Launching Successes!


Well, the book’s launched and the first ones were signed yesterday and everyone felt the book was larger and more than they imagined it could be. That was how I felt too. I have learned as a designer maker that it’s one thing giving your pieces your very best shot but then you hope the people you made them for feel as much as you do when they see it. There was no doubt in my mind after two hours of signing new books that everyone loved what we pulled together. It was such a pleasant surprise to hear what everyone felt about our work.P1160645

It was a strange thing watching my workbench slaloming between ancient Greek works of art and people carrying the pieces I made for woodworking masterclasses alongside the tools that formed the basis for my book.DSC_0885 I couldn’t help but feel the real value of creative work spanning the generations and millennia as we continue discovering the meaning it has in our lives today. Academics study the ancients through their uncovered works and we still use the moulds and shapes developed as Roman classic shapes in older moulding planes and new router bits.DSC_0040

I like the thought that something once new and innovative to a now ancient culture still finds value, validity and place in our modern world, but then I wonder whether there might be a new frame of reference to reference work in today’s culture that might reach into the future in the same way. P1160654

I sat in two cafes this week here in town and then saw other public places where scaffolding planks sanded from the rough-sawn surfaces created clunky, shapeless tables and chairs that people commonly call ‘character’ pieces. I am not sure when characterless became redefined as character but in my day character meant something much, much more. P1160660Perhaps it’s a societal kicking at the goads in the same way the next generation of the middle class kids back in the 60’s rejected what they considered their parents middle-class, sub-urbanist hypocrisy of the day and started a movement that still lingers today that we called the hippy (hippie) movement. Some things do emerge to become their own sort of classless, even soulless unconventional work of subculture emanating from the drop-out free spirit of the day really.The defiance rejects convention and the demands of fine workmanship in real terms. P1160649A bit like square-edged picnic tables from treated wood where the standard then becomes a complete intercontinental look-alike product. I certainly see these as just being cranked out for a fast assembly and subsequent sale and then copied by individuals for home making. I suppose, in reality, they start out as a styleless concept and end up becoming a style of sorts. I think we might see the idea initially as, well, cute, but cute in the sense of being devised from unconventionality rather than cutesy cute if you see what I mean. You know, cleverly devised, functional, low-cost simplicity. Not much different than taking some sections of rougher, unstable and even punky wood and calling it by a name like character oak or something. Is it pure opinion or is it something excusing what once might not be useable or, more likely, saleable? On the other hand there is the consideration that anyone’s first steps into DIY could be to make something simply from planks of wood and nails. Buzzing off the rough edges with power sanders makes something palatable in the sense of useable and functional, if you’ll pardon the pun (slightly adapting the proper spelling). P1160655It did make me wonder how classic forms can span two millennia to the point that Roman ogees, reverse ogees, torus and astragals are still the most commonly used router bits and they all came from the roman period.

Anyway, just what does the future hold if we start out with scaffolding planks as new-start scaffolding to launch new design concepts from. Doesn’t that open up a whole world of design possibilities to a new generation? I love the thought that whether it’s just a stepping or a permanent DIY effort simply make your own things it is pure DIY!P1160663

24 thoughts on “Launching Successes!”

  1. I wonder how many people who follow your blog or masterclasses are like me? We learn to make some really wonderful things, spend weeks putting together a table, bookshelf, or box, and finish it beautifully… then the requests we get most are, “can you take this piece of wood I found on the beach and put some hooks in it for a funky coat rack?” or “can you beat the piece of plywood with chains to give it that antique, fell out of a truck look for me?”. I think sometimes people just like that style, and other times it’s like as a society we are so lazy we would pay other people to make things that were designed as the lazy way of making it in the first place. Oh well!

    Thanks for everything you do, including noticing things like this in furniture around you. I know for one my trips to restaurants and other buildings new or old always have me inspecting the pieces and craftsmanship (or lack thereof!)

  2. I have recently become addicted to watching your videos. I am in awe at how simple and easy you make it look, knowing that it comes from many years of experience and honing your skills. You inspire me to want to work with wood. I hope to one day be a true craftsman who makes thing with the character you have described. I agree for the most part with your view of the latest character-less character pieces. I am also one of the people who is making a table for my large family out of scaffolding planks. I am not doing this out of a rebellious spirit but out of necessity. I do not have the money to buy a beautiful crafted table. I do not have the tools or the skill YET to make something at your level so I am doing the best I can with what I have and what I can afford. I am grateful for you though, because the principals you teach that I have learned in the last few weeks are being put into my project. I have learned how to be much more precise with cuts and work with the grain of wood. I can tell it is making a difference. I hope each subsequent project I do has more craftsmanship in it as I progress towards keeping with the definition of character you describe above.

    1. I didn’t feel in any way judgemental or condemning and I am glad you don’t think that was the case. As I said, I am just glad people are getting out there and doing what THEY want to do and achieving great satisfaction no matter the design. Who knows where it will lead them to. Skill is indeed built. No one is born with it. It’s developed by diligence patience and character. I am convinced that more and more people are eschewing the easy path and seeking the more difficult path of skill building. I think that that is what builds character and valued work ethic.

  3. Congratulations on the rousing success of your new book. Who could have expected anything less! My you sell as many as you can print.

    A question about that third photograph. Are those drawers? I don’t recall seeing then in any of the online projects. Now, THEY have character!

    1. Bob- Those look like the wall clock – the very first Master Classes project. The picture just doesn’t show the clock faces. And they are made with nice oak rather than the cheap pine I made mine out of (and painted over!).

    2. These are from some clocks I used to make for sale, Bob. I use them only to show some classic moulding shape really.

      1. Thanks Paul,
        After Joe;s reminder that clock lesson came back to mind. Now, if I had only made one of those clocks, I wouldn’t have asked the question.

        Yet, it’s a perfect illustration of “character.” I’m definitely with you and your observations of modern day character.

  4. THANKS Joe!

    You’re right. Seeing only a portion of the object, I imagined an overturned drawer showing us some very nice pulls.

  5. Kevin Wilkinson

    Congratulations Paul and thank you. I can’t wait for my copy to show up in the mail about a month from now.

  6. “…cleverly devised, functional, low-cost simplicity.”
    Immediately, the Crate Chair by G.Th. Rietveld comes to mind. The design is 82 years old now. Indeed a concept turned into a style. Anyone who can handle a saw and a hammer can build one – almost for free. But it is also a skill-builder – if you want to make it pretty and precise, enjoy yourself.

    Happy to hear your book is well received.

  7. The Romans and the Ancient Greeks had real talent for creating beauty. The ancient Chinese and Japanese, too. I am certain there are other cultures as well. There are good reasons why we incorporate their design concepts into what becomes newly classical. It seems that in the best developed cultures, we can find the most substantial and enduring art. Perhaps this is part of what it means to be civilized. If that is so, what does it mean when we in western society largely appreciate the mundane, vulgar, and corrupt as art?

  8. Patrick Murphy

    Hi Paul,

    I was fortunate enough to be at the signing on Sunday, but I chose to pick up my copy just as I was leaving, so I didn’t get a chance to review it and talk to you about it before you signed it (instead I gabbled something about plane totes and frogs). I have to say that the book is superb and it’s everything you promised it would be. The production values alone make it worth every penny; it puts those “coffee table books” to shame.

    Honestly, what with the vast amount of information you’ve included, the drawings and all the photos it could easily become the standard book on woodworking hand tools for generations of future craftsmen (and craftwomen!). Congratulations all round to you, Joseph, Ryan, Michael, Liz, Phil and Emily.

    Kind regards

    P.S. Thanks for letting us look at your work bench and handle your tools. I felt a bit giddy holding your Rabone combination square, and I know I wasn’t the only one.

  9. Paul Dallender

    I can only echo what Paddy has said and I too was chuffed to bits to be able to handle the very tools we have seen you use on the videos and I guess, you have used throughout your woodworking career. Oh, and now I know exactly what the size and look of my bench will be for my very small workshop (shed).

    Like many I have succumbed to the digital age and have a Kindle upon which I have read hundreds of books. However, nothing compares to sitting back with a real book made with quality materials with care by experts in their field. Now i’ve had time to immerse myself into this superior and weighty tome, I have no doubt it will become my woodworking tools bible and really should be the ‘go to’ book for any aspiring woodworker just starting out……and even a few old timers who maybe think they know all there is to know.

    Thanks again.


  10. Hi Paul

    I consider myself so fortunate to have been at the signing of your superb book.

    I have a collection of lovely vintage saws, your section on saw file types is of great interest, thank you.

    You held us spell bound by your live demonstrations. The excited chatter as we gathered after around your bench, to meet your son Joseph be able to chat to your wife and be part of the enthusiastic group is a memory I’ll treasure

    Thank you John

    1. Thank you John. I am hoping we can do much more of that at other venues and not just in the UK. I will remember last week and the book launch as ultra special forever I think.

  11. Nice to see coped a coped corner on the baseboard instead of an ill fitting miter. You don’t see that very often today.

  12. Oops! Meant to say – Nice to see a coped corner on the baseboard instead of an ill fitting miter. You don’t see that very often today.

  13. It may seem odd, but my favorite photos here are of the audience. These are people just like me, working to learn how to build things. Wish I could have been there to say hello, Paul, and to meet some of my classmates! I’m glad we (your students) can interact online though your forum and through the Masterclasses.

    1. I was sad and am often sad I can’t reach everyone as we have grown but I do feel connected.

  14. Hi Paul When I attended the book signing I really felt as though I was with old friends, so easy to chat with an easy enthusiasm running through, all of us with a joint interest.
    You have stirred this awakening, yes it would be great to meet a group on a regular basis.

    I know you are very busy but perhaps you could find time to reply

    Thanks John 2v

  15. Paul Dallender

    My 3 set DVD arrived today ‘Using & Sharpening Essential Woodworking Hand Tools’ to accompany Paul’s fantastic book.

    This will be invaluable to me, as a newby to hand tool woodworking. I can take my laptop down to my little woodworking domain in the shed at the bottom of the garden and fettle until my hearts content.

    1. Thank you so much for updating us, Paul. Once you’ve had chance to go though it I would really appreciate it if you would let others know about it by giving a review on Amazon.

  16. Paul Dallender

    I’ve sat through the complete set of DVDs twice now and have to say they are excellent. Phil deserves a mention as the camera work is up to the usual high standard and of course it goes without saying, that your delivery Paul is as clear, concise, engaging and informative as ever. Everything is covered from Pencils to Planes, sliding bevel to saws. I cannot stress enough how much more confidence these have given me in my newly chosen hobby of, as you would say ‘Real woodworking’.

    These are the perfect accompaniment to the book and I have said as much on my review on Amazon. Personally I really don’t see how you could better the book and DVD package, except of course having you teach me in person……..well who knows, I made it to the book launch so when you start up the classes again, another trip to Oxfordshire could well be on the cards.

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