I Love Seeing Where We Came From…

In January 2015 we concluded restoring an 1800s joiner’s tool chest and then we replicated it as a training project to show how simple the piece really is to make.

…But the future is so filled with hope.

Some years ago I began using terms like new-genre woodworker and real woodworking. I even saw the work I was engaged in as more a campaign if you will. Hence the Real Woodworking Campaign came along and it  has really worked in helping people adjust their thinking and reevaluate how they look at the way they want to work wood. Had I not I am sure things would have moved right along along the same vein without me because people were looking for something deeper and skilled work seemed to be calling all the more to them. But the point in it was to draw a distinction that it was more likely that woodworking was more alive today because amateur woodworkers were the ones true to the cause of keeping it alive. It was by their own investigations in a search for how things were accomplished by hand that drove them, not so much the professionals earning their living from it.

DSC_0105 I no longer need to use those terms as they are now vibrant in lived lives worldwide. A dozen emails, posts and comments reassure me that progress seems now an unstoppable reality. Two decades or so back, most woodworking I encountered, having just moved to live and work in the USA, was of course biased in one direction. Now I feel we have addressed the imbalance and people feel more, well, freed, competent, confident, balanced, excited, inspired and so much more. DSC_0074 Back then I was most bemused by my findings and at the very least troubled. I am no longer troubled. In fact I feel much more relaxed about the future of my craft than ever before. It’s safely secure in the hands of amateurs around the world. Who could have thought that? So much of what was available then was only partly available in the UK and about half the price of the UK too. Timber of all types many times over could be had for half the price of UK prices as well, and there were many more times the suppliers to boot. In the US this seemed often to be taken for granted, but when I left the UK there were no woodworking stores as such; nothing at all like Woodcraft with an outlet in most major cities of each of the states. That is still the case. Back then, too, there was a dozen and more woodworking magazines to whet your appetite whereas in the UK the offering and content was always somewhat lacking. Most of them have suffered and I am sure that now we have the internet exchange of ideas and such that they will eventually cease to be.

I finally found time to finish a king sized bed in Oak to a Craftsman style design I worked up.

Today we seem ever more to be enjoying great success. Whereas 30 years ago hand tool woodworking seemed to me at least to be dying, today many hundreds of thousands are discovering the pure joy of using them, of developing their skills and understanding the essence of real woodworking. That’s why I say that the Real Woodworking Campaign succeeds now in the lived lives of people who have made real woodworking a campaign they can indeed do, and believe in, and give themselves too.

Of course we went on teaching workshops throughout the year at New Legacy. These are happy times for me and bless me beyond belief.

The period after New Year is always a time of reflection for me. I try to think through what progress we’ve made, drawing on emails and comments from people that show that our has truly changed lives. Serious medical conditions such as heart conditions, diabetes, mental wellbeing have been bettered and in some cases completely reversed. One of the greatest effects has been to see people come out of substance abuse and drug addiction. And then there are those coming in from overseas conflicts that need to reevaluate what life really means who simply started to get their lives together by buying a handful of tools and watching how they can be used with our woodworking masterclasses and YouTube.

Sam joined us and stayed. He just finished his first year just about and two commissioned pieces with a third yet to be.

It’s hard to imagine depressions being dispatched in the fettling of an old plane and the sharpening of a saw. What more proof did I need to know it was working and the work was so well worthwhile. Love it. Should I tell of the wedding gifts and baby cribs marking special occasions, of children’s toys and children woodworking with dads and mums and grans and granddads, aunties and uncles and friends next door too.  All you need is a vision for a future and a change that makes changes and lives can be transformed by simply working with your hands.

Just one of Sam’s box designs. Total handwork, totally his design and totally craftsmanship.

I am especially thankful for the success our online broadcast has brought to our outreach. This has very much become an apprenticing strategy when politicians talk about empowering people through apprenticeships as though they own the workforce and own the future too. Mostly they put people onto conveyor belts and we take them off. becoming a lifestyle woodworker has become a reality for many of you. Perhaps it has been a little slow going but we’ve been successful in helping people to see that the day job is important to individual economy and that lifestyle is multidimensional and no one size fits all exists for individualised lifestyle.

A few months ago our moving to Oxfordshire seemed quite daunting, impossible, but now we are beyond the point of no return and I feel a heightened excitement for the sustainable culture we are all living in. Who knows what this year holds for us all.


  1. Congratulations Paul… I am excited for you and your family!
    As I have said before, you have a wonderful gift of being a great teacher, and you are influencing, educating, and motivating people worldwide. This move seems like it will enable you to touch more lives through your art of woodworking. I sincerely wish the best for you during this transition.

  2. It’s wonderful to read about and feel the positiveness of attitude you are delivering looking back and forward at this time of change and growth for ‘Real Woodworking’. Little acorns can and do become mighty oaks. Joe above has well described the appreciation so many feel.

  3. Your Blogs and the subjects you talk about and the passion in which you do so are so awe inspiring and engaging to me and in turn fuels the passion I have developed for Woodworking. Thank you once again and keep up the good work and Best of luck with your move. I hope to one day make the trek from Australia to attend your classes…If you dont visit here first!!

  4. Yes it is so good to share the love for real woodworking with others. I had my 4 year old grandson out in the shop with me today. We were refinishing a bench for his mother. I put a sanding block in his little hand and I had one in mine and we were sanding off the old finish.

    At one point when he saw the beauty of the wood shining through, he could no longer contain his excitement. He went running into the house shouting, “Mommy, Mommy, come quick. The wood is so pretty!”

  5. It might be one of the cardinal sins, but I envy where you came from, the labor you put into your very evident success.

  6. Paul,
    I really appreciate the way you make us fill that we can do every single step of a process. That gives me, at least, the incentive to try and develop the fineness’s and accurate hand you ‘preach’.
    Thank you very much from The Netherlands…

  7. First, I have worked with skilled craftsman for half a career and they are as diverse as personality allows. Some are genuinely miserable to be around, but others… They are what makes it actually a happy work.
    Second, most people with hard won knowledge hoard it. The good people always gladly share what they know. They are like stewards of a gift meant to be given.
    Lastly, Paul, you are one of the good men. You were given to this time to pass on this gift. Thank you for being willing.

  8. I have been making sawdust for a few years as a hobby and I have developed a respectable machine shop. While my tools are not fancy they are well maintained and highly efficient. The problem is that I have been trying to figure out how to get my kids involved in woodworking for a while but they are way too young to use power tools. Additionally I want them to fully understand the different aspects of working with wood and I think that modern tools use force to overcome wood’s challenges. For example, a cross cut dado with a router is very simple but it takes an understanding of wood grain to hand cut a dado. So I googled “kids in the wood shop” and I found your site and I have been hooked ever since. I am almost finished with some bookshelves that I have been working on for my sister’s kids. I have stuck to hand tools throughout and I love it. Since these are my first hand cut dovetails and housed dado’s the process has been a little slow, however, the process has been far more relaxing than anything I have done in a long time. The hours I have spent at my workbench has been a totally different experience. I don’t have to worry about dust and noise and I am not fixated on each tools safety threats. I can simply relax and concentrate on the wood. I have enjoyed the smells, the feels, and the time of quite reflection. When I am finished with this first hand tool project I am going to have my kids each build one too. Thank you for your encouragement and training. I am sincerely grateful for this site and your willingness to share your wisdom.

    1. Thank you, Cayle. It has taken quite a lot of effort through the years to help people understand why I call machines machines and not tools and why you cannot take children responsibly into a machining environment without jeopardising their future in some way. yes, machines have a place, for me, after 50 years, only a small place. I like machines, but my children would never have had the opportunities they had had they had a dad that only worked machines and not so much wood. Dismantling idioms of the influential magazines and manufacturers of machines has taken 25 years but now I see the work and the progress made and I think, wow, it worked! How about that!
      Growing kids in the shop is a marvellous thing and their aspirations and maturity should never be measured by the day they are using machines but how much they can accomplish efficiently by hand.

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