P1160615

That’s me outside the Ashmolean Museum yesterday.

P1160542

I own hundreds of hand tools but rely on only a few for most of my work. Look there is a new tool at the bottom of the picture, my book!

This weekend marks the official launch of my book Essential Woodworking Hand Tools here in Oxford. It’s a strange thing to see this as progressive but for 25 years I have watched state schools and colleges close workshops and sell off their workbenches and hand tools for a few baubles. Such actions left whole societies bereft of the inspiration that once spawned skilled artisans.  It’s narrow-minded to hamstring the cultures that once transformed western craft by such crippled attitudes to art but it happened. So I am especially happy to celebrate my 50 years as a working man by writing this book. I wanted to pay tribute to the tools I’ve relied on all my working life, that put food on the table and provided for me and my family throughout those years. At least now these tools will not be forgotten.

P1160591

Beautiful saws like these still have another hundred years of daily use in them.

In preparing for this weekend I have been pulling the tools together to take to the venue. Clustered together they don’t really look much, but then I think of how they have served me in creating my pieces through many decades now. I was reminded of this when someone wrote me a year ago saying he and his wife had bought a dining table from two decades and they were still enjoying it in their country home in the Texas Hill Country. Last week a man wrote me recalling I had made a post bed for his parents and that it was a Paul Sellers Lone star piece signed and dated  in1992. These pieces  fed my children and the tools in the book are the tools I used to make them.

P1160642

The signs are that hand tool woodworking is very much returning to the homes of woodworkers around the world. Let’s celebrate the art of real woodworking.

Today, talking with my friends over home made scones and clotted cream coated with blackcurrant jam, creative artisans all of them, I shared how over the years I had seen my pieces carried off in aeroplanes and Hummers and that I had delivered chests to oil barons and lawyer offices many stories high and a whole city block square. I shared also with a friend that I never became rich and didn’t return to England with much more than I left with. Possibly less. It’s still hard to imagine that my  most prestigious pieces came from the cutting edges of tools I bought when I was 15 or 16 years old. It’s hard to believe that a few hand tools could give me such wonderful support and memories I could never imagine.

This is truly a wonderful craft and the book is my legacy to woodworkers who celebrate life working quietly and not so quietly with their own hands too.

20 Comments

  1. simsybloke on 11 March 2016 at 9:42 pm

    I hope it all goes well for you on Sunday, and you have a good turnout. I’m just sorry I can’t be there.
    Regards,
    Matt Sims



  2. Coisas EM'adeira on 11 March 2016 at 9:59 pm

    All the best for sunday!
    Sorry I can’t make it.
    I hope some time soon I’ll met you in Oxfordshire



  3. Jeremy on 11 March 2016 at 10:15 pm

    Ordered my copy today. Waiting on it to get to Alabama, hope one day to have it signed.



  4. stone58 on 11 March 2016 at 10:43 pm

    Went to Amazon.com to buy a copy, but they say it is “out of print”.



    • Peter on 16 March 2016 at 8:45 am

      Bone-headed system! (Rubbish in … rubbish out.) Leave it a while. The new technology sometimes needs time to catch up with the old.



  5. Dale Norris on 11 March 2016 at 11:47 pm

    Although perhaps just a turn of phrase in your essay, I beg to differ that you returned to England with little more than you left with. You returned with a wealth of experience and the pride of having accomplished much and touched many while in the “States”. You have returned with a legacy that will long live in those pieces you crafted and the minds of those you met and instructed. I, for one, enjoyed and will remember your time at the Woodworking Shows, which made me a staunch follower ever since. Your talk renewed the desire to craft works of my own and skills that I learned in shop class in middle and high school. I suspect you inspired many more.
    Thus, while perhaps not rich in the monetary sense, I would have to believe that you returned with something valuable indeed. Your book is evidence of that wealth and I appreciate that you are sharing it with us.



    • Paul Sellers on 12 March 2016 at 11:44 am

      Yes, I came back with much more than that really. I loved the life America gave me, I loved the fact that you could take charge of your life so easily, that people readily accepted me from the beginning, that Americans are willing to change, absorb, express. I liked the fact that America is made up of people from around the world despite its prejudices but that it is its own unique American identity defined by cultures and countries yet not definitively Euro, Euro-Asian or whatever. Most of all I am glad it led the way in a return to traditional hand work.



  6. Steve Harper on 12 March 2016 at 1:50 pm

    Best wishes, Paul, on your event tomorrow. My favorite violin, Strad”s “Messiah”, resides in the Ashmolean. You have enriched my life and your book, which I eagerly await, will enrich it further. All best,
    Steve



  7. Paul Dallender on 13 March 2016 at 8:49 am

    Up with the Lark this morning as excited as a kid at Christmas as I’m off down to Oxford from here in Yorkshire to see the master craftsman in the flesh. At 57 I’m just starting on my woodworking journey all thanks to seeing Paul on this wonderful tool we call the internet. This is one of the few occasions in my life when I really do wish I were 20 years younger so that would have more time to gain the skills and enjoy working with wood.

    Best of luck today Paul and if I get to shake your hand perhaps just a little of that skill will rub off…….Here’s hoping. See you there!



    • Paul Sellers on 13 March 2016 at 7:08 pm

      Well, we did meet didn’t we? It was a great day all round. I loved it.



  8. Paul Dallender on 14 March 2016 at 1:08 am

    It certainly was a great day. I found your passion and enthusiasm for your craft was so inspirational and you the man, self effacing, gracious and polite. Thank you for spending the time to chat to each and every one of us and also to your ‘crew’ Joseph, Phil, Mrs Sellers et al, who again were more than happy to chat, and all of whom contributed to make the day both special and a success.

    I hope we meet again.



  9. Paul Cunningham on 14 March 2016 at 1:21 pm

    Thoroughly enjoyed yesterday’s event. Love the book with its detailed writing and illustrations.

    And thanks for the refreshments!



    • Paul Sellers on 15 March 2016 at 12:58 pm

      Yes, suddenly everything seemed alive didn’t it? It was a fun day as well as serious things about the future of woodworking worldwide. We are all making it different; less exclusive, more varied, more interesting, less boring, less age specific, less all other specific too.



  10. Mike Towndrow on 14 March 2016 at 6:45 pm

    Paul, thank you for yesterday’s book signing event, which I thoughly enjoyed. Really pleased to meet you and the people behind the scenes who help to produce your wonderful videos.

    Your new book is everything I hoped it would be and more! Congratulations to you, Joseph and all who helped to produce a wonderful volume that I’ll both use and treasure.



    • Paul Sellers on 14 March 2016 at 6:48 pm

      Thank you for coming and sharing your experience of the event. I so enjoyed myself and being able to share so much more of the vision I hope for the future of woodworkers.



  11. Rommel on 15 March 2016 at 1:00 am

    Hi Paul,

    I’m interested on purchasing your book. Can you share to me where can I order your book? I’m looking forward in enjoying this wonderful woodworking book. Hope everything is doing great there.



    • Paul Sellers on 15 March 2016 at 12:57 pm

      Here is the link. Thank you for your support.



  12. Coisas EM'adeira on 15 March 2016 at 8:21 am

    Mr Paul
    I can only imagine how busy your life is.
    But for those who couldn’t attend… Is it possible for you to share some photos of the book presentation? (like in a blog post or something like that)
    Thanks



    • Paul Sellers on 15 March 2016 at 12:50 pm

      We did film it for our own archives but because the lighting was so bad at the venue we are not sure if it will be any good for general use. We also took photos and I am putting up a ‘Reflective thoughts I had today’ later on. Not sure if this will wholly work but we’ll use it as clay on the wheel.



  13. Lance Yohe on 28 April 2016 at 9:02 pm

    Paul,

    Thank you for all the work you put into your book. Just received it yesterday here in the Puget Sound area of the Pacific Northwest. Well worth the wait for such good work. I like that it’s thick and sturdy. It will not be a prissy book sitting on a shelf in a well appointed library. No, it will be at my bench; dog eared, worn, but well used. There will be notes in the margines for future generations to read. To know how their father, grand father, and hopefully grandfather spent his time working wood.



  • Stephen Bamford on Autism Support in WoodworkingWell done. Autistic folks run the gamut in terms of abilities. Proud of you stepping up bringing these ways to all folks to pursue in line with their abilities. Good on you.
  • Ronald G McGee on Plywood Workbench AnniversaryI made my bench back in January 2018 . I followed your plans and working methods until it was all finished . It was a great project and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute . Mine is…
  • michael on Plywood Workbench AnniversaryI can't believe it was 1 year ago since we got this bench.
  • Lou on Autism Support in WoodworkingYou and the team are inspirational, the world needs more people like you! Well done.
  • Adrian Amoroso on Plywood Workbench AnniversaryI built mine last year and I love it. I'd only done small projects before and it has really given me confidence to do more complex projects, as well as to advance my hand-tool skil…
  • Tom Bittner on Plywood Workbench AnniversaryI plan to build my own birch plywood bench in the next month or so, I’m pleased to hear it’s quite stable and solid. I just have one question, sometimes the Baltic Birch can splint…
  • Paul Sellers on Plywood Workbench AnniversaryThank you, and well done.