And Where Are You From?

When people come so far this question may well be the ice breaker. I recall when I lived and had my workshop in the castle in Wales how a man came into the workshop and said, “If only you were nearer, I would love to do a class with you.” I asked where he was from, expecting him to say something quite different. He lived 18 miles away. The students in that class were from five different countries including the USA, 5,000 miles away, and that class was a month-long class so hotels, travel etc on top.

I still love that we are so internationally focussed. Even when I lived and worked in the USA (and then Texas at that) my students came from other continents, Europe, Australasia, but not so many as arrive now here in the UK. It is easy to think that most of my students would be local. That’s not usually the case at all, most classes are half UK and then the rest of the world. In this class last week I had students from Sweden and Norway, Germany too. We would have had two more from Italy and one from Belgium had they not had problems making it in. But it makes me realise the ends people will go to to spend time immersed in woodworking and sharing their space to develop new skills.

Some made their first woodworking joints and they were successful right from the get go. It’s more than making a successful union between wooden bits though, they absorb much more in a live class because of course being there in the zone is pure visceral in the truest sense of the world. I know it and they know it. It’s still hard to believe that we post the class dates early in the year and all the classes fill in a matter of days or even just hours sometimes. That’s because we keep it so real. I keep saying “It’s not what the boy does to the wood but what the wood does to the boy.” In my head. Course it’s not gender specific, but I am not altering what Sam said on his sign.

I will be taking a break from teaching classes for a year this coming year because we have a new adventure about to unfold in the next sphere of our bringing ever more in-depth training to our friends around the world. It’s always been important for me to remember that my training others was born out of my burden for young people to learn and gain mastery in masterful work, and that it comes from my life experience as a working craftsman first and then my teaching in these classes for three decades now. If it hadn’t been for my classes I would be surprised if we would be able to make the kinds of films we do.

Hannah explains her workbench construction to another.

14 thoughts on “And Where Are You From?”

  1. Ah, Hannah is left handed (face vise on the right)? Surprised I didn’t notice that before. Workbench looks great!

  2. Taking a year off from teaching classes? A sabbatical of sorts? Can you fill us in, or is it secret?

    I wish I could afford to fly from the States to take your classes. So thankful that you have given us WWMC, your blog, and YouTube posts. I don’t think I would have the persistence to keep at it, if not for your wisdom, encouragement, and grace of presentation. You are a most honorable gentleman in the truest sense.

    Thank You!


    1. Michael Ballinger

      I wonder if it Paul’s new adventures are around his earlier post…
      “The demographics for our audience is mind blowing and our guys here have been coming up with some stunning statistics to help us steer our course. Some of this has meant restructuring and refocussing so we will be appraising you of some new happenings shortly.”

    2. It is not the flight that kills you wallet. It is the room and board. It is about $1.50 for every pound. The prices are similar to here in the US. So it costs you 50% more to stay and eat and such.

  3. I have to wonder why in a country with a public transportation system like in the UK, people seem to think it is a problem to travel 20 miles to attend a class (we travel that far to go to a decent grocery store here). If I lived within an hour to an hour and a half travel I would have attended all your classes by now.

    1. Yes, it is a strange phenomenon. Having lived in Texas and travelling 100 miles just to eat an Indian meal one time (each way that is) it puts things into perspective. So glad not all people think that way.

    2. Remember, most people there do not own or use private cars and the tube doesn’t go everywhere. So from the tube (railway) station the rest is “On the Foot”. It is not like walking out your front door and the mass trans is there. Walk 3-5 miles and there you have it or “Bob’s Your Uncle”.
      You can’t get whatever you bought home on the tube either. It’s all delivery and the charges that go with.

  4. Straight line distance I’m less than 5000 miles away (4978 apparently) so I really have no excuse other than time and money. I kick myself periodically that there was a time 30+ years ago that it was only 500 miles (central New Mexico). Back then I was in my late teens and focusing more on hand tooled, screw less knock together furniture (mostly bookshelves) than college. If I’d known then what I know now I definitely would have made the pilgrimage.

    Thank you for all of your blogs, videos and time to respond to people. I said this elsewhere in a thread but I’ll repeat it: I like to think that all of your old mentors are stroking their chin, watching and nodding in approval, primarily at the teacher you’ve become.

  5. I guess that gives me another year to figure out how I’m going to make it to one of your classes. 🙂 I look forward to seeing your next adventure unfold.

  6. I live in Brazil, and have plans to have classes with you in 2019.
    There are several issues regarding this plans. The currency is one, so this is a audacious plan. Furthermore, our market do not recognize good furniture. Sometimes people pays bigger price for MDF or plywood furniture, just because they have “modern” aesthetics.

    But my passion for real woodworking is bigger, and i still fighting against common sense.

    Thank you for your dedication to us.

  7. One thing I’d stress to people is that, thanks to the internet especially, you may find that there are some excellent craftspeople already quite close to you that — whether they realize it yet or not — would be rather excited themselves to find out that there are newcomers to the craft that would love to learn from them.

    At least in the States, we know there are some big-time schools in the craft, from Maine to the Pacific Northwest to the Southeast, covering everything from full surveys of hand work, to boat building, to Windsor chairmaking. And for sure, a lot of those courses are quite expensive, even before you account for travel and potential lodging costs.

    But if you are newer to the craft and have followed folks like Paul and the wealth of information they provide online, maybe it just has yet to dawn on you to look more local! It hadn’t dawned on me until about a year ago, and after just a few minutes of Google searches, I found an online forum where woodworkers from the region of my state had regularly communicated, organized monthly meets and demonstrations just 15 miles from my home. It has become an invaluable resource for sharing ideas, asking for help, and buying and selling tools or lumber at fair prices without shipping costs and the “trust” factor of online purchasing coming into play.

    And best of all, something I thought I’d have to save up for over years to do — take chairmaking classes — fell into my lap at a downright cheap rate when I realized one of the forum members was ~35 miles down the interstate from me and had been making chairs for 25 years!

    To be fair, if you live in a more rural and remote area of the States, the above isn’t as likely to be applicable, and that can admittedly make things tougher. There aren’t very many people, even in more populated areas, that are expert handworkers. But the beauty of it is that it only takes one or two of those people within reach of any given community or region to make a difference.

    And the cherry on top is that most of these people love the craft and got into it just like you and I, and so for them, finding that there are people that WANT to learn from them and engage in the craft together can be a revelation. And then when you offer them money… whoa! 🙂

  8. Among your associates, do you have those who are rising to become teachers in their own right?

    Realizing that you are not running an apprenticeship training program, I think it would be grand if you could identify talent that has matured to a level where a residency to learn teaching techniques and provide that opportunity. It would seem that such people might supplement and extend the amount of time spent with each student in your classes.

    1. I have always had an apprentice running alongside me since 1989. One or two come and one or two go. Finding a craftsman teacher though, now that’s something. Most of the teachers I know, like in private schools, colleges and then via university courses, teach because they could never make a living from making. I’ve done both all of my 50 plus years.

  9. My wife retires in a couple years and then we plan on visiting the British Isles. That gives me a chance to fit in a class while we’re there and, hopefully, the classes will be back up and running by then.

Comments are closed.

Privacy Notice

You must enter certain information to submit the form on this page. We take the handling of personal information seriously and appreciate your trust in us. Our Privacy Policy sets out important information about us and how we use and protect your personal data and it also explains your legal rights in respect of it. Please click here to read it before you provide any information on this form.