It’s Not Too Late!

Sometimes some people just think things are always black and white and then comes colour to colour our lives. Let’s take a stab at this and see where we end up. Woodworking is for everyone that wants it at any time they choose to take it up. With that out of the way let’s look into the future.

I felt quite upbeat about the blog on Hannah’s progress yesterday; all the responses you made were so encouraging and I loved reading them. Over night, reflecting on what everyone said, I became all the more conscious that the impact we were having with our work was really much bigger than even I imagined. Then again, in some ways the occasional contribution left me feeling perhaps just a little sad. Why? Well, it wasn’t that the blog said anything negative, nor that there wasn’t good support for our work in training others, be that one-on-one with Hannah and previous apprentices, our online training endeavour or of course the multiple thousands we’ve taught through classes I have held over the decades. No, it’s not any of that at all, it’s that so many would have if they could have believed there could have been an alternative to the path they took but then found it was a tad too late for them to pursue it as a full-time vocational occupation. My work for three decades to date has been to help others reconsider how they perceive craft work like mine. They listened to the voices, real and perceived, that it makes no sense. It just cannot be done and worse still, there is something better for you than that! You see some are now doing it for the pure reason of being independent and engaging the difficulties that build character. I have been the most fortunate of men, but constantly I come across others who tell me that they would have loved to pursue woodworking as a career had they known it was even possible. I do question the word ‘career’ some times—on the one hand it means, “an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress.” implying a path directly linked by choices in work toward progress. But then on the other hand we have, ” move swiftly and in an uncontrolled way.” In my mind a kind of ‘career-ing off the cliff’. Now here I recognise that some people have chosen their vocation and entered with a view to becoming professionals in their field, but I also recognise that some professionals also follow a path of bolt-on components to fit component parts together for assembly similar or the same as giant flat packers are to the assembly-line-made goods. I’m not talking to or about them so much, I’m talking about people just like me who would take an idea, sandwich it between the grown and felled tree and the piece of furniture it becomes and look at it at the end of weeks or months in the making of it and say in their hearts, I so enjoyed that path I took and I am almost sorry it stopped. Then they gave their made-thing to its new owner, walked away smiling and looked purposefully for the next design to spring into their mind, searched for the right wood and started over yet again.

Whereas I am guarded to say selling your work qualifies you somehow, people do see and say that if can sell your work that that is validation enough. In my view it’s not selling your work that validates who you but that you see the work you do as a validating power belonging to anyone who can convert the raw into an item by mastery of common hand tools and common materials in masterful ways, and, and, that the whole process, struggles and battles and all were so valuable to you that they brought enjoyment you could not otherwise achieve. To execute your work with that in mind, living in the confidence you now own, is inexplicably rewarding. Then when selling something to someone else, even those you never met or came to know, the one who walks in and says this is something I want to enjoy looking at and using for the remainder of my life becomes that unique icing on the cake. When you find customers who do not just want to buy the individual piece but feel they are receiving something of a gift of the crafting artisan’s love and care in the making of it, now this is truly a reward that defies any other kind of payment.

The sadness I speak of above is for those who couldn’t quite slice it. You know, juggle the finances and the family to make the change because of existing commitments and decisions made and decisions not made. Often this can be by themselves but then also by others of influencing ability, perhaps even over their lives; teachers, lecturers, parents, grandparents to name but a few. Some if not much of this can simply come by fears; the use of doubts too. Especially is this so when we have perceived rather than actual fears where the fear freezes action, or that we have doubt in ourselves and others seem to confirm our inability to make good choices because they themselves would never take such risks as pursuing a craft career as a future consideration. These are the ones that suggest you, ‘get a good job’, and, ‘security is very important’, ‘work with your brains not your hands’. The ones who say, ‘you’ll never achieve anything if you do this’ or that, ‘art and creativity doesn’t pay the bills’. How about, ‘you need a degree’. ‘Go to uni first’. ‘Get your masters’. While for many it is self evident that many degrees are never actually used or indeed needed. Of course such qualifications have become qualifiers and are commonly accepted as a clearing house for lazy and indifferent employers. Beyond that might I suggest it’s wrong to expect a young person saddled with debt to prosper and make the right decisions before you even begin earning-work. I think it is important to help and guide young people to discover their calling proper even if currently they may have missed that unique window of opportunity. Who knows if another door won’t open just because you doubted your doubts and took a course leading along a path much, much less traveled?

To those of you who feel you missed the opportunity, who grew older not realising where your investment would lead too, I might say that it’s not too late and that would be what everyone says, but I am not going to say that because it is often not true. What’s not too late is discovering a calling that stands in the stead of what might have been to give you a rich reward differently. If you are in your fifties and sixties you might be able to reset your coordinates. If your older maybe that would be harder. For me, the challenge I enjoyed was making a living for my family as they grew in a nurturing home and making sure that the bills were paid on a single-income family. That challenge was always met full on and it made the journey like white-water rafting in that you, I, never knew what was around the bend. Rapids, waterfalls, craggy rocks and all, I steered my course and now I look back and say of this or that, had I known I don’t think I would have chosen this or that. Now, I love to look back and think of my crossing the oceans and arriving stateside to remove new-to-me timbers like mesquite and live oak from a desert land in Texas. I mean hauling it through low-river, gravel-bottom crossings on dirt roads with a 40 year old flat-bed Dodge truck alone with no protections to get my prized wood out of what to me was an unknown wilderness. Cutting then across 30,000 acres to my workshop took three hours too. Not saying that was right, not condoning it or suggesting at all, just what I needed to do to make it. I would not change a single bit of it.

In so many ways it may not be too late for others to jump in; you just might not spend your whole life IN your vocational calling, but you may well have a year or two or ten doing something you really will fall in love doing. Doing woodworking as a professional is not necessarily or indeed all it’s cracked up to be nor the only answer really because then you might end up doing it only for money are doing it as a so-called stupid business model with so called robust features built in to protect you from making the mistakes that make your work filled with character and guts. If you are frightened of failure, step back and ask yourself if you’re friends are the reason you don’t want to take a risk? They may have your best interests at heart but ultimately you must make your own decisions and taker responsibility for them.

You know I never thought I’d be a writer, write magazine articles, write books and blogs and make films and teach hundreds of thousands of people woodworking. I’m a furniture maker, not a writer. Don’t give up no matter your circumstances. Enjoy the blast!


32 thoughts on “It’s Not Too Late!”

  1. Thanks Paul. Another challenge I see that can greatly impact folks choices early on and later in life is finances. In America, it is a very consumer driven economy, we are taught to buy more, spend more, rack up debit. After all, that’s what we all do. Well, in doing this, a larger monthly expense is needed for stuff that we really don’t get that much enjoyment out of.

    If folks were taught at an early age to create budgets for mostly expenses, avoid any unnecessary debt, and to save for retirement things would be greatly different. It would allow for one to consider more options for a career and not to have the almighty dollar driving the decision. The book The Millionaire Next door and David Ramsey podcasts really address these points.

    I’m no saying one needs to be penniless, just to consider implications on spending habits as that can influence over time what careers can and can’t be viable.

    1. Yes, I did see the cravings of consumerism in the USA as I lived there for over 20 years, but when I returned to the UK and then in Europe too I saw absolutely no difference whatsoever. What’s totally amazing to me is that it does take two full time wage earners to supply the demands of a consumerist household with one or no children yet I raised a family of four as a single wage earner since I married in the 70s. Ok, we didn’t have any excess, but that didn’t mean we were unhappy or without.

  2. What I find more frustrating about working for a living is how much things cost these days, and how many aspects of life are now geared around essential services and provider contracts that themselves require various products to make use of, all of which costs even more money… while wages and salary rates barely keep up with the increases.

    People are earning more money than ever now, not because they want to but because they have to… and for so much expense, they own so little at the end. Homes and cars are rented more than bought, purchases require impossibly high deposits, and everything is designed to fail in short order, whereupon an equally substandard replacement must then be purchased for even more money. But the more people earn, the more others want that money and the more they charge for things… because those others need the money too.

    This is one of the many reasons I love my old hand tools. I have a dovetail saw from the 1880s – That saw is older than the house we rent and has outlasted the world’s oldest human by more than a decade, and it’s still going strong… which is more than can be said for the house!

    I am just starting out in woodworking and at this point I wouldn’t believe anyone would pay money for my handiwork… I certainly wouldn’t! But more to the point, I wouldn’t want them to – So much of the joy in life is destroyed when we do something because we have to. I would much rather do something because I want to, because the fun remains unspoiled and I can share that with others.
    The wood I work and the things I make I do *for* other people. I make them to give them the joy I found in the making and people pay me with things like admiration, respect, gratitude, appreciation, friendship even… and sometimes a Sunday roast, if I do the laundry between planing!

    I’ve already lost two careers to the fickle and ever-changing demands of a progressive society. I don’t want this to be spoiled by the demands of *having* to do it in order to survive and I don’t yet have the skills to survive if it came to that… For me, the wages from my ‘second job’ as a woodworker are escape, peace and happiness.

    1. I think for a lot of people in the US, health care/insurance costs feed the fear and keep us from hanging out a shingle and going alone. More often the people I see that do make the break from the “safe life” do so out of necessity (no jobs available in their area), or from doing something out of passion as a side project that gains momentum. If they are fortunate, their passion project becomes lucrative to allow what I’m coining as “escape velocity”.

  3. Paul-
    I have said before, and will probably do so again, but woodworking has become a frequent lone spark of sanity in my week. While I do enjoy working in Technology, it does lack that certain satisfaction of making a “simple, well made table”.

    Also, WWMC actually helped salvage my home. The handtool skills of joinery translated smoothly to doing some serious large scale carpentry and framing to replace a rotted out supporting wall. Really can’t ask for to much of better use of time than that.

  4. A friend describes his academic achievements as being “in the half of the class that made the top half possible” which pretty well sums up my woodworking that will never be confused with that of the talented and gifted. I describe it as being “almost good enough to give away” but every so often I see tiny glimmer of improvement that keeps me coming back. Kinda like making a long putt on 18 after shooting 90-something.

    At 79 I have concluded that old dogs may in fact be able to learn a few new tricks after all, but don’t expect to be astounded at the speed at which they do it, or if they occasionally speak instead of sit.

    1. Richard Arveaux

      75 years here, I spent 32 years being a consumer products relocater, AKA: Truck driver. Took up woodworking in junior high school, then high school. The military and life got in the way of woodwork. Retired at 65, and for the last 10 years, I’ve been building all those things I didn’t get to build, when life was in the way. Found a bunch of my old tools, cleaned them up and started all over in a new junior high school. Sure is an enjoyable retirement.

  5. Woodworking was always a hobby for me. I was taught some basic concepts in school but never more than what you could read in a textbook,
    certainly not hand tool work! We were taught that power tools were the way to go, there weren’t any skilled craftsmen teaching us.
    For the most part I am self taught and I did work on the side for some extra cash with which I bought tools. I also made some “furniture” mostly utilitarian pieces that served the purpose. Let’s just say they were lessons with lots of mistakes.
    I am now 62 and on Social Security, I made some investments and am pretty secure so I can’t say that I made a bad decision nor did I hate any of the jobs I had. In fact I made a lot of friends and matured a bit having raised a family and gone through all the trials and tribulations of life.
    Now I have all the time I need to pursue my hobby and to become (if I have the ability) a true craftsman in wood.
    I am a “virtual apprentice” and watch how to do things by going back and looking at Paul’s vidieos. It’s not always easy as there are some nuances that you need to see in person that you can’t get from watching a video. I find I have to think for myself and work out the solution to the problem.
    I’ll know when I’m successfull when I can look at at the work I did and realize it’s soundly made and pleasing to the eye.
    I plan to do this for as long as I can and maybe supplement my income, not just for the money but for the satisfaction of creating something valuable.
    The way I see it I’m going to live for another 30-40 years. We are living in different times where people are going to live well into their 90s and we will have a much longer and healthier lives than our fathers and grandfathers did. Maybe one of my sons will take an interest or a grandson!

  6. Hi Paul I’ve enjoyed reading this post, I have been wood working all my life. Now in retirement it’s coming in to a new sphere. Opportunity to have time to be creative, and trying techniques learnt from WMC. and the therapeutic side of woodworking. The strange thing is when family members say build me one of those and I will pay you it some how loses value I sooner do it for free. It’s great seeing Amanda’s progress her work looks great team points all round. Regards Larry.

  7. Paul – at almost 66 I’ve been a woodworking hobbyist for 25 years but only a hand tool woodworker for 6 years thanks to you. In my “career” I too nurtured several young folks into learning to discover their potential – much more satisfying that achieving myself. Now retired from my career, aa I lean into my next 20 years I’m trying to be realistic about what I can and can’t do physically. The hidden part of hand tool woodworking is that someone somehow mills/prepares those parts onto which we hand-cut mortise and tenon/dovetails. While the consumerist world you describe may have been envious of someone who made it to or very near to the “top”, I’m quietly admiring (not envious) what your resolve and faith have helped you to create in others – the “I can do that hand work too” realization that is wonderfully fulfilling and full of hope of work yet to be learned/created. Bill in Kerrville

  8. I initially went to art school instead of a regular university. In short, my experience was that they took something I loved and beat me with it until I hated it.
    I was ignoring all the nay-sayers and following my heart. It turned out to not be a good fit for me as creativity on demand is harder that in seems. Also the crushing timetables meant that everything was rushed so quality was sacrificed. I despised doing sub-quality work. All the love of craftsmanship for me was in taking my time with the minutia and getting whatever aspect I was working on to be beautiful. In an act of self preservation, I dropped out and now work with databases.

    While my day job is less tedious than the factory/assembly line work of my parents, it lacks the satisfaction of creating something tangible that I could see or show at the end of the day. That is the gap that I think a lot of the “modern generation” is looking to fill. That is what Paul, and his wonderful staff are helping me and countless others with. For that, I am eternally grateful.

  9. As long as you’re alive it’s not too late to start living. There’s no big wisdom in that. What I’m waiting and hoping for is the world to see, that there’s really no reason to wish for more money and more consumption. We live by an equation where new technique and machinery equal to happiness and we spend hours every day travelling in cars, buses, trains and aircrafts to attend a job far away from our homes. Our children only see their parents very few hours and don’t see or know about what they do all those hours a day. It’s not surprising if our heirs find other role models than our selves – and with so many children in the schools, kindergardens and nurseries and so few adults to guide them it’s no wonder that they find other role models than us and other interests (e.g. IT and computergames) instead of making things using their mental and motoric abilities to create something visible.

    In my humble opinion there’s nothing as satisfying as to reach sleepiness as a result of physical activity and to be able to see (or show to others) that you’ve actually produced something. Satisfaction is knowing that you can – but who will and can teach you or your children a skill, a craft or an art, if we’re so busy transporting our selves from home to a place far away where we spend the day staring into computer screens and then transporting our selves home again – when we’re alle well tired then?

    I think and hope that our kind, the homo sapiens, actually WILL some day start to think and know that we can live a lot smarter and save a lot of time and money by not buying so many materialistic goods. And have a lot more time to talk together and show each others what fantastic things man can make with his/her hands, knowledge and experience – and not leaving it up to machines, computers and AI to produce all – and more than – we need. I think we will then find again the satisfaction and proudness that we more or less have thrown away. When exactly that’s what can give us the feeling that we are indeed people and persons – and we deserve to know how to feel that.

    Finally: I’m not in any way pessimistic. And I surely don’t consider them idiots, those who intentionally do the things the old-fashioned way – be it joiners, carpenters, blacksmiths, boat-builders, farmers, gardeners, and, and, and… It’s them who preserve for all of us and our descendants the tricks of the trades that can make it possible to live together in a human way. Sharing understandable thoughts, skills and experiences with one another. It’s just such an important job they’re doing. So I’m so thankful to Paul Sellers and all the others who show us what man and woman is capable of. They give hope for the future to me – and many other’s I’m sure…

  10. Andrew Brooks

    God bless you Paul for this reassuring and inspiring post. I just found you on the internet less than 1 year ago when my wife’s brother dumped (literally) my wife’s father’s old make shift tool box he built from what he had … some plywood scrapes, even a old suitcase handle to be used for the handle of his new toolbox. Also dropped off were his No. 4 1/2 and No. 6 Stanley planes and much to my delight a Record No. 44 plough plane contained in the toolbox itself. He was a carpenter in Ireland who came to Canada in the 1960’s. As he earn a living with carpentry he also started a famous band in Canada called the Carlton Show band. I actually found you on the internet (this also lead me to purchasing your book and DVDs) as I started researching his tools …. I have always done woodworking (making toys, blanket boxes etc. the normal stuff) in my younger years but gradually fell out from it with the growing responsibilities of everyday life. I am so grateful finding you as you have once again drawn me back to hand woodworking and that is not all, you remind me so much of my own father who came to Canada from Ilkeston, Derbyshire and was a excellent artist all his life and developed this into his vocation as a highly skilled draftsman another skill/craft lost to the fast paced technological world. The reason you remind me of my dad is that he grew up with similar ideals as yourself ….. meaning hands on and doing a job right not fast but with self satisfaction (lost too much in our modern times). Sorry for the long drawn out reply but what I really want to tell/let you know is what a unbelievable impact you have brought to me at 60 years old as am now finding/restoring and using old hand tools to build your workbench and god willing to continue on to many projects in the future. I as I am sure many others give you a heart felt pat on the back for your use of technology to reach the masses and turn back time to when quality and pride really mattered. Thank you so much Paul also to your hard working team for making this possible, do not lose sight of you dream.

    Many thanks …….. Andy

  11. William Cresswell

    And what a great writer you’ve become!
    Thank you Paul for the wonderfully inspirational ideas.

  12. Hi ,
    Thanks for the article as it has really encouraged me today. I recently left my “dream job” of 12 years as a Conservation Officer. Essentially my wife had a good career opportunity that was closer to family. I was tired of never having weekends and I was missing too much with my 4 year old son so we made a the move.

    The change however required me to figure out what I would do. I had always had an interest in building things and enjoyed working with my hands. I am currently at home with my son and use any free time building hand skills. I have learned a lot from your videos. I feel like doing craftwork might be “right ” for me at this time in my life. I am fortunate in that my wife has been very encouraging.

    I discovered recently that there were several craftsman in my family history. Perhaps it was inevitable i would be here. I get particular satisfaction with using some of my grandfathers tools.
    For anyone thinking of pursuing this later in life or after other careers I say go for it. Start with small projects and build your skills.


  13. This is just what I needed, see about 5 years ago I had to leave my job due to back and hip problems. It was hard to leave the people but not the actual work (Automotive Technician). So about three years ago I started watching YouTube and found this Woodworking community was definitely something I wanted to be apart of and of course Woodworking it’s self. So At 52 I have started down a new path of woodworking and I’m loving every second of it I haven’t sold anything but with people now seeing our new furniture when they come over and have been asked to build a few projects. So I’m loving life and enjoying every step of the journey. Thank You Paul for all the help you have provided here also for your books I find myself turning back to the book as a reference.

  14. Paul you say sometimes you feel sad reading through the comments, I do take time to read all and pick up constantly, along with praise/appreciation for your teaching a very similar tale of regret for lost opportunities.
    Also I note very few comments from 20/30 year olds wanting to forge a career but mainly from “retired and enjoy my time in the garage following your teachings” type, like me. Having been one of the great unwashed multi trade self employed persona….for fourty years it was not always rewarding but in the main enjoyable…..if I had my time over I would do the same…….as far as earning “enough” I have always said if you don’t spend it you don’t have to earn it and why search for the world ….when the worlds under your feet

  15. I believe some young people have a sense of what they would like to do with their lives and plan their future through mindful steps to achieve their chosen professions. To some, that is just a vague idea of say working with their hands, being an artist, teaching, go into an engineering field, etc. These people are more likely to succeed and reach a level of financial comfort and have job satisfaction.

    I believe many more, if not most, have no clue of what path in life they want to take and fall into a job because of what is available directly in front of them or what will put some money in their pockets to fulfill their basic needs: food, shelter, etc. Unfortunately, this usually does not enrich their lives or prove satisfying.

    You have said most of your students are older men, and to me that seems to be what I would have suspected to be the case. Men are programmed by society to be providers so their adult life USUALLY cannot give in to soleful satisfying careers if it doesn’t include financial security. Once they achieve financial security and retirement lies at their feet, they can pursue those activities since they don’t have a “day job”.

    Although I have been “handy” and “inventive” in my spare time throughout my life, it wasn’t until I retired that I have had the time to really throw myself into woodworking. It has developed into a sole proprietor (one man) business that I expect will never be profitable if you consider the amount of time I invest compared to the amount of profit I make.

    For me, the satisfaction is taking a piece of wood and transforming it into something of beauty and/or something that has purpose. If it is appreciated enough for someone to part with some of their income, then that is validation and justification of my efforts. Isn’t that what most of use really strive to do and feel is truly important?

  16. Funny thing. It seems like one must always go it alone and learn to defend and advocate their own intuition and voice. The pressures that exist in our commercial life drive us towards assimilation and commoditization. Only occasionally is there a teacher or guide who helps us keep from falling off the path altogether.

    Thank you, Paul.

  17. As usual, Paul you strike to the heart of the matter. I went to college because “that was the thing to do”. After serving four years in the navy I floundered around not really knowing what I wanted to do until returning from a ski trip a friend said, “You like detail and numbers, you ought to investigate programming”. I did and never looked back; 35+ years developing software. I spent seven days a week at it. Five days in the office and the weekends on my home PC, much to my understanding wife’s chagrin. I finally retired at age 69. Not because the passion for the work had waned, but because the atmosphere had changed, and it wasn’t fun anymore.

    The spark of woodworking was reignited, and on and off I made things. I went along with the marketing and brainwashing from the various magazine articles and the advertising and used machines, but there was never any real satisfaction. One could go to a museum or a place like Colonial Williamsburg and marvel at the workmanship; none of it done with machines. How did those craftsmen of old do it? How did they cut perfect dovetails, get surfaces perfectly straight, join edges with perfect joints, etc? That’s what I wanted to do, but how to do it? Several years ago by chance I saw video listed on Youtube, “How to make flat boards straight, smooth and square” by a fellow name of Paul Sellers and watched it…several times. I said to myself, “Self, I’m going to try that”; broke out the old Craftsman jack plane, sharpened as best as I knew how at the time, and went to work on a cupped, twisted 2 x 6 about 18 inches long. I did it! Straight, flat and square. I still have that piece of wood. The spark ignited.

    The table saw, radial arm saw, electric router, etc. are gathering dust, having been replaced by hand saws, chisels, a Stanley #3 plane, two #4 planes, #5 plane, #7 plane, #40 scrub plane, #71 router, #81 scraper, and of course the old Craftsman jack plane; now sharpened and doing fine. Wife gave me a Stanley low angle jack plane for Christmas one year; don’t like it, never use it.

    My first real project was a colonial-style doll bed for my granddaughter. All hand tools, e.g planed the 3/4” board down to 1/2” called for by the plan, cut the curves and circles of the head and foot boards with a coping saw, and used mortise and tenon for all the joints. Because it was tiring working from a Stanley Workmate, next came a work bench(muscling the 10” 45 lb vise into place alone was about as much fun as getting poked in the eye with a sharp stick). The story goes on, sharpening saws, jointing 5 ft boards for a bookcase, correcting a 20 TPI dovetail saw that wouldn’t cut straight, re-sawing a 3/4 in. board with a hand saw, and so much more. All learned from watching your videos and studying your books. Not bad for an 82 year old goat, wouldn’t you say?

    Thanks so much for sharing and passing along your passion for woodworking and hand tools. You have an additional skill: a special talent for teaching.

    Regards, James
    P. S. Like the B & W pictures, especially the waddie on horseback and the longhorns. Reminiscent of the Mustangs of Las Colinas.

    1. Thank you for writing, James. So encouraging to me and to others too. I love to hear these thinghs and then see how it translates into people’s lives.

  18. This post has really ignited something in me. I’ll be turning 30 in a couple of months and am finding myself reassessing my life – I have a secure job that pays my share of the bills well and fits around our young son… but it’s “just a job”. Reading your words has got me wondering whether woodworking is actually something I could do in the long term, that could become more than a hobby. Thank you for this inspiration and motivation.

  19. Hello Paul, thanks yet again for using your wonderful insight to give our brains and attitudes another nudge to encourage and renew our development. My Wednesday lunchtime is a regular self improvement session!

    I am sure I am not speaking alone, but it seemed that this article was directly aimed at me. I was ever so fortunate that my grandfather was a bona fide traditional carpenter, and amongst other things he was pressed into service during WW2 in building wooden gliders for troops and equipment transport to France. He had the traditional skills and tools (from who knows when), and he passed these on as best he could to my father. My father and I were the both the last in the family line, and this being precious to my grandfather, these skills and tools have been the legacy passed on. When I was young my dad taught me as his dad taught him, and when I was 7 I inherited a good set of my grandfather’s tools (which by coincidence included most of your essentials). I learned dovetails and other things, and by the time I was at school the “Design and Technology” classes taught me nothing- especially with the blunt, ill maintained tools they had. It’s a pity I’m sure you will agree.

    As you and others have alluded, I showed spark academically, and hence got pushed into the university route through to a very fulfilling career in structural engineering. I’ve travelled the world, helped build massive things to point at and show people “I did that”, and most rewarding of all, developed a host of younger engineers, graduates and school leavers in pursuance of the same. I loved my career and its rewards, and all the while money was only important up to the point that the bills got paid.

    I dropped my career in full prime with hardly a backward glance 4 years ago, as I chose to move to Islay for a change of lifestyle. I am older now, and more confident. Even with 2 sons and a loving wife, I knew we had the fortitude to ride out any challenges. I have a different career path now, in the local distillery and it’s just as rewarding.

    All of the values you mentioned, and the drivers to be a craftsman have remained with me ever since my dad taught me how to use plane, chisel and spokeshave. Whenever I work wood, something sings inside me and I find an inner peace. I was unsure of my abilities, maybe even a coward when I was younger, and at the time the pressures of being self employed were very daunting to me. Looking back now, I know I could have done anything, and even developed and stood up as a craftsman if I so chose, but I chose the easier route of regular employee. I don’t regret any of my choices made or other opportunities I passed up, but if I had made it to wood craftsmanship, I maybe could have been another small raindrop from which the craftsman river re-grows.

    I still have many creative ideas, and make whatever I wish, with the most stringent quality criteria being my own rather than other peoples’. I don’t sell, but I give gifts and in return I get the same fulfilment you mention above. It’s probably selfish, but I cherish the fact I have these skills and can pursue this just as a hobby, but I will endeavour to be the trustee of these skills, tools and family legacy until (sons willing), I can pass them on as best I can, along with a sense of confidence and self assurance which I hope may enable either (or both) of them to pursue any vocation if they so choose. In any case, and no matter what happens, all of this has been made a whole lot more possible through your own dedication to the craft, and the support you give to any and all who may want to follow.
    My two T Turton chisels, 2 wooden jack planes, wooden spokeshave, S&J tenon saw, and Footprint #4 plane* are still with me from my childhood, still live in the wooden tool chest my dad made for me, and they are regularly used and kept “Sellers sharp”. From the bottom of my heart, thanks for helping so much with this continued pursuit.
    *My dad was still using the Norris infill plane and Stanley #4 at the time, so this was new. Over the years it’s become a part of me though, and I prefer it to the Stanley.

  20. Roger Dickinson

    Your comments are very relevant to my situation. I have been a strictly amateur and half-arsed woodworker for most of my life but have always had a keen interest in old tools and collecting them. I left most of my collection in the US when I retired and returned to UK five years ago (but retained a few choice examples). Now I am 81 I find that my available energy could be higher!
    I am patiently waiting for better weather and my immediate aim is to become fully kitted out including one of your benches. At my age you find that ambitions are to some extent limited not by immediate circumstances but simply the obvious immediate or near immediate outlook. (I am not either depressed or appalled by this). Any products of my labour will be judged, not by the ability to sell them but by the immediate satisfaction of actual production (ie doing it).
    I have had an enormous amount of pleasure from your videos and your writing and I want to thank you for that.

  21. James R Light

    Hi Paul, So enjoy reading your posts and watching your videos. In the area where I grew up there was no one who made a living as a woodworker, so the thought of doing that to make a living never crossed my mind. I have always been fascinated with the beauty of wood and never wanted to see any of it painted. My first wood project was building a birdhouse with my grandfather in the basement of his house. I worked in manufacturing all my life and just enjoyed smaller woodworking projects as a hobby, never selling anything. Seeing dovetails always amazed me, but I never looked at them close enough to actually understand how they worked. Now that I am retired and knocking on the door of 70, and stumbled onto your website a little over a year ago, I cannot tell you how much I have learned. I made a Roubo style workbench, and three dovetail boxes and enjoyed every moment of it, (even the few wrong cuts on my first couple dovetails). I never thought I would build something like that. I think back on the untold hours of hand sanding I have done to remove saw marks from a piece of wood, that could have been so easily removed by a hand plane. Taking what I have learned from you this late in life and then teaching it to my 15 year old grandson is so rewarding. And so while it may be too late for me to embark on a new career, it is definitely not too late to learn new woodworking techniques from a Master such as you and pass them along to the next generation. My grandson, Conner is infatuated with traditional woodworking and just maybe with a little guidance he may become a great woodworker someday. Thanks for all you do and share.
    Jim Light

  22. First Paul I would like to thank you for all you are doing. I can’t express how much I appreciate you. I am 65 yrs old and your blog hit home. I spent 30 yrs in a career that I didn’t care for basically being pushed by parents and grandparents to get a good career in an office somewhere . Not blaming them they lived through the depression. Anyway , before today I have never blogged or or wrote recommendations etc. But I feel compelled to tell you , you have given me a new purpose in life


  23. My A-VOCATION of woodworking has become one of what a mentor of mine called the “legs of your stool”. It helps to keep me upright and functioning as a human being. My three legs used to be Work, Family and Spirit. My Work career has pretty much run its course, but my woodworking hobby keeps me actively productive in the physical world.

    25 years ago, I bought a decent contractor’s table saw (and every other tool) to enhance the sub-division house we’d just built. That got me going and doing things that actually DID make the house better. Norm Abrams and Scott Phillips got me making (badly, my fault not their’s) a few little, very utilitarian and quite crude pieces of furniture. Then that Anarchist Schwarz got me trying hand tools and the pieces became less crude. And Roy Underhill started to get me a little excited about what’s possible.

    I still have virtually no real skill, but my evening and weekend hours of practice have grown as my business hours have diminished. A couple pieces have made into our home, and they’re not really all that embarassing.

    More importantly, both the practice and the results of my woodworking hobby have enhanced and expanded my engagement in Life. To me, that’s a Spirtual effect which I would never had known if I hadn’t been taught to imagine and envision and design and MAKE something physical with my own two hands.

    For me, it is not and will never be about making a living. But I desperately believe that ALL humans should find handi-work that engages them. For my wife, it’s Quilting. For one of my daughters, it’s Crocheting. I know Musicians and Actors and Painters and Potters. I’m not sure it matters exactly what craft one pursues. I AM sure that making, with your own two hands, DOES matter. To the maker and to the world.

    Thanks, Paul, for helping those of us who have chosen to work with wood.

  24. Andrew Martin

    I’ll be turning 55 later this year and like yourself spent over a decade in the US (my wife is a Texan gal to whom I’ve been married for 24 years). I made a major career change from IT Manager to Tram Driver in 2017, a job I love to do and that is challenging and tiring and a dream since my childhood. All of this was prompted by being made redundant in late 2014 from IT and just not finding a reason to go on with my IT career after 35 years.

    While I am a tram driver now, I am looking toward the future and looking to see how I can earn a living in the near future when I can no longer drive trams for a living. One of the threads from your videos that have picked up on is the restoration of tools (maintenance was always my favourite task).

    To that end I am looking to not only get back into woodworking and minimising my use of power tools, I am also looking to learn about and practice the art of tool and edge sharpening and also saw doctoring to first sharpen my own tools and then assist others in sharpening theirs.

    In 2018 my teenage son and I have several plans, as he loves to work wood too. Bookshelves, our own workbenches – following your series just completed – as well as shooting boards, a seating bench or two and a new farm-styled kitchen table are all in the pipeline.

    Thank you for your inspiration, and the sharing of your knowledge. The old saying that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear does seem to hold true. Even for this old fool. I look forward to sharing my adventures in woodworking with you and others over the years. Thanks again for reigniting the maker spark in me.

  25. Heinrich-Peter Himmelbauer

    I will not lie. I do not nor wanted to make a living out of woodworking. It started with the wish for a dovetail for a wooden box for my wife and went over a video of Paul, then the need of sharpened tools and then a nearly happened heart attack nearly stroke me (I have a 4time Bypass). I do woodworking as a Hobby, I make some furniture, which You could not buy in a store in wished sizes – my wife inspires me very much on that. So it ended up with an adirondeck chair for her on a birthday (which she had on a list she never thought it could be fullfilled in Austria and she did not believe I could make one), which makes her happy every warm day.
    I feel like a (paying and supporting) guest here and took Advantage of a lot of hints and suggestions and I like Your style and Your Team – but I never thought of making a living out of this. It is Relaxing and creative for me. That is my approach.
    But I am with You that a woman or a man should take in mind that things they really badly want – they should do it. Learning, practising, doing. If it is by Hand or by brain (btw – You need a lot of brain making simple boxes with dovetails I guess, You must Keep track of Your steps) – Your choice. But take it. It is for the rest of Your life.
    I hope I could make myself understood. Oh – and I am 62 in Octobre 2018. So I will make some more furnitures or wooden things, whatever. This place is inspiring, people are nice here. And I wish You and the mates here a good time. Keep the good things up and never give up.

  26. Mr. Sellers,
    I am ecstatic to have found this blog. I am in a transition period in life at this time. I recently retired from the U.S. military, now going to school full time with a very strong desire of woodworking. I remember the very first videos of yours I watched. It was the workbench you made in your garden in 2012, and the recent 2017 workbench series. The process used to make each workbench is identical, which is is inspiring to me is. It reminds me that I do not need power tools like a router or table saw. All I need is to not be lazy and “get a workout,” as you have stated in both series, and using a little ingenuity to accomplish steps to complete the process of woodworking (and even life). As you put it; “it’s not selling your work that validates you, but that you see the work you do as a validating power… that the whole process, struggles and battles and all were so valuable to you that they brought enjoyment you could not otherwise achieve.”

    I firmly believe that if one has something in their life, which they do as either a hobby or “career,” that they receive personal validation from, they then will live a more fulfilling and happy life. I could ramble on further. I really want to say thank you. Thank you for doing what you do, to pass on your trade to others with the desire to learn a skill, even if it is only for personal enjoyment and satisfaction.

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