Hannah’s Work in Progress

A Year Soon Passed

It’s a little over a year now since I started working with Hannah. She’s practicing her craft and has made many projects ranging from smaller boxes to clocks, her workbench and then all things in between. From the beginning she’s proven herself willing and teachable and that she loves every element surrounding and core to her woodworking. She saw the significance of sharpness when she first saw my chisel slicing into paper and wood on that opening hour of class when I always teach the sharpening workshop.

First saw sharpening!

She  watched quietly from her side of the bench and discovered the association of sharpness with accuracy and sensitivity and claimed it as her own when I told everyone that if anyone is not prepared to sharpen and keep their tools sharp all the time they should become a machinist—Hannah took that on board and began mastering her sharpening techniques from day one and has never looked back. Since her first class I invited her to come watch and help in each of the classes I’ve taught since that November 2016 introduction to hand tool woodworking. Little did I know she’d love it so much.

The earlier days.

Physics and more

It’s a remarkable thing when any apprentice understands the physics of her and his materials, the methods and tools used to work it with. It’s not common at all, and especially is that so today when men and women are demoted to become merely part of the assembly line foisted on them by the manufacturers owning the flat-pack empires. In Hannah’s case her understanding of mechanics is more tacit and intuitive, she looks at something with parts, spins it around and gets how it works in seconds. Her ability to get inside the mechanics of things and understand them differently is not the case for most of the people I come across and perhaps more so now in those of her generation. This means that I haven’t had to undo the kind of baggage others might more generally come to me with resulting from their former experience and training elsewhere. This alone has had a profound impact on her growth spurt as she understands things all the faster and my work has been made so much easier.

Clamping on the box bottom.

To say Hannah is a natural woodworker understates what’s taking place within her. She discovers many elements of woodworking for the first time without much explanation and somehow it seems even to surprise her. This alone triggers her ability not just to find things interesting but to be more totally immersed by fascination in the experience. This mental stimuli unlocks and unblocks any log jam from the biases of culture and educational institutions. It allows the release and flow of chemistry in the brain that previously disallowed moving into the spheres that might previously have been seen as gender specific. She has to prove nothing to anyone, no one, but climbs over any and all inhibitive precepts and perceived obstacles she and others might have had about her choice of woodworking. It’s become understood now that she has a vocation and she has no choice but to answer the calling on her life. Why? It’s simple enough. When something becomes your personal vocational calling, not a term anyone wants to hear in this day and age, you simply cannot nor should you or anyone else supporting you ignore it. She knew this and she pursued progressing this as a goal from the first minute we met.

As part of her quest Hannah sketches and draws most things most days as I do also and always have. She makes the detailed elements pop off the page with her pencil on paper; drawings, notes to herself, ideas, thoughts, considerations. This alone is something I encourage in any student becauseI feel that if you haven’t drawn it you haven’t seen it. If you haven’t drawn it you can’t fully understand it. Because she feels she must understand all elements to her foundation in woodworking she is prepared to put in the graft. She makes herself understand each task she’s about to take on together with the tool she is about to use, the methods, the techniques and then to the diversity she finds in the material in front of her too.

Hannah with her first workbench build, which is the same as the one we just made freely available in the series on YouTube and woodworkingmasterclasses.com

Today Hannah’s hands move more swiftly than most I’ve met. At first I confess feeling a little uncomfortable with this as it is quite an unusual characteristic, but I adjusted my perspective when I saw that she rarely made mistakes resulting from her faster movements. It doesn’t altogether matter because in her work she is always accurate with both her actions and her placement of the tools, her decision to sharpen and then to shift her stance. Because of her sensitivity she senses so much through the tools into the wood she’s working with and she readily adapts and adopts both the tools and her stance as she rarely falters in the movement she’s decided on.

Picking out wood is always a pure joy for me and Hannah also loves her visits to timber places of any kind.

Hannah and her ability to conceptualise results from the cognitive ability she has with the mechanical. This couples well with her ‘aha‘ moments and when I think many people might hide or disguise their amazement, they become very evident and valued with her. To me she makes all such things clearly honest somehow, which I suppose  is how revelatory information best impacts an individual life. The ‘aha’ light-on is the needed ingredient of fascination that centres the information to make it absolutely yours. There is an innocence to it we all love it in that we acknowledge we did not know something and suddenly a puzzled area becomes so complete we feel an empowering like no other.

After a year in training we’ve reached a stageI pretty much where I leave Hannah to her work once I’ve made my suggestions as to stages and phases leading to ongoing development. Though I do chip in when I’m needed, I see her now thinking ahead about the different phases and she usually talks them through with me. If of course the whole concept is something she has no knowledge of then we will formulate ideas together to develop a course of action.

Currently under construction is Hannah’s new tool chest. To give you some idea of her skill levels to date, these dovetails below are her first multiple large scale dovetails. She has only made three or four boxes with dovetails so far but she is so comfortable with the concept and the work she never falters. Gluing up was her greatest challenge but she will always remember the difficulties and the success in the outcome through perseverance.

Hannah’s latest project is her tool chest in lime and cherry.

Look now at the raised panels and remember that all of her wood components were cut and planed by hand.

She’s working with lime and cherry for contrasting woods and she’s loving it. At the moment she has just fitted her recessed hinges and is about to start fitting her recessed lock. With no type of power equipment to date she has sawn and hand planed and ripped the wood to size as needed and never baulked at the work set before her. Now she will start the two drawers and she’s looking forward to that. 

Field trips

Increasing knowledge comes in many ways. From many observations we’ve discovered many methods and used different woodworking techniques across a series of projects. We made time for trips to junk shops, charity shops and secondhand shops which in turn meant our crawling under pieces and flipping them over to see different features used or incorporated by the makers. From IKEA to the timber yards and wood suppliers, the V&A Museum in London and then some long and in depth discussions everyday at our workbenches.

Field trip to the V&A museum.

Hannah continues to work hard and diligently to accomplish her ambitions and expand her own knowledge to gain more mastery through her research and understanding. This kind of enrichment comes from a passion I have always nurtured and indeed ventured forward with throughout my own work life. It’s a powerful force that without it it is difficult to proceed. I don’t mind sharing my work with people like Hannah because it is after all her entitlement and her future. Much of what we do too helps me with my woodworking masterclasses work.

24 comments on “Hannah’s Work in Progress

  1. Great to see the journey (and also a fellow “lefty”). Oh, and dovetails that are a darn sight better than mine…

  2. So splendide ! Cheers and bravos. Would give so much to come back and do what you have done . Hope that you will stick on that Path of creativity and serenity.

    Sincèrement je vous souhaite le meilleur !

  3. I think the ‘Clamping on the box bottom’ photo sums it all up. That smile of pure unadulterated joy is priceless. I think Hannah can take great pride in her work and Paul in his teaching, encouraging and nourishing of this future master of the art that is woodworking.

  4. Lucky you Hannah and well done with your excellent pieces.

    Can I please take this opportunity to ask Paul what he is teaching with his weekly masterclass…….I did ask Phil to pass this info on, if he has, I seem to be missing it??

  5. Most impressive work. I hope one day she can make the pilgrimage to see our Shaker museums. It’s my want that every one should experience their world and works.

  6. Wow. Very inspiring to see that so much perfection can be reached in just one year. Even if natural talent will help a lot… Seeing this definitely makes me want to try even more.

  7. My initial (and totally tongue-in-cheek) reaction was “well, that’s not bad for a girl” but it’s clear that a sincere “Bravo” is the appropriate and well-deserved response. Hannah is an inspiration to all of us, but as I read Paul’s commentary I’m struck by the fact that talent makes a difference and even he is still a bit surprised to see it in manifested in such abundance with Hannah, and those who have it are fun to watch. As an aside, I’ve always considered myself a lefty with a pencil and a righty for most everything else. While studying letter carving a while back (where moving the mallet and chisel from hand-to-hand is necessary) it became apparent that I’m more lefty than I thought. And it only required 70+ years to figure it out. How’s that for talent?

  8. It is wonderful to see women involved in wood working. I am sure she will share her knowledge throughout her life. After all it’s about sharing and helping those who struggle with some aspects of the trade. Learning is never ending and a thrill for me. I am sure she is thrilled to learn from a master craftsmen. Good job Paul, once again I love your programs.

  9. I feel I have come a long ways in sharpening my bench planes and chisels since I watch your programs every day. I have come to love bench planes and I hunt for them wherever I go. One of these days I would love to buy a low angle jack plane from Veritas. It’s such a beautiful tool. I still have a lot to learn. I am 76 years old and a retired police officer. After retiring I went to work at a cabinet makers business and enjoyed every minute of it. However my passion is furniture. I have built almost all my furniture, and have built my boys their furniture. To take a piece of wood and turn it into something useful is a delight. God bless you Paul Sellers

  10. My woodwork teacher was an old style aprenticed trained joiner and cabinet maker. Those of us who were left handed caused him to froth at the mouth. His remedy was to hit us over the head with a wooden jack plane (this is circa 1951, the year of the Festival of Britain). I learned to do everything left and right handed. An advantage in a way but I’m still not prepared to give him any credit for it. I’ve recently met other “old boys,” who still believe in their late seventies that they are useless with their hands. Sad, and annoying.

    I never managed quite this degree of confidence in my own ability. Paul highlights another issue here. We make with our intellects, our hands are the agents. “Not very bright but good with his hands,” is a contradiction in terms. Corpses could have beautiful hands but still make nothing.

    To all the Hannahs: go with our blessing. Enough of you could make the world a much better place. It’s a delight to me that there are young people embracing Paul’s gift. A gift that is intellectual, physical, and about values.

    • My only recollection of our woodwork teacher was his threat “ill smack any boy being naughty with this 12″ rule and that little hole at the end will make a pimple on your hand”
      Circa 1958

  11. I’m glad to see Hanna is progressing and you are happy with her work. From what I’ve seen, Hanna has come a long way very quickly. Keep at it, Hanna. Your master has a lot to still teach you.

  12. It is wonderful that Hannah has found her calling, and that she has found it at a young age. She inspires me! I’m 59, and only two years into woodworking. I wish that I had known my love for this trade when I was younger. Hannah, you are so blessed to have the desire, the talent and an incredible mentor. I hope to hear more about you in the future.

  13. Great work Hannah! Just look at those dovetails! Your hand built workbench and tool chest are pieces to be incredibly proud of. I’m sure they will offer you a lifetime of use as you pursue the craft of woodworking.

    Great work to you as well Paul for offering your time and mentorship to her and to all that aspire to pursue hand tool woodworking. We are truly blessed to have you as an online resource and mentor!

  14. Amazing wood choice, the grain coloration is pretty incredible. First set of large dovetails looks so much better than mine did when I start Joiners toolbox. Hopefully my Tool Chest dovetails, which I am just getting around too, will looks like this.

  15. I have often wondered if Hannah has any idea how green with envy a great number of older retired men like myself are of her. Or if it is even possible that at her age she can truly appreciate the opportunity she has been afforded to be the beneficiary of her apprenticeship with Mr. Sellers.
    Being retired after a reasonably successful career in an office profession leaves me longing to be able to trade places with her and learn to make a living with my hands, instead of having done something principally for economic gain and being unsatisfied, only finding out in my mid 50’s that making things with my hands was what I truly enjoyed.
    This is a very special opportunity you have been afforded Hannah! You indeed seem to be making the most of it!

    • So very much this ^

      The way Paul speaks of her, I’m sure she’s the kind of person that realizes the gift she’s been given. Yes, it requires hard work and dedication from herself, but the opportunity to work so closely with one of the very few remaining classically apprenticed and trained masters (and with 50+ years of experience no less) is a precious gift. To Hannah – Cherish it and pass it on!

  16. I think that you are one lucky girl, Hannah! You are doing well. I could be envious except for the fact that I have had great mentors in my own life as well starting with my father who was a cabinet maker. Keep on with the progress and become famous like your teacher!

  17. Such a delight to see someone of the younger generation with such a passion for her craft, perhaps one day teaching others just like you do. It almost seems like destiny that student and teacher meet at such a time in her life.

  18. Paul you are blessed to have such an apprentice and Hanna is blessed to have such a master. I am not a religious person but have no other word to describe your situations!

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