Remember what sparked your woodworking

DSC_0031I think this is more important than you might think. I don’t altogether think it matters whether the wood was being processed by machine or that it was being worked with hand tools. The processes are in no way the same or even linked particularly, but the synapses somehow snapped everything to attention at some start point for us all and understanding that its conversion from a tree to a table seems quite significant, so I say remember what started you off.

It wasn’t the noise of spinning table saws or the magic protective qualities of a SawStop. The dust masks and face shields, ear plugs and special glasses weren’t alluring fashion statements and neither could you associate Bosch and DeWalt with what you really felt stirring you inside.

My woodworking was stirred in me by my shaping some mahogany with a spokeshave and planing the faces with a well-set, newly sharpened #3 Stanley bench plane by my woodworking teacher Mr Hope. The others in the class seemed bent on destruction except for one or two like me who were fascinatingly cutting their very first dado. They drove nails into benchtops with mallets and stabbed chisels up and down to make dumb patterns amongst the nail heads. Such was the way of the woodshop. For some it was a way of escape from authority hiding behind the noise of the tablesaw being used by the teacher and then for the other handful of boys it was an escape from the nonsense of maths and English language.

DSC_0183What mostly sparked my interest was the association of tools and wood with order, measurement, sharpness, accuracy and such things as these. For the first time I understood that everything had an order to it when it came to craft work and that understanding the order of the tools, the growth of the wood and the fact, yes fact, that hand tools could produce the exactness it took to make something really finely crafted and beautiful. These were the things that touched my palate when I was 13 years old. From then on I ducked and dodged every math and English class I could to go somewhere else to work at craft work. So successful was I at this that I stayed under the radar for two whole years and split my time between woodworking, metalworking, art and craft and these teachers all welcomed me where the others seemed always to be frustrated. this work undergirded my future as a crafting artisan and nothing and no one ever stopped me from making with my hands for the past 53 years to date.

DSC_0758When I left school maths and English language suddenly made sense in the work I was doing. I readily learned maths at the workbench and so too geometry and technical drawing, reading and creating technical drawings and designing pieces. Soon I was self employed, married at 22 I had my first mortgage and at 23 my daughter was born. At 23 I started my own business and since then I have invested my whole life in craft work working pretty much within one foot from a bench and bench vise. I use the same tools I began with and never once did I regret my answering my vocational calling despite some unsavoury choices and partners along the way. My love for woodworking and craftwork as a whole has been altogether wonderful. The most important element that helped me the most was my determination to NEVER listen to anyone who said you cannot make your living from working with your hands in this day and age. I would listen respectfully to what they said. Don’t get me wrong, but what I heard them saying was that THEY couldn’t make THEIR living from working with THEIR hands so why should YOU be so arrogant to think you can? They never turned me because it was my vocational calling and that means you live through the hard times because you are married to this thing called craft.

DSC_0746What started me off was indeed the multidimensional world of trees and the wood we took from the growing of them. The fact that there was a stability in the provision they brought to my life. The certainty if you will of a self sustaining provision that flexed to cleanse the very air I breathed and mopped up the spillage from sickening consumerism. I could understand these things much more than social studies and the biasses and blindness of a teacher so ready in condemning Luddites for shunning modernity in mechanisation. A person who simply picked up information, processed it and packaged it systematically and then passed it on to me to consume. I pretty much understood that this person never worked outside of going to school, college and then back to school. No, I am not into Luddism in any way as I am disqualified by my liking machines and industry too, but I do see how education can be fashioned to determine the outcome of how most young people fit into the economies as collateral input. How lives are quantified by their value to a socioeconomic system of input and output and I am glad I found a way to in some measure, not the whole, stay under the radar as I did when I progressed through school. Perhaps today I am as disqualified as I was at 14 when my then headmaster told my parents, ”I am afraid I must tell you that Paul is ineducable. He can never be educated.”


  1. Steven Newman on 10 November 2015 at 5:46 am

    What sparked mine? Needed a small table to set up my short wave radio on by my bed. Just some old crate wood. Nowadays, just something to make for either the wood shop, or a family member. Got to the point that selling the furniture I was making, turned into just a job…yuck.
    More or less retired from that. Now have a small woodshop called The Dungeon Shop.

    You are welcome any time to drop by for a visit…..

  2. Dustin C on 10 November 2015 at 6:03 am

    I got married, bought my first house, and we were fortunate enough to have two healthy children shortly after. That is when woodworking started. For me, woodworking is a hobby that I really enjoy but what I absolutely love about it is the feeling of satisfaction that I get when I am making something for someone else that I know they will absolutely love and appreciate. Whether it is making a new bed for a toddler, a toy pirate chest for a nephew, cutting boards for Christmas gifts, or even a beautiful deck for the family, not much is better than making something for someone else and witnessing them enjoy it.

  3. MP on 10 November 2015 at 6:09 am

    There was more than one spark. I saw a master Luther using a 1/8″ chisel to shape a guitar. Precision, effortlessness, beauty. So I opened my eyes. Then I found a teacher, a master, a passion for the craft itself – and I couldn’t help but be moved. I won’t forget.

  4. Christopher Mitchell on 10 November 2015 at 6:47 am

    Thats funny that you brought this subject up because just the other day I was watching the News and a journalist asked five of the top advisors in the world today If they were to give advise to the young generation today what would that advice be. And four of the five said to learn a trade. Or a skilled craft. They said that they believed that was going to be one of the highest paying jobs of the future.
    Question?….. why would they say that?

    All my life I was told to get an education . But even with a degree I was still unhappy. Paid the bills yea. But you can tell when somethings not right.

    I was the one who skipped the woodworking class in high school to go get…. oops I cant say that. sorry .lol
    So it wasn’t until tragedy hit my life that I discovered woodworking. So while I was hospitalized. No. Not the crazy house, although I probably should have been. lol . Somebody and I still don’t know who sent me a subscription of Fine Woodworking and since then that’s all I’ve wanted to do 24/7.

    But as usual I put the cart in front of the Horse. So I bought Machines and more machines and more machines but still something was missing. So one day I was browsing through you tube and clicked on Paul ,making a spoon, a spoon mind you, not a table, not a Highboy or even a Lowboy but a spoon. And that spoon had my undivided attention as Paul talked about learning how the wood works with your tools, and learning who the grain reacts to different cutting tools.. So Now, Im hooked. and that is what I was missing all along. Getting in touch with yourself, your hands and a piece of timber. Nothing like it.
    I envy Paul for you found your calling at a young enough age to have a good complete fulfilling life. I worry that I will run out of time before I reach any type of maturity in this craft. Its not going to stop me. but I want it now!!!. lol. But seriously its not going to come that fast. I know this. But we all need a Hand sometimes . and I don’t think there is nothing wrong with that. At all. If I could travel I would be signed up for your next class but that’s just not a reality that can happen so instead I ask as many questions as my conscience will allow me to.
    I honestly don’t see where you find the time to reply to all the questions that Ive seen you reply too. So my hats off to you. Your not Clark Kent in disguise are you? lol Thanks a million Paul.

  5. Carmelo Corsaro on 10 November 2015 at 8:19 am

    My spark was really deep inside me from the start before I could become aware. My loved parents both artisans, tailor and cabinetmaker respectively, they refused to send me at arts and crafts school. When children peeking at my father job ,I was kept away from the woodwork space of him who said: “Would be better if you never will work like a carpenter! Look at me ! “. It wasn’t they fault but the fashion of the pressing times for them, the pressing against real crafts. We were in the ’60ies in Italy just at the really beginning of the failure you can see now almost everywhere. So I was influenced by the whole to take a long route in mechanical engineering school.The head teacher said to Mom: ” I’m pleased to tell you Carmelo would always be educated and able to follow academic career”. It never happen, just stopped at technical A level and I was 18teen and survived all the horrible things that happened here from 1959 to nowadays: mafia masonic collusion and state bombs, slaughters, presidents and MP and reporter killings, hundreds NATO bases with some nuclear strike capability , heroin, social service mess etc etc. Above all moral apathy. They call it Tension Strategy. It is, I was so tensed that gradually in all this years I tried to reject as much compromise as possible in all fields. I was bloody lucky to have a sharp eye and be farsighted so Jumped from job to job in an endless sequence. Now I’m 56, Jack of all trades with vegetable garden and olive trees, some could say is not a good career, but I started learning woodwork by myself 15 years ago and lately I joined woodwork masterclass by Paul too. Now I write articles for a woodworking magazine and collecting /restoring old English hand tools.
    What could I say : was facing the old frustration that caused me here or was deep old love for beauty, uniqueness, scent, and plasticity of this material. I think the last one, and I’m really beside Paul on all he tell us. I’m so happy with all my heart any time I have hands on a piece of wood. Thanks

  6. Geoff Whiting on 10 November 2015 at 9:26 am

    I can’t remember what sparked my interest in woodworking, but after completing an apprenticeship as a butcher, I decided to do another apprenticeship as a carpenter & joiner.
    I eventually put away my tools and only did bits and pieces around home.
    Watching your videos has rekindled my interest and inspired me to pick up the tools again.
    Thank you Paul, you’re an inspiration.

  7. Keith Clague on 10 November 2015 at 11:33 am

    My uncle was a great woodworker and one day he told me to come to his workshop as he had something for me. He gave me a rope ladder to aid me in getting down the harbour wall. Better than the ladder was the world I stepped into: a workshop full of shavings, a table saw and many hand tools. It was like Alladin’s cave. He immediately saw my interest and subsequently built and gave me a small workbench and a Lewin plough plane with three cutters. At this time, age 11, I started secondary school and had woodworking classes from a Mr Mcleod. He taught me exactly the techniques you are advocating but somehow, at that age they seemed optional. However, I put them into practice and using my small bench I turned out folding pipe racks for my family’s Christmas presents. I realise now the techniques are essential, not optional.
    I wanted a career as a woodworker, just like my uncle. However my father had other ideas and he arrange with the school I would go academic rather than craft. I ended up as a mechanical engineer. However, in my case, the decision was correct. I had a fabulous career that was interesting and challenging and paid the bills. I was able to indulge my passion for woodworking and buy tools – lots of them. One day I hit Paul’s youtube videos and have been transformed. I now can sharpen my tools and its made a huge difference. I no longer rely on my universal machine and find its often quicker to use hand tools. I have restored many saws and planes and have Paul to thank for that A Groves tennon saw for £1 and a bit of effort is probably the best buy. I could go on, but I’m diverging from how I got into woodworking.
    Thanks Paul you are truly inspirational.

  8. woodbutcher on 10 November 2015 at 11:46 am

    I have always earnt my living with my hands, still do, 47 years now. most house jobs, boat work ,scaffolding, oil industry in uk and netherlands, false work & flooring in France. Never made a fortune, but stay interested. The one thing that I wish is that I had had a decent woodwork teacher, Have you ever tried planing the ink out of hundred year old oak(old school desks) with a blunt no 4 ? or a blunt wooden jack? we were not allowed near the sharpening kit. I don’t suppose one of us went into the woodwork trades from school. But, everything I learnt afterwards felt like an achievement. You can make a living with your hands if you are flexible and charge the right money at the right time. Probably if I’d been well taught and had my own workshop I could not have done so. Rent and buisness tax would have killed me in the bad times.
    So, more, better, woodwork teachers please !

  9. Wm. D. Elliott on 10 November 2015 at 12:13 pm

    Paul, what a stimulating essay you wrote. I came to woodworking later than you. My father died in the 1990s leaving to me a collection of woodworking hand tools, and a Shopsmith, plus a library of woodworking books, Fine Woodworking Magazines, welding, woodturning, blacksmithing, and other skills.. My interest commenced and has not stopped. What you write resonates with me. I am grateful to have started in this pursuit when I did. While I will not likely have 50+ plus years of woodworking as you have had, the years that I do have at this craft will be enjoyed and enriching. A lion’s share of the credit also goes to you, for which I am thankful.

  10. Jeff Polaski on 10 November 2015 at 12:20 pm

    My father told me, “stay away from the machine; don’t be a hero, stand back there.”
    Then in woodshop class ( I loved all the different shop classes) I made a wood lamp that looked like an outdoor water pump. I went on to build rooms, closets, move walls, install doors, wire basements, fell trees,make a stereo stand, turned the grinder handle for my grandfather—this was all money in the pocket (except Zada Polaski, of course) and a joy in the heart.
    Years later my father came to me and asked me to build him a storage shed. I did that, too,
    And every day when I walk in the back door of the house, there’s my pump lamp. Just pump the handle and it turns on.

    I want it back.

  11. Jeff Polaski on 10 November 2015 at 12:26 pm

    And, I want to make that rocking chair in the pictures. It doesn’t have to have the seat upholstered; when I sit in a big rocking chair, no important parts hurt. If I can’t get plans from Paul, I’ll make my own plans, because I know I can!

  12. Ed on 10 November 2015 at 1:14 pm

    I have just always built things. I don’t know why. Little boats from walnut shells when I was small, then balsa airplanes, tree forts, and electronics. Partly, I wanted to know how things were done and partly I just liked building. But there was no one to teach me, no shop, and few tools, so I just figured things out, partly by doing, partly from books. Give me a goal and I’ll work until I master it. A book described an Appalachian banjo which I attempted with a scrap of maple for the neck, a hand saw, a coping saw, and a rasp plus some rabbit hide that I tanned in the back yard with oak ashes. My mother fought to get me into wood shop in middle school even though college bound kids almost never took those classes. I’m sad to say it wasn’t a particularly useful class. Somehow this all led me to physics and science, but through all of it I’ve always come back to building, whether that was helping put an addition on a house, refinishing a basement, engineering large software systems, making backgammon and chess boards, or working in a vacuum-forming thermo-plastics shop, which taught about setting up productions on jigs and kludged-up fixtures from a story stick and spring clamps. Laugh, but we were building commercial aircraft interiors. It works. I’ve wasted so much time by not having a teacher, although there’s some value in building myself into a self-teacher. So, I was grateful for a month with Paul, which completely changed what I could build. I’m 50 or so and “careen” describes me better than “career,” but the random walk has been through a forest of building and learning how things work. Atoms and quantum mechanics or rocking chairs and spokeshaves. Same adventure. Equal degrees of change in self perception and grasping the world around me. One you can sit on, though, and ponder, “Why the hell do I do this?” I have no idea.

  13. Keith on 10 November 2015 at 1:32 pm

    The spark was always there, but it is only since I retired that it has ignited a few shavings and started a fire. Interesting there was a time that i told myself that it was the lack of machines that was limiting me. It is only recently that i realised that I have been so mistaken. What brought it home was cutting a joint with a router, then not being happy with the outcome doing it by hand. The lattrer, was quicker, much cleaner and the result far better.

    I would agree about getting a skill as the best route for young people, and retainers. Too many get dreees that lead to nothing.

  14. Michael Ballinger on 10 November 2015 at 2:17 pm

    I designed a logo for one of the oldest National Schools in Ireland (1800’s). It seemed fitting to have it made in wood, so I looked into options. The only answers I found were in the world of CNC routers, laser cutting etc. I began to wonder, how did they do it back in the day? Surely there’s a way with hand tools which seems far more fitting for a design that represents something so old. And that’s where the fascination started for me. One day I will build the logo, completely by hand and gift it to the school!

  15. Thomas Tieffenbacher on 10 November 2015 at 5:00 pm

    I guess it was watching my dad repair our home. He had a tool room with a lock on it. One day I borrowed his tools and built a little bench on the floor and made some boats (basic shapes). Got lost in time and got caught red handed ( no blood LOL). My father was furious, but after he calmed down he said”Thomas ( my name when in trouble) if I give you your own tools will you stay out of my tool room?” I crossed my fingers and said yes. Got my own bench, vice, materials , and instructions on care and use of the tools. I of course asked if I could use his power tools. He said,”learn with these first, you will make smaller mistakes.”

    Some years later after building speaker cabinets for my self designed stereo, I bought my dad a pretty good quality craftsman saber saw for his birthday. He said, “you must need one of these?” Taken a back I laughed, and said “Yep, happy birthday!”

    Later on it was re ignited by Norm Abrams. A lot of people wanted to be like the “New Yankee.” I think it was the heyday for shop power tools.

  16. John on 10 November 2015 at 5:14 pm

    Oh Paul, always in a time of doubt do i find something here or on masterclasses to re-ground me, to sooth me, inspire me, to show there’s hope at times, and that there is time for appreciation. When i lite the fire in the shop today I will reflect on the things that brought me to where I am today. You included.

  17. Jeremy on 10 November 2015 at 6:00 pm

    I must answer this. I am surrounded by carpenters. My grandfather was a carpenter and a Seabee in the US Navy. His son, my uncle, (and like a father to me) was also a competent carpenter as was his sons, who were more like my brothers than cousins. It was this way on both sides of my family. I missed the gene. I tried don’t get me wrong, but it never clicked for me. I was afraid to even attempt to make a butt jointed box. I am now 40 years old and have skirted woodworking, carpentry and anything else close until the day I ran across your videos. I watched and watched. Then I purchased some of the recommend tools by your recommend ways and then I copied. You sparked my interest in woodworking and banished my fears for good. And I thank you for that daily.

  18. Stephen on 11 November 2015 at 12:51 am

    I remember making my mother a mahogany writing desk in shop class in the 7th grade. In my mind’s eye it was a wonderfully built piece with a fine finish to it. That was 47 yrs. ago, she still treats it as if it were that fine piece that I remember. In reality, looking at it today it’s rather crudely built, understandable since it was my first project. It has held up well though after all these years, all the joints are tight and the hinges and drawer works well. She still uses it sometimes even though the computer is handier.
    I’m a builder of fine homes nowadays, but I don’t think I’ve ever built a home for a customer that filled me with pride like the day I gave that writing desk to my Mother.

  19. thiel2 on 11 November 2015 at 4:08 am

    I too started in school in the 5th grade we had woodworking classes with Mr Wilson. We learned how to draw blue prints, different aspects of construction, he taught us of forestry and a manner of things in a little room with desks. Threw the door opened rows of workbenches and stations with scroll saws, finishing room. A huge table saw, jointer planer and the works that was roped off from the children with a few band saws that few were allowed permission. We didnt learn much in the form of hand cut joinery it was mostly glue and nail scroll work little set projects all the students did. I anticipated going there and thought out my projects and plans during other classes and built things faster than the other students. I remember him cutting dadoes for me on the table saw and helping me design different projects aside from what i was to accomplish.
    I’ve got a padlocked treasure chest for my change,a coat rack for the towels, and my mom a recipe card box with a slot in the handle on top to hold the one she works with that we still use today, all with my name on the bottom and no grade on them because they were all extra things nobody else did. I loved it there, succeeded, enjoyed, but mainly I belonged there. I’m 25 now and I was at a tool collectors event this past weekend hunting for old treasures and there he was I told him who I was and said oh boy you put a spark in me. I showed him pictures of the work ive been doing and he couldnt believe it he was thrilled. He had a table showing off old axes and other timber hewing tools used by the pioneers {settlers?} and the Europeans here in the USA.
    He had me handle his grandfathers ax which had a huge head probably 16 inches of steel upwards, long thick handle with rough edges from tools made to shape it, big and heavy. Nothing similar to those of modern axes used to split firewood and size small stock. This was for a man handling ancient oak trees with his bare hands. Most likely in attempt to keep the rain off his head, the snow off his boots, and the wind off his back. At least thats what I felt when I held it. Anyway we ate lunch together and i was able to share with him the growth of that seed he planted in me all those years ago and connect with this tradition of working wood where there really is no limit of growth same as there really is no limit to the tree that came from just a tiny seed. Filling full this satisfaction of overcoming and connection of this growth from the past, to present it forward into the future with new strength and unity between those seperate components of life itself.
    Many different influences, techniques, inspirations and such have come throughout and impacted me since then but thats where it started and it was really cool to re-visit that era and very good.

    • Paul Sellers on 11 November 2015 at 9:50 am

      Thanks for sharing this. I am sure he felt very warmed by the obvious enthusiasm you expressed.

  20. Misha on 11 November 2015 at 10:43 am

    It would be very interesting to know what the reaction of your parents to your headmaster’s words was, if you think it to be appropriate to tell.

  21. davekemp1963 on 11 November 2015 at 3:23 pm

    The day I started building a CNC machine. Let me back track to further explain.

    I had absolutely no interest in woodworking while growing up. My only recollection was the blank for my bowl turning assignment in Grade 8 shop class flying across the shop the first time I put the chisel to it. I grew playing any and all sports and this continued well into my adult years.

    All that changed in July 2009 when I sustained a spinal cord injury which resulting in me becoming a paraplegic and I now use a wheelchair full time. I tried a couple of adapted sports but it wasn’t the same. I needed something else to do. I was also into flight simulators and had begun the build of a simulated cockpit prior to my injury. In an attempt to make better panels I decided to build a CNC machine. Part of that was to build a wooden “box” to house the CNC frame, motors, cutter, etc.

    Well I was so taken with the woodworking that it took over my interest and the CNC machine now sits about 75% complete in the corner of my basement. I started buying various tools including many power tools. Then I started messing around with hand tools and my interest increased further. One day I found Paul’s site and Youtube videos and the addiction was completed. I joined MWWC and have never looked back. I still use the power tools to take rough lumber to pieces for my projects but once that is done its hand tools only.

    Although I still work part time and spend parts of three days a week at a gym working out as part of rehab it is the time in my shop that gets me through the idle hours. I have built projects from Paul’s book and classes on the internet. I have recently started expanding my skills on other project using the techniques learned through Paul. I can honestly say it has improved my quality of life as I look forward to getting in the shop whenever possible to work wood.

    Thanks Paul and crew for all that you do.

    Cheers, Dave

  22. Philip Guhl on 12 November 2015 at 1:21 am

    Quite simply I have always liked tools, so I collected them, but I never really knew what to do with them. I met a neighbor who had a wood shop. I watched him make a chair. The light came on in my head when I realized how I could use the tools I acquired. I have been building furniture for a little over a decade for our personal use, as well as a few special pieces for friends.

    A few years back, I visited Colonial Williamsburg and watched the cabinetmakers in amazement. Ever since, I have been migrating…one task at a time…to hand tools. For a period of time, I taught woodworking to several homeschooled children.

    Your instruction and example have accelerated my transition. I am now prioritizing and contemplating pricing to sell some of my power tools.

    Thank you,

  23. Brian Lowery on 12 November 2015 at 3:22 am

    60 years ago, both my mother and father worked. After school I would go to my mother’s uncle house and wait till my parents finally were home. The uncle was a retired trim carpenter at a ship yard. He had a little shop in a one car garage and I would watch him work till it was time to go home. He gradually let me “help” with some of his projects. Boy, he was a stern taskmaster and would insist that I do every thing a certain way. Till this day, I can’t do anything half ass, and that’s the way I like it. I owe my love for woodworking to that man.

  24. CretoDeCristo on 12 November 2015 at 3:01 pm

    For me, my spark started when I was a Boy Scout. I remember one weekend camping trip where a craftsman was demonstrating making a dovetail joint from raw wood found in the woods. I was fascinated that one could take two thing branches and make a sturdy joint. It was beautiful! Even today, I am fascinated when I think back to it. Thinking that it was far beyond me, I did nothing with it.

    One year in school, I had to choose between shop class or home economics. I chose shop class and built a light fixture/electrical outlet in the shape of a baseball. I also made bookends with my initials on them. I still have them! We used machines, and I did not like the process much, though the end result once again fascinated me. Still, I did nothing to feed that spark.

    Flash forward about 10 or 15 years. I was married and in the US Navy. We bought a home, and being handy, I sought to make some furniture. I began by making some hand tools. I began cutting materials to size to make my first project, a dead blow mallet. My hand slipped, and I lost a fingertip to my table saw. I began to shun machines, partly because I was scared, partly because it wasn’t as fulfilling as creating something with my own power. A year later, I was working with a chisel (I’d never been taught proper technique) when that, too slipped. I sliced through my hand with a dull chisel. I put woodworking aside for nearly a decade. The spark, however, remained.

    Last year, I watched a YouTube video of a man making a Paul Sellers bench. The channel was Wranglerstar, and I saw the pride he had after he completed it. At that time, I told myself that I would begin anew. I was intrigued and sought out Paul Sellers’ channel. After months of watching from the luxury of a computer screen, I decided to purchase some tools from eBay. Now I am in the process of creating my own Paul Sellers workbench, using hand tools only!

    It has been a long and winding journey, but I am finally feeding the fire that ignited in my childhood. Thank you, Paul for the kindling!

  25. Warren on 16 November 2015 at 9:14 pm

    When my mother passed away in 2014 I was looking for a hobby to help me relax and take my mind off things. I found Paul’s YouTube videos and started watching one on Dovetails as they had always amazed me, but not thinking I would take up woodworking as I’d never had any experience. No lessons at school and I would pay someone to fix stuff around the house. I’m very glad I did go with woodworking.

    I find woodworking to be relaxing and sometimes frustrating at the same time. I love the challenge of turning a block of wood into a functional or decorative item.

  26. joyce hanna on 17 November 2015 at 12:44 am

    I was not allowed in the shop – any shop, despite the fact that my father and both grandparents were tool makers and all had home shops. I was not allowed to take geometry or trig or physics, either. I was a girl – destined for the kitchen, babies, and cleaning a house. Instead, I became a registered nurse. I loved my work with the patients, but there was so much wrong with the profession that I became somewhat of a troublemaker, and was deeply unhappy. I felt trapped, with no way out. Then we bought an old house – a true fixer-upper, and I expected my handy husband to fix it up. He tore out some walls and lost interest. I finally realized I had a few options: move, argue forever with a recalcitrant husband who probably never would regain interest in fixing up the house, or somehow learn to do it myself. I discovered there were adult education offerings at the local high school, and the first day I walked into the high school workshop I realized I had finally found myself. Here, in a shop, with tools and shavings and wood. It was me, the real me, creating with those tools and wood. That was in 1972, and I have never looked back. I could not work fast enough to make enough to pay the bills, but it gave me a purpose and a reason for living, so I could tolerate a miserable job knowing my real work was in the shop. I am never happier nor more content than when I am in my shop working with wood. And yes, girls are allowed.

  27. Joseph Palas on 18 November 2015 at 6:06 pm

    That small Mullberry log I found several years ago sparked my interest. Sure I had taken woodshop in junior high, made a box and a cutting board, yet the pine and plywood never called to me the way that Mulberry did. Golden brown and shimmering, I was forever entranced in the mysteries of the grain and long to find out what lies within each stick of wonderful wood I come across

  28. Jack Shilton on 23 November 2015 at 8:30 pm

    I was encouraged by my woodwork teacher, Mr. Wyatt (RIP). He said one day in 1953, ‘You’ll never be a woodworker as long as your nose has holes in it.’ (Or words to that effect.) That term I came top of the class in Woodworking, with a needlework table I made for my mother. My sister has the table yet. I regularly check that my nostrils haven’t closed up! But it was all due to what Mr. Wyatt taught me; and the solid determination to prove his appraisal of me to be incorrect.

    Cheers Paul.

  29. Alex on 12 March 2019 at 2:26 pm

    This is really great! The greatest thing is the parallels I can draw to my own non-woodworking life. You see, I think that it doesn’t really matter what your interest is, as long as you really care about something and want to be really good at it (and are able to be good at it). That’s when you have someone that can either make it on their own or be a great employee that will go far in their career vs. just ‘doing a job’.

    What sparked my interest in computers was games! Of course. But then I wanted to understand how the machine works. I wanted to make the machine do what I told it to do and so began my journey of programming computers. I never snuck away from class for that, instead I knew I wanted to know the math behind, wanted to study computer science, so I stayed in class. I would’ve loved to sneak away from language classes and such, maybe just have another computer lab class, where we were building and programming Lego robots and such. I did sneak into the computer lab at recess all the time though. Enough of that though, I just wanted to show that technology is not actually all bad and the same things that can be said about being passionate about woodworking can be said about being passionate about whatever you do.

    We never had any sort of woodworking or any other hand working classes at school – I guess I’m too young at 37. We had arts and crafts of course but that was all geared towards girls. Knowing what I know now, I’m sure if we had had woodworking in those or technical drawings and such, that might have sparked something in me. Alas, drawing with water colors did not. I hated every minute of it.

    What sparked my love of woodworking? Archery! I started archery just about a year ago. I was always fascinated with bows though from early childhood. Erol Flynn’s Robin Hood was a favorite movie of mine. And so I wanted to _make_ a long bow. Anyone can buy one, but I wanted to make one. To learn, I started with a board bow, as you don’t need an expensive stave you’ll ruin on your first try or wait a year for an inexpensive one you cut yourself to dry (fat chance for doing that in winter in Canada anyway, so more like 1 1/2 years of waiting). You just go to home depot and buy an oak board. That was real fun and after finishing my first bow, that was too small for myself, as they had miss-cut the board for me at the store, I went to build another one. After a short stint with a really horrible little Stanley spoke shave (sent it back) and buying a proper Veritas plane and a splitting knife I use as a draw knife and scrapper I found that I just LOVE planing and scraping wood.

    I was getting tired of having to clamp the wood very carefully with something in between in my regular metalworking vise and the old desk I’m using as a bench is way too low and way too light. When I started looking into things I came across Paul’s Youtube videos and I’m going to build his work bench. Laminating wood, planing and squaring it by hand before, it just feels awesome and it’s a lot of fun. You also forget everything around you. I have built a plywood case for my bow with the jigsaw I have and I’ve cut lumber for making garden beds and such with it but it was always such a hassle. I was never able to properly saw by hand though but after watching Paul’s videos I was convinced that I was just not using the right tools (and death gripping :)). And look at that, my Veritas Carcass saw actually cuts like the wood was butter and I’ve sharpened a completely blunt mini gent’s saw I had lying around, which works great for really small stuff. EBay Disston on the way!