Why I posted on making the Paul Sellers’ dovetail template

For information on making dovetail templates, see our beginner site Common Woodworking.

paulsellers.comSome time back I posted how to make my dovetail template because of all the ones I have made through the the years this was the one I felt to be the best. My reason for passing it on was of course to ensure its future in the tradition of would be craftsmen making their own as had happened with me would continue as a non-commercial enterprise. I have patterns for forty such designs I have either designed or made through the years. The key thing for me was of course making your own. I recently noticed something that did sadden me though and that was that a commercial maker took the freely given guide and made it their commercial product to sell in their product line. Should they have asked? I’ll let you be the judge.paulsellers.com

Of course making your own is free, it provides training and it helps woodworkers to establish new skills. That has generally been the reason we do what we do. It also means that it is very affordable. On the other hand the now commercial version is available in commonly available wood at $25 a pop using materials that cost almost nothing so the profit margins are very high for them, and offering a set of three at the discounted price of $65 means even higher profits of somewhere around say $60. Anyway, they are using something they call resin infused figured maple when just about any ordinary non infused hardwood left for five minutes in thin superglue does the same thing if indeed the wood was even a problem which of course we know is not. The inference that it gives greater stability is of course poppycock when the natural stability of the wood is already way beyond what’s needed.

My thought is that you still only need one marker with a 1-7 pitch but as they take only fifteen minutes to make you can make others as needed in the moment.

I ask that you continue the tradition and make your own. Here is the link on making it and also there is the video on YouTube too. Keeping it alive for me is important. Students in my classes make them and we have taught over 5,500 students to make their own as part of the courses they take. Online of course the numbers increase to hundreds of thousands and I like the idea that it’s a continuing tradition that was dying out until my blog post.


  1. It’s a shame they don’t give credit in the store, but in the blog post describing it, they do give credit and link to your blog. So there’s that.

  2. Conduct of that sort by a business is nothing less than despicable. Not even the common courtesy to ask! I agree completely that each woodworker should make his or her own; besides being an incredibly useful tool, there are so many good lessons involved in accurately making one.

  3. I’m sorry for you to see such things take place. I see they even credited you as the source of the design, but to reproduce it for profit without permission…shameful. I would have expected more from this particular maker.

  4. I noticed them too Paul. I actually laughed when I saw them.

    Keep fighting the good fight. And good on you for calling people out like this.

  5. I am still using the one one I made in your class in Texas about 15 years ago. I need to get cracking and try to wear it out!

  6. We all know there is a large percentage of “woodworkers” who never seem to actually MAKE anything except for useless posts on forums about their .00005 thick shavings with their Whatever brand tools. I suppose maybe this is just one of those products marketed to them? Sort of like a limited edition white gold number 1.5 smoother you can get from some companies for a grand. I don’t know…seems lame to buy something that was clearly developed and taught as a WOODWORKING lesson. I happen to believe paul has any number of designs for these that probably look cooler and maybe work as well ,but this design was the one he chose would be the best to teach aspiring WOODWORKERS to work wood? Anyway, at least he gave Paul credit for the design, right?

  7. If a person wants to get into woodworking but can’t be bothered to make a simple thing like this, would rather spend $25 to get someone else to do it for them….

  8. Paul,
    I respect all that you do and your teaching the time honored craft of hand woodworking.I also enjoy reading your blog. I do apologize if you feel I overstepped the boundaries by offering a dovetail marker for sale. I did not realize that it was your own personal design but rather a design that has been used for generations as is the case for most all woodworking tools. I did know that you wrote a blog about making it and gave you due credit and a link to your post and even encouraged my readers to make one for themselves. I strive to offer quality hand tools that my customers enjoy owning and using to make beautiful works that will be passed on through the generations.

  9. Since the Industrial Revolution, bureaucratic capitalism’s basic argument is that automated efficiency would produce such a material bounty that people could realize themselves through what they consumed rather than what they produced. Paul’s popularity speaks to the rejection of this idea. Buying a dovetail template, as opposed to making your own, leaves both your soul and your pocketbook empty.

  10. I find it abhorrent that any self-respecting individual would operate on this level, and was even more dumbfounded when I saw on their website and Instagram page that they openly admit to where they found the design. They tout theirs as somehow more precise because it was made by machine… REALLY?! I won’t be purchasing anything from Blue Spruce in the future. It’s just shoddy conduct from an independant toolmaker who should know better.

  11. I just noticed those this morning and wondered if you even had the courtesy of a “please and thank you.” I made mine out of a scrap of red oak and I can’t imagine it being or needing to be any tougher than that. It’ll last the rest of my lifetime.

  12. I just made a new Paul Sellers pattern 1:7 dovetail marker last week from maple scrap I had from the stars that Paul Sellers taught us to make, so that i could use it to make a dovetailed box for my neice that Paul Sellers taught in a video series. Thank you for making both the tools and the teaching so available to us Paul.

  13. I made one a year or so ago. But it’s not resin infused, so my grandchildren may eventually need to make a new one.

    1. And they will say, “This is one Grandpa made and we should preserve the tradition and make it just the same.” and that will be just perfect.

  14. I made one based on your design in about 30 minutes. I can’t imagine that someone who wants to cut dovetails by hand would buy the template.. They might as well buy a router and a dovetail jig.

  15. Paul,
    I follow your blog and truly respect your woodworking skills, teaching and desire to pass on the traditions and techniques of hand tool woodworking. I apologize if I overstepped some boundaries by bringing to market a Dovetail Marker. Though I read about this particular style of marker and your step by step tutorial on your blog several years ago when I was learning how to hand cut dovetails. I did not realize that it was your own, personal design. I figured it was a style of marker that had been used for generations, like almost all current woodworking tools, and you were just promoting its virtues. I did give you credit for your fine instructions and encouraged my readers to make one if they so desired. I am a toolmaker and what I do is provide quality tools for my customers to help them do their finest work. I certainly have nothing against woodworkers making their own tools. In fact I have taught several classes at our local guild on how to make your own chisels, marking knives, scratch beads, etc. Some of my customers prefer to buy their tools and I strive to provide the best possible tools including chisels of all kinds, mallets, marking knives and layout tools.. I would enjoy meeting you some day and talking more in depth about woodworking and toolmaking as businesses. I will be at Cressing Temple Barns this year for the Woodworking show. Perhaps you may be there also.
    David Jeske
    Blue Spruce Toolworks

    1. Well, the real point here is that making the template is a rite of passage on the pathway to discovering the way to make good dovetails using hand methods and to give better understanding to those making it about laying out the angles and then making the tool.

      It would have been nice to make contact beforehand and perhaps allow some input rather than presenting the issue after the fact. I have always helped small businesses to make their mark and indeed believe in that ethos, so I have enjoyed seeing small businesses grow. It was really just a question of communication at the very beginning.

  16. I just sent a rather scathing email to that particular company:

    “For shame! A company that would market another persons design…..that he provided the design for FREE on his blog and youtube videos, and then charge an exorbitant price for…..without having the common decency to ask the designer’s permission, is a company I will never do business with again! And I think you will find several thousand woodworkers who feel just as I do.”

  17. I too have posted a comment on that website….Paul thank you for your teachings and insights into woodworking. I hope the poor choices of a few dont spoil it for the people who do respect what you do.

  18. Hi Paul,
    I think it is a shame and mainly a theft of your intellectual property. The fact that you provide it for free cannot be an excuse for what they are doing.
    I think they had have asked you and spend 5GBP per sold template to you. That money could be used to support people who haven’t the money to visit your masterclass courses.

    In the end I think it is your property and all rights should be reserved to you!
    And if someone is earning money with it you should be involved.

    – djgaloot (like in David Jeske, aye?)
    – David Jeske
    THAT is how to step up. What happened above puts an englishman to shame in my opinion.

    I’d like to raise the question why there was no effort of personally contacting Mr. Jeske, but instead using the popularity of one’s own blog to damage a family business? There was at least one advance note of the upcoming product, and that would have been the appropritae time to step up. I know Mr. Jeske for being honourable, polite, and a firm believer. I am most certain there would have been a grown-up’s solution.

    Instead I notice a sudden awareness of other makers while every once so often (read the comments on woodworking Masterclasses or Facebook) Mr. sellers regularly denies knowing any of the as-big names.

    I personally had enough of this bragging and self-righteousnes. I learned a lot here and am thankful, but I feel it is time to step away now.

  20. Dear Paul

    I think you should make the same dovetailmarker in different wood and brons or bras
    and with your name on it and make it commercial!

    It would be a hit and everybody in the masterclasses would buy one!

    you should sell it! that is your name, isn’t it? (Sellers)

    this action would be one of balance and your saddenes would be gone.

    We wouldn’t have to spoil energy on judging someone.

    I would be the first to order your dovetailmarker in brass!


  21. It certainly won’t be the last time someone will imitate your work, Paul. Might as well just bask in the sincerest form of flattery.

  22. I find the comments here very odd, the dovetail template is just a very simple but useful bit of kit. My father used something very similar 25 years ago in the Netherlands long before the internet and without any fancy woodworking magazines. The video is really helpful but it’s not a tool unique to Paul of course, the fact someone sells a similar template and even links to a video showing how to make it yourself is very positive in my book. Comparing the cost of the wood to the tool is a bit cheap in my book, you could very well make a really nice wooden plane from a bit of scrap wood and a chisel for next to nothing but that doesn’t mean it’s a crime to produce and sell wooden planes for 100 pounds/euros. Come on, there’s nothing to be upset about here. If Paul now uploads his series on making a bow saw, do we need to be outraged with all those bow saw producers who retroactively ripped of Pauls design and are now asking more than just the raw material cost for their product?

    I love all your videos and read all your blogs Paul, my father passed away way too early. Some of my happiest memories are working with him as a child. Learning how to saw, how to use a chisel, the different qualities of different woods. I truly am very grateful for the work you do. I am learning a lot from your videos, also a lot of things I remember my father doing which really brings a smile to my face. This is one of the first posts I really can’t agree with though, I just don’t believe anyone should be able to be claim rights to a simple wooden template..

  23. If people buy these then they are missing the point of making one.
    Maybe they think that expensive tools make a good woodworker?
    After all the exercise in making one is one of the building blocks for basic skills you need to learn some of the skills.
    If you can’t make a simple template and have to pay to have someone to make it for you then you will never pick up the skills needed.
    This particular company makes very expensive woodworking tools.
    The paring chisels go for almost $600 a set. Only people with a lot of money can afford these tools. I suspect at the very best you might want to call them “Tool Snobs”.
    At least they gave you credit, yes they should have asked as they copied your design and even made reference to your web site. Maybe the good side (if there is one) might be that someone will see the light and figure out they can just make one themselves.
    Very unprofessional and unethical stealing someone else’s design.

  24. The only person you have to look in the eye every day is yourself; in the mirror, in the morning. You know what you see.

    Do those other fellows even have a hint of what is looking back at them? Do we care what they see?

    Integrity is its own reward.

  25. I see now that the template is part of a series of instruction to build skills to work up to making dovetails. It seems like a very sound path and obviously many of your students greatly appreciate the journey. I have not had the opportunity to be taught directly by a skilled craftsman and consider those who have to be very fortunate.

    1. Yes. That’s it really. You see there is something to passing on the whole system of the joinery in a certain order so that the pathway is preserved as well as the practice of the making. Something handed on to the next generation so that in 50 years time someone says, “Just look at this template granddad made when he was 15 years old learning how to make dovetails. We should keep it with the dresser he made me. Put it in the drawer with the dovetails there. One day I want to make one just like it too.”

  26. Now if someone would just do something similar for teaching personal humility and common respect.

    You’ve gotten three apologies. Maybe you could step off the throne of savior of hand tool woodworking long enough to recognize integrity. Are you really claiming that this design is your ‘intellectual property’ rather than exactly the sort of common craftsman made tool that’s been in use for centuries? I keep wondering when we can expect to see the Paul Sellers Straight edge.

    How any of us learned anything at all about hand tools before two years ago when you showed up with a boatload of investment money and expensive ‘master classes’ is a mystery.

    I make tools for a living. And mine are ridiculously expensive. So I’m sure I’m the antichrist and just haven’t realized it yet.

  27. Hi Paul,

    Personally I think the whole idea of using your aggregator at Unplugged Shop to help promote ANY toolmakers, Particularly any who have blogs, like Benchcrafted, Blue Spruce, Hamilton, Vogt Toolworks, Daed Toolworks. Even Lost Art Press since they just shill their books all the time, and all like this is disingenuous to support and help spread the word on your part. You are about the teaching and the making, even refurbishing the old tools. By supporting any toolmaker with exposure from unplugged shop only sullies you and your message, as a shill for their expensive tools.

    This case where a toolmaker having the audacity to steal your design for personal profit is the case in point. I recall very clearly how a different toolmaker mentioned above was taken to task all over the internet a few years ago for marketing stolen designs. He still shirks around making the very same stolen design to this day. Shame.

    All the materials they use to make tools are low cost and you are all about the low cost. I don’t understand why you risk you fine reputation as a tenured and highly esteemed craftsman and educator by lending ANY support for any toolmaker or their blogs at all. You are sending a very mixed message as to what you support, and your not towards this commercialism has me and others I know questioning your own motives here.

    I personally would enjoy Unplugged Shop a lot more if you went COMPLETELY non commercial with the aggregator, carrying only the blogs from true amateurs with NO commercial interest in woodworking and toolmaking. By aggregating these blogs, many of us feel you are shilling their tools. This has NEVER been your message so why mix the metaphor? It would make you look like your intentions and a woodworking educator look a lot more pure about the passing forward of this awesome craft. Besides, I don’t think you need the content from any toolmaker to make your aggregator shine. Clean it up and remove them all. All for the better. Let them pay for their own advertising.

    As for the followers of Paul, If you really feel as you do, then endeavor to make as many of your tools as you can and refurbish the old ones to truly be rooted deeply in the essence of this craft. You are what you support with your dollars. Otherwise you are just a shill like the rest. Paying to learn the craft from a master like Paul is developing yourself.

    Paul, Please consider removing all the toolmakers blogs from Unplugged Shop. Clean it up and purify it once and for all. it is time to take the high road and improve your personal image all the more.

  28. You made an interesting Statement Paul:

    “On the other hand the now commercial version is available in commonly available wood at $25 a pop using materials that cost almost nothing so the profit margins are very high for them, and offering a set of three at the discounted price of $65 means even higher profits of somewhere around say $60.”

    I don’t know what your savvy for business is, but the fiscal costs of running any business in the US where making is concerned requires a craftsman to make $60.00 hour or more, or they are fully mishandling their fiduciary responsibility.

    Expenses of business include the costs of buildings utilities, insurance, bookkeeping, taxes on sales and income, and all must be paid along side the costs of material plus profit. If they have employees, then there is that, and the Cost of any employee is double the gross wage of their pay per hour and a mandate for paying them wages on payday whether you have the cashflow or not. It isn’t any wonder why toolmakers often keep to small operations.

    Then the Craftsman must pay themselves for the operation and funding of their own personal life.

    To be clear, Blue Spruce is offering this dovetail guide for $25.00 as a bargain. I’d snatch them up fast while you still can before he raises the price to a more realistic $45 each. At $45.00 it would still be cheaper than many of it’s competing toolmaker made dovetail markers.

    Your misunderstanding of business in general makes it clear to me as to why you are a teacher.

  29. Did you read the blog post at all? I think some deep breaths all around may be in order. There’s a lot of tempers flaring. Paul’s just commented that he’s disappointed that he put that marker up for people to make their own and build skills, not just go out and buy a marker (of which many are already available for such purposes.) And Rany, you probably are the antichrist.

  30. Wow, David Jeske is one of woodworking’s “good guys”, and I cannot believe the flack is is taking for making a commercial dovetail guide, while at the same time giving credit to the non-commercial guide where he got his inspiration. Dave makes excellent quality tools at a fair price, and all woodworkers are better off because of the David Jeske’s out there. He has done nothing I can see that would in any way diminish Paul’s livelihood or reputation. Sadly, I expect the same cannot be said of the public response he’s received.

  31. Any follower of Paul Sellers’s blog that has spent more than 5 minutes reading what he freely gives would know that he holds no ill will toward any form of woodworking. He may have some strong opinions at times, but I’m pretty sure he is not unique in that regard.

    Paul extolls the virtues of hand tool woodworking using poor man’s solutions as to not limit the exposure to or the education in the craft to anyone because they cannot afford the luxury of high end tools. Is this particular company a maker of quality products, I’m sure. But my single income family of 5 does not allow me the luxury of knowing at this time. I’m quite happy that Paul caters to we “poor men” and can show us how to produce quality product with minimal tools and budget. I believe at this time in my craft, my money is better spent on Woodworking Masterclasses where I can receive quality education at a very affordable price.

    Where is the humility and respect spoken of earlier in taking what one man has freely given with the purpose of educating and enabling a beginning woodworker and deciding to profit from it by selling it as ones own product without that originator’s blessing. Yes, credit was given to the original maker, but does that free him of all moral obligation? If the roles were reversed, how would this maker feel? Does apologizing after the fact absolve him? I believe that is for Paul and no one else to determine.

  32. Should anybody wish to refer to ‘Modern Practical Joinery’ by George Ellis (published 1902), they will find on page 66 a drawing and details of a ‘dovetail bevel’, which is almost exactly the form Paul suggests.

    To be fair to Paul, he has always said that his dovetail marker is a traditional design made up by the craftsman; Ellis’s book confirms that the design has been around for at least 110 years, and probably a great many more. As the design has been around so long, it is now legally ‘common knowledge’, so nobody is infringing anybody’s design rights by offering it commercially.

    Credit however to Paul for making an old, simple and effective design better known.

  33. The question I am asking myself is would you all be as upset if he was making and selling clocks, canes, or boxes built to pauls specifications. How about a birdcage awl? Paul has stated a number of times people can make a living using his designs and ideas.
    Yes it is a small item which takes about half an hour to make which he is selling for about $25, so is s spoon. This man is a craftsman who makes and sells tools. This is a very basic tool, and I doubt anyone weho reads this blog will buy one, but it is nice to have the option, unfortunately he doesn’t make it to Paul’s specified 1 in 7.

  34. I don’t think it was Pauls intention get people angry at the maker. I’ve purchased from them in the past and he makes nice tools. I don’t think it was his intention to rip off Paul. From what I understand he’s a real nice guy.
    As handtool woodworkers we should be sticking together. Paul has shown us what real woodworking is and I don’t think he minds if we can make money off what he has taught us. I think the point is we should make our own to advance our skills. But we may choose to just buy the fancy premade marker.
    At some point we all copy something. Nobody gets hurt. If someone comes to your house and wants you to make them the bookshelf Paul showed us , are you going to ask Paul for permission or send him half your profits. I don’t think so.
    Please lets not blow this out of proportion. Pauls a good guy and I’m sure he didn’t want to work everyone up. If you don’t agree then don’t buy one. That simple. We all have a choice .
    Yes he’s charging $25 a piece. If he was charging $100 a piece and people bought them shouldn’t we say good for him? He put them out there but you don’t have to buy them. Lets not be haters. That is not what I get from Pauls videos. Quite the opposite.
    Scott NJ

  35. At one time, I calculated how the income from the MasterClass memberships—at $15/person, it runs into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. I don’t begrudge Paul and company for that. He earned it through long years of hard work. I’m glad to see if pay off. Plus, he has expense and staff to pay.

    However, I’m disturbed by the vitriol in these comments (“shameful”, “disgusting”, etc), partially fueled by Paul’s post. I get the feeling that for many people “capitalism” is a dirty word. I know many think making a profit is somehow a crime, even though we all work for money. If you disagree, see how many quit their jobs when the boss offers them a zero paycheck. As with another commenter, yes the wood cost pennies. But as any businessman knows, all cost can be traced back to labor. In the case of those selling copies of Paul’s marker, it isn’t simply making the product, but buying the wood, in some cases treating the wood, marketing it on a website, processing orders, packaging, mailing, and handling the payments, to name a few. All this takes time.

    As much as I enjoy the classes and have learned so much, I have to consider whether to cancel my membership. I can’t put up with all this sanctimonious talk.

  36. Paul, I have been following you the past year. I made my own dovetail marker and over the last two weeks two grand daughters and a grandson have had as wonderful time making dovetail boxes, bird houses, bird feeders and whirly gigs in my woodshop. They must return to Florida this Sunday, but are already voicing their ideas for next summers projects! Thank you for all that you do for this craft. I don’t know who had more fun, the grand children using all the tools or me watching them. Keep up the good work, and I plan to have them build their own marker next summer, as they thought it was the neatest thing. There are dovetails drawn on every scrap, the edge of my bench and a lot of the studs in my basement! Their next favorite tool was the spoke shave.

    For myself and my grand children, Thank You!

  37. To answer your question Paul, yes David should have ask before he commercialized your design. Did he have to? Probably not, he has the right to produce a design that seems to be in the public domain. On the other hand David was clumsy to produce a design he knew was yours without your permission. Shame on him. On the other hand he seems to be apologetic and… I am out of hands.

  38. David Jeske didn’t do anything either morally or commercially wrong–and doesn’t have a reason on Earth to even offer an apology, though it was gracious of him to do so. If the blog author was in the business of making and selling these dovetail jigs himself, that might, emphasis on the word “might”, be another matter. .

  39. This is getting out of hand.
    Paul pointed out two things he was disappointed with. Firstly David Jesky didn’t ask permission and secondly he feels woodworkers should make the jig not buy one.
    David pointed out that he didn’t realise the jig was Paul’s design but thought it was traditional and he did credit Paul in his blog and suggest that woodworkers should make one. He has also apologised three times.
    I personally find it very unfortunate that this is becoming a flame war with so many hostile and extreme comments – and are negative emails to the website really neccesary?
    Surely this is a storm in an eggcup which detracts from the otherwise friendly and positive spirit of Paul’s blog and website.

  40. I too am a little troubled by this post and some of the comments.

    It is a little bombastic to call this the “Paul Sellers’ Template”, given that it is a traditional design. But I – like many thousands of others – applaud Paul’s success in drawing attention to this design, as well as the rest of his teaching legacy.

    Paul Sellers usually, modestly, describes that legacy as rescuing and continuing the legacy of woodworkers past. I wince when that strays (occasionally) into claiming sole ownership, or into becoming too self-congratulatory or too dismissive of others.

    This is a case in point. I get the whole rite-of-passage argument. But none of that warrants criticising the manufacturer, nor suggesting that he should have asked Paul’s permission for manufacturing a traditionally-designed tool. Paul has every right to encourage woodworkers to make their own. And every woodworker has the right to buy a beautifully-made one as well, or instead.

    I will continue to read the PS blog regularly, for the useful information and advice it contains (and continue to subscribe to the Masterclasses). I hope that my fear – of seeing a trend towards becoming more self-congratulatory and less generous of spirit – is unwarranted.

  41. First off, I am 100% certain that Paul did not, and does not, bear David any ill-will. Paul is only human and when he saw something that bothered him he said something about it. However, the comments that have appeared here have been increasingly polarised. I think the main point that Paul wanted to make with his post was that making your own dovetail template is important to him and to the way he teaches dovetailing. While the template concept certainly isn’t new he has tweaked, refined, documented and popularised the design. For him making the template yourself is part of learning to dovetail and selling such a simple device made from wood to woodworkers doesn’t seem quite right.

    Paul wanted to start a discussion about this but I don’t think he intended it to go this far. We have posted every single comment posted here and I think every useful point has been made. I am a little bothered that some of the comments are getting a little unfriendly which was never expected.

    I think things have been blown somewhat out of proportion and it is probably best to move on and leave this discussion where it is so I am going to close the comments.

    Thanks to all the above for their contributions to the discussion and especially to those that have posted friendly and thoughtful comments.

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