What Hand Tools Have Given Me

P1250971Every few days I look through my journal ten years ago to the date to see what I was doing. At the end of July through the early days of August I was working on making a cello for and with Joseph. I’ve written on this experience somewhere and said that this was the single most life changing experience of my life. So multi-faceted was this three month interlude in my life, no piece I ever worked on comes close. Remember, when you you get to the end of such work you hear a voice no one’s ever heard before and it all came from the cutting edges of saws and planes and chisels.PICT0380_2 Remember too that the cello reflects the depth of tone paralleling the human voice like no other, hence, when cellos play together it’s referred to as a ‘choir‘ of cellos. Joseph plays the cello still and taught cello for several years, but what this did for a father and son may never be quantified. This is what real woodworking has meant to me and by real woodworking I do mean mastering hand skills to a level that no fear or doubt as to the outcome exists in the using of them.

Joseph and I still work together most days where we progress our ideas with great anticipation. Today our work is mostly crafting and shaping the lives of others aspiring to master woodworking and, to be honest, it’s a beautiful voice we are hearing all the more. Changed lives is more common to us now than ever it was before simply because we reach so many people looking for answers. My email is full of people telling me how frustrated they were until they started following woodworking masterclasses and also our YouTube channel. Often they declare how much their lives have changed and how they look forward always to each day.

P1250968Ten years ago to the day Joseph would be 16 and I was 56. We bantered back and forth as we cut the channel for the purfling with knives and a new chisel we designed and made for removing the waste. Some tools were so unique because we indeed designed and made them and others were adaptations to improve performance. This wooden plane is one we have made many times over and taught others to make in WWMC. Simple and effective tools like these are part of who we are or have become or are becoming when we become woodworkers. Reading through my journal I see how Joseph and I formed bonds with one another that most teenagers today might never find. There was so little conflict in the months it took to make the cello and when we were done we both understood one another in much deeper ways than we ever could have had using any other medium to bond us. P1250964Yes, we canoed rivers, dug gardens and swam together, walked our dogs for hours and learned other crafts besides woodworking along the way, but for some reason it was plumbing the depths of woodworking that created a sphere we could both relate to one another in most. Remember he was in the workshop from birth and I cannot recall a day when he wasn’t in there at some point either working or watching. I think Joseph’s love for music grew from this point and certainly mine was expanded into the classics. When I look for something soothing or exciting or inspiring I usually end up listening Jacqueline Du Pre or then again Rostropovich playing Bach. Many afternoons as I worked I would hear Joseph playing this somewhere in a corner of the workshop. P1250966

So you see, this is what hand tools have given me. Countless hundreds of people working with me through the years but especially my sons each of which I could safely allow in my workshop to work with them. Waking this morning and watching their lives through my journals reminds me of those things you just cannot buy, like a hand made cello and a plane made by hand to make it, sons, atmospheres of creativity. What a great day.

12 thoughts on “What Hand Tools Have Given Me”

  1. Hello Paul,
    I think that Music is the soul of our life, no matter which kind..
    Personally I can’t live without..I love playing the guitar and piano and I’m happy that music with woodworking and running are in my everyday life..

  2. This is something we all look for in life a parents dream to make this connection and when we do it is the best feeling in the world. Thank you for sharing your own

  3. Mike Bronosky

    Can’t imagine listening to any kind of music with a table saw, thickness plane or joiner plane running.

  4. christopher Mitchell

    That’s Great stuff for sure, You know for many of us out here we never had a Father or Mother to interact with us in anything. So I think that’s the most beautiful post I have ever seen. Thanks

  5. Thomas Hanson

    Love the purfling waste tool, I made one almost identical to it from an old carbide tipped 7 1/4″ saw blade. In hindsight, carbon steel would have worked just as well.

  6. Michael J Price

    A wonderful and deeply meaningful story of a father and sons journey. Thank you so much Paul for sharing things that MATTER!
    Michael Price

  7. Jeff Porterfield

    Wow. What a wonderful story and how well you’ve told it. Very moving. Thank you.

  8. Congratulations Paul as this was very inspiring, I to was very close to my Father we pretty much did everything together. He taught me what hard work was and nothing is given to you on a silver platter. My Father also was a Engineer and traveled a lot with his job but sure made up for it when he was home. He taught me to work with tools, fishing, hunting, and camping. He also mentioned and inspired me with good work ethic’s I am not nor have I ever been a clock watcher working between 60 – 70 hours a week for 40 years. My Son has followed my footsteps with his work ethic’s as well, he is a Logistic’s Director for one of the largest staffing company’s in the world, and clients all over the US. My Daughter has a Law degree but choose to to teach in stead which is fine.

    We are a very close knit family and spend a lot of time together especially on the weekends. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

    My Son hasn’t taken to serious woodworking but does some and I am sure he has an interest in it but trying to fit the time in.


  9. Thomas Robinson

    I built a classical guitar in 1983. It was indeed life changing. The world took a back seat when I was at my work bench, a retired section of bowling lane. Although the result was not inspiring, it was a great learning experience. One of my mentors was luthier Augustino Loprinzi. I now have a guitar he made for me. I also was influenced by Dr. Bob Frye, who at the time had been studying violins of the Cremona workshops. He developed a brilliant theory on how violins “work”.

    Mr. Sellers, I greatly admire your woodworking skills, and I eagerly await the release of you videos. I am equally impressed by your skill with a pencil.

  10. Can you say anything about how you hold down your work pieces, particularly small thin pieces?

    1. The question is too vague to answer with an answer of any real value, Richard. Thickness, surface area, length, wood type, to do what to it?

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