What Went Into My New Book?

Question:

Hello Paul,
I would be very interested if you’d share a bit on what you did put into this work. I mean the content of it, of course, but also what your intentions and thoughts were as a writer .
For my part I started as a writer and illustrator and now after a couple of years of following your courses I’m becoming a woodworker without any expectation! Anyway, bless you for what you do and how you do it, and best regards from France.
RichardP1160536

Answer:

Thank you for asking this question, Richard, it seems we have both done things in reverse of each other.

In many ways I saw writing the book as a bridge between generations where a period of absence left an unplanned void left by sociopolitical and economic shifts in our western culture. We all know that nature does indeed abhor a vacuum and with the loss of experienced craftsmen put out to grass with early retirement packages resulting from redundancies in craft trades like mine, and then too most if not all other crafts too, there remained only the colleges to train anyone wanting to take up a true craft apprenticeship. I think it’s common knowledge that college teachers and instructors have only moderate experience in the ‘outside’ world of commerce and craft training and teach mostly from a textbook background. They don’t cover the core issues from a real working knowledge any more so we felt that the book could provide what may otherwise get lost. We didn’t want a general nod to the traditional values of hand work to replace what we once had. Hence the void when it comes to filing saw teeth, turning scraper burrs. Most colleges no matter the continent do not teach even the fundamental levels of what we cover in the book and DVDs. So, here we see void #1 filler substituting for someone working under a craftsman or woman.P1160523

With primary information about hand tools now coming via tool catalogue companies online we began to see void #2 filler kick in. Salesmen and women are generally seen all the more as experienced staff when in reality the expertise they have is usually more informational surrounding sales than that of the crafting artisan. I am often asked by an unsuspecting sales person of around 20 if I need foam brushes and wood filler when being prompted by what pops up on the screen at the checkout. Magazine editors and some contributors take up the new slack with yet another agenda to market brand names advertising with them so void #3 filler takes up the slack.

With mass information traversing the globe by gigabytes per second per second, the real working knowledge in essential terms about hand tools becomes all too often buried in both mass information and misinformation too. The excesses of modernity then becomes hidden if you will with the proverbial needle in the haystack and then, ultimately, forgotten. Such misrepresenting of information eventually becomes culturally expected and worse still accepted too. It then becomes cloaked and without reinforcement from practicing artisans in the lineage that once protected the core essentials, links in the chain become broken and we lose what was once common.P1160524

In bringing this book to market I tried to recall everything that was passed to me from generations of craftsmen and then added my own discoveries about tools that I had found could be adapted or adopted beyond their original intended use or function. Cutting to the chase didn’t make me the most popular kid on the block, but we survived the scuffles and gradually saw light at the end of the tunnel. People started experimenting with the suggestions we made and the book is my way of saying let’s not forget past inventors like Leonard Bailey who designed 90% of all the metal planes we know and love as the the Bailey- and Bed-Rock-pattern planes.  The reason Sheffield companies buy up available names from the Sheffield stables long gone is not because they invented anything but because their own names have no value.P1160522

I wrote the book to show that with under about 30 hand tools, which includes the sharpening equipment to maintain them too, you can make almost anything from wood. The tools are generally available as new or secondhand tools but what I wanted to show was that even new tools must be sharpened eventually and they can and do go out of that perfect working condition remarkably quickly. This then necessitates a working knowledge for the everyday, minute-by-minute adjustments you need in the working of them. The book then covers the whole of this but then the DVDs kick in to show hidden information that in the pre-film or pre-digital era would be difficult to express in words. For instance, sharpening gouges using a figure of eight action was very conventional and so too rolling the gouge to gain the edges you need. With video this simplifies the issues remarkably as does saw sharpening where we cover both ripcut and crosscut sharpening and then show visually how we adjust the file to develop the rake to the teeth.

Lastly, I do have feelings about my work and the possible closing years as and craftsman. Books may well be on the decline but I still feel that books are the very best of tangible records to keep information alive. The decline has happened for many reasons and yet I too find myself delving into the archives to look for old manuscripts for information and explanations. I find myself searching for answers, yes, but then I like to convey my personal feelings from knowing the tools I work with from my long exposure to them. Philosophy is often edited out for clarity, brevity and simplicity. Many such thoughts were left in these pages as were drawings from my journals and sketchbooks that so personalised the work and put my thumbprint as my signature in place.

21 comments on “What Went Into My New Book?

  1. I do not doubt the eloquence and informational quality of the contents of this book, I strongly believe having this book planted on your bench is a representation of having you standing there guiding you the reader throughout the course of your woodworking life. Yes woodworking is a never ending learning process. I also believe that this book will not only serve and aid the novice but will also help the advanced seasoned woodworker. The door to knowledge should always be open for if one closes that door due to his or her own thoughts of knowing it all then mastery is never reached and that door to it will be closed to him/her forever.

    I will purchase your book I am just saving up for it and I’m not embarrassed to say that anymore.

  2. Hi Paul,

    I remember my earliest introduction to real woodworking with awe. I was a young man with zero experience and completely unaware of how to use hand tools. I simply picked up a No. 5 that my wife’s Grandfather had left to his son-in-law, now my father-in-law. I used a belt sander to sharpen it. I didn’t know any better, but it was sharp enough to use afterward. I examined it and figured out how to set it. I wasn’t held back by anything at all. I just did what I thought would work, and it did. Years later, I have mostly lost the ambition because I bought into the phony woodworking culture. I was never satisfied, and was worn down by the constant search for the real way of doing things.

    I remember an elderly friend showing me how to swing a hammer correctly, and saw a board properly. These were simple things that simply worked. I think that your teaching gives this to people. Genuinely curious people actually find the way that works from you. This rescues them from the fatal errand of sifting through the bologna. It gives them the know-how without stealing that great youthful enthusiasm. Along with that knowledge comes a matter-of-fact confidence to do things. The arrogance that comes with gaining hard won insight really fails to appear at that point. Pins or tails first becomes a ridiculous argument like angels on a pin head. The truth really is a wonderful thing, it brings people back to reality.My question is, how do I get that enthusiasm back?

    Thanks for all you do,

    Cory

  3. For me the information contained in the pages of any technical book is priceless. it is available anytime, anywhere without the need for some device to find it. Don’t get me wrong, having the information in electronic form is handy, but it has it’s own issues of compatibility with the device used to retrieve it. Printed books & photos (negatives) last for decades, even centuries, whereas some digital information from even 10 -20 years ago have already been lost due to a different format needed to “read” it.

    For me holding and opening each page helps me retain the information, as well as reading being relaxing ….sometimes to much so when I nod off. 🙂 Paul you can feel very proud to have compiled your years of knowledge and experience into this book, knowing it will be a valuable resource for both new & experienced woodworkers for many years to come.

    I have placed my order for your Book and DVD package last week and will be waiting in anticipation for it’s arrival.

  4. Hi Paul,

    Hopefully you can clarify this for me. I want to purchase this book and DVD set from you, however I already have your other book and a few DVDs, one of which is the sharpening DVD.

    I apologize if I missed this on a previous blog post, but how does this differ from the first book and video set offered previously? Am I incorrect in assuming this is more about tools and their uses while the other book was on projects? I know this book is larger, with more pages and from the sound of things much sturdier than the previous book released.

    I would love to add this to my book collection but a little more clarification would be great.

    Thank you for all you do for us through your blog, YouTube and WWMC!

    • Personally I think the book brings great depth to my endeavour and leaves nothing out (hopefully). There is no padding in it and not much fluff either. It’s purely about the tools I think every woodworker should have, how to acquire them, how to take care of them, sharpen them, adjust them and use them.

  5. Last year I was subscribing 4 or 5 woodworking magazines trying to figure out which one or ones I wanted to continue to receive. Then I discovered Woodworking Masterclasses. They, the mags, are always talking about this new tool I need. To have a top notch power tool woodworking shop would probably cost $20,000 or more. This is tools only. And yet each month I would be buying several tools to keep up.
    The you, Paul, said I didn’t need all that. Start with a #4. You folks know what I’m talking about, a Bailey Pattern – Stanley #4 smoothing plane. Wonder how may people have cut their finger OFF with a hand saw. Don’t need no stinking Saw Stop, thank you, nor dust collection, hearing protection or mask over my nose.
    Several years ago the company I worked for had some reel to reel videos of the founder of our petro company, founded in 1926, he was long passed away, and wanted to recover the video. Good luck. I have a VHS tape showing how to cover an RC plane but no VHS player. Oh well. “The Rosetta Stone” is from 196 B.C. and is still readable. How is that for staying power.
    The book and DVD’s are not here yet but their coming. Thank you Paul.

  6. Is this just a more in depth version of the books and dvds you already have out.
    I hesitant to buy it because I already own your previous books and dvds,but from what you have shown us,it just looks more of the same.
    Genuine sincere question.
    How is this different,what does this cover that the previous didn’t.
    Also would you ever do a book on the theory behind joints and joint application.

    • Others have asked similar questions and I feel I tried to answer this in the blog post but of course it takes something to describe what the differences are. This book and the DVDs is primarily my way of reaching an audience I might not yet have reached or, if I have, a way of reinforcing any previous work through my blogs and woodworkingmasterclasses.com by providing the fullest possible understanding I have of the tools I work with. The DVDs are core information and go with the book. I am sure this book will soon be on the shelves of bookstores rather than just selling online. Perhaps the best way is to read and watch before you buy. I anticipate this book being available for a long time.

  7. Thank you so much for answering back, Paul. I do think that with this book made by your own, you’ll leave a simple way of seeing life and craftsmanship, which would be more important than just a technical supply. In these times we all need simplicity and the accuracy going with it. Books really are a true way of passing things, and I’m glad it was you who made this one. Hope I can visit your workshop sometime near Oxford. Regards,
    Richard

    • I am afraid my answer may have fallen short of what I feel in the writing of this specific book that I hope to retain in the next two books I have planned. This one is so very much a heartfelt thing. I felt total freedom in the work I never felt before in my writing even though I feel I worked harder than ever before. I wanted longevity woven into the text and then everyone else’s work that filled in the gaps. I am the author of course but then how do you ignore everyone else’s work in the background. I hope you will see this when you get your copy.
      With regards to visiting me here in Oxfordshire, we are planning a kind of an open house week in May and we will also sign books and give demos during that time too.

    • I don’t know if Paul has fan in the eurozone.
      Sure he has a great follower in Germany, me 🙂

      Thanks to the new PayPal link I bought book and DVD.
      On my account it appears that the price is ~74 Euro.

      Given all that inspiration Paul has been giving, I would have paid much more than that.

  8. This is the easy way to convert pounds to euro.
    But banks has an other way to do (not the same maths): they charge a fix amount per transaction and then a percentage of the total. This needs a computer to compute that. So they have to charge the cost of the computer also :-/

  9. Patiently waiting for my book to arrive. I wasn’t the earliest but order #249 isn’t bad with the time difference between the UK and the US. Can’t wait to read it. Thanks Paul.

    Bill

  10. Can’t wait until I receive the book and. DVDs’s. Again Thank You for what you do and share. I have learned a lot from you.

    Steve

  11. I am disappointed to read that you believe it is common knowledge that ‘college teachers and trainers have only moderate knowledge of industry’. I am a lecturer at an FE college teaching wood occupations, carpentry, joinery and furniture making but previous to this I spent 25 years in industry as did many of my colleagues. It is, I believe, irresponsible for someone like yourself who is in a position of influence to show such disregard for FE colleges, We do our best to provide education to the whole community whether that be state funded (poorly) to 16 19 year olds or affordable to those wishing to retrain for a new career, in addition to this we run community funded evening classes for anyone wishing to enjoy woodworking as a hobby. The government is doing it’s best, without your help, to destroy further education as they still perceive trade to be inferior to academia. My question to you then Paul is, does your provision compete with this? Perhaps even, you might like to forward a class set of your book or a library resource to augment our ‘textbooks’.

    kind regards, Jason

  12. I know exactly what Paul is saying and I agree with him.

    It’s true I’m afraid that some people in education have never left School. They have spent most or possibly all of their working life in an educational environment. There is a massive difference between the commercial world and some of the places of learning.

    Having done an apprenticeship myself (not in woodworking), and worked in schools for over 20 years I have seen both sides.

    Good luck with the book Paul I hope you make some money from it. Your teaching style for me is your a person who very much knows his subject, and your not afraid to share it with others.

    As for the library maybe later on, people can always refer to the blog!!.

    ATB

  13. I believe Cliff that you are mixing up secondary and further education, both of which it appears you have benefitted from. I wonder though what benefit a career in commerce would have been for the teacher that taught you to read and gave you the skills to contribute to this forum, perhaps you could enlighten me.

    Regards
    Jason

    • I remember my shop teacher in high school emphasised greatly on the importance of mastering hand tools, he wasn’t an advocate of machine work. So all in all it boils down to the individual teacher and what his personal beliefs are but having said that they must work to the schools curriculum which is what the education department sets out and in all cases it’s based according to the times and methodology of application we live in which obviously we do not agree with most of it but I don’t think the point is whether or not a teacher has had any real world experience if he knows how to build furniture well and he can teach you to do it whether or not he has any business sense does not come into the equation. A great example is David Charlesworth, he never built anything for a living but instead opened up a school of woodworking which he still currently teachers today. Does that make him any less of a woodworker?

      Paul is fighting an uphill trying to change the mindset of the govt. to change it’s methods of teaching but dollar signs are in the way of producing furniture to last. I don’t believe it is the teachers fault hence my own experiences 30 years ago he was a great teacher but that was then I don’t how much about today’s teaching methods at school.

You must enter certain information to comment on this page. We take the handling of personal information seriously and appreciate your trust in us. Our Privacy Policy sets out important information about us and how we use and protect your personal data and it also explains your legal rights in respect of it. Please click here to read it before you comment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *