2-day Class Came and Went

I did enjoy preparing for the 2-day class last week but it is always a lot more work than I anticipate, mostly because I am no longer solely dedicated to what was a dedicated woodworking school. I think running a school may well be more an over expectation carried over from a past into what has become for me a new era. So my resolve to keep on teaching is as much for my own inspiring as for those who come to learn. Classes have been a pivotal part of my life since 1990. Perhaps if I have 3 decades of dedicated service to my craft,  hopefully my work will have been sufficient to have preserved the craft and skill and serve for future generations to follow. I hate the thought that my work might be swallowed up into advancing consumerism and such. I can only hope that my investment defies such shallowness and equips people for generations of woodworkers worldwide yet to come this way.

Those I work with now truly enrich my life. It needs saying here lest I forget to say it. They are fun, funny, enjoyable and friends. I like listening to them as they work with one another, hearing their points of view on our work and also from the private spheres that revolve around them. These things are life enriching too. I like also their clothing, their unique mannerisms, speech patterns, thought processes and voices. Between us all we create unique work in creative ways. As I drove home I thought about these things and found myself smiling as my thoughts passed over events of the day and week. When one of them is absent. They are missed.

After each workshop I teach I realise how many diverse backgrounds people come from to learn with me. I only mention this because, when I came into the world of working, a computer occupied the floor of a multi-storey corporate office and then, back into the 60’s, they were the scarcity not the norm. A hundred punch card operators operated machines that generated the cards and from this calculations were made by feeding the cards into the computer. Your smartphone can achieve more than this now. The people that came to the workshop were musicians and artists, engineers, financiers and carpenters. One thing they had in common mostly was that they all used computers to a greater or lesser degree, another thing was a penchant to become skilled craftsmen in their own right. They wanted also to learn to do it the right way and by hand. My job was to impart relational knowledge in the most balanced way I could. I should have photographed their achievements because many carpenters would not be able to achieve what they achieved using their specialised equipment in the same time. This outcome has for me become the reality of what I do – this is success.

In another week or so we hold the next 6-day class. Between then and now I have much work to do. The filming is going well and so too better and ever-improving video making. Your support is helping greatly to reach an ever greater audience so thank you so much for telling your friends and indeed staying loyal. It spurs us on when you send your pictures to the gallery section showing what you’ve made and comments of appreciation.. I never knew my work would come to this.

One thing I really love is that woodworking is a great leveller. The diverse backgrounds I spoke of seem almost inconsequential somehow when everyone starts their work. There is no class, no colour, no religion, no claims, no sadness or melancholy. I wish more women tried their hand and was surprised to see that the class was all men again. About 7 years ago I had classes where more women came and one that was 75% women. I felt hope that something was changing but somehow it just stopped, as if the tap was turned off. I now wonder if there is a difference between the North or North-west of England and the South.

 

12 comments on “2-day Class Came and Went

  1. The hand and eye coordination, not to mention finger dexterity, of a woman would be a wondrous thing coupled with your techniques. Why, they would take over the craft. Word will get out soon.

  2. You say: “I hate the thought that my work might be swallowed up into advancing consumerism and such”

    Definitely not Paul!

    I have owned, and used periodically, a circular saw for 30 years (a decent pre-China Made in Switzerland Bosch one).

    I just yesterday wanted to cut a 45 degree chamfer along a 19″ length of 3/4″ timber. ‘Pre-Paul’ I would have reached for the circular, faffed with the settings, hooked up some dust extraction, put on the safety gear, found suitable fences, clamped it all up, redone it all because the fence fouled the motor, etc. etc. and cleaned up the huge mess, and put it all away.

    ‘Post-Paul’ (August last year for me) I decided to run a gauge line, rip it with my restored eBay S&J (the one I retoothed and rest by your ways), and then magically had to but skim the kerfs away with literally a few strokes of my (eBay restored) No.5.

    The Starrett proved it bang on. Some beginner’s luck of course, but what satisfaction.

    Who cares what the ‘masses’ do Paul???!!!

  3. I’m 64 and freshly retire. I have always had a fascination with woodworking since 9th grade shop class. Our craftsman instructor, Mr. Duncan, was a retired engineer and had a great passion for woodworking and teaching. The school was brand new and the shop class had all new tools. From lathes to lock washers, everything was sparkling. But Mr. Duncan would let us operate any of it till we passed a term test on “Hand tools”. He said ” the heart and soul of woodworking was in the knowledge and relationship you gained by working with hand tools. You remind me a great deal of him and the memories are comforting.
    I’m in the process of building a wood shop and greatly anticipate the sounds, smells,textures and satisfaction of shaping wood. I owe this appreciation to you and Mr. Duncan.
    Thank You

  4. I wouldn’t let it be disheartening to you Mr Sellers that there were no females in your class. What you teach is not specific to any particular gender (in my limited view anyway) and I’m pretty certain that the “skills” you don’t teach but exude naturally will be lovingly passed on down from family tree to family tree.
    Examples of this are the respect for our tools and for each other, the patience, the love of the craft, the emotional connection to the materials​ that we work with and the benefits of returning to basics and enjoying the disconnect from modern technology will stay with me (and I’m pretty certain with my son once he’s old enough to understand what his daddy is showing him) for life. You didn’t teach me these things at your 2 day class Mr Sellers, I felt it. And it’s that exact same feeling that I want my son to learn from me and to then pass on to his own sons and/or daughters. Once he has that you can be rest assured Mr Sellers that your legacy will continue on and on down my family tree and many more family trees to come.

    And if it helps you to feel better then I’m more than happy to wear a skirt for two days if you ever want to invite me back to one of your workshops!

  5. Hi there from Portugal,
    Please keep doing, Master Paul Sellers, because I always waiting for your knowledge on wiki, blog, MastersClass site and youtube.
    I hope one day we meet in person 😀

    THANK YOU

  6. I think a major contributor to the reluctance of women to take up woodworking is the perception instilled by what they usually see around them. Most only see joiners on building works or office refurbishments. The sight of a burly guy smacking an “unbreakable-handled” chisel with a 32oz framing hammer, or wielding heavy, intimidating power tools probably isn’t too inspiring.
    I attended Paul’s course and I gave my thoughts on the experience in a comment on a previous blog. However, what I will say here is that the atmosphere was remarkable. There was a serenity that is difficult to describe. You really had to be there to feel sense of calm. It transported me, and I became totally isolated from the brash, overly-competitive, hundred-mile-an-hour world outside that workshop.

    You don’t have to be Arnold Schwarzenegger to work wood.
    What you do need is patience, technique, a passion for the craft, and a desire to learn and improve your skills.

    Hannah has these attributes, and I’m sure there are many more like her. They just need to see real woodworkers doing real woodwork. I’m sure many of us talk to our male friends and relatives about what we do, but think that the ladies would find it boring. Perhaps we all need to change and be a bit more inclusive.

    Again, many thanks to Paul, Phil, Hannah and Christina for a wonderful experience.

  7. My wife has no interest in picking up woodworking yet she knows more about it than most men because I never stop talking about it.

  8. There will be at least one female in the September class. Neither from the North/North West, nor from the South of England, though. But from Norway 🙂

  9. Hi Paul,
    referring to your thoughts about women, I bet there are a lot of women, who love woodworking. Why they don´t turn up at your classes, I don´t know. But I can promise you, as soon as it is possible I will participate at one of your classes. In the meantime, I will have to put up with your videos, which I realy love and which have helped me so much until now.

    If I have finished my actual project, which I started in autum last year, I will send some photos for the gallery. It is the result of all your videos, which I have watched since then.

    Please keep going.

    With best wishes from Germany.

    Victoria

    • I know that there are. My concern is that for some women it may be hard to take the time out of certain routines to take a class course because of commitments. Cost is another factor for breadwinners with children. Of course some people would be uncomfortable if they were the only woman and I can give a dozen other reasons. Watching Hannah developing her knowledge and skills has been just great and I have no intentions of not encouraging women to come. We can also dedicate a class for just women too, to even out some of the disparities of past prejudices, so that the playing field is levelled out a little for ongoing to advancing levels. So, no, not giving up.

      • I think a class specifically for women would be a great idea. Being the only female in a class can be a discouraging factor, and prove a psychological obstacle to actually taking that first step and booking onto a course.
        I am not usually an advocate of gender separation, but it can be a good initial confidence-builder, prior to integration into “open” classes. As a martial artist, I found that women, children, older people! (and the parents of younger students) were not so much intimidated by what they perceived to be a predominantly young, male environment, but by the feeling that they’d stand out as being “the only ones”.
        Once the first couple of parents make the decision to give it a go, it is surprising how quickly others are encouraged to follow suit. We also provide specific classes for women and the very young, and find that they very quickly develop the confidence to migrate to the mainstream​ classes.

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