Intern Woodworking—On We Go!

Hannah comes in to learn woodworking with me

It’s been a year since I move house and home, workshop, studio and woodworking school too, so I make no apologies for not having in-house training going on for a while. Hannah comes in to work with me now. She’s keen on woodworking of course and wants to pursue her future growth learning at the bench with me, so we set aside time for me to teach as much of what I know as I can. Through three decades now I have always made— time for young apprentices, trainees, internees and such, who can make their projects and, whereas I can mostly still carry on with my own work, I am always there to call on for advice and of course I can keep  a watchful eye out if and when things go awry.   

 

Hannah sketches information and that’s just as I always have through the years. Her new #4 with its beautiful rosewood handles has now been fully restored and sharpened and it’s really very beautiful–both in looks and use.

Hannah will be learning furniture making with me too, as this is something she’s passionate to learn from the inside out. We started her first project last week and we also began working on journaling, technical and perspective drawing and then her first lesson in hands-on sharpening her saws, which she pulled in full rust-red ready for training from a bucket offered secondhand for 50 pence each.

In meeting Hannah last year I saw that her ambitions seemed to closely match mine when I was her age or perhaps a bit younger somewhere in the late 1960s. Wanting to be a furniture maker has become more and more problematic for young people looking to their future these days because of the demise of talented crafting artisans disappearing one by one. Hopefully, by the time she has concluded her training, and with a few serious training projects under her belt, she too will gain enough to make change happen. Also, personally, I think it’s high time things shift for her and others like her to find higher levels of interest in truly hand-made workmanship. Instead of people buying imported stuff stuck together by robots they’ll be looking for something more substantive, with local connections by way of hearth-crafted makers just like me and Hannah, designers making fine-quality designs we are actually making.

It is more of  a problem than you think, at least here in Britain, any way. Last week we added sound insulation to our studio to tone down the noise from power equipment elsewhere filtering into our filming space. The joiner installing the double glazed doorway asked about our work and my background as a furniture maker. He said his nephew “graduated three years ago from a three-year furniture degree program and since he started working has done nothing more than shove MDF through machines.” and then: “This is what he was really looking for, but he couldn’t find anything!” I hear these stories regularly enough and indeed I don’t see even qualified makers working for themselves doing much more than that. Another young friend qualified through three years full time university said to me two days ago, “I just spent the whole day with ear defenders on.” It’s dispiriting for them and dispiriting to hear. Imaging a 2:1 degree in design and this happens. Unfortunately young people struggle to power their way through a three-year degree program only to saddle themselves with massive debt in the hope that they have something to support themselves with on the other side. What to do! What to do!

This week Hannah was with me again and we went over her project. Her work is lovely, crisp in execution and very precise. She is what I call a tactical woodworker. Methodical, she strategises her moves by sketching her plan of attack. In her homework this past week she brought back some very nice drawings surrounding her saw sharpening, project and so  on. Very inspired and very inspiring. Those of you who know my blog will recall how Phil developed this way and so too John and Lea, Sam too.

7 comments on “Intern Woodworking—On We Go!

  1. I’m curious, could you share what “homework” you assign your apprentices? I think it could be valuable to all of us for the practice and technique. Obviously you wouldn’t be able to look it over, but I still think it would be a valuable thing to do.

  2. How lovely to see Hannah working with you Mr Sellers. After meeting Hannah at your last 2 day course of 2016 it’s fantastic to see her having the privilege of working with you (and you with her). I’d be lying if I wasn’t a little jealous but I can’t wait to read more about how she is progressing whilst being under your wing.
    Please pass on my most sincere heartfelt best wishes and to congratulations to Hannah for being offered such a wonderful opportunity to work with such a wonderful craftsman and a wonderful human being.

    Al

  3. The situation you describe regarding the persons who studied for their degree and end up just working feeding MDF into machines can also be seen in even technical jobs.

    I have a friend who works for a large multinational IT giant, he worked full time while obtaining his degree at night at a cost of roughly 20,000 euro.
    The company he moved to has developed analytical software which along with selling to their customers, they hope to use to answer their customer’s technical issues and allow them to get rid of their IT support staff.

    This is after already moving most of these and the development jobs to low pay and “business friendly” countries (read this as low/no tax corporate tax and no workers rights to speak of).

    While the basic premise of the software is indeed progress and can be used for the benefit of mankind in medical science etc, there is something inherently wrong with the use of such software to deliberately get rid of people as did the introduction of technology in the manufacturing industry in order to increase profits and “reduce costs” to the consumer.

    Given this rush to the bottom, I’m trying to figure out whom these and other companies believe will be around to pay for their goods and services.
    But we are also to blame in our insistence of wanting things right now and on the cheap and having no appreciation of quality.

    An example in my opinion is that most people especially in their twenties and younger now pay for music streaming services rather than purchasing their music in a permanent format. Its a great situation for the record companies as the overhead from producing CDs etc are gone, and the customer once they cancel their subscription no longer have access to their music. Its a situation I cannot understand the customer signing up for, but hey maybe at 40 I’m to old to understand. BTW I work in the IT industry also and am no way a Luddite 🙂

    The same can be seen in woodworking where people flock to Ikea and similar to purchase cheap furniture that will last about at most five years, resulting in another trip and more money being spent rather than saving up and purchasing something that will last.

    Anyway rant over and thanks again for the great work Paul and the rest of the team.

  4. My dear Mr. Sellers:
    It seems every time I leave a message is to thank you for what you teach, I’ve learnt to restore, sharpen and setup my hand tools thanks to you, there’s a lot less of saw dust in my little workshop, and as you say, I have my daily upper body exercise.
    I too as Hannah would love to learn from you, and to bring that knowledge as a plan to offer universities in my city, se they teach real woodworking as a part of the industrial design careers.
    With regards: Héctor Valadez, from Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, México.

  5. Thank you for taking time to work with apprentices. I am 66 years old now, and when I was 61 started working with a local gunsmith doing what I have loved watching them do for years. It was and has been a very rewarding and fulfilling job. Proof that you can teach an old dog new tricks. Thank you also for sharing your knowledge of woodworking. I have learned much, and still fondly remember my days in woodworking shop in high school. I love building things and especially love wood turning on the lathe. I have just recently turned my first bowl since 1968. I had forgotten how much fun it was. Nothing worse than realizing you have wasted GOD given talents.

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