Changes

Changing Our Looks and More

I know many of you that have been with us through the years have noticed changes to my backdrop and also heard hints of changes yet to come too. We’ve not wanted to be secretive so much as make certain we carried you along the journey with us. Many of my tools disappeared and then we filmed some work from what looked to be some kind of garage instead of our studio workshop. “What’s going on? Aargh!” some said. At last, I can now tell you. We are preparing to move to a more customised location, but there is more to it than that.

My workshop as it was in Penrhyn Castle.

Stepping Stones

Our first UK workshop was in Penrhyn Castle in North Wales back in 2010. Joseph and I were the only ones at that time but Phil apprenticed with me soon after. I knew then that the castle was temporary, five years max and it was a splendid stepping stone that allowed us to establish ourselves as media providers to the world of woodworking. Hence my mentioning my changing backdrop. Over the past few months, we have been working toward establishing ourselves in a place of permanence to call our own.

My cupboards of tools after moving in and before recent changes at Sylva.

Whereas Sylva has been more than a mere stepping stone for all of us involved (now six people full time), and we have gained so many new friends, shortly after we arrived in Long Wittenham we realised that by its very nature tying the links between land, forest and woodworking workshops into a symbiotic whole, we found ourselves conflicted by being unable to control those elements basic and important to any good filmmaking—sound and light control the both of which seemed to become all the more elusive to us, especially the more successful Sylva became. Imagine the frustration when part way through a perfect video shoot someone elsewhere drops a plank or bangs a door and then starts power routing, sanding or using a skillsaw.

Redefining the Workspace

The downsized, decluttered workshop works just as well as ever because it’s the handful of tools that I have always really relied on and not the masses.

Dismantling my current workshop made us rethink what we were presenting. It has of course been a great challenge to me because of course I identify with the tools I have owned and worked with for many decades. It did make for a neat and admirable backdrop too. But we thought it actually gives people following us the wrong impression. My message for three decades has been more minimalist in terms of what do you really need to work wood. Dozens and dozens of mostly unused tools behind me seemed counter to the simplicity we felt woodworking should be.  The tools I rely on, the ones in my Essential Woodworking Hand Tools book, are indeed the only tools I rely on to make the masses of things we’ve made through the years of creating for Woodworking Masterclasses. It was time to shed.

Your Input

In shedding the tools, archiving them with projects we created for future reference, we considered our clearer direction. Joseph and Phil put together a questionnaire and 17% (the biggest percentage) of members from our Woodworking Masterclass followers told us that they worked from a single-car garage or something similar in size more or less.

Me working at home in my garage workshop.
Here is the workbench we built and filmed in the garage set from recycled wood. I will be retrofitting it with a drawer and additional elements to customise it for the new set we move into in just a few weeks time.

Having decided that we needed a single car garage studio to film in, and having built it before the jury came in, it was nice to have confirmation that we were indeed on the right track. Though our audience comprises both professional and amateur woodworkers, the largest percentage of western woodworkers at least are indeed amateurs and the majority of them work in their single-car home garage or similar. Hence the transition we are in encompasses those of you who love your craft and work in spaces about the size of a single-car garage or less.

The temporary garage/studio set we built as part of the experiment

And then there is the workbench concluded. For the new video series to make this workbench and to keep up with us on the journey  subscribe to my YouTube channel and we will be updating you when it and the drawings are available.

42 comments on “Changes

  1. I think most of us would watch your presentations regardless of the backdrop, however being surrounded by one’s woodworking hand tools is like being surrounded by familiar faces and family. It makes one feel at home.

  2. This is fantastic news – it is unfortunate that we don’t all have large amounts of room, some of us even working from a small spare room/living room/etc.

    The re-focus on your core audience and their own limitations regarding their working environment will hopefully show that anyone can start woodworking, regardless of skill, age, cost and importantly, space.

    May I ask when your new workbench series will begin?

    Thanks Paul, you do a fantastic job!

  3. Hi Paul, this is exciting! I hope this means many more years of virtual mentoring, and enjoyment for you as well. I’m so looking forward to the new workbench videos, too. I just finished my workshop and have been waiting on the updates to the workbench to start my own build. It’ so exciting!

  4. I love the new focus. Those new to the craft will quickly be able to see that it is your skill rather than the tool that yields beautiful things.

  5. Hi Team,
    Am I reading something between the lines that perhaps isn’t there.
    Have you constructed a garage sized space within the Sylva boundaries or are you moving to a different site all together, the area created for the course work looked ideal with all the work benches spaced out and plenty of room to work with.
    I’ve been following you for about a couple of years now and what I’ve made in that time I would not have even attempted had I not took on board the methods and approach to working wood as has been taught via the detailed instructional videos.
    For that I will be forever grateful.
    Regards
    Ian W

  6. Hi Paul,

    I’m sure I speak for most followers, that we would watch you no matter the location you chose. I loved your original YouTube series on the work bench build filmed out in the yard. It showed us that a purpose built shop, or even a roof over your head, was not needed to start the learning process.

    Thank you, and the team, for all you do!
    Chris

  7. Have been with you from the 1st Cressing Temple show and I’m glad to see a reduction in the backdrop. Not because it bothered me, but I did think it conflicted with the message you were trying to give new woodworkers. Good on yer, keep it up,look forward to future episodes. john

  8. Hi Paul ,congrats on your move , I think that it is a great idea ,same size as my home work shop. Thank you for being by far the best teacher I have ever had in my 63 years. My friends and family can’t believe the projects I have been able to make, all because of your patient teaching method and love for the craft that shows in every thing you do. May God bless you, your family and crew. Len Kennan.

  9. I like this approach. Similar to the concept of your poor man’s tools, this seems like the basic idea of: What do we really need in order to get the job done effectively? For those of us without a lot of space or tools, this is how we work..

  10. I’m looking forward to this. I work in about a 10′ by 6′ area. The 10′ runs along the wall and I get the depth when the car is pulled out. I also have two shelves on a 2’x8′ shelving unit for storing a limited amount of wood. This is more than enough space. Now that I have a better idea of what I am doing I am sure I could get by with even less space.

  11. Best of luck. Ive always wondered what Paul would do if he were starting out in a garage space with nothing and then building from there. It’s a situation many of us found ourseleves in. No proper bench, no proper tool storage. Rusty tools, where to keep the wood and what to buy and not buy as you start out. I hope you consider this opportunity. Seeing, in video, how Paul would tackle these problems would be a legacy in video for every aspiring new woodworker for the next 200 years. Keep up the great work.

  12. Thanks Paul, I know I’m not the only person who appreciates how real and down to Earth you are. Thank you for trying to work on our levels and being humble about your skills and circumstances. I’m in my mid 30s and you are more of a manly role model than anyone in my past, my generation and the younger generation were deprived of so much wisdom and practical skills, we are hungry for it now, I see it everywhere with YouTube video consumption and traditional skills starting to come back. Even on the family level my wife and I decided to teach our daughter (2 1/2) practical skills as we learn them to truly prepare her for REAL life, not this fake construct (this statement coming from a professional DevOps Engineer who works on a computer all day…) Thank you Paul, truly.

    • And thank you, Devin. The world revolves ever faster like a giant conveyor belt in the so-called global economy and the gravity in both gravitational pull and seriousness is always money because without money economists die and we go back to our own home economics. I am sad for the new generations but then I think it is more likely that they may well see much farther than we as they stand on our shoulders. That is what you are giving your daughter as she grows into adulthood. I learned many things from my children as they grew and I am still learning from them now that they have their children.

  13. I work from a 12×12 shed, sharing with a freezer, i have managed to put my bandsaw etc on wheels etc. really enjoy watching your youtube videos, and at 76 years of age i have a new found love of woodwork,

  14. Paul,

    I don’t think you were ever in danger of alienating those of us with less space and less tools. I am watching the old episodes of The New Yankee Workshop, and it’s sad to see what his show morphed into over the years. His later seasons featured tools that wouldn’t fit in the average shop, and most of us couldn’t afford them as well. You may have a collection of 50 or more planes, but you don’t use all of them to do 1 project.

    I’m perfectly happy with the direction you are going in, but just wanted to say that I don’t think you would ever go down a road where you would cause people to stop watching you because of your tool collection or shop size. You’re the Bob Ross of Woodworking!

    • John, I agree with you. Anyone that has the inventory of power and specialty tools these people have should have a general idea of how to use them. Same thing as to the woodworking magazines I “USE TO” subscribe to. My subscription money was mostly paying for sales pitches buried within a project I needed a special tool to make.
      Paul shows us how to make a silk purse out of a sows ear while the other sources I use to subscribe showed how to make a sows ear out of a silk purse.

    • I think, at least in the US, when we saw Norm on PBS we were already translating his luxurious supply of power tools into what we had available. Even more important if we saw Norm, we also saw Mr.ROY and he grounded us to real woodwork with real handtools.
      To me, Roy was the same giant of his day(on public TV, I know he’s still skinning his knuckles somewhere every day or so) that Paul is now. Would love to see them visiting each others shops.

        • You can watch Roy on PBS for free if you look it up. His style is more geared to rushing through so he often has premade parts in different stages. It’s also more historically focussed but interesting to watch all the same.

      • Man wouldn’t that be fantastic! Roy and Paul in the same shop debating rabbet and rebate. Both men compliment and confirm one another with their teachings. While Paul is more detailed which is what everyone needs in order to learn, Roy is extremely entertaining.

        • awesome, somebody wake up ol Roy underhill in carolina and ask him to join paul for a fun episode. Paul have you ever seen roy on pbs in the US. his enthusiasm was very entertaining. and im told his classes that he is not faking its the real roy. lol

          • Nope, nor the other guy Norm either. I see and hear enough from others through the years to know where they are coming from. Time restricgts me to 2 mins video a month.

  15. Straight and square and true. Right? Then what was going on in that photo of the downsized decluttered workspace?? — As I zoomed in I discovered that PS is better at joining wood than he is at joining photographs! The cabinets were straight and square and true, but the photos were stitched and fish-eyed. I think you need to give up woodworking and take up photoshop (kidding of course).

  16. Hi Paul,
    Apparently I’m going against the stream of most comments here who welcome the change, but my first reaction was “No, no, no!” I didn’t mind the “cluttered space” and the abundance of tools at all, on the contrary. I think that deep at heart we’re all dreaming of being surrounded by such beautiful, well-used tools, however small our shop at home may be. For me that backdrop adds to the beauty and the value of your teaching, and to the pleasure I have in watching your videos. I find it inspiring and stimulating. And I can’t imagine anyone would be mistakenly under the impression that as a novice you NEED all these tools, as you make that sufficiently clear in your videos, and seeing the huge following you have acquired, I think that this message of simplicity has been fully understood. Also, I have no problem understanding that you, as a teacher, might need a variety of tools that most woodworkers at home probably won’t need. And I think it’s only fitting that a master woodworker, after all these years of practice, would be owning such a valuable range of tools, patiently and lovingly acquired over the years.
    So I do hope we’re not going to a “garage” look… even if I will be watching whatever comes our way, no matter what 🙂 Thanks for everything!

    • You summed up exactly what I was thinking Vera! Big shop/small shop, working outside in his backyard….I don’t care. I have always watched Paul for the methods to be learned. I was never concerned about the qty of tools he has/had in his backdrop!

      Rod

  17. Spare tools? Hold a lottery. World-wide audience may fetch big response. You could bet winner would use the tool, not put behind glass (as in the case of highest bidder, maybe).

  18. It will be nice to see your new work shop. Mine for the past 2 years has been a 2 foot by 2 foot table on the small balcony of my apartment, limiting me to small jobs only. But as I read your post today, a big smile came to my face because at 3 o’clock this afternoon I receive the keys for my new house and in the back yard I will make a work shop the size of a one car garage, quite by coincidence.

    • Nice! I moved from a one bed apartment to a small house and I’m getting a 3×4 metre log cabin workshop in the back garden. In the meantime my best tools are under my bed the others in the attic which I hate them being there but have no choice.

  19. I love watching the video on the welcome screen. I’ve saved a lot of scraps from other projects and now can make a bunch of book marks. I plan on using some of the scraps for picture frames as well but the video has given me another option. I’m excited to showcase these at a craft fair I’m attending in November. I’ve grown a lot as a woodworker since I started about 3 or 4 years ago. I remember trying to sharpen my chisels in my basement on a card table which didn’t go well and eventually I found your videos, looked you up on youtube, and finally learned how to sharpen (my first discovery of a burr). This lead to the transformation of my garage into a shop. I’ve learned an unbelievable amount from you Paul and I thank you. One thing I’m beginning to learn and become more and more aware of is minimalism. I like the idea of making something I need, currently I’m making a shop dresser that my very plane cabinet (all my planes are in there) will sit on, and using the cut offs and scraps for something else. This has lead to other positive things in my life too like walking for exercise instead of doing an insane amount of exercise to be healthy and comfortably fit. I cancelled my woodworking class membership awhile ago (poor decision) but I’m rejoining tonight. Looking forward to the workbench project as well as the new cabinet you made.

  20. This is a great idea. As a seasoned educator I can truly appreciate your methods. I recently started out building things needed for my home after realizing it’s cheaper to build quality than purchase what was affordable to me. I am a beginning woodworker trying to improve my skills and as you stated I work from my 1 car garage with mostly second hand tools I have collected recently. Because of you I have gotten the courage to try things I thought were to difficult. What you do is amazing and special. Thankyou!

  21. I thought i had lost you, mr Paul Sellers, since i didn’t receive any information from you for almost fifteen days. I see now.
    Also i have a small work place in the garage and use english tools, well maintained.
    I eagerly await, always, the work that you and your team carry out.
    Thanks for the teachings and information.

  22. Paul, I would love to see more of your drawings blown up and displayed on the walls behind you as you work. Drawings have a soul of human creativity that is hard to get from a photo.

    If you are trying to connect with your audience by making your work-space look like ours, my work-space is 14 by 28 feet and the walls are COVERED with tools hanging for nails or on shelves.

  23. On the photo that accompanies the Changes announcement is a stool. I built this stool several years ago from plans and guidance that appeared on the site at the time. I was a member at the time but had to give up due to health issues. However, now thoroughly recovered, try as I might I can no longer find any reference to it or any plans to refresh my memory. Can anyone help, please?

  24. Paul-

    The new backdrop will be different, but as long as the content doesn’t change, I suppose it won’t matter to most. Familiar faces are old friends; just living in a new place. Thank you for sharing your craft, Paul! And, if possible, please share the plans for the stool Howard is referring to! Mr. Howard Snell, if you find them, please share! Thank you!

  25. Paul…

    Count me as one of those who will be disappointed not to see your tool collection during the Masterclass videos. I cannot imagine any of your loyal followers finding it an impediment while they observe your remarkable skills and benefit from your wonderful teaching. Many, if not all, of your viewers collect tools. Seeing your tools is not only inspiring, but edifying.

    I hope that down the road you reverse this decision and bring back the tool collection into the videos.

  26. Paul,
    I follow your work on facebook, Instagram, youtube & W.M. online, and am greatly interested in the new bench you plan to post. I’ve watched Hannah’s time lapse in the assembly of hers, and one thing I’ve noted with that bench (and other benches in your Artisan Course book and youtube videos) is that the front apron appears to be permanently affixed with glue to the bench top while the back apron is not. My work requires me to move frequently, and I am tweaking my bench design based on my needs. Do you believe it necessary for the front apron to be fixed to the benchtop? I am working on a design where the front apron will detach in similar fashion to the rear apron. What are your thoughts about the overall rigidity of such a design? Thank you for your input!
    Jonathan

    • You can’t lose anything by trying it out first and of course you can use screws to assure a good connection. Always remember that with any link there will be a reduction of integrity so a chain is only maximised in efficiency when pulled. So it is when we remove the glue because we must both pull and push the bench in many direction.

      • I’ll give it a try. I suppose it can always be modified in the future. Currently I have plans to have one or two boards laminated to the apron and utilize a type of half lap across it and the bench top to lock it in place. This way when I remove the apron it can Be laid (mostly) flat. The idea is that when assembled it will still lock together as a unified piece. I might use some recessed bolts through it as well to minimize any racking.

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