Calling—Follow it!

DSC_0005 I see higher education come when people realise they are personally discovering the importance their ‘calling’ has in pursuing life skills. This rite of passage may well be sparked in any realm you enter in pursuit of higher education and it best comes by taking the path less traveled rather than mindlessly following the majority. Vocational calling is hearing and seeing an interest develop no matter your age and no matter where, when or how. It doesn’t mean vocational occupation, vocational education or vocational training in such limited spheres aren’t useful pockets along the path to growth—stepping stones perhaps, they might even be important, but when you enter the all-encompassing realms of answering your calling—Wow! You start to answer the deeper, wider and broader issues of lifestyle reality. DSC_0064 Marrying your craft, your art, the order of it, and sharing it with others no matter what, you suddenly become aware that that which you’re impassioned by is a powerful state that steers you and empowers you against any of the adversities you may face on the journey. You are deciding to forsake mere entertainments and pastimes with that made-up mind that enables you to pursue this critical influence on your life with a whole heart, mind, soul and strength. Higher education always takes place beyond college and university and the universe itself when you enter the higher call. Higher education is being absorbed into your vocational calling with a depth that defies all institutions. It starts before university in a mother’s womb and then stretches on throughout life. DSC_0338

Each day I make cuts in wood picked and cut by hands trained to change the raw to the refined and each day passes with the rewards hard work brings. I smell scents others, billions now, will never smell in a lifetime, never. I can do nothing about this life change in culture and neither can a computer taking men to other planets nor a super super smart phone. How rich is that?

I look deep and wait until my thoughts are complete and then search the surface fibres to read grain yet locked inside to find what no one’s seen and then to bring its hidden depths up to the surface. I remember past woods I’ve cut into and planed like notes or messages written to myself that remind me that what I make with my hands is fine enough, but that I can never make the tree I took my wood from.


I prize the trees I’ve severed from its root from the millions that still stand and allow gladness to take its course as I take full measure of my choices. I don’t cut trees I can’t fully use and make into furniture that wouldn’t last 200 years. I remember first the sadness when the trees fell away from me and the cattle rushing from their stock stance staring; bemused by my being. I recall the heavy lifting with chains and ropes the wood I prized for my work and the spring now bent straight under the weight as I ground through the gravel river beds on my way home.

My lifestyle is filled with choices I make to create lasting things of loveliness that make life pleasing that are never disposable and throwaway.

My table emerged from five slabbed boards of oak this week. The woodland the tree came from will replace my taking with ten more over the next hundred years. It’s a legacy you see. Calling, I mean. Wood too and the tools I use as well.


Twenty five years ago I agonised over how I could pass on my skills. I agonised for two weeks day and night and then one day it hit me that crafts like mine are not complicated but simple. And here came the clearest reality ever; with ten hand tools and three joints you can make almost anything from wood. DSC_0076 I felt so happy as I wrote down my curriculum and drew pictures and then trained each one of my sons with it. And there’s more. Then I went on and I trained hundreds of other people’s children over 20 or so years without ever a single penny exchanging hands and it worked to the point that dozens of them are earning their living as craftsmen and women in their own right today. DSC_0052 And guess what? It never stopped. Personally I have trained 5,500 adults with it and now we are teaching hundreds of thousands following the very same basic premise. How about that!!!!

I used those same ten hand tools with two of those three joints and five boards of oak to  make this table over the past week. Hand tools only remember. It’s been fun following my vocational calling again this week. Make craft happen everyone. Follow that calling in your life. Reach out to the coming generations and start with your own children.


  1. nice post Paul, the table looks beautiful but moreover through following you these past few years you have given me the knowledge and confidence to build one .and I thank you greatly for that .10 hand tools and 3 joints its amazing when one thinks about it .

    Paul sellers the last of the time served craftsmen

  2. Yor opening reminds me of a Mark Twain quote. “I never let schooling get in the way of my education”

  3. Beautiful Paul. This post was just what I needed to help me through my morose funk today feeling the reality of my current unreal, but necessary, corporate job, and being the sole provider for my family. You continue to inspire me to keep going and acting my calling in late middle age by continuing to learn the craft. I will continue work on my third cane tomorrow before work!

  4. How do you go about attaching the table top to the base in this case? Seen many techniques to allow for expansion but wondering what is your preferred way.

    1. We use turn buttons in the same way we do with conventional aprons on tables with aprons mortised into legs. Actually, people can quite obsess about expansion on tables. You’ll find more tables of old screwed into the table top through scallops cut into the aprons. Fast and effective too.

  5. Hi Paul,

    I like the sense of a higher calling you write about which should resonate in usa way of being. This necessitates a higher development in us to endure trials in becoming that we seek to be and have in our lives.

    My father in law who makes furniture and encourages me to think of wood working as a life saving discipline wrote on my birthday card one year along with a wood working tool as a gift (saw):

    “Good timber doesn’t grow with ease;
    The stronger wind, stronger the trees;
    The further sky, the greater length;
    More the storm, more the strength;
    By sun and cold, by rain and snow;
    In trees and men, good timbers grow.”

    Thank you Paul.


    1. Thanks, Nat, for sharing this with us. Sounds like an ideal father-in-law to me.

  6. “with ten hand tools and three joints you can make almost anything from wood”. Joints–dove tail and mortise/tenon. Does anyone know the third?

    As for handtools–here’s the start of my list–tenon saw, hand saw, coping saw, chisel, no 4 plane, mallet, square, marking gauge, and marking knife–I’m one short.

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