Real Woodworking Just Grows and Grows

Thursday 30th March 2017

It seems true to me. Real woodworking is an unstoppable force that carries within itself the ability to influence change and transform lives. This is because it is proving ever more to be rewarding, fulfilling and meaningful. I cannot even begin to tell you the positive influence it’s had on my own life but when I look at the testimonies of others I stand truly amazed.

Working on my new laptop desk for an upcoming woodworking masterclasses series.

I glued up the the base frame to my newest laptop desk design on Monday and it went together well. It’s looking nicely new somehow, nothing square, squared off or angular about it, softened profiles and no hand corners to catch legs, knees or elbows on or then again vacuum heads and sweeping brushes. I like sweeps and curves from spokeshaves. You know, unrouted and freely carved out by the twist of an unfettered wrist and then yet too with mitred corners in the solid. Of course we filmed the joinery and methodology for you to learn from, which always has a way of making the simple seem complicated.  So we did have moments you can’t really imagine  it generally it all went really well too. The pine prototype was one thing, but the oak looks so nice and, though the higher demand of its working gave me challenges from time to time, the greater pleasure of completion with hand tools was well worth the effort.

Phil teaches with me too.

In another day we host the first class of 2017. The wood is in and mostly milled and the tools are sharp ready to go. It’s a full class as always and that’s the case for the whole year once again. On one level I teach fewer classes than in times past, but that’s because of time constraints. On the other hand our work in filming and writing enables us to reach hundreds of thousands more around the world every month. I think it was just a week ago when we posted our Fibonacci spiral shavings video. Thanks to you we already reached around 300,000 in just 6 days via FB, YT.

Clamping on the box bottom.

Hannah just finished off a chisel tray and starts another project today.

Hannah draws…
…and designs.

She is a highly motivated woodworker and productive in all she works at and that includes drawing. She produces different aspects of her work in her own  unique and refreshing style. We spend time once or twice a week talking through her projects with concepts of design being always at the forefront. She handles the physical work with great precision and controls the tools which sometimes look or seem more awkward than comfortable to her, but I have seen a deliberate certainty in her dexterous control that I don’t see that much in every new woodworker.

Hannah ripping down 6″ stock for her box lid and bottom.

For the lid and base to her chisel tray she rose to the challenge of ripping through some 6” wide stock read to thin it down and then planed  up the surfaces with her new found but ever-increasing confidence. I find this inspirational. She reminds me greatly of John, my apprentice of 2011-2014. He too remained totally focussed the whole time he was with me and now produces some wonderful designs of his own. Very lovely workmanship. Inspired, aspirational students who want to truly master skilful handwork are few and far between but they are there. John seemed to me at the conclusion of his time with me to know as much about hand tools as me,  and he understood many idiosyncrasies beyond his years. Hannah is moving in the same way. Her enquiring mind always digs deep as she works things out and it shows throughout every stage in the execution of her work. In setting her challenges of research she has learned or is learning that over-information causes the ever-greater confusion while finding the balance because of this seems sometimes to be quite elusive. My hope in this is that she  will discover what works best for her in the simplicity skill gives to her craft. Already she’s growing experientially through relational working and that’s forever priceless.

Wood on wood, an amazing combination.

I have been setting up my new garage workshop setting this past week and moved in some of my things to simplify organisation. Paring back is my ultimate goal in this endeavour and I am getting there. It is not so much what i work with but support elements that sometimes get in the way to eat up space and occupy territory I can ill afford to give up. That’s often why wall space is more important than base space. I strongly dislike the kitchen cabinet look in workshops and also pegboard with lines drawn around tools and circling the protruding hooks. Some years back I used plywood to make a rolling clamp cart to hold my different clamps. It worked really well for the school but for a domestic shop a roll-around cart is too much of a luxury, especially in an English garage. I am in the process of rethinking and developing something different this time around. This is proving something of a challenge but I am getting there. I also want to maximise my workbench all the further by simplification in the sense that less is more. Because of my innate propensity to gather tools from my UK roots in the single-most industrious nation starting the Great Revolutions of Industry, I tend to overextend myself with stacks of them. In reality my reactionary work stemming from an original thought some 2.5 decades ago to date remains the same—with less than 30 hand tools, generally no more than just 10, you can make almost anything from wood.


11 comments on “Real Woodworking Just Grows and Grows

  1. Dear Paul,
    I have your book “essential woodworking hand-tools” so I will not ask what are the 10 tools.
    Having only a few square meter, not even a garage, I am interested about how you use a small space as a workshop.
    When you say “I strongly dislike the kitchen cabinet look in workshops” I guess you refer to post WWII built-in kitchen. You tool cupboard reminds me my grandmother (born end of 19th century) ‘s kitchen.
    Thank You for all.

    • I understand what Paul Means by “kitchen cabinet look;” it is where all the tools are hidden behind neat cabinet doors and drawers. For me, a good deal of my time now is thinking about how to set up my shop so that its ease of work flow is balanced by reducing clutter and keeping things neat and clean. Power tools are an essential part of my business to be profitable and sustainable, but the joy of using hand tools that are within easy reach for those special projects is crucial to maintain a flow of work that is not interrupted by scrounging for a needed tool.

  2. Dear Paul,

    some time ago you did a workshop tour video still at Penrhyn Castle. Would you consider doing one for both your workshop in the Sylva Wood Centre and at your garage? I think that would be helpful for us as inspiration for our own workshops. Thanks.

    Warm regards,

  3. I work quite comfortably in a space that is 12 feet wide by about six feet deep. I could get by with less space easily if I had to. The only machine tool I have is a shop vac for clean up. Hand tools don’t require that much space. I agree with you that somewhere between 10-30 tools really is all you need.

  4. Paul: Your thoughts on organizing a small space like your garage would be really valuable to a lot of us, I imagine and I would love to see more.

    My ex single car garage space must hold metalworking equipment, my bench, too many hand tools, some small woodworking machinery (reducing the latter) and a model railway. And the dogs.

    I have only been following this site for a short time, but already have been inspired by your use of creative space and have raised my bench to 38 inches (Yeah!). Not to mention rag-in-a-can, knife walls, simplified saw sharpening, and my new shop made mallet. I look forward to more.


  5. Paul, you and others on YT have shown me what can be done with just hand tools. After coming from a double garage filled with power tools, into a 3m x 3m shed, I sold all my power tools, bought a couple of antique wooden planes and have not looked back. For some reason my measurements are a lot more accurate, and the pleasure of using those planes, and my fathers old handsaw, is indescribable.
    So cheers mate, and keep up the good work.


  6. Dear Paul,
    I think in this posting you have touched on an eternal British problem, how to fit a workshop into one of our single garages. I find that it is an ever evolving project and is often motivated by buying something new. Do the Americans and Canadians know how lucky they are to have so much space?

  7. I think that a series of blog posts on how to make best use of a small space like this would be of immense interest to a lot of people. Here in UK, a small garage is as much space as many of us can devote to our woodworking – and often (as in my own case) we need to find room for way too much other stuff in there too! I dare say that followers of your blog from many other country would find the principles behind maximizing the usefulness of the space to be helpful too.
    Bring it on please!

  8. I arrived home late last night following my trip to Paul’s 2-day course in Oxfordshire, which I attended with my nephew, Jonathan, I would like take this opportunity to thank Paul, Phil, Hannah and Christina for making it such a memorable and inspiring experience.

    Having delved into Paul’s book, watched his DVDs, read his blogs and viewed countless hours of his YouTube offerings, you would think that I would know what “sharpness” was.
    I have to say that there is no substitute for physically feeling a truly sharp chisel, a perfectly set saw or a finely-tuned plane as it interacts smoothly with the wood, powered, solely, by the minimal effort of your own hands.

    I now know what true sharpness feels like, know the standard to aspire to, and have been shown the techniques I need to master in order to achieve it.
    Paul took an unremarkable tenon saw, and, on three occasions, within a few seconds, using only a handful of light file-strokes, produced what seemed like three totally different saws, displaying completely different behaviours, which we were all invited to experience, when presented to the wood.

    Over the two days we were served a veritable banquet of information, demonstrations​, practical experience, wit, engaging anecdotes, the company of like-minded enthusiasts and the unmistakeable, intoxicating aroma of freshly-cut work shavings. A treasure trove of technical information and hands-on experience, but, most importantly, inspiration, delivered in Paul’s unique “humble, yet self-assured” style.

    I would whole-heartedly recommend this course and I will resume the feeding of my currently emaciated piggy-bank, in the hope of attending another of Paul’s courses in the future.
    This activity will be greatly helped if Paul would kindly refrain from mentioning, on his videos or in his blogs the particular tools I am currently trying source on eBay!

    Finally, I would like to thank Phil for providing much appreciated help an advice during the practical sessions, and, in particular, for his consumate professionalism in suppressing his mirth at the sight of my feeble efforts to replicate the quality of one of Paul’s dovetails. I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it when I have completed another 119,997 examples!

    • I was about to write up my own thoughts on having attended the course, but Ian, you’ve nailed it. I haven’t been as happy as I was fettling wood in Paul’s workshop for a very long time.
      It was great to meet other like minded people taking pleasure in using our hands to shape and join wood. So keen to get back there, but will certainly be watching for the single garage build up.

      BTW Paul, thanks for making our planes ring true for the two days, and sorry for all the excess shavings!

  9. Hello Paul,

    I was just wondering if you teach your students how to draw “rods” and if you feel they are necessary to cabinet work ?

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