Starting Out

I have been working on this for some time and I am making many assumptions in trying to diagnose the situation. Much of what I have been looking at relates to having lived in the USA and the UK, but people following this particular blog do so for some very specific reasons and I think I pretty much know why, but I would like to hear from you. You see my answer goes to people in Taiwan and India, Israel, China, Nepal and Romania as well as Germany and Belgium, Holland and Australia. In fact we reach every country in the world and people all around the world really matter so what would a successful answer be for everyone?

These are my hands and they still work with no degrade after 50 very full years with 85% hand work working six full days a week and 10 hours on average a day.


I can’t imagine using an angle grinder or a power router for something such as this stool seat. Hands work.

Starting out in woodworking means different things to the different people on these continents. For some it means buying all of the machines you need right from the start, brand new ones so nothing goes wrong and you have the manuals with the machines just in case. For others it’s giving up your job and winging it by the seat of your pants to see how it pans out. Others want to make it with hand tools and methods only and others want a manufacturing plant asap. Guaranteed success means taking home a hundred grand in the first year for some and for others its getting to work from home and making something that sells enough to pay the bills. It’s here that I would love to hear from 20 people to let me have a paragraph or two, not too long, what you have now and what you would like to result from Starting Out. You can comment here or you can email me directly. You can be anonymous if preferred but what you hope for may reflect the hearts of other people so it will be important.

PICT0027 - Version 2
Joseph made me this spokeshave when he was just 14 years old.

Please also understand I personally think these issues are more serious in our present age and I hope we can think seriously about people who want to change their lives.

55 thoughts on “Starting Out”

  1. Excellent photography for this post.

    I have an extensive shop, with some great old machines, plenty of power tools, dust collection, etc, and have had it for about 20 years. But i lost interest in the machines years ago. Now, having discovered Mr. Sellers, I am rejuvinated, and entirely focused on becoming a vessel filled with all the hand tool knowledge that can hold so that it may not be lost, and can spread. Along the way, i will make some things, but the pursuit and mastery of the knowledge is what “starting out” is about for me, at least for now. I feel that I (and the rest of us) am rebelling against the modern, disconnected world, and that the full importance of real connection to real things will only be recognized after it is mostly gone. I want to be a steward for the knowledge during these dark ages.

  2. Hi Paul. I am 66, retired and a full time woodworker since the beginning of this year. I have been a commercial for 40 years. I am born in Norway and live since 30 years Paris. I did all you said: bought a lot of machine tools after months of reading on Internet. I am aiming at covering my costs as a woodworker. There is still some way to go. I converted our old garage about 50 km west of Paris in 2014 and have now a very good place to work all year round – almost every day and mostly 6 to 8 hours per day. I started off making Adirondack chairs of local pine. I advanced to furnitures and deco objects of wine barrel staves using 100% of what the old wine barrel offer. Convex and concave shapes offer everything but 90° angles. My ambition is to convert into working more with hand tools and leaving the electric tools aside as much as possible. One day I hope to be admitted to join a 9 day course with you to learn more about that. I have now made about 40 different products since I started. A website is under construction. I read your emails with the greatest of pleasure. Please continue the way you do.

  3. I may have already “started out”. Most days I work 8-10 hours a day running a software business. It’s a serious job, and I enjoy the challenge, and because my job is deciding what we’ll build in the software, I view it as a form of “making’.

    I’m fortunate in that I work from a home office. My commute is up the stairs. I feel bad for people in my area, many of whom lose 2-4 hours of their life every day sitting in a car not moving.

    ‘Round 5:30-7pm I “commute” down to my shop. I’m there until 11-midnight, and generally all weekend, both days. I don’t notice the passage of time while I’m making in the shop.

    The work at this point doesn’t pay, at least in money. My pay right now is in skill.

    Six months ago I could spell “tenon” but couldn’t cut one. Three months ago I could move a plane across a board and still not square it. Today even my end grain technique is passable, and I can build relatively complicated things that use mortice and tenon as the primary joint, and have them come out square and tidy. I just need to get better at layout to be able to do it efficiently and without gaps. Tonight I hope to try dovetailing for the first time. (Thank you for the videos.)

    I’m working towards a second “starting out” where the pay I’m currently gathering in the form of skill allows me to take back the 40-70 hours a week in which I sell my time to an employer. They’re a good employer as employers go, and again, the work is good. I am generously blessed.

    But I want to spend all my time making with my mind, and my hands, directly, and be directly responsible for the outcome. Wood doesn’t require meetings, or any financial analysis, before you know the outcome of your thought and design.

    For me I think it’s mostly about the autonomy, and the freedom, and the direct accountability.

    1. Francesco Gallarotti

      Just like you I work from home and work with computers. And just like you I am looking forward to spend as much time as needed to build even the smallest object but finally a real object, that I can touch, smell and weight in the palm of my hands. I hope the time spent in the garage shop will help me flush out of my system the stress accumulated everyday in the home office 🙂

  4. Quite simply, a fulfilled life. One that is not filled with want, but teaching our children to be fulfilled and happy with what we have. To step outside the speed of the world and focus on family, faith, values and life. To be able to provide for my family what they truly need, and not what an implosive culture says they want. To teach my children to find peace in the simple things and provide a lifestyle that simplifies the hurry of the world and focuses on using their gifts to fulfill their lives and those around them. For me, Paul, the woodworking lifestyle you always describe is where I find that fulfillment.

    I’ve always been a woodworker, but I just have not known it. I’m 37 years old, and I am just now pulling out the craftsman and artisan that has been inside me since birth. It’s been there forever, but now I am just starting to realize what’s been hiding all this time. I’m an engineer, and my wife and I have started implementing a plan to leave our current life and walk a journey of uncertainty and risk, but the rewards will be great. It will take me time. I have much to learn and much work to do to be able to become a woodworker that can sustain a hand tool shop, but it’s a lifestyle that is worth pursuing. I choose to leave the assembly line for the fulfillment of life, and I hope that is something that I can pass on to my children.

    You ask what I have now. What I have now is hope. It’s simple you see, Paul. Quite simply, a fulfilled life.

  5. I have been working with computers for more than ten years now and try to reduce hours to make time to gain skill with hand-tool woodworking. I have a workbench, most of the tools I need and some timber and can afford much of what I would still need. Switching to full time overnight would not feed my family, since practice and stock prep just take too long. So I aim to balance income against time to gain experience. I figure if I just keep going, eventually the critical point will be reached, the more hours I can put in, the sooner. Though the legal issue here in Germany still lingers at the back of my mind. Well, I guess it’s all in good hands.

    1. As for the result: I want to earn us a modest living, be in my family’s life and have fulfilment in the work I do. And I long to work at a level of quality that I want, not compromise to what others tell me. I want to create things that last.

  6. Hi Paul, i love the question you pose!! So i will give my take on it.
    I will answer the question by saying the first thing you need is the desire to create by machine or hand. You have to have the passion for it first and foremost. Then you have to make sure if this will be a lifestyle or just a possible way to make money. If someone is looking at this as just a possible way to make money, then i think there chances for success are slim and i consider success in this business creating beautiful works while just paying the bills. You can liken it to people who spend thousands on a gym membership while they dont do what they can at home to put them into shape, hoping that the gym has some miracle cure for motivation when the simple truth is if you are not doing what you can now the gym wont help, and its the same with wood working, there is no starting just doing.

  7. Francesco Gallarotti

    Hi Paul,
    I am 44, I am Italian and I live in Italy, but I have lived 11 years in the U.S. where I got my degree in computer science and started working. I have been working with computers all my life, since I was a teenager. Coding has always been a joyful experience. Even my hobbies have always somehow been connected to using a computer. In my twenties I used to play keyboards, with the aid of a computer to assemble my recordings. In my thirties I switched to digital photography and learned the craft of working with the camera, with the lights and, obviously, with the digital darkroom offered by my computer.
    Now that I am in my forties I find myself going back to basic. My wife and I moved in the countries with our dogs and I am finding myself interested in gardening. I have always liked the idea of working with wood but never enjoyed the idea of having to use machines to do it, so I never actually went into this.
    But then I stumbled into one of your videos and a bulb went off… I eagerly watched pretty much everything you have made available online and read half of your blog. I used all this information to assemble a starter kit with a minimal set of tools and a bench (which I am actually still waiting for) and I am looking forward to shave some wood and finally make something with my hands.
    Sorry for the long story… the answer to your question is actually simple: I want to finally create something real, something I can touch and smell. Although I have been creating software, music and photography all my life, I feel that I need to learn to build something more real.
    I want to spend time with wood and learn how to appreciate it. This is why I am finding your guidance the best I could possibly want. I don’t look for shortcuts. I am looking for exactly what you are providing.
    Thank you…
    // Francesco

  8. Hi Paul,
    I’m 39, a working family man to a lovely family. During my spare time i enjoy my new hobby : woodworking, thanks to you Mr.Sellers. I dont know why it took me so long and i am just in love with hand tools. To me, Mr.Sellers starting out has been an ongoing process and is still continuing for a year or so but i dont mind, you know why? Its the passion of buying a hand tool or two once at a time. Maybe its because of a limited budget but its that jounrney that keeps me fascinated. To me starting out is about studing first, buying slowly but surely. I dont know, its the romance of that feeling when i got my first purchase , a Stanley low Angle block plane, then my cheap but sturdy chisel set, then a l nielsen 4 1/2, and my jack. Then came a few tools from Veritas. I wish i could buy all that i need straight away, but i dont mind. Its about using and mastering what you have. Experience then takes over and evolves you. 🙂 Your videos are a pleasure to watch and wish one day to meet you. I am from Cyprus. Here where the sun never stops shining.
    “Starting out?” Change the title to “Starting out with Paul Sellers”
    Thanks again.

  9. I haven’t started. I’ve been practicing. Fortunately for me I am blessed to be debt free. So what I do doesn’t have to be about debt servicing. I’ve been honing my skills, using both machine and hand tools since I started in 2004ish. I don’t necessarily want to use wood exclusively. I feel my skills are growing, and it’s debate to wait until I feel they are “perfected” or to just put some stuff out there to test the local market.

    I guess some advice on when you (Paul Sellers) knew that your stuff was good enough to be put out there would be great.

  10. Hi Paul.

    I’m a 38 year old steam fitter. I work with steel pipe by day and direct the chaos that is my family after work. I’ve worked in the pipe trades since I was 14 including a 5 year stint as a salesman thinking money was what I needed to make me happy. I rediscovered woodworking during my time doing sales and specifically working with hand tools. Working with hand tools is one of the best ways for me to relax and unwind after a trying day. I have no interest in being a woodworker for money as I receive plenty of fulfillment from my day job. For me, I do it just for the enjoyment and relaxation it provides. As a side benefit my wife and kids enjoy the furniture and other products that come from dad’s shop. Also it has provided a special connection with my 10 year old daughter that loves “going down to the ship with daddy”.

    Thanks for providing and economical way for me to learn more hand skills and some great ideas on projects my wife enjoys “corner shelf”.

    Adam in the US

  11. For me. starting out is chance to do something for me, on my time schedule. Nearing retirement, I often chafe that the best hours of the day, the best days of my life have been sold to someone else. As a research engineer in automotive lighting I have had ample opportunity to create, just not for me. I long for a slower pace, a quieter time and projects that I keep or give away or sell as I desire when they are complete. Although I have my share of powered woodworking equipment, an appreciation of earlier methods began with the acquisition of a Stanley 45 plow plane at a local antique store. As I researched it’s history and uses I ran across you tube videos of Paul doing miraculous things with wood and steel and he made it look accessible and fun for anyone. I’m still on the conveyor, too much time invested to jump off now but in a few more years, I fully intend to start out.

  12. Paul,

    I am 70 years old, retired from 45 years of work in”the system” ina variety of capacities. I began woodworking 40 years ago. I went the machine route and got to the point where folks were asking me to make things for them. I got tired of shoving boards through machines. I do not need to tell you why hand tool woodworking is more pleasant. It did cause me to really have to struggle to bring the quality of my work up to what I could produce with machines. Fine. I am not all the way there, but I enjoy the process so very much more. Unless one comes from serious poverty,I am convinced that the very most important criterion for being a woodworker is wanting to be one. You have demonstrated very well that patience and a couple of hundred bucks can provide all the tool kit that is needed to make nice furniture. This message is so very critical because of all the propaganda put out by the tool sellers. Keep at it. You ARE making a difference .


  13. I think I’m always starting out. It’s always making, just different mediums. I’m a civil engineer 40-50 hours a week, but don’t get to build what I design. Sometimes I don’t even see it. Plus I sit at a desk all day, and I’m pretty sure I (along with everybody else) am not made to do that. So something’s always missing, gone unfulfilled. I guess I find hobbies that allow me to design and build. But I think my ultimate goal is to make things that I know somebody else will use, or at least appreciate. What I mean is I don’t really make things for myself…I guess I just realized that actually.

    Right now the idea of turning woodworking into something that pays the bills sounds like a dream. I can’t complain about my job since it provides for my family. But I’m 30 next month, and the idea of putting another 30 or 40 years towards a job that I’m not really enjoying just depresses me. Maybe I should just get over it. Maybe.

    So day-to-day, I guess starting out keeps me motivated to learn and make things, keeps me out of trouble, and keeps me close to my family (even if I’m in the garage). In the long run, as my skills progress, I would love to make things for others regularly. And if I have those skills, I’d enjoy passing them on to others as well.

    Thanks for doing just that, Paul. And thanks for helping to make woodworking so accessible to complete novices.

  14. Paul,

    What I hope for is a life spent enjoying my day instead of just getting through it. I have been working with wood and trying to build skill through reading and watching the work of “professionals”. It wasn’t until I discovered your courses that I realized that some form of apprenticeship could still be possible. What I hope to gain is more experience and confidence to do what my wife and my family have encouraged me to do and that is to start a business in woodworking. I have a knack for this but I am currently unsure of how create a business or lifestyle that allows me to contribute as a provider while still doing something I love. My current career is one that requires uncertain hours, and many hours of work for nothing more than the opportunity to do it all again the next week. I am going to try and make a living being a woodworker, but uncertainty can be very stressful. Thank you for a wonderful opportunity and the encouragement try.



  15. I’m in Australia going on 12 years now, started off very slow. If it wasn’t for my website I don’t think it would have worked. Having said that it’s also been the thing that almost brought me undone recently and has been a huge stress trying to keep up with the latest in SEO, moving to a better host and other problems have arose. I’m now dealing with two issues of downright plagiarism. One person has pretty much copied the whole first paragraph of my old home page and used it on his own to promote his work in direct competition to mine. Then there is another guy I discovered in the UK who is using a picture of my unique products (a photo I took in my workshop myself) to promote his own work, which is totally different to mine but that doesn’t stop him using it on his homepage so his customers can click on it and be taken through to his products, in direct competition to mine.

    Who knows how long this has been going on and how many more are out there. I don’t have time for all this, it’s probably costing me business and now the competitors site is ranking above mine for some keywords. It’s not fair! It’s one thing to copy someones work and make similar products. It’s another thing to just blatantly rip off my photo and text to promote their own.
    I’ve always been reluctant to share too much. I want to help other woodworkers get started but after experiencing things like this why would I want to help people become major competitors, especially if they are likely to do this. Sorry for the rant but I’m really starting to loose faith in my fellow woodworkers. I’m honestly starting to think that relying on a website for your income is not the way to go if you want a reliable income stream.
    I’m also reluctant to put too much on my new site, so for now it’s just really basic, I had a lot I wanted to share but this has really turned me off the whole scene.

  16. Successful would be living a simple life with no debt. Free to try different things and not worry about this bill or that bill. If it would be making spoons and spatulas one week, a chair the next, a cabinet after that or a small viking longship (my wife has been warned) somewhere in between. Not being bothered by an over reaching hand telling me that I have to purchase this or pay for someone else that. A freeman making a living with my hands.

  17. Hi Paul,

    For me, success would be having a principally hand tool workshop making bespoke furniture. My primary goal is to one day have my own furniture making business, to work for myself, to make enough money to continue to pay my mortgage, and to escape, as much as possible, the external performance metrics that I presently work to.

    At the moment I am a lecturer and researcher at an Australian University, but as much as I enjoy that, my real passion is working with my hands and engaging my creative side (something I didn’t think I had until I discovered your blog and Woodworking Masterclasses). I believe there is a place for hand-crafted furniture where I live, and I really want to make that happen. But it’s a scary proposition stepping away from the security I have into the unknown.

  18. I am a 33 year old university professor. I’ve always enjoyed designing, making and fixing things. I’ve always had a mechanical knack, but my other interests led me to spending years completing a PhD. Finally working full time and earning a salary was a blessing and a curse: I can work long hours in front of a screen, sitting, typing. However, it also meant that I was finally able to afford tools, and to have a decent garage.

    The more I had read up on building the coffee table that I need, or the bed frame that my wife wants, or the shuffleboard table I want to have in the basement, I kept noticing the massive amounts of equipment so many guys had. I have nowhere close to the budget or the room some of these YouTube machinists have, and they were talking about how they just slap this $35 bit into this $200 router and then they cut to dimension these legs with this sliding jig on their enormous tablesaw with dust collection….

    I thought there had to be a better way thanks to being lucky enough to have had some old school industrial arts teachers many years ago. And thanks to all your videos, I recently created all the centerpieces for my recent wedding by making poplar boxes to hold flowers and lanterns. A circular saw helped with some cuts, but many cuts were also done by hand along with planing, joining, et cetera.

    I am unlikely to ever be a full time wood worker; BUT: I am back to having a very enjoyable and productive hobby; I can provide furniture, storage, and meaningful decor to my home and as gifts. I work with my hands again as I did as a child and younger man. I find wood working reinvigorates thinking in other areas; exercising the brain along with the body. Thank you for all the information and advice you’ve put out here for us. It’s been a real joy.

  19. Hi

    I’m 37 and from Slovenia. I’m a website designer. For last 18 years my main hobby (or you can call it way if life) was alpinism. But since my daughter was born few years ago I needed to fill my head with other ideas which I could accomplish from home.

    I also find working with hand tools really enjoyable, except for preparing stock. I’m sure planer-thicknesser would be nice benefit. I love how, with hand tools, you are so much more aware if you are doing it right or wrong and not just putting stuff through the machine

    For me woodworking is about creating. Sure I would love to make a living from what I love, but I don’t think this is realistic. I’m sure there would be a lot of struggle trying to live from that. So for now woodworking is just something for me and what I can create for my family or friends. I also wonder if it would still be so much joy in that if I would be doing it for money.

    We’ll see where all this takes me in a few years. If everything goes to hell I’ll still have woodworking right?

  20. Last night, some friends were visiting from Los Angeles and were asking me about my interest in woodworking. I reached for my black walnut TV remote caddy and picked it up and showed them my work. They looked at the dovetail joints, the beauty of the wood, the design, and the utility of it and expressed themselves favorably. I further explained that the wood came from a black walnut tree on my ranch that fell down in a storm and I harvested the tree planks from the tree, that I have a teacher who lives in Wales, that I am a hand tool woodworker, that I receive the greatest joy in taking wood from a tree and turning it into something beautiful and useful, that my world has expanded on account of my teaching from my teacher in Wales, my awareness of the natural world has brought me into harmony with God’s world, and finally, all of this makes me happy.

    You asked why I follow you – that is why.

    I like your teaching, your inclination to using used tools, your use of alternate methods to achieve a result, your repetition of teaching critical tasks, and your joy.

  21. Paul, you’ve asked what I have now and what I want to result from starting out. I have workbench with a secondhand vise, Luther ten starter tools to recommend (all secondhand), clamps, and a few extra tools for carving. My workspace is a spare bedroom in a house that my wife and I rent.

    What I want is the freedom to create. I would rather eat beans and rice and get to create things I love than steak and wine and have to work a job that makes me feel less human and less alive. So basically, just pay minimal bills and get to create.

  22. Mr Sellers,
    A couple of decades ago I was inspired by a familiar PBS show. I have a fully powerized shop. In the last several years most of my machines have set idle, I still occasionally use the tablesaw and the mitre saw, and use the band saw nearly daily, but other than the quick rough dimensioning from log to lumber I mostly use hand tools. I find it extremely therapeutic after a long days work to plane a board, cut dovetails or chop out mortices. I have made hundreds of pieces, but to date have never made one for money, It’s very rewarding to make pieces for friends and family.
    I have found you an inspiration ever since meeting you in Waco years ago, and I truly appreciate that inspiration. On a side note, I think we can be too quick to judge that former PBS show. Although I don’t use his methods, he did inspire me to “give it a try”.

  23. Paul,
    I’m 77, a union carpenter retired over a decade now, and my shop is in a two story garage I built myself. I have some stationary power tools ( tablesaw, bandsaw, lathe, etc) that see occasional use. When I began as an apprentice many years ago ( not quite horse and buggy days, but close) we did everything right on the job, mostly with hand tools except making the actual sash. When I retired it was mostly aluminum studs and synthetic materials.

    I suppose my currrent passion for making furniture by hand is a way of retrieving my youth, and success is being able to look back on a long life of building things, and feeling that I’ve accomplished something.

  24. Hello Paul,

    I am not a professional craftsman myself. I began my career as an occupational psychologist working in IT, spent several years self-employed as a one-man show and then broadened out into the business area. For many years now I have been working in management. For the most part I am quite content with the way things have gone and enjoy my work. There will always be good days and those less enjoyable.
    Woodworking and crafting though have become a very important part in my life, simply for providing a creative counter-balance to my creativity at the office. Working in business means you rarely get to “finish” things, projects will often continue on different tangents, and somehow there never seems to be closure of any kind. More than that though, unlike in crafts, you rarely get to see and touch what you have participated in or created. I realized, that for me that too was important.

    My first timid steps into crafting and woodworking happened about two years ago, and I believe it was people such as yourself and Youtube-videos that got me started. If I recall one of the first I saw was your video showing how you make your dovetail template. I remember the fascination and admiration I felt, and also the feeling of “I Wish I could do that”. That feeling was soon followed by my wondering whether I possibly could, and then I suddenly found myself just doing it, wanting to try things out with my own hands, figure things out, learn things.

    I am therefor not a typical representative of craftsmen and -women wanting to start out in a new woodworking career, but I cherish every moment I get to spend at my workbench, working with my hands and learning to use hand-tools.

    Starting out: For me it has been taking a first step to see whether I can do something like woodworking and overcoming doubt. It has been and is an enjoyable challenge of learning and doing and creating, and I am looking forward to more.

    For the time being I am enjoying this, learning and trying out techniques, restoring and working with old handtools, making objects and furniture for our own use and enjoyment, and using my learned skills more and more around the house and in my life.
    Perhaps some day this will grow into something more.

  25. Jeremy Scott Stoltzfus

    I started out in rough carpentry with a skill saw and tool belt. I then moved into interior trim work and the tools used grew and grew. My teachers were an Amish boss then my brothers who are excellent carpenters in their own way but with power tools. The change into a different method of working that did not involve power tools came when I was at university and I headed south to visit the only older brother I had not yet worked with. It would change everything for me. We built a guitar together during those two weeks and he put me onto a book in which the author used only hand tools for building them. Though we used power tools on that guitar the experience changed things for me. My first interior trim business failed during the recession. It was when we were living in Virginia at an organic farm volunteering that I began to sell off my power tools because we needed money. I replaced them gradually with hand tools I got on the cheap. Quality stuff from flea markets and such. Then I found your videos. Forward three years and I am recovering from a knee injury which took me off the conveyor belt cabinet life and trying to start up my own business again this time using real woodworking skills with low overhead and truer skills from you and others on the youtube. When my wife starts working again I want to take a course from you if you will have one in the united States again. Thank you so much. I have learned a lot from watching your videos. I apologize that I have not had the money yet to buy anything and help support you in that way but I support you by keeping g the skills alive in Goshen Indiana.

  26. Hello Paul,

    I’ve a workshop in a single garage. Too small really but it’s a good workshop and I’ve made sa few big things in there already. I’ve a couple of machines for rough stock prep – everything else by hand. I started out by making bits for people I like, friends and family. Then I got a couple of commissions, one of my biggest projects has been a period kitchen. Five years on and I’m still doing commissions but now I’m doing the R&D for a couple of new pieces – looking at the economics of small batch production. Still all by hand. I have been up in front of buyers at a major retail store which was interesting – in terms of what that would take and my possible career direction.

    Now I work only part time on the day job to give me more time for designing and being in the workshop. That means a lower secure income and more risk. But it’s a slow and steady transition and nothing worthwhile is without risk. I am closing in on my goal of being a full time furniture designer maker. Success to me means earning enough to keep the lights on, yes, but so much more too. I feel like the work itself is payment enough! Realising you’ve been on a conveyor belt then stepping off it, creating an alternative reality, headspace, removing unnecessary excesses and pressures that seem so ridiculous when you see things for what they are. Creating things with care – care for the piece and the people that will use it.

    My eventual goal is to set up in a decent sized workshop and work with a like minded team, on challenging and interesting furniture work that’s done properly, to make enough money to get by (though more is always nice) and above all to enjoy doing the work.

    Thanks to you Paul for all the contributions you’re making to Real Woodworking.

  27. For me, i think woodworking is a way to have some balance in my life. I work with computers for my day job, and so it’s refreshing to get away from the screen for a while. I got started with hand tools and your videos because I have limited shop space and simply don’t have room for all of the power tools. Once I started down that path, though, I realized I like hand tools for other reasons, too. They’re safer and you really feel like a craftsman instead of just feeding boards through machines. I also like that hand tools are nice and quiet, so I can put the radio on in the background, or leave the radio off and just enjoy the whoosh whoosh of a hand plane. Also, because it’s meant to be a hobby, I’m less concerned about how quickly I can produce. If a mortise and tenon or dovetail takes a little longer to make, then I really don’t care – I’d rather have a quality joint.

    Would I ever quit my day job to become a full-time woodworker? Probably not. I’m a software engineer by trade, and I actually enjoy creating software, too. So even if I switched to woodworking for a career, I would still do programming as a hobby. It’s like brain candy. But that’s just me, and I know not everyone feels the same way. That’s fine, though, as these differences are what make us all unique. I have a lot of respect for the professional woodworkers out there, and if you enjoy what you’re doing, keep doing it.

    Will I devote more time to woodworking when I retire? Absolutely.

  28. I’m a 25 year old filmmaker who’s been self employed doing just that for the past 4 years now, I make enough money to keep me going – it’s actually a very lucrative job in the current state of content delivery – but it doesn’t give me what I really want. I started to take wood working more seriously about a year ago and I entered it thinking about power tools and machines – which I guess I had the budget for. All it took was one random purchase of a Stanley 220 block plane on ebay to make me realise how I really wanted to work. I now do 90% of my work with hand tools and I’m getting more and more commissions through word of mouth in my town. What’s interesting is how it has similarities with my main income trade, both require a degree of finesse and skill. But what’s most interesting is their main difference – one has a tangible output and the other not at all, and that’s for me why I eventually want to have my main source of living income to be in working wood.

    I always thought I’d end up working in the commercial film industry for the rest of my life – but I never really had that drive to devote my life to it. But since I’ve started making tangible and sometimes beautiful things for people, I feel I’ve found my true calling, and it’s largely influenced by the work you do here so I really do thank you dearly.

    1. It sounds like vocational calling and the lure of lifestyle woodworking to me. Welcome on board, Elliot.

  29. That’s definitely it Paul, I live and breathe this – it’s not a case of ‘will it pan out’ or ‘will I be able to pay the bills’ it’s a case of it will work and I will be able to create a life where handwork will be at the centre of. I’ve never slept less – and never enjoyed long days more.

  30. There’s lots of really encouraging stories, here. I enjoy woodworking as a hobby, and never really thought much about trying to make a living from it. Woodworking gives me an outlet to fulfill that craving to create that isn’t satisfied in my high stress job where I solve other people’s problems for a lot of money but not a lot of contentedness. Working with hand tools was an epiphany. I love the “centered-ness” of working with hand tools, the high concentration and high level of accuracy and trying to make the work as perfect as possible, and continually pushing to improve (I have a lot of room to improve!) You can’t fudge it and fake it like working with machines. It’s you, the tool, and the wood. For me, its a bit of sanity in an insane world in the comfort of my garage where I can live in the moment completely, and create beautiful things. God bless you, Paul.

  31. I’m 29 years old, and happy that I am already selling my furniture… I have been doing it full time for about 1.5 years. I only have a circular saw as power tool, the rest is a very modest set of hand tools which is slowly increasing. It is amazing how everything changed for me together with the ability to sharpen. Together also comes the courage to build more tools and they work very good too. I love it. And my clients seem to be really happy with the design and construction, and that reflects in that I am selling without any web page or any advertisement yet, just through recommendation.
    To be honest my heart tells me to build musical instruments, but I though that it would be key to start on furniture and gain experience on good joinery and keep discovering hand tools and method let’s see what happens. I’m doing way less money than my last job, but I was not happy. I clearly feel I am towards the right path. I love this, is good for my soul. I love the sense of freedom, of independence. I just need enough to survive, make an eventual trip to keep knowing the world and that would be a life I don’t plan ever to retire.
    Of course, you have been an oasis of information in a desert full of power, speed, noise and debt enthusiast. Thanks!

  32. Mike Ballinger

    Hi Paul. What I have now is a good set of minimalists hand tools, stacked in a single cupboard from floor to ceiling. I’m in a 1 bed apartment and I work full time as a graphic designer in branding. I love creativity and design, but unfortunately I don’t like the role that I play in society of helping large corporates sell more product or services. It doesn’t contribute to making anyone’s life better. My wife on the other hand is a psychotherapist and I greatly admire her for following her calling to it. I don’t have space to work so I’ve joined a menshed to work out of. I would love to first develop skill, second to apply that skill to build my own designs. Lastly I want to connect with people and invite them into the workshop and in that way transition to having a job that gives to society one individual at a time. But I have mouths to feed and a mortgage to service for now so I’m not sure how to start only that I have and figure I’ll find a way because I’m so damn passionate about being a maker.

    1. Francesco Gallarotti

      “I love creativity and design, but unfortunately I don’t like the role that I play in society of helping large corporates sell more product or services. It doesn’t contribute to making anyone’s life better.”

      This is exactly how I feel about my work… And the older you get, the stupider it seems to spend most of your life without making any contribution to anyone’s life…

  33. I’m 48 years old. I am a professional musician from age 17. A whole life loving real things and the work with hands and art.
    From childhood I loved the wood and work with it but never had the opportunity to learn the trade. Until I found a true master like Paul. He represents my tutor in this new art.

    From Catalonia (Spain)

  34. Mike Ballinger

    “This is exactly how I feel about my work” remarkable how through this site I’ve discovered so many people that have similar ways of seeing things.

  35. Paul another great post. I always had an interest in woodworking, helping my Father rebuild or should I say remodel and old farm house when I was very young. I took shop class where half the year was in the shop and the other half was drafting. I later became an Engineer and retired in 2009 moving back to Florida.

    I to had the Norm graze with all the “must have” power tools and very few hand tools but l aways had an interest in hand tools. I have since sold my table saw but still own my Shopsmith which my Wife gave me as a 10 year anniversary present back in 1982. I have a few medical problems and was scared of the table saw so I did sell that when I retired. This is when I really took an interest in hand tools and other than my bandsaw and Shopsmith which I use primarily for a drill press occasionally it has been hand tool’s only. When I discovered you a few years ago and bought your book I really got hooked. Unfortunately this year because of Medical reasons has kept me out of my shop which I hope to get back in very soon. I also still have a book shelf / stand I made when when I was in High School my very first piece of furniture.

    I enjoy your work, blog and video’s and has been a great inspiration for me, please keep up the good work and doing what you do.


  36. I’ve been thinking about woodworking for quite a while. A lot of threads in my life are coming together to start me on this journey.

    I work at a manufacturing plant that processes a lot of Douglas Fir and (in the last few years) Western Hemlock to make cross-arms, braces, and other items for electricity transmission and distribution. I work in the maintenance department, keeping our steam boilers happy and running machinery that processes wood scrap into fuel for one of our boilers that only runs during the heating months. I have access to our carpenter shop, which has all the power tools I’d need to get started with power tools.

    Hold onto that thread…

    I am a fairly adept guitarist; have never made a living at it, but probably could have if I wanted to forgo having a family, or a roof over my head, or food on the table etc. I mostly play electric guitars, and love everything about them, especially how they can sound differently from each other due to differing construction or materials or even the way they are set up. I’ve never been able to afford a large collection or even one bespoke instrument made to suit me. (I have some out-of-the-norm ideas on the ideal instrument)

    That’s another thread…

    I could (and did, but decided it was too much to read) write many more paragraphs about different threads coming together, but ultimately what counts is that I’d like to use materials in my possession to perhaps craft some instruments I could make music with, and found the idea of using power tools off-putting enough to keep me from getting started.

    In a slow moment at work, (because a lot of my work is merely watching machinery do what it does without active involvement) I found a Stanley #4 and wondered if I could get it to work. It had not been used by our carpenters in decades and was very dull, but with a little work I managed to raise a few ragged shavings. That got me wanting to learn how to make it work better, and after some research I started getting the notion that I’d like to try using hand tools to make my own instruments, and maybe some cabinetry, and maybe some furniture…

    I also see it as a way to connect with the memory of my late grandfather, who was a master finish carpenter in the Detroit area in the early and mid 20th century. I never had a chance to learn anything from him, as by the time I old enough, he had worn himself out for manual labor and was overseeing a property of a famous US retail family in a semi-retired capacity.

    I recently found a box of Bailey pattern plane parts at an antique store and following your advice to restore old planes to learn how they work, I managed to get a good #4 and #5. I recently got a set of the Aldi chisels that you recommend, and have a few decent quality saws, which are fairly dull, but I hope can manage to do the necessary work to complete my workbench, which I am building more-or-less to your design. Once I have the workbench I think the tool sharpening can go much better, though I did manage to cobble together a vise to sharpen my rip handsaw.

    Now I’d better get out to my garage. It’s time to start laminating my benchtop!

  37. Good man! I’m Close to building a bench myself, just sourcing a vice on eBay at the moment. Unfortunately missed out on a lovely reconditioned 9″ record quick release vice. On sharpening just wanted to say you can get amazing results without a workbench just keep practicing it won’t take you long to get it especially if you play guitar because you’re already in tune with your body. I have a set of diamond stones and I’ve just mounted them up in 20mm plywood, I clamp it to my kitchen bench and it works a treat.

  38. Dr. Allen R Curry

    Thanks for the opportunity to reply.

    I am 69 years old and was diagnosed with a terminal lung disease 3 years ago and given less than 24 months to live. Still kicking, but slowing down month by month. About 35 years ago I bought a Shop Smith with most of the add-on gadgets. I used the machine to add a room onto my house. I wanted to do more woodworking but I could never seem to get the Shop Smith set to do accurate work. My father was trained as a cabinetmaker and his father was a tool and die maker. I decided the “maker gene” just skipped me. So I gave the machine away.

    After my diagnosis, I retired but still worked part-time as a statistics professor at a small local college. I had retained my interest n woodworking but did not want to subject myself to the dust from machines. While surfing the web I ran across one of your You Tube videos and slowly came to believe I could do decent work by hand if I followed your lead.

    I started at the beginning of July making a workbench. It has been slow progress because my strength and stamina allow me to only work 1-2 hours without a long break. I have viewed all of your videos, read your articles/blog and received your Working Wood 1 & 2 as a birthday present. I have found great satisfaction at my slow but steady progress. I have you to thank for this revitalizing new interest. I think once the workbench is built I’ll turn to wooden spoon/utensil making as a hobby that I can continue as long as my disease allows.

    Thank you for these gifts.

    Allen Curry
    Aurora, Colorado

  39. I’m a teacher in Allentown, Pa. I have worked in urban education for 15 years. I started wood working this past January. For some reason I love to make boxes. I’ve made small ones and have worked my way up to medium sized chests. I feel that I am close to selling some soon. My current plan is to sell chest for pocket money ( gas, groceries, etc.). While I hopefully establish myself as a master box maker, I will then begin to explore other projects like a dining room table. If I’m able to do this, my long term goal is to retire from teaching at 55 and woodwork full time as a master chest and table maker. I’m 41.

  40. Being 22 I am starting out in many ways. I’m currently well on my way towards finishing an engineering degree. I plan to work in the field for about a decade or so after graduating and saving every penny I can (about 75% of after tax income). This should result in enough capital where the return on investment will cover the bills as long as I live modestly/frugally. I will then “retire” from the nine to five enabling me to do whatever I want to do rather than what my boss tells me to. This might be further education as I like learning, starting a business or raising kids.

    Starting out in woodworking with hand tools will initially give me an opportunity to learn new skills, work with my hands rather than a keyboard and an artistic outlet. Long term I aim to develop sufficient skills such that I can earn a supplemental income from part time woodworking after “retiring” from engineering.

    Steven, The Netherlands

  41. Hello Sr Sellers,
    I’m from France and I am 47, when i was a boy 14 years old i success the exam to integrate the french scool of woodworking ” l’école Boule “. But, i was afraid and my parents too because in the 80’s manual work was for stupid people who could’nt do anything else, I had to be ingenior! I’m not ingenior and all my life I was interested in working wood but not doing it.
    I let my job of commercial to become a plumber and the real life is begining.I was working wood with power machine because i didn’t find where to master hand tools, then I knew you and today the machines only work for stock preparation, all my joinery is handmade and I am an happy man because thank’s to you and your woodworking masterclasses, I can live my pasion. Working with my hands and brain is for me a real happyness. I don’t expect making a living, just feel I am alive.
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge, if nobody do what you do, I think humanity will loose his knowledge very quickly.

  42. Mr Sellers,

    At 64, I am starting. Again. At 26, with a young wife and young children, a young mortgage and an old habit or two, there was no way I could continue with woodworking, hand-tool or powered.

    And I am from the school that says you never really know what you love to do until you learn to love what you are doing. So I went to the mine (my best opportunity,) finished my education there, and built a long and prosperous career as a miner, a manager, a consultant, and even a salesman but never leaving the mines. And unlike most of the commenters here, I learned to love doing it all. If I could not have learned to love it, I would have moved on…

    But now I belong to perhaps the last US generation that will receive a pension from a lifetime of loyal work to a private company, and I am an early Social Security recipient. Having now an old mortgage and loyal wife and grown children, I can now choose the avocation I love, rather than choose to love the career I have. Very fortunate position for one to find themselves in.

    Being somewhat “allergic” to fine dusts, especially fine wood dust, I have easily weaned myself from nearly all power tools. I still use a small battery drill with a quick chuck (mostly because it is very short coupled,) and sometimes I reduce stock on an old, small, construction grade table saw when I can use it outside. Otherwise I use (and collect) handtools, and build them back up for my sons and grandsons and friends.

    If I learned one lesson from my 45 very successful years in the mining industry it is that you cannot be great at all aspects of an industry or craft. What one man can do, any other man can do, the difference is the 10,000 hours of practice that the other guy/gal has invested ahead of you to learn to do one thing very well.

    I would predict/suggest that most of us who now choose to work with wood, to shape it with our imaginations and our hands, will do better if we learn to do one thing very, very well. Be a chairmaker, or a boxmaker, or a clockmaker or a (?)maker…but don’t presume that 3 joints will allow you to do it all.

    10,000 hours under the watchful eyes and sincere criticism of masters of the craft.

    A few sharp, flat, square handtools,


    I think that is what we need.

    And don’t forget to love your family more than your shop.



  43. I have wonderful memories of my dad and myself in his shop when I was a kid. He didn’t work with hand tools often, mostly powered tools, but the memories are ones I’ll cherish my entire life. I’m mid 30’s and working in the technology field now. My world changes daily, and at an astonishing rate. I’ve found a certain peace in my own shop in recent years. I now have two small children and would like to pass down the same wonder I was given as a child. I enjoy working wood by hand, though I have to admit I am a complete novice still. Building something that will be around after I’m gone gives me peace. Hopefully these memories will survive with my kids long after I’m gone as well. That’s why I took up wood working. I don’t have any plans to make money at this. I do it because I love it. I do it because my father shared it with me and I want to share it with my kids. I’d also like to take a moment to say “Thank you,” to you, Mr. Sellers. If not for you, I likely would never found my love of working wood by hand. I, for one, truly appreciate the incredible wealth of experience you share with us.

    Many thanks,


  44. Dr. Allen R Curry

    Thank you. Mr. Mueller. Doing well and staying as busy as possible. Family is here for supper and I am feeling quite contented.

    Best regards,


  45. I am 34 years old and live in the US. I’m married (15 months now) and my wife works too. We don’t yet have any children (we plan on it!). In 10 years since graduating college with an IT degree I’ve worked my way to the “top” and am an eCommerce executive. Together, my wife and I earn nearly $300K/year. I’m ready to walk away to start over as a woodworker! I like building things. Computer systems, teams, software products, but nothing is more gratifying than my time in the shop (as a hobbyist). I feel called to start over as a woodworker, but also am concerned I have a case of the grass-is-greener syndrome. At any case, my wife is supportive and I’m willing to find out so I’m easing into it all. I’m looking for an apprenticeship from someone who is skilled who may benefit from my eCommerce & Internet expertise. When I find him/her, I think I’ll be ready to make the leap. Thank you for your contribution to the world. You are an inspiration.

  46. I’m a 58 year old engineer. I’ve always been interested in starting woodworking, but never knew how to get begin. My great-grandad, a Welshman, was a dredger captain on the Clyde in Glasgow. He made a beautiful mahogany sewing box for my mum when she was a teenager, back before WWII. I would like to leave something behind for my grandkids and their kids that will be as cherished as that sewing box is to me. Before discovering your videos, I had many false starts. I did know that sharpening was probably the most important skill to begin with, but what a mess I made out of those expensive water stones. I never could get a really sharp edge, and the stones always ended up with big undulations in them. Then I found your video on sharpening using diamond stones and a leather strop earlier this year. That was what got me off dead center. My plane blades and chisels are much sharper now, and far more enjoyable to work with. The next stop is building a small work bench. It might not turn out perfectly, but as long as I have a bench on which to practice and develop my skills, I’ll be happy. I thank you for your wonderful videos, and the inspiration they instill.

  47. I discovered working wood this year. I’m a 20 years old Canadian and I moved to Germany at the time this post went out to live with my girlfriend. This year was a difficult one, isolated by culture and language, having let my friends behind. I’m a guitar player, and the guitar I had here, made in China, just did not motivate me. I needed something to fill the time I had alone at home, about 10 hours a day, so after seeing a couple videos on YouTube, I decided I as going to build my own. I’ve never been a very handy person. Clumsy, inefficient, lunatic… ally life I’ve been told I wasn’t good with my hands, so I entered this project with very little confidence, and very little knowledge. Bought some tools some wood, a book, but I still couldn’t get started. Too much stress, too many things running around in my head. I was scared of failure. My project took a halt when I bought a router. I’ve never handled machines before, and although I was aware about safety, the first seconds I turned it on, I realize this wasn’t for me. I’ve never even touched it since. I demotivated me, because from that moment I realized I had to put away all these machines, and suddenly building my guitar felt even less imaginable. The hand tool method didn’t have any meaning or me. But one day I ended up on YouTube watching Paul’s video on making mortise and tenon, and the ease and simplicity and encouragements that teanscended out of this video got me back on track. I started reading, learning, and eventually it became a hobby for me. I bought for 120 euros a box of old tools on eBay. A dozen planes, about 20 chisels ajd gouges, two saws, a brace, a hand drill, bits, etc… they were in awful condition, but I got what I needed and started restoring them. I found in this great pleasure. Since then, I haven’t spent a day without trying new things, building a tool, fixing something around the house, building a workbench, drawing future projects. I haven’t done much in terms of furniture yet, nor have I started making my guitar, but these are things I cherish and projects I keep for later, when I know my skills are better. I’ve been improving so much in so little time, and I’ve become quite handy as a person. I can imagine and understand the objects around me and the materials they are made of. Although I’m far from thinking that I will make any income out of working wood in a near future, I decided to become an apprentice. The German system is fantastic. And free for any one, as long as your level of German is good enough to get through it. So starting from next September (2016) I will go to school learning hand tool methods, and for the two years after i will be an apprentice for a furniture maker near where I live.

    I’m so exited. I’ve found a direction that fulfills me artistically and that challenges me intellectually. So yes Mr Sellers, you are reaching to people internationally, and more that you will ever imagine. Your vision wakes people up and enlightens them. Your vision of society is so right. I’ve traveled around the world in the last three years, and seen things people are unaware of. I’ve been out of the beaten path for long enough to see through the bullshit we’ve been told in occident. I went through pain and depression trying to make sense of these things. Nothing seemed to work, there was for a while something missing. Now I really feel better about myself. I’m not so optimistic about our world, for so many reasons, but the prospect of becoming an artisan, working with my hands, building my own furniture, instruments, tools, house… that just makes me happy inside 🙂 it does free you from the material world.

    So thanks for that! I will be forever grateful.

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