Changing Habits

As with many things stupid and addictive, my habit for smoking cigarettes took hold in my mid teens. After the introductory initiation of feigned maturity symbolised by a woodbine between my lips I was hooked before I knew it. Smoking into my late 20s was ever increasing and despite all efforts to stop I found myself rekindling the tobacco within a few short weeks. Just about everyone I knew back then smoked. In a time when the smoking section in the cinema was separated from the non-smoking by the aisle alone, and though personally I didn’t smoke there, I saw plumes of blue smoke caught in the flickering light of the projectors waft from smoker section over to non-smoker section without hindrance. P1550387I had my three youngest children there between me and my wife and I realised that, though I was not smoking there and then, they too were passively smoking and were being harmed by those around them and that included me. I decided that I must stop. I couldn’t stand the reality that my children’s lives were being polluted. I talked to my wife, Liz, who, wise as ever, had the answer and I followed her suggestion.P1550388

Liz has always been supportive of my work and knows the love I have for woodworking in general and the high levels of quality generally only possible through hand work. She suggested that reward was often the catalyst that led to successful habit breaking.P1550390 Her thought was for me to save the money I would have spent on cigarettes for say a week or two weeks and decide which tool or tools I needed in my work. Planes and saws, chisels came in my first wav of buying my essential tools as an apprentice. The ones I was to buy were more complex and only essential when I really needed them. After a few weeks I could see the tangible effects of giving up and soon I had established the second wave of hand tools that until then I could never afford (probably because of my habit). The hook was baited and our children were in a much safer environment. It took me three years to actually lose the desire for cigarettes even though I did indeed stop throughout those years. I was however, able to stop rewarding myself after the first year. Financially we were better off and my children never developed the same habit as I, thankfully.P1550392

A few years ago someone wrote me about his life changing experience through woodworking in a very different way. He’d been in prison for supplying and selling drugs to support his own drug habit. He had just been released from another term locked away and was considering reestablishing the drug habit and selling drugs to support it. He wandered out to his parents garage, bored and frustrated and saw a #4 Stanley on the shelf. It was rusted and unusable so he googled bench plane #4 and ended up watching my YT video on restoring a bench plane. Several hours later the plane was whisking of gossamer shavings and he discovered woodworking. He followed more of my videos (and I am sure others too) and before he knew it months had passed without him doing drugs again. He said that he never returned to his old habit and was pursuing woodworking with all he had in him.P1110362

So, I say these things because there may be others who need an outlet like woodworking to break powerful habits.


  1. What an awesome story, thanks for sharing. Also s
    thank you so much for your lessons, whether in blog or youtube. I’ve worked with wood off and on most of my life, starting in 4H and then on my own. I’ve learned more from you in the past month or so and I am very excited to learn how to work wood with hand tools. Problem is my new addiction to buying hand tools, whether it’s eBay, yard sales or Amazon.

    Thanks again,
    Tom Hart
    Northern California

  2. Give up smoking will be, probably, one of better things you have done in life. I have never been a smoker, but I can imagine how difficult is leave up the addiction. My own father died nine years ago due to tobacco habit, and I hate so much smoking that I do not even allow smoke at home. My smokers friend have to smoke out, in the garden.
    Like Tom Hart, I’m getting a new addiction: working wood with hand tools. I’ve retrieved woodworking with the construction of a workbench. The original idea was making it with machine-prepared wood, but then I discovered your work and your videos. My workbench is being made working by hand (I’m desperatering slow, I’m afraid, since I don’t have too much free time), and I’m using only rough machine-sized wood, but it goes. This is becoming my new addiction, but I like it. Wood shavings stain less than years of smoke.

    1. I have to say if you’re thicknessing stock a scrub plane is so handy. Today I worked from 15.30-21.00 switching seamlessly between my scrub and smoother. It was good hard work and I’m delighted with how much I got through. Sitting back having a beer now and catching up on my favourite blog.

    2. I just picked up some rough cut ponderosa pine yesterday and will start my bench this weekend. I’m so looking forward to having a bench to work on. I’ve been practicing mortise and tenon chops and cuts.
      I purchased a new router just before I found PS, and I am not sure what to do with it now. LOL I might sell on ebay to pay for all the hand tools I’m purchasing.

      1. Same same I have an electric router that sits in a box – I’ve found no pleasure in using it. One day I was using a flush cut bit and the ball bearing assembly came apart sending little metal balls flying in all directions because the router spins so fast. I stopped what I was doing checked myself took a deep breath and thanked my lucky stars because who knows what damage could have happened to me had it hit my body.

  3. Being 26 and smoking almost a pack a day, for me, this post is spot on.
    It’s interesting how it helps and inspires you when somebody you look up to admits to having had the same problem as you have.
    Thank you

  4. I quit smoking 16 years ago now. Two packs a day. With the price of a pack of cigarettes what it is, you could easily buy a brand new tool a month with the savings, or some nice lumber.

    Makes me feel pretty silly to think I used to literally burn my hard earned money like that.

    1. Derek, You STOPPED! Wow!I wouldn’t feel anything but happy your lungs are recovered and your breathing from using your tools is freer!

  5. from woodies (woodbine’s) to woodies (wooden plane’s) is probably the best change anyone could make, i also stopped 14 yrs ago after taking up the habit at the ripe old age of ten until the age of 36, and watching smoking related disease rob my dad of his love for woodwork, just think one pack of cigarettes costs the equivalent of a months subscription to (IMHO) the most influential woodworker on the internet, thank you for stopping and being around to show us how we can enjoy our woodwork.

  6. I gave up tobacco (I did love it) on 23 Dec, 2008 at 10:52 am. I can actually bring up a map and show you exactly where I stood the last time I used it. I love tobacco and the only thing that worked for me was prayer. I have not smoked a cigarette in 20 years and I can still close my eyes and feel/taste it. I cannot see myself taking up the habit again.

  7. Paul, My name is Rich and I am an addict. I have 28 1/2 years of cleantime. Of all the drugs I did nicotine was the hardest to quit. With the help of another recovering smoker, I quit. Woodworking has filled a void in my life. Primarily building acoustic guitars. If I am stressed to the point of smoking I pick up a plane or a guitar and make something beautiful. Thank you for sharing your experience and knowledge. It has helped me greatly.
    Rich C.

  8. Well, as part of my new addiction, I’ve just ordered a copy of Paul’s books and dvds. Hmmmm… what will be the next step?

  9. Can’t help being reminded of the man who was asked how he’d managed to spend the whole of a massive inheritance:
    “Well, I spent half of it on women, wine, cigarettes and gambling.”
    “What about the other half?”
    “Oh, I just frittered that away”.

    Seriously though, an inspiring post.

  10. Cigarettes in Australia is the most expensive legal drug in the world. People will spend well over $240 p/w on them, this has forced many to seek out illegal tobacco called chop chop. What makes it illegal there are no taxes on them. I don’t drink nor have ever taken drugs but am a heavy smoker and despise it everytime I put it in my mouth. I have tried every conceivable thing to stop and failed miserably everytime. I love my craft more than life itself but not even my love for it can beat this awful habit.

  11. Think I might be the former drug addict that you referenced in this post. More than 3- 1/2 years after I found that Stanley no. 4 on my garage shelf I’m still sober, still working wood, and still reading your blog.

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