Both have worth but not all worth is equal of course and sometimes lesser worth is worth all the more. This week I bought three secondhand planes for teaching the school classes as we often restore one in the classes each time. It’s not just that they are cheap or old but that they have the greater value beyond what you get in paying for a new model made perfect in the box or even whether they work or not. The value in an old plane is that it offers a vehicle of recovery. This recovery is a working knowledge of the plane and how it works, how to repair them and restore them. It’s the same with saws and gouges, sliding bevels and mortise gauges too. This alone leads to enlightening, educating, empowering, equipping and so in. So you see these simpler things are the perfect way to bridge the years of neglect when knowledge from crafting makers like myself passed on their experience as users.
I open with this to say yes, we need to buy tools, but that we also need to understand why my blog exists and why we created Paul’s blog, the YouTube channel, woodworkingmasterclasses.com and why we teach the classes wherever and whenever we can. If we go back too my first ever classes 25 years ago, I provided free instruction to answer a cry from others seeking to develop skilled woodwork that I felt I could give answers to. Five years unfolded to my giving workshops and they passed with great enjoyment. Giving classes at weekends for adults and then for 20 years or so since, the enjoyment and sense of purpose and wellbeing never waned. This birthed a development in me to become as much a woodworking teacher as a maker and so my lifestyle became inclusive not exclusive as in times past. I never stopped making and selling so my new workload was over and above my existing output as a designer maker.
My interest in the future of woodworking soon became clear to me. If we did not dismantle the invasion of machine only woodworking two thirds of the population interested in getting started would be left outside the door. Such is the reality of what happened through TV programmes promoting machine only methods and of course magazines in the USA and the UK. That has somewhat changed through our work for change. I gave classes four evenings a week from 7—10pm for 40 to 60 children in any given week and never charged children or parents because it was important and I continued to earn my living as a woodworking furniture maker full time during the day. It was my belief that children needed skills for their future but that the best way to preserve a craft is in the planting of it in the lives of the young who, like me, might find their calling early enough not to be over influenced by bad advice. I watched them laminate wooden strips to form canoes and build cellos, guitars, chests of drawers, wooden spoons and spatulas. They trained me to understand what it took to be a teaching writer and I made room in this aspect of my life. I wrote curriculum they could follow and grow with and it gave me a more balanced perspective on how best to train up the next generation of craftsmen and women. That curriculum became what I do today and Woodworkingmasterclasses still follows the processed and proven curriculum I alone developed for training this generation. Workbenches like my YouTube series and the other YT videos we continue making were the ones children made to work from home. Teenagers became young adults who now make a living as makers selling their work. I don’t know how many of those children became full-time woodworkers, you lose track, but it is many a dozen and even hundreds now. I suppose all of this played to my then unknown strengths and led to me writing papers, articles, books and blogs about my work and my experience as a real woodworker and less a writer, author or teacher or indeed anything but a 50-years-in-the-saddle-maker. So it’s up to you. I hope that this clarifies how things began. Believe me when I say it wasn’t at all easy. It meant working into the early hours of the morning for years and often neglecting other important things. But I learned that you must push through obstacles others often place in your path to pursue that dream or a few naysayers who say it can’t be done today. They don’t know you just as they didn’t know me. Because they didn’t or wouldn’t or dare I say couldn’t do it is of little consequence to a made up mind. The lifestyle they wanted didn’t fit the income of a lifestyle woodworker finding fulfilment from a simpler and less expensive lifestyle living without excesses and buying tools secondhand to start out from an eBay seller they never met.