Yes You Can!

Go Do It

“I can’t saw straight to a line.”

‘No,’ I said.

“I was the worst in class in school.”

‘You couldn’t be. Everyone else says the same.’ I replied.

“I couldn’t get the saw to go straight, and the plane, you should have seen the wood after I’d done!”

‘Oh, really. It’s probably right that you couldn’t do anything well. It’s typical.’

“Yeah, I wanted to but I ended up hating woodworking classes. I’m just no good with my hands—ended up with a desk job for 40 years.”

‘Well,’ as I said, ‘no one is good with their hands so I’m not surprised you were no good. I was no good either.’

“Really, but you ended up making your living from it!”

How can a handsaw handle evolve to such gracious levels and no new design emerge to replace it?

‘The truth is that the saws were never sharp, never set correctly, never sharpened for a cross- or rip-cut, dull as blazes and on top of that the teacher couldn’t keep up with 15 boys of 13 years old, 15 planes, 30 saws, 60 chisels, 30 spokeshaves. Life was a dull reality for all boys (pun intended). Your experience was very typical for 95% of boys in woodworking class. Add to that not all the woodshop teachers wanted to be there and were waiting for 4pm and you have the basic recipe for failure and discouragement.

“Oh, you mean it might not have been just me or my fault then?”

‘Nah! Most likely a mix of not having parents to teach you to work with your hands and teachers who were overwhelmed, lacking in vision or worn down altogether, waiting for the illusion of retirement.’

“You mean I could have been enjoying woodworking all these years, and cut with a saw like you do?”

‘Yes. Sharp saw, right tooth pattern, well set plane, good chisels from Aldi (some of the best yet) and you would have been making things for your home, your kids wedding presents and your grandkids too!’

“Oh no! Is it too late?”


This is a conversation i had with a man 20 years ago in the USA. He left and bought tools, bought a small country place and started woodworking every day. He wasn’t good at it but he became good at it. He never went to machines because they made him nervous, but he did master hand tools and loved the result. Actually, I don’t really care whether someone’s good at it, I care about whether they feel fulfilled from it. Less than perfect woodworking is a million times better than no woodworking. Just don’t wait too long. Do it!


    1. The “I can’t do that” response seems to be a code for “I don’t actually want to spend time doing that”. What you love doing, you become proficient at… then good at… then a master at. There is a difference between wanting to be ABLE to and actually wanting to DO. I have taught drawing and guitar and, in both disciplines, I very often encounter a student who only puts pencil to paper or takes the guitar out of its case for the actual lesson. They want to BE ABLE to but, given the opportunity, the time and equipment, there is always something they’d rather be doing than practicing. Not all students of course. Not even most. But enough for it to be a frequent encounter for anyone who teaches a particular skill.
      There’s nothing wrong with not wanting to spend time drawing or playing guitar of course. Also, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be able to do something that you lack sufficient interest or patience to really do. I would like to be athletic… but there aren’t enough wild horses to drag me to a gym. So I content myself with being a comfortable slob.
      So my response to anyone who says “Can you teach me to do that?” is “No. I can show you what to do and what to practice but the learning comes from the practice not the lessons”. If you’re prepared to spend time trying and failing then the failures will become fewer and less disasterous and the trying will pay dividends. It’s just a matter of being honest with oneself and being realistic.

  1. Well Paul, that is interesting, because at my school the woodwork teachers convinced me I was no good, as did the art teacher. Their interest was in the ten per cent maximum in the class who had an ability. As with the man in your article it took me over fifty years to get over it

  2. Hi Paul Your comments bring back memories.
    I started work as an apprentice joiner 2 January 1961.
    My dad gave me 2 bits of advice. If you get up in the morning and don’t
    want to go to work, change your job. (you could then)
    The other look after them that look after you. Works for me.
    Still using same Stanley’s and Disstons. Thanks Paul.

  3. Ditto my experience. Woodwork teacher taught us basic hand tool skills (with which I too obtained mediocre results) as a prelude to using machines. Given that he lost half a finger in a planer / thicknesser, I wasn’t exactly motivated to improve.
    Have learned far more in the last two years from Paul’s book & website. I now find my improving hand woodwork very fulfilling. Thank you.

    1. The only machine in my first wood class was a table saw we we not allowed to touch.

      Robert Sedgwick roughed out the pieces for us on the saw. We moved to La Grange Park, Illinois in 1956 so I had him for only one year. He thought wood working and mechanical drawing .

      A few years ago I found a Park named after him as I was driving through old home town. He was a grand man.

  4. would you still enjoy wood (pun intended) if you couldn’t teach at the same time? I learned by watching and repetition and the desire to create. Desire is the driving force. And your ability to teach is the vehicle for thousands of new woodworkers. Maybe you should teach them how to make mistakes!

  5. I so wish I was given the chance to do woodwork at school. Unfortunately it was only for boys so I was sent to do needlework which I hated ! I’m making up for it now though by joining a womens woodworking group, most of the women felt like I did in those days. I’m making up for lost time and loving every minute. Great videos Paul thank you.

    1. Hi Ali!

      I had a similar sex discrimination problem in high school. For my senior year I signed up to take Gregg shorthand because I wanted to be able to take good notes in college. I had been allowed to take typing for 2 years before. I was not allowed to take the class because the principal said I only wanted to be in a class of girls.

      This was more than 60 years ago.

  6. I managed to cut my first straight (ish) line yesterday, so proud of myself I went and showed the Mrs. Now all I’ve got to do is get the cut parallel to the line I’ve marked!! :). Seriously though, loving it 🙂 🙂

    1. Haha I remember getting proper shavings from my plane for the first time and showing my wife super excited. She’s not really interested but entertains me and it’s amazing how much she knows about woodworking and tools because I keep talking about it. Stoked to hear you’re loving it Dan.

  7. My brother and I were restoring a handmade set of entry doors on a church built in 1680. As we got down to raw wood, we noticed that among the fine jointery and fit were flaws and filler where the material was lacking. The master had to deal with what was at hand. My brother and I discussed that things haven’t changed, and the sign of a master is his ability to hide the flaws in plain sight. Nothing is perfect… including us.

  8. Paul, Thank You! I recognized myself in the text. Now I build good sounding and beautiful violins!

  9. Paul Sellers is in the wrong business, he should be a fortune teller, because I swear he can read my mind… every time I run into a problem there’s a post addressing it. Power tools don’t make me as nervous as Mr. Sellers. Just kidding. Thanks for the help and encouragement.

  10. I have to say that I must have been very fortunate in my highschool. In Ga I had a woodshop teacher that most wood die to have! Yes, I misspelled that on purpose. My Woodshop teacher was a woodworker himself, and planned out and made a beautiful mahogany bed, mostly in the shop some at home. He had a great sense of humor and what answer any question that any student had. I would love to meet him again, but I’m now 54 and do not know how to contact him though I have tried.
    I also had a wonderful Construction teacher. I took instruction class 1 summer because I was bored. Got along with the teacher very well and enjoy the class so much, in fact, I was the only student that cared enough to put out the effort and made the only A for that class. Unfortunatly for the teacher, during the following school year, a table saw/paneling accident took him away from us for a time. His arm was slashed quite badly and was rushed to emergency but made a good recovery and returned.
    Anyway, loved my woodworking and construction classes and truly appreciated my teachers. I wish I could find them now!

  11. I can’t I was taught that I can’t never did anything and that’s so true. Good article.

  12. Hello Paul,

    So funny reading your view, we had a woodwork teacher called “Chiselchops” he was good but could not, as you say, keep everything sharp. He was more concerned with the upper sixth boys than us.
    However, I never let it bother me, I just persevered. My only regret at 62 years of age is that I have only recently discovered Paul Sellers, you have broadened my knowledge no end, made my woodworking in my cowshed much more enjoyable than I could ever have imagined. Thanks Paul.

  13. Thank you! Beautiful words! I have a similar situation and I hope that it will also check up a bit …

    Best wishes

  14. My mum was an outstanding teacher. Realizing this before I left primary school I could see how useless several of my grammar school teachers were, and how good a few were. The woodwork man was a horror. On one occasion he hit a child over the head for being left handed. Didn’t improve his woodwork skills. He wouldn’t let us use Bailey planes as they would become obsolete by the mid 1950s. He taught a favoured few who’s fathers were influential.

    In spite of him I learned to work wood. But I could have learned so much more. At a school reunion in 2014 i discovered that nearly all my school pals had decided they were useless with their hands. It’s a quiet tragedy. As well as the personal pleasure in hand work that was never had we have a generation or two who have no appreciation of quality in many important areas of daily life. Especially in the buildings we live in and the furniture we buy. But also in the art that is presented as contemporary and of great value which is in reality dross.

    Gloom and doom? Not a bit of it. As I close in on my eightieth birthday I am mimicking Paul’s approach, I still play half a dozen musical instruments (two to a professional standard) and I’ve started attending Art Classes (guided by Betty Edwards’ instruction books that are in my view in step with Paul’s approach).

    A real strength that is evident but not shouted out in Paul’s work is the quality and the extent of his notebooks. Drawing and thinking combined at a very high level. Your hands may cut the wood but your brain is essential to great work. Understand it, observe closely (note how Paul listens to wood) and treat it with reverence.

    There is great wealth to be had, wealth that is nothing to do with dollar or pounds signs, and this approach is green too. Quietly planet preserving, a step towards saving it.

  15. Have just “found” Paul Sellers and am so grateful. My dad was a trim carpenter and I worked some with him as a “carpenter’s helper.” Learned from him but could have learned so much more had I paid attention and asked questions. But I went into academics for a lifetime, although I did do some work with my hands in my research lab.

    Now, retired, I am putting together a small woodworking shop, doing work around the house and our guest house. I’m learning how to “do woodworking” and am really enjoying the mental activity as well as the hand-work.

    Paul’s guidance, enthusiasm, and encouragement has been a real gift. Thank you!

  16. Funny that…my stepdad is good with his hands, works extremely precise – yet he can’t explain.
    He’s just not good with the words to explain or the idea how to teach something from the beginning, he just shows how it’s got to look when it’s finished to perfection.

    Thus I grew up thinking I could never do things with my two hands, that I had ten left thumbs on my hands. Until some years ago I wanted to build my boys a tree house. I borrowed machine tools and put something together that they could and did use as a tree house. It had about 200 screws of all different sizes in it and was an ugly beast.

    BUT it got me started in woodworking. I progressed with borrowed machine tools until I stumbled upon Paul through various steps at Youtube. Nowadays, the only machine tools I use are a cordless drill / screwdriver and that happens seldom enough.

    So all in all – all is good. Or at least, better. Like me, working wood with my hands. And I love it, so thank you!

  17. Well the small community I grew up in never had a woodworking class. My love of woodworking came from my dad and small shop behind our house. I loved spending as much time there as I could. Straight and true and plumb were words that I learned even before I could speak (maybe that’s a bit exaggerated).
    I’ll admit I’m more of a power tool guy myself and I learn things every day because there are so many great woodworkers out there.
    But one comment still rings in my ears…”a true craftsman is not defined by the work he produces, but by his ability to fix his own mistakes”

    Thanks Paul

  18. I feel very fortunate that my woodwork teacher, Mr Parker, back in the late 1960’s / early 1970’s was brilliant. I did woodwork right through from 1st to 5th year of secondary school and loved every minute of it. I also did Technical drawing which combined very well with woodwork and I achieved a grade 1 CSE in both subjects.
    Why didn’t I go on to make a living at woodwork? I wish I had, but at the time didn’t think I was good enough and in any case, apprenticeships in woodworking seemed thin on the ground. In fact sadly I don’t think anyone in our class went on to make a living from woodworking.
    However, I never lost interest in woodwork and, having tried various power tools over the years (most of which frightened the life out of me!), realised it was the combination of working wood with hand tools, as I had at school, that had made it such a joy all those years ago. So that’s what I returned to in my retirement.
    The icing on the cake has been Paul’s videos, which I discovered not long before I retired. They have been an absolute inspiration.
    Thank you Paul.

  19. I’m trying to stay with it. Sharpening, sawing, chiseling… Learning to use the tools, learning how they’re supposed to be used. I tried sharpening a saw – I’m not giving up – but I think I need a “better head” for it. Your phrase, “feeling fulfilled” is the key. We all think we have to be perfect. Have to be the best, the fastest, etc… I’m trying not to feel that way. Everytime I do a little more, I start to feel a little better. It just takes time. You can’t just sit down for 30 minutes and create a masterpiece. What I’m enjoying now is how all the little processes and procedures fit together. I watch your videos – not for what you’re making – but the little steps and things you do to make it successful or come out right.

  20. I never had woodshop class nor a woodshop teacher except for you Paul. Thank you. Your website has lead me to build things I never thought I could. I’m still working on my panel and groove shop dresser that has 6 drawers. It is FAR from perfect but I made big adjustments as I built it to make it work. BUT, now I know how to build the next one better…from design to methods of making it. For example, the way you made the bedside cabinet gave me new direction in how to make drawers.

    Some of your past posts discuss the dying of handtool craft. I Just wanted to share a story quick that lends some hope. A co-worker of mine has started to fiddle with designing his own furniture because he can’t find furniture that fits spaces within his house. During our conversation he mentioned that he was getting to a point within his drawings that would cause him to stop. This greatly interested me and as he continued to explain that his designs were getting “stuck”, I suddenly experienced a woodworking self-discovery: Everything I’ve been learning and doing in woodworking has lead me to many things that I enjoyed making with my own hands that get increasing skilled every time I work wood with handtools. And, surprisingly, everything that I been learning and doing has lead me to a situation with a co-worker that could possibly result in me passing on your knowledge Paul, to a another future woodworker.

  21. I wasn’t trained well enough to take up woodworking for a living and I wasn’t knowledgeable or worldly enough to get the help and instruction I needed. There were no jobs available in the woodworking field where I lived especially for untrained workers.
    The Woodshop teachers i had knew more than I did certainly but most couldn’t apply the book knowledge they may had absorbed to apply to real life woodworking because they had no actuall experience in the trade.
    All the shop classes offered in high school were for the kids not destined for college. In fact we were the trouble makers and future dropouts, the “slow learners” who didn’t fit in to the general curriculum.
    Retirement or removal from the treadmill IS REAL, it’s the time when you realize you can choose how you spend the rest of your time on earth. Let’s face it, woodworking isn’t for everyone some of us are doctors or physicists solving problems and advancing mankind in other ways. After all, we all can’t be woodworkers!

  22. This somewhat echoes me. I never took woodworking classes in school, but I did always dream of making beautiful things with my hands. I loved to work with my grandfather, and my father in their crude workshops (neither were woodworkers really, but general “handy guys”). I dreamed of building a shop one day and enjoying the building and doing of it all day!

    I’ve been fortunate to have a great career in the business world and in my late forties I finally decided I had the time and money to build that shop. I found Paul, and began my journey only 25 years later than I probably could or should have. To think I could have been doing great woodwork with little money, no workshop, a few tools, and some knowledge 20 years ago makes me kick myself. On the other hand, I feel I have some time left to enjoy it like I should have done all along. Woodworking is a blessing – if you want to do it, even an hour or two a week, do it!

  23. My father was a joiner and so too were most of my ancestors on both sides of my family (my great grandfather made Gladstone’s coffin). As a child I was actively discouraged from woodwork or anything associated with craft work. My parents were determined that I should study academic subjects and go to university.
    After university and a long, lucrative and boring career in the chemical industry, I took early retirement and immediately enrolled in Art College to study cabinetmaking. From day one, I knew that this was my true vocation. Almost 20 years later, I still love every day in the workshop. My house and my children’s houses are filled with pieces of furniture I have made, and I still have a headful of projects yet to be realised.
    Were my parents right? After much consideration, I am convinced that they were.

  24. Hallo Paul,

    I know you are a good craftsman but I cannot agree with your comment about woodworking teachers not being interested in what they teach and only waiting for the 4 pm bell.

    Having been trained at a very good Training College in Winchester back in the 60`s
    I started teaching in 1970 in Hampshire and in 1973 moved to Germany and taught for another 9 years before leaving education to work in industry.

    In all I taught woodwork, metalwork, Engineering drawing, Motor maintenance, art, pottery and photography up to GCSE. In woodwork and in metalwork my pupils had individual Projects which did mean a great deal more work in preparation. Also, when it came to assessment every 4 weeks I involved the pupils to select what they considered to be the best work (of course with me being the mediator) and amazingly the pupils accepted my method of assessment and the results were honest. I did my best to encourage those pupils who were less talented.
    With regards to the tools not being sharp, we had a workshop technician who maintained all the tools for woodwork and metalwork and also prepared material for the pupils.

    By the way, I also did extra curricula activities twice a week and often forfeited my weekend to take pupils camping and all this was done without being paid extra.
    Another thing to take into consideration is that teachers were not well paid back in the early 1970`s and my wage was so bad that I used to work in a pub or on a building site to make ends meet and I never had a holiday for a Long number of years because I couldn`t afford it.

    Best regards
    Chris Wildin

    1. I personally think that of you quote me you should quote the whole. That’s not what I said. Here is what I said, “Life was a dull reality for all boys (pun intended). Your experience was very typical for 95% of boys in woodworking class. Add to that not all the woodshop teachers wanted to be there and were waiting for 4pm and you have the basic recipe for failure and discouragement.”
      I do think however that it sounds like you were one of the percentage of dedicated teachers of woodworking who went the extra mile. You may even be talking about a different era altogether so not apples for apples. There is no actual woodworking class in school as such today and what little they do offer is really an apology, having so little if anything to do with real woodworking as we once knew it:-(

      1. Paul,

        I went to a school that is in chicago. 5000 guys! College Tech prep. It taught foundry, machine shop, wood shop, electronics, drafting as well as physics , chemistry, and math and English. It still exists today only it’s co educational. My dad went there as did I , my brother too but he was more into sports. Ended up going to a conventional school and getting all A’s/

        I’m truely appreciative that you champion working with your hands. We also have vocational secondary schools here in MIN that teach cabinet making.

        I appreciate that you are getting more and more folks to appreciate the other parts of their brain.

        It also requires that they be motivated which is tough. But the Tube has provided wonderful mentors and creativity abounds. That’s how I came to find you.

        Keep up the good fight!

        1. Unfortunately, here in the UK, it’s a national curriculum that plays to the tune of pied pipers of education and economy so the outcome is cookie cutter stamping out of students. So what else is new?

          1. This may be a little off topic but when did England remove woodworking from public schools?

          2. I don’t really know. I left the UK in 1987 and returned in 2009 and mostly it happened not too long after I left by introducing a different curriculum disguised as something called design and technology. Within that there was a cluster group of what they called resistant materials, one of which was wood. But it does seem that woodworking was more the dumbed down version we see today. Whether that’s the teacher training entities, the teachers or the curriculum and government I don’t know but no one seems to take responsibility for it.

    2. I did not take Mr. Sellars statement to mean that ALL teachers were like that, but certainly some were (I know I had a few of them). I’m thankful for all of the teachers who took seriously their impact on young minds and hold them in very high regard. So much so that I married a Special Education teacher ;o)

      Mr. Sellars has spoken frequently about his appreciation for those who passed on their knowledge and skills to him over the years and always with great fondness and respect.

      It sounds as though you may also be one of those fine individuals who dedicate their lives to serving young minds. Thank you!

  25. “Just don’t wait too long. Do it!”

    I will be 67 in April. I have been disabled for the past ten years and restricted to a wheelchair. I fell in love with the aroma in a neighbors “woodworking” garage some sixty years ago but never pursued the craft for numerous and unfounded excuses.

    My wife recently found a Stanley “Defiance” plane in absolutely horrible condition at a yard sale, but upon following Mr. Sellars videos on YouTube I managed to get it working within reasonable tolerances. Not satisfied, I purchased a Stanley #4 and did my best to sharpen and “tune” it to the best of my ability (again, following Mr. Sellars guidance).

    Using the #4, I experimented on a section of SPF 2×4 I had laying around and became so very frustrated with the mess that I very nearly flung the miserable creature across the garage. I realized I was at a disadvantage by not being able to stand, yet I expected to get better results than the misery I was experiencing. I went back to the videos and tried again, and again, and again; each time following provided guidance in adjustments and sharpening technique. Haha, if walls could talk.

    Then something truly amazing began to happen, the plane began to move differently under my hand, it was beginning to glide for greater distances (instead of sticking every quarter inch and nearly flinging me backwards in my wheelchair – breaks and all), and an aroma strangely familiar began to fill the air. But all the more was this new and beautiful sound – shhhhzing! shhhhzing! So far, all I’ve made is a truly beautiful pile of shavings of varying thicknesses – some rather stunning I believe, even opaque.

    I can’t be any more certain of my future than anyone else, but I like to think I will actually live long enough to build something with my own two hands without doing great violence to the wood (that has been sacrificed for my pleasure) via power tools. That said, it has been a HUGE joy to sharpen and tune this #4 and I still have a box of chisels to play with!

    “Just don’t wait too long. Do it!”


    Thank you Mr. Sellars, thank you VERY much indeed.

    1. Bryan,

      I too am in a wheelchair after sustaining a spinal cord injury 8+ years ago. My hobbies were always sports in nature and I had no interest in wood working. Through an odd series of events I did take an interest and as many others out there landed on Paul’s web site 4 or 5 years ago. I have gone on to make a variety of pieces including Paul’s workbench. Please stay with it and start small – Paul’s mantle clock is one of my earliest and I have gone on to make many others.

      Please stick with it. We may be limited in some ways but believe me it can me done. And when you do finish your first project – whatever it may be – it’s hard to describe the joy it will bring.

      Cheers, Dave

    2. What an awesome experience. Thank you for telling this story. I know I’ve felt the same frustrations. I taught old tool restoration for a local adult school, and even if you just display the results of your efforts, it’s very satsfying.

  26. Good morning Paul. I cant thank you enough for your articles. I’m just finishing a cherry coffee table with “less than perfect” results in some areas of the piece. and that can also be said of the desk and other pieces I have made. That last sentence about “less than perfect” really hit the nail on the head.

  27. Paul,
    I started school in the 1950s woodwork was my favourite subject. I can’t remember if the tools were sharp or blunt, but I do remember taking home a few pieces that I had made. We had to pay few shillings for the wood, “Yellow Deal” in them days.
    Four years ago I joined W W M C. I am now retired and full time amateur wood worker. Thanks to your good teachings I have made many dozens of household and garden furniture pieces for myself, friends and neighbors Without tempting fate not one of them have completed about what I have made for them.
    Thank you Paul and team you are doing a wonderful job.

  28. Thanks Paul. I’ve been wood working for a bit over two years now. Though there is definite improvement, I still have plenty of moments that give me fits. It’s amazing at how little extra wood needs to be removed to go from snug to loose. Right now I’m making my 4th wall clock (for my daughter’s school annual fund raising). It’s better than the other three but still has areas for improvement. I try not to get too upset as it will still look very good on someones wall. These posts you put out from time to time help.

    1. Just keep making ’em, Joe. My friend Winny Churchill said it in a single statement, “Never, never, never give up!” Work out how to make the best clocks ever and you will make it. remember the worst clock ever is the one you only felt like making and didn’t! Good on you for making three already and not giving up or being discouraged. Love it!

      1. Since you mentioned Sir “Winnie” I have to admit I wondered if you have seen the new movie ‘Darkest Hour’ and what you thought of it. I thoroughly enjoyed checking out the woodwork in most of the scenes.
        My Grandpa never measured accurately in any boat repair he ever made and I’ve learned far more from your videos than I ever did from him, but I know he also never hesitated to pull out whatever tools he had at hand and “rig somthin’ up for the trip” as he out it. The rebuilt stern on the Skipjack Lottie Belle never leaked or fell off and the 20+ models he built with his old arthritic hands never failed to bring a smile of appreciation to those of us he gave them to before he passed. Best wishes for the new year.

  29. I must say my first several (lots and lots) attempts at making just small boxes were a disaster. I kept them to refer back to. I wasn’t really aware I was getting better until people saw a napkin box I made in the kitchen… and all the sudden people were wanting one. Made me feel real good too. I’m going for the big one now, my work bench. Just got the wood yesterday.

    So believe me, if I can, you can too. Practice.

  30. I still remember the thud of a (dull – but I didn’t know it then) number 5 hitting end grain on a shooting board, thinking this stupid thing does not work. For the next 20 years I only used power tools. I would read magazines that showed how to do something in great detail with a table saw and some new jig and then at the end it would say “And finish up with a nice sharp ….. hand tool of some description” but with no proper hand tool experience that was always impossible and Frustrating.

  31. For years, I’ve been what I call a “theoretical woodworker” – I watch TV or YouTube videos and say to myself “yeah, I could do that,” but never did anything. Now, 40something years after my last project was completed (a set of bookends in 7th grade shop class), and years of moving around the boxes of hand tools I inherited, I’m finally getting off my butt to actually do some woodworking.

    Three hours in the garage today, with some nice sharp chisels (my grandfather’s Stilettos, which I badly abused as a child), and a moderately successful dovetail jig to show for it. I’ve got some planes to refurbish and saws to sharpen next, then on to tackling the three joints. No goals, no grand plans, other than to have fun, de-stress, and get a little exercise.

    So far, 100% success!

  32. I had the option of taking what they then called ‘Design and Technology’ in the 1990s, but I could not do it because of the terrible environment that was presented to me, all of the worst bullies were in that class, and it was 95% machine work with very little hand tool work, but they still had old workbenches and hand planes available, the teacher was pretty much useless though and mocked my idea of building a toy car, which was completely different to anyone else in the class, mine was the only project made with handtools, it looked crude but I learnt to shape wood, that experience put me off really, which is a shame because I might have become a joiner or furniture maker if I’d have persevered, instead of doing woodworking I studied graphic design instead (pre computers) and also Art and Design, where design was a big part of it. However it’s not all doom and gloom, I started woodworking again a couple of years ago and thanks to your website am getting better and better all the time, it is a very worthwhile and enjoyable thing to persue, I’ve never known satisfaction like it in anything else I have done, for the time being I am working in another job and industry, but I’d like to make my living from wood or at least part of my money through selling furniture or working for another furniture maker/designer.

  33. Paul,
    Thank you again for your woodworking and the stories you have with every build. This one I personally realized as I got older. I was kicked out of private school because I was uncontrollable. Not telling anyone that I was abused prior to the start of 3rd grade I was sent to Public school in which I learned that fighting for what little I have and that most teachers don’t care is a way of life. There were some teachers in public school that I have cherished and still think of today. The others which are most teachers I use as a learning experience which has helped me immensely. The latter are the car salesmen, pyramid scheme, hustlers, drug dealers and etc. Your videos are the best, I noticed that everything around me has improved after watching your videos. From home repairs, work, family & health. I’ll stop here and say that: “Even though I have and 99.9% sure that we’ll never meet, you are one of my Teachers(The Heroes that showed me the way), that I’ll remember forever.”

  34. After spending the past 10 years teaching Design and Technology in English schools I have to agree with Paul that there are many problems with how practical skills are being taught in schools. I spent 4 years training and studying to qualify as a wood work and construction studies teacher in Ireland and then moved to England but I have recently left teaching.
    I am sure it has been mentioned here before but apprentiships and practical jobs aren’t seen as worthwhile careers by some in schools. What are viewed as practical subjects are no longer practical because of the amount of theoretical knowledge that has been stuffed in to the course but the pupils are still expected to make good projects without ever getting the time to practice and develop their skills.
    Sadly the pupils are under pressure because anything they do make has to be graded and can’t simply be for the joy of creating or learning a new skill. Also from my experience, pupils only get a few weeks a year of wood working in years 7 to year 9, at most 12 weeks, and depending on the school that could be just 12 classroom hours. 12 hours isn’t much.

    During my time teaching I tried to focus on developing the pupils knowledge and skills but most of all I tried to help the pupils complete a project. As Paul said it doesn’t have to be perfect just so long as they feel fulfilled.
    Making is very fulfilling and children should be encouraged to do it, not for a grade, possible not even to train for a job but because it is fulfilling, builds confidence and makes people happy. Well it makes me happy at least!
    I can say that I did enjoy the making side of things with the pupils and the pupils love to make things. One past pupil has even created a YouTube channel where he makes different projects.
    Thank you for all the great content, it is an inspiration and a constant source of useful information.

  35. Very nice to hear encouraging words from a master, especially when you are past 50 years and is a novice. rsrs
    Thanks Paul Sellers

    Greetings from Brazil,

    Fernando Cela Pinto

  36. I was schooled “down under” in Australia — almost as far from the UK as is possible!
    And I had a mixture of experiences learning woodwork and metal work, with teachers I think actually wanted us to learn (though one would strike fear into our hearts — he was strict and wouldn’t suffer any he thought were fools, so most people just looked forward to getting out of his class!)
    But I was fortunate that my Dad (perfectionist as he is) was always keen to work with his hands, and instilled into me the idea that “I can do anything I set my mind to do.” I saw him building stuff, and loved to build stuff myself, so loved woodwork and metalwork classes no matter the teacher.
    I’ve spent many years since then studying engineering and working in IT, and dabbling from time to time with making stuff when I could ‘spare time’.
    But recently I decided to be more intentional and actually do some more “making”, because I remember the days when I enjoyed it so much (and because I want my son to learn the value of this too). So I’ve been enjoying a variety of things I’ve found on youtube from people posting better ways to use power tools — and I used some of what I learned (plus some stuff I made up) to build a new enclosure for our guinea pigs (it is over-engineered to be reconfigurable, but that was part of the fun of designing / building it).
    But now I must say I’ve *really* been enjoying Paul Sellers’ videos on building tools and using them. I’m reconsidering my plans to build / acquire various power tools (though I still find some of them very cool) because of the sheer joy that is evident in Paul’s use of just hand-powered tools.
    Thank you Paul — you are an inspiration, and I’m looking forward to learning more as I try out some of what I’ve seen you demonstrate with so much skill.

  37. Paul,
    really appreciate this blog.
    As child I always was interested in woodworking (I always wanted to follow my grandfather who was a woodworker) But life can take strange directions and I graduated 30 years ago as an Industrial Engineer in Micro Electronics … in 2016, after being home for a full month with a kind of “burn-out”, it was more overstressed, I decided to chase my child-dream and …. yes , I did it, I’m even going back to a middle-school to learn working with wood.
    There I noticed that most people , incl teachers like working – as far as we can call it working – with the nice big machines , making lots of noise so all are wearing ear-protection, creating a lot of dust and chips and as such wasting a lot of nice wood. Nothing against machines, they can be of great value, but while being overstressed , I hated all that noise. I decided to continue the classes, but keep it as much as possible with the hand-tools.. so after a year of school, even teachers and students interested in the hand-tools I in mean-while have bought and am using (Nr 4, Nr 7, Routerplane, shoulderplane, chisels, handsaw, … some expensive, some extreme cheap)
    And it is like you said in the title : yes you can. Never thought that I would be able to do a lot of the woodworking by using simple hand-tools. As it is all hobby, yes I spend some money on nice tools but.. ok I can efford it and better I enjoy looking to them and using them. Seeing the furniture I made during the last year is again a confirmation of “Yes you can”. Where most people use the electrical mills to make the tennon , I now make them by hand and for the small sizes I’m even faster and more accurate.
    Dovetails ?? I do cutting.. cleaning.. pairing .. small adjustments  .. assembly. Done, no long set-up of machines etc.
    I still have a lot to learn, but looking to the video’s (yours but also other people on youtube) it give motivation to use the world most precious material called wood.

    Thank you for being one of my examples that “yes you can” does not mean to need to have a 20kw electrical plug in the workshop.

    Jos (Belgium)

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