone. Look at this tool here. It’s called a tektool and it’s used for cutting narrow grooves that can be worked in push and pull direction according to grain orientation. It will cut deep grooves for recessing panels and also for string inlays on curved surfaces. Where might I look for such a tool do think? I bought this as soon as I saw it because I knew it would be good tool to own.


P1020141 Bent spoon and bowl gouges are still being made and I still favour the German made Hirsch brand as some of the very best available. For deep work inside hollow coves ranging from leaf carvings to deep,deep ladles a straight gouge doesn’t always lend itself to the awkward scoops.  So here again I was glad to find an old beauty even though new ones are not too expensive at around £40 for a lifetime tool. I paid more than I might normally, but £19 still isn’t much for a really fine tool like this one.

P1020090 Phil and Hannah came in yesterday and worked on the rocking chair; to finish off the upholstery mostly. We have a couple yet to be finished when we find that couple of days spare soon I hope. P1020099 There is something quite awesome though about sitting in something you made with your own hands. I still feel it each time I do that. But you know what? It’s even more special when you see someone you trained make one and sit in it and smile. Icing on the cake!!! P1020104


  1. great post i’m all for you talking us through your tool cupboard ,its great to be told about a tool when the person telling isn’t trying to sell the said tool ,i just wish i knew what tool was going to next on your recommendation list so i could get one before they shoot up in price once you’ve spoken about them ,its a pity most of the british manufacturing has gone as buying from abroad something that was once made down the road is quite annoying.

  2. I’ve always wanted to reach through the screen and look through those tool cupboards…. so yes, I think it’s a very good idea.

  3. Phil looks fantastic sitting in his rocking chair. As does Hannah, but his face bears that look of ownership and pride. I look forward to your finding those spare days so that I can complete mine too. Happy New Year to all. Mick.

  4. I would definitely like to know more about the tools you value how to use, sharpen and look after them. Thank you.

  5. Paul, in the same blog I beieive you have answered your own question. Finding a tool, then examening it’s potential uses, ones imagination grows as to new projects,how to better preform a function, Eg your new knife and it’s application for spoons. For the same reasons you read Aldren A.Watson. You already explain tools thourhly when they come to hand in use. And the alternitives. I see two sides to this question, like many others I consume as much of your education as you relay it. The other side, like a project, it is sometimes hard to know when to stop. I am amazed of how much you relay as is. To add another aspect would perhaps tax you that bit to much. Follow and be patient, and at some stage one would receive the answers they require. I’d like to know more about milk paint as you use it. In the above blog, you mention that you intend to delve in to that subject. My two bob’s worth, all the best, Peter
    Melbourne Australia

  6. Hi Paul. I think the video idea to go through your cupboards etc is a great idea and one I think many would enjoy. Loving the current series on the toolbox by the way!

  7. Paul, I agree that seeing all the treasures in the cupboard behind you would be a great, educational treat. But I’d like to ask you to take it a step further…. I’d like to see a series on building that cupboard with the three small drawers underneath.

  8. Hi Paul. I enjoy the experience of a master craftsman showing his tools, and explaining their uses. I browse through eBay and come across tools that make me wonder what they were used for. Sometimes the sellers has no clue either, since they came across the tool from a barn sale or Grandpa. Sad that Grandpa never explained their tools. Or, maybe they tried, but no one listened.
    please enlighten us.

    Lynn – Indiana USA

  9. Hi Paul. I would love to see you go through the depths of your tool arsenal. More specifically, I would love to know more about Norris or infill style planes. They seem to have a majestic quality that you cannot get in a standard plane.

  10. Seeing all those tools would be interesting. Also, I just took an intro to inlay. Did some stringing and saw numerous techniques demonstrated. I would like to know more about the best tools for inlay, especially since you mentioned that tool for curved stringing.

  11. Hi Paul!
    As others already mentioned it would be great to have a look on your lovely tools.
    I often find planes on ebay where I have to a ask myself what is that tool for? What can I do with it?
    Often the correct designation is missing because the seller does not know it too.
    So you even cannot google what it is for because the search terms are missing.
    I still have one wooden plane in my workshop that I received as a gift and I don’t know what type of plane it is. Perhaps I send you a picture of it and ask your help.

    Best regards


    1. Hi dominik i’m sure if you put a picture of the plane on the masterclasses forum there will be people there who could help you identify it, best of luck Eddy

  12. Paul I am in the camp of the others as I am intrigued by what and how you do things. And knowing and seeing your tools is a bonus I would endear to see. I am also interested in Milk Painting as I have not tried that yet.

    You have showed us your your sharpening methods but would love to see how you sharpen that curved hook knife. I really want to get into spoon and ladle carving as well and bought a vintage Hirsch #7 gouge but need a few other tools, I also bought and older axe.

    Keep up the good work and thanks for sharing your experience.


    PS: How will we be able to purchase your new book and is their a time frame yet when it will be available yet?

    1. Just reshaped and sharpened the one I bought so will be blogging on the results soon.

  13. I like the idea of showing the tools in the shop which are not displayed in the video series. Something else I wondered about is what you do off-camera and what your routine is with things like sharpening your pencils, cleaning your bench, sweeping the floor. I think it would be a good supplement of the project focussed videos to show the things an apprentice would have picked up on the fly which are part of the everyday life of a woodworker.

    1. Yes we talked about letting the cameras run for an hour or two one of these times.

  14. Videos with a more in-depth discussion of your tools would be fantastic. As was said above, they shouldn’t detract from your current efforts in producing project series or the more directly practical matters such as sharpening or tool restoration (your video on a wooden jack being invaluable for the restoration of my Mathieson jack plane. But I am sure you can find the right balance. There are so many tools about that it can be difficult to get some clear advice from the people who actually use them — there are lots of tool theorists but far too few with actual experience in their use. Furthermore, what a gift for the woodworking community and for future woodworkers to have that knowledge of tools and their use recorded.

  15. Paul,
    This reply is not necessarily for publishing on the internet, but a question to you regarding the modeling of an artisan lifestyle you recommend in your videos. It is not intended to be a challenge to you but a sincere question regarding how does one set limits nicely in business? Is this a creep in your scope and how will this impact the quality of your site given your indications of less time to do multiple tasks from your post several weeks ago?

    I understand the zeal of wanting to see what treasures are in your cabinets, I, also, am curious. I am wondering how this fits with your original stated goals in your book on artisan woodworking about making almost anything using 10 tools(paraphrased from memory)? I do realize that over a couple of years we seemed to add a plow plane, though I am sure you might be able to construct poor mans plow plane and of course you demonstrated how to create grooves in your Master Classes with a saw,chisel, and hand router.

    I do appreciate all you do and continue to follow your website. I will be interested in seeing how you balance our desires versus what we need to learn. I have come from not being able to make anything( except with machines) to knowing I can make almost anything I wish thanks to your efforts.
    Thank you again for all you do.

    1. I really don’t recommend people do what I do but try to work out what they would do if they had the opportunity to direct their life outside of career paths. My questioning students in classes over the years tells me only 1 in 20 people would choose the lifestyle they currently have and would change their career, not have gone to university and would have chosen the harder path of being a crafting artisan had they thought it possible. My advise is work the day job as a second job and the second job as a lifestyle if that’s the best you can scheme toward. at least you’ll have half a lifestyle you enjoy.That may well transition you to something you can really enjoy. My family enjoyed my working from home and so we all made sacrifices to make that happen. My children were indeed low demand children compared to others. They were always contented being in the family. My wife has always supported my work and has her own avenues too. She’s presently doing a degree course. We both have our lives surrounding family and friends. I retired when I was 25 years old. That’s when I became self employed and never looked back.
      As to the tools. I’m sorry I need to explain this but obviously something is missing. I have said often enough that I rely on about ten tools in any given day. I own hundreds more but still rely on about ten. The point of course is to counter the culture of mostly the USA that you must have a full machine shop to be an advanced woodworker. There is a culture that says why do it the hard way, work smart not hard. I’ve found many people that actually like to work hard. The culture that left kids outside the workshop door because it was unhealthy and dangerous is highly questionable. When I returned to live in the UK after 25 years stateside I was surprised pleasantly to find that most European woodworkers have no machines at all. That’s the opposite to the US. Or at least it was. Now that’s changing as in the US thousands of woodworkers are changing their strategy to embrace hand power and the rewards are wonderfully inspiring because thousands of people are enjoying better woodworking, better health and a better sense of wellbeing.

  16. Another vote to a tool talk session. I think it would be valuable learning opportunity as a tool itself, a chance to take a peek back through a working history. As many of us may only ever have the online opportunity to see this side of what Paul can offer (geographically challened as many of us are.) I would happliy watch 2-3 hours of this sort of video, assuming it may be like the workshop tour.?
    Many thanks.

Comments are closed.

Privacy Notice

You must enter certain information to submit the form on this page. We take the handling of personal information seriously and appreciate your trust in us. Our Privacy Policy sets out important information about us and how we use and protect your personal data and it also explains your legal rights in respect of it. Please click here to read it before you provide any information on this form.