Critique time – Uh oh!

DSC_0037 Apprenticing people in the way I do means periodic critiquing; I mean several times in any given day. That’s how we grow. Understand that my way of modern-day apprenticing is to take people in and give them a month of my time, or a year of my time or indeed whatever it takes. Generally I perform my own tasks whether that’s designing and making, writing and filming or whatever. That’s a given and a must. Most often they have already gone through a course, be that a short two-day or a longer one. This is usually how we get to know one another, but not always.

P1040748 If there is a sense of wanting to become a serious woodworker whereby these young people want to make their living from woodworking or at least have some educated stab at it, it usually shows by some level of intenseness. They never stop asking questions, are always looking around at the tools and equipment. They usually need no prodding and they get on with their work and dismiss any distractions. Whereas once they come in for a month at my inviting or their requesting, it is important that I know them first. At least as well as I can.

P1030033 I don’t charge for this but neither do they get paid either. I train them by their making projects and spend about an hour or two with them when we discuss work, talk about design, motivation, historical perspectives, contrasting machine work with woodwork and try to dismantle the fact that people constantly try to make them one and the same, a flip side of the same coin or whatever, when the two are not really related at all. At best they are very, very distant cousins. I mean, a 3-phase, 2 HP tablesaw with 60 tooth tungsten carbide circular saw blade has absolutely no relationship to a Henry Disston handsaw with 8TPI, no motor and can be resharpened with 6″ extra slim tapered triangular saw file. So, it really works just fine. This is what they asked me for and this is what will give them skill. They grow, live, blossom and they fall in love with their chosen craft. Lifestyle begins to flourish and they start to see that this is an alternative reality. P1040750 Lea (pronounced Leah) is not intimidated by anything. She feels in control and it costs her loss of earnings to be here. Her work is clean, precise and excellent. So far she has made a rocking chair and my lift up lid tool chest with drawers (Like mine below), not the recent toolbox build, which is much simpler, the complex one with raised panels, half-lap dovetails and so on. She has made a coffee table too. She is currently making the splay legged mahogany table we made two months back on woodworking masterclasses and a wall clock in oak. Oh and she’s managed to slip in some small kitchen projects and the foot stool too.  In a couple of weeks time she will return to Slovakia, but she’s planning another stopover for a month later in the year.

P1040760 You see how it works is I give my days and my shop to these young people if and when I can. They settle in and work without slacking. It puts the brakes on life for them as they explore avenues that are not available anywhere else in the culture we live in. Many of you are now supporting this with contributions to us. We take that money and apply it to these different lives. We have in the past always given classes to people to help them experience what they might otherwise never experience. That means that no one is left out because of financial constraints. I started this when I first began teaching these beginner classes in 1995, so for every 8 paying students we give 2 away. No one knows who they are. Sometimes they pay part or the materials if they can or want to. Sometimes there are not applicants. The point here is that I give my time, they give theirs and you are supporting them from a distance and that’s because this thing has gotten bigger than me. Thank you.

I’ll talk about Sam’s work in another blog shortly. Today we get together to go to the car boot sale before we work at the castle. Yes. it’s a six-day week. I’ve never worked a five day week in my life.


  1. Every yourgster should be given a job of some kind when they leve school. Getting up in the morning and going to work becomes a habit that will last a lifetime.
    I was lucky ,62 years ago I started work 3 days after leveing school that was the day after boxing days. you don’t need A levels etc to be a joiner jest the love of working with wood and your hands.

  2. I think this is the number one reason I will do what I can to remain a paid subscriber.

  3. Thank you for that Paul knowing where some of my subscription is going. Does having a workshop where you can only work 9 to 5 constrain what your apprentices can achieve? Historically they would work a typical 12 hour day to develop their expertise and particularly their stamina – as I’m sure you did!

    1. No, they are accomplishing well. I’m not worried. We are really getting quality work with few mistakes.

  4. It’s great to see their progress! I wish there were more people like you Paul. You’re always saying how inspiring or encouraging others words are toward your work.. All i can think is like wise sir.

  5. Paul, I’m a subscriber and devotee from Brisbane, Australia. I started woodworking 2 years ago with a view to retiring from paid professional work in a few year’s time and taking up woodworking full time. Initially, I followed a certain “journalist woodworker” from the other side of the “pond”. Thankfully, I discovered you eventually, but not before being fully committed to making a Roubo bench. Its fantastic that you embrace modern and traditional forms of learning. I envy the opportunity you’re affording to young people. Keep it up!

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