Life Skills In Real Woodworking Passed On Yet Again.

P1030999I don’t know if my week this week interests anyone else, whether it measures up to a week you might understand or even want to hear about, but I write thinking perhaps it might. These are some of my digital images; a few recorded moments in nine days when we progressed an intent to change. The images were taken from the 1,000 or so I took this week. It’s the quiet pockets of life people live in when they work that I like the most.

P1040078Different things impressed me about these men this week. They all have their own distinct characters, characteristic mannerisms, ways of hammering, chopping, pressing the chisel into the wood and even the unique way they each ask their questions throughout the days. I was tired tonight when I wrapped up the closing two hours, but everyone seemed happy to be saying goodbye. I guess they had mixed feelings goodbyes bring when combined with looking forward to being with family again.

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It’s all too easy to isolate 12 men’s lives to a mere woodworking course. But of course you could do a few days on woodworking course anywhere. Why would some of them travel so far from their roots to be here in North Wales? I mean, why pay for travel and stay in a strange place rather be in your own bed and be with family? Every minute, I mean right from the saying hi’s at 9am day one, was like slipping quietly into a lake and swimming in spheres of total creativity. P1040075My part in this was to listen, to listen and watch. Listen to the saws cutting, planes striking the surfaces. Things like that. Every few minutes a moment comes and that special opportunity to invest in restructuring common methods of thought. The bench is an anchor for these men. I hear their questions and give the best answer I can from my lifelong woodworking. For me I must realign my way of life as a maker to teach and train. I invest what I’ve learned and built in the safest possible place I can think of. In a sense it’s more a condition than anything else. When someone wants to become a master of something they prepare a place to receive and store the information. It’s a safe place I’ve found. A protected place. P1040060I see a man on his knees tightening clamps and remind myself that skill begins to build with a single chisel cut, a saw stroke and the placing of a plane on a board of wood. So I look at this week’s memories and see different things that I learned and think back to 1989 when I started seriously teaching people how to work with wood. I said to myself back then that something  had to change.P1030952 Every woodworker I met at that time, without a single exception, was a machine-only guy to a man. It was the result of another man’s influence and a series of TV shows in the USA. So very powerful was this show that woodworkers throughout the US started dressing, talking and acting the same way. Hand tools were left aside, displaced and the new “power tools” started a fashion ever changing with each new battery type, size and casing. The show didn’t birth pictures like these bit it birthed the new era of woodworking whereby woodworkers became machinists. The donned hardhats and eye protection, face shields, dust masks and even respirators with battery packs strapped to their backs or hips. it was funny to watch how much they as the hung their ear protectors around their necks when they started work and wore them for many hours each day.They loved what freedoms the machine gave them.  That is for a little while anyway. P1030696But then something started shifting. Mainly there was the acknowledgement that everything looked like it came out of Home Depot. Kitchen cabinets and garden sheds all looked, well, they all looked the same. You know, like a two by four. Slowly, very slowly, but gradually, woodworkers began looking for something that looked more skilfully made. I’m glad this happened because often you don’t always see what you had until you come close to losing it. It’s then that you really value what you’ve got. P1030784This week was no more than passing on the skills I’ve enjoyed throughout my life and watching men smile dare I say like children. I mean real skills became theirs to walk away with, knowledge too, and such like that. P1030931So with one brick at a time we rebuild the walls of what’s important.

10 Comments

  1. Jim Chrisawn on 15 February 2015 at 9:57 pm

    Rebuilding what is almost lost is a daunting task. It is indeed one brick, one person, one area, one skill, one group at a time. History teaches us, that ever so slowly the human race awakens to the realization of what was lost and at what cost. The realization comes slowly and it takes people like you, Paul, and those with you and like you working tirelessly with their vision and determination to plant the seeds that lead to rebirth. Life isn’t made up of the hours or even the days and years but of the seconds and those seconds often bring about the changes in our lives. Many strokes of the plan are made but one stroke slowed down and noticed among the many, the scent of the wood that for a second enters the nostrils and awakens something inside the craftsman and something deep within, stifled by the sounds of industry is now able to be heard. Keep it up my friend one second, one minute, one person at a time.



  2. Lenard Burgess on 15 February 2015 at 10:07 pm

    Excellent post, thank you. The machines may set a person free from some of the harder work involved with carpentry, but as Tom Fidgen says “what is wrong with hard work?”



  3. momist on 15 February 2015 at 11:16 pm

    They all look so happy and, absorbed.



  4. Philip August on 16 February 2015 at 8:35 am

    Paul,
    I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I certainly read with interest the posts relating to your most recent class. I discovered your YouTube channel about two years ago and have watched most of your videos more than once. Even before I found your videos and blog I had been interested in hand tool woodworking – mainly as a compliment to machines. But your posts have rather revolutionized the way I go about my business so to speak. In particular, the knife wall technique and chiseling techniques. Like you I am an avid user of old Bailey pattern Stanleys and have restored and use two dozen or so regularly. If I could take one woodworking course in the world it would be yours – and someday I hope to make that happen. Until then I will continue following your posts because in every instance it seems I learn something new/old that makes working wood more satisfying. Thanks for all you do from a woodworker in Alabama, USA. Keep up the good work.



    • Bill morris on 17 February 2015 at 4:36 am

      Ditto to phillip’s comments except move my hand tool revival back about three years ago and my geographic location to Kerrville, TX – actually quite near the scene of the birthplace of Paul’s teaching journey. Thanks to Paul, Phil Edwards and Jim tolpin I have your two dozen restored Stanley’s and another 50 or so moulding planes in various states of “rejuvenation”. Paul’s evangelism and investment of the last of his pension has certainly changed my life for the better.



  5. Joe Newman on 16 February 2015 at 10:37 am

    Paul,
    You lived long enough in the U.S. possibly to have heard the story of Johnny Appleseed. He was in fact a true person, John Chapman, who during the early 19th century committed himself to the spread of apple orchards. At some point in his efforts, the effort itself had an impact well beyond the production of orchards. He became a living legend and an example that parents have used for two centuries (so far) to explain to their children what a committed person can achieve.
    Those who are fortunate enough to attend your classes are your disciples and envoys. And we, who lurk on YouTube, your blog and Woodworking Masterclasses, become messengers as well. All of us who learn and marvel and enjoy are passing on at least part of what we learn to others–our children, our friends–so the seeds are spread widely indeed and the knowledge, the skills and the principles will endure.
    Thank you for taking the risk many years ago and committing yourself to your passion.
    Joe



  6. Scott Hayes on 16 February 2015 at 3:06 pm

    Although the USA had one teaching the machinist version of woodworking, we also had Sir Roy teaching the hand tool method simultaneously and is still going strong. I don’t know why one was more popular than the other at that time. I remember watching both with my grandfather in the early 80’s. I am so glad we have many people(including Paul and Roy) and venues teaching us the hand tool methods.



  7. mmelendrez1955 on 16 February 2015 at 5:36 pm

    Great pictures of people having a good time. I love the smiles.



  8. BrianJ on 17 February 2015 at 12:47 am

    Working at the master’s bench….. Incredible……. Paul i think i recall somewhere in print or in a video that that spot was reserved for the owner of the bench and the owner of the bench.
    the smiles, the concentration, just amazing photos.
    Brian



  9. Glyph on 17 February 2015 at 1:30 pm

    Don’t doubt for a moment that your thoughts are worth recording. You must pass on what you know to those that follow otherwise the skills will be lost, one day the power will be cut and then where will we be?