Percentages %%%%% Make Sense in Outcome!

When I first arrived to live stateside as a migrant in the USA, people seemed highly respectful toward craft and a crafting background. Having apprenticed through a bona fide indentured apprenticeship in woodworking, I was often invited to speak at different engagements and it soon made me feel quite settled. I was surprised by the respect woodworkers had, it bordered on reverence. It had never been that way in England at all. Manual crafts in the 80s, no matter how skilled the artisan, or the fact that I had always worked hard in my trade exams, manual work was nothing more than digging ditches or stacking supermarket shelves. Now that we have lost the levels of craftsmanship once common in my country, it seems we might be gaining a little respect. In the USA it was never like that for me. In the USA I found myself relaxing into acceptance. I never had to prove myself to anyone again.

Slowly, as I began to engage with other woodworkers, mostly machinists, I felt myself gaining ground as I persuaded them to at least investigate the value hand tool methods brought to machine work. Methods I’d used for then almost three decades that worked so hand in glove with machines gradually became part of the lives of others. I ventured further afield, to places like Houston, Dallas and San Antonio, quite foreign climes to me back then, from my remote ‘country shack‘ in the Texas Hill Country where I first set up stateside. I’d drive for three or six hours to the more local unknown cities with my hand tools carefully tucked away in hand made tool boxes. I’d meet with the 30 or so men gathered waiting to meet and greet me. We’d chat back and forth as I began setting up. We drank coffee and snacked until everyone was finally seated and then I would cut dovetails and feel like an on-stage magician with every man sitting on the edge of his seat. What a welcome!

My friends at the shows along the way, Frank Klausz, Randy Johnson (from Taunton Press and Fine Woodworing) and Vic Tesolin (Lee valley Veritas) pickin’ ‘n’ a strummin’ (but mostly ‘chewin the fat‘) at the end of a woodworking show.

I began to see that was common to me was not at all common to American woodworkers at that time.  After my first two-minute dovetail joint, I’d pass it around and each man would grin to his partner and, reluctant to let it go, passed on the joint to his neighbour. That was in the late 1980s. I had never seen anyone else do this, nor did I hear of it; I was as amazed at their amazement as they were at my hand work. What seemed commonplace to me though opened the door to new possibilities they thought they could never learn. I demonstrated at every opportunity, wherever and whenever I could. I traveled the different states and was often gone for days on end. Craft shows on the one hand and woodworking trade shows on the other, In my last go around in the USA I demoed on the hour to 200 enthusiastic woodworkers plus woodworkers in the aisles who couldn’t find seats. Eight to sixteen times, 3 days per show over 12 weeks gave me good practice; somewhere close to 60,000 people listened and learned about my handy work trying to show people what hand work really could mean to them. That seemed a lot and it was hard work, but I enjoyed it once I was there and we did have lots of fun. Other craft events like The Texas Pecan Street Festival has over 300,000 visitors over the two days. Still well worth a visit I am sure. Well, then of course you might recall my mentioning the Northeastern Woodworkers Association show in Saratoga Springs in 3 weeks, 24-25 March 2018. That is another good place to be.

This morning, glancing over the stats on my youtube channel. 1,500 people an hour seems a goodly average. Hard to imagine having 30 million views over the brief time  since I began posting videos on YouTube. People like YouTube. It is as we know now one of the most popular places to learn just about anything from. Stats tell me that to my site there are 4.4% female visitors following woodworking with me. Whereas that is a very low proportion compared to 95.6% male that make it happen, it’s still triples what it was three years ago and double over two. It’s when I see things like 8.68 million minutes watched that I become ever more amazed. You see 60,000 people times 30 minutes each totals 1.8 million minutes but that takes me three months to develop. Imagine that people have spent 143,000 man hours watching my hand tool woodworking with me on YT and then in one tour one year 30,000 hours. But what puts flesh on the bones is how many take what I post and do it for themselves. Those hours of watching multiply hundreds of times into hours of doing woodworking in isolated pockets of creativity all over the world.

Today is Saturday. It’s quiet because of the snow we rarely get that dampens noise and activity. I walked to my new workshop to develop the prototype for my next project, a hope/blanket chest-cum-toy box. I’ve been experimenting with the leg shapes and I included a neat feature to present the legs out from an angle with kick at each corner.

Historically, hope chests were given to young women to gather gifts from relatives and friends and indeed their own handwork in anticipation that they would one day marry and the contents of the chest would be the necessary items needed in a family home. Though it may seem archaic, the hope chest is still a popular gift and a  piece that gets good use for storing treasures, tools and toys. Originating in European homes, migration from the old world to the new brought with it a plethora of designs ranging from plain wood to figuratively decorated with carving, colourful toll painting and inlay work. Of course this chest could just as easily be a tool chest even though the lift up lids are less useful to us than we might think. For blankets and bed clothing like quilted duvets they are ideal.

My prototype has reached a point where i can make my final decisions. The drawings are proven by the making of the piece and using them for taking off measurements and balancing ideas. The frame stands on its own four legs tonight as I type. All of the legs will need to be round if I am to finish them the same, otherwise I will need to make additional legs  to replace those that won’t suit the one I choose.


  1. Nice foundational project that can be modified with front doors or drawers and so on.

    This looks like the latest workbench with added tool support and shelving.
    Did you just screwed the lateral shelf (with the sharpening plates) under the aprons?
    How deep did you the added tool support?

  2. Very interested in learning how to glue it up if this has raised panels. I made something similar to this for my shop. The legs of my shop dresser have grooves and mortises just like the last pic except my grooves weren’t angled. I think I like the squared legs the best.

  3. Thanks for the insightful post. I especially appreciate you sharing the four leg prototypes – such a clever way of making a well-informed design informed choice.

  4. When I made the Woodworking Masterclasses coffee table I couldn’t find 2 1/4″ stock for the legs ( I used red oak a very common wood in my area. I checked both the big box store and specialty lumber store). I ended up laminating wood to make the legs. So my question is “What is the best way to locate the bigger stock for legs?”

    1. My problem as well. I always glue two 2 x 4’s (pine) together and then rip them to width plus planning to final thickness. Woodcraft is an option but it’s expensive. I’ve gotten into looking at cheap furniture sold at antique stores depending on the type of wood. Sometimes I’ll see old table legs that have the dimensions I’m looking for and surface plane them. Hard to only find table legs sold separately. Buying an entire table however could provide extra wood for other projects.

  5. Went to woodworkers show yesterday and saw Roland Johnson. Nice to see him in the above picture. I remember meeting you a number of years ago at the same show in New Jersey. You guys always did a great job

    1. On year later and I could have made your shows in Saratoga. But alas I am working way up in very northern Michigan where we still have 4 to 5 feet of snow on the level. Having be born in Albany and did my High School in Syracuse and taught 5 years in Rochester I know Saratoga well. Such a pity I cannot see you.
      Well maybe in two years I can come to the UK and visit you in your new digs.

  6. Thanks Paul. You da man! I recently taught two guys how to make dovetailed toy chests. We filled them with high quality wooden toys we’d made and gave them to a local charity. Don’t always have to make furniture.

  7. I was a bit saddened by your observation that manual/hand work has come to be looked down on in the UK. I’ve always felt the Brits were proud of their brickwork and masonry skills and rightfully so, along with so many others. Sheffield steel used to be a benchmark for metals. Perhaps one day people in the UK will reclaim their heritage and renew their interest and revive their skills.

    1. Some years ago I purpsely bought two Sheffield made hand saws from the last family business there who still make hand saws. Just not much demand I think. I paid $100 each, but was a bit disappointed, and will have to resharpen them after only a few uses. I have used hand saws many times over the years, just avoided these because they weren’t very sharp to begin with and I kept reaching for my sharpest saws. That was a bit disconcerting.

      1. Go to my YouTube channel and see my comparison between a high end saw and the one I am using in my videos now. It’s amazing the difference; the inexpensive Spear and Jackson ones (£22.00) I do recommend knock the socks of many modern makers.

    2. I doubt it! Sheffield is mostly out of its old smokestack industry. I can’t at all tell if it is proud of its historical background or has any interest in reestablishing its steel working industry again.

    3. Your comment made me think of the song “Why Aye Man” by Mark Knopfler.

    4. Stephan
      Like Paul I was an indentured apprentice back in 1960 (before Paul)
      Our clients looked down on us and treated us as low life.
      Offered us Tea in jam jars, in case we contaminated the tea cups.
      I took the cowards way out desperate to escape the stigma of blue collar worker and went to night school 5 nights per week for 8 years to become a Building Surveyor.
      I never lost my woodworking skills instilled by the old craftsmen and still go in my shop every day.
      I have met Paul and respect the trail that he is blazing
      Sadly we will never reclaim our heritage it will be left to the few.
      Best Wishes
      Fred Sutton

  8. How will the cross braces be supported in the grooves on the hope chest legs? Will the side panels hold everything in place? I’d be interested to see a detailed description of how that will work, I like how it looks.

    1. You should join woodworkingmasterclasses and enjoy the journey with us.

  9. Hi Paul,
    Great timing on my end. I’ve been mulling around building a keep sake chest for my two young children (so that’s two boxes) and look forward to seeing your design, not to mention being taught how to do it.

    Question: It’s hard to tell from the pictures, but are those 4×4’s being used for the corner/legs?

  10. Just want to thank you as I followed your video on dovetails for small boxes and guess what, I made my first dovetail box. It is very simple in that that the box is only 1.5 inches high and has no lid. The sides are black walnut and the bottom, which is proud, is made of white oak. It is about 11 inches wide and about 13 inches long and you are saying to yourself, what is this monstrosity and what good is it! Well, you see, my son, his wife and four children, i.e. my grandchildren, love to play a dice game called Yahtzee and they wanted something to contain the dice when they were rolled. No my Daughter-In-Law wants a felt bottom to dampen the noise of the tumbling dice but I will be Big D’d if I am putting felt over white oak.

    Jim McCarthy
    P.S. Yes, I got the idea for the bottom from your chisel boxes. Now that I have cut a dovetail joint I believe I have the required skills to move from woodworking 101 to woodworking 202. Thanks for all you do and keep up the good work.

    1. Jim-
      May I suggest a thin foam insert as a solution? I had to do something similiar for the same reasons in dice box i had made. You get to keep the nice oak, and she can still get her noise dampener. (Also works better than just adding felt)

      1. Thanks Evan, I will take the foam advice under consideration. Anyways, they are always free to put in the bottom whatever they want.

  11. Sadly, craftsmnship has not traditionally found an appreciative audience in the UK… although it is getting better in some quarters. “Handmade” is interpreted as “homemade” and, therefore, an expectation of cheap, which, unfortunately, many items have to be in order to find a market at all. The kind of “compliments” I used to get (and I realise they were intended as compliments) were along the lines of “Ooh! It’s just like a proper one in the shops!”. The quality of an item is so often judged by where it was bought. If bought on the High Street, it’s ‘proper’ and, therefore, superior to something bought from the person who made it.

  12. Paul,
    I have only found your YT channel and WWMC recently but have already had so much fun learning and building alongside you on some of your simpler projects. I looked at your stats in the blog and realized that, if there was a way to calculate it, the amount of skill/wisdom passed along with all those minutes of watching has really limited the number of wasted trees and wood through mistakes. Great stewardship through teaching. I don’t feel like I go through your projects hoping I get it right, rather I feel that I WILL get it right. You instill great confidence through your videos. Thank you so much.

    PR Gaffney

  13. Hi Paul,

    Great news! Does this mean you will be taking a break for 5 years for the 9-day courses you used to have?

    Best regards, Hasan

    1. Not necessarily at all, just this year off for the move and the adjustments to take place.

  14. Paul,
    Are there any of your classes offered on the West coast of the US? I am finding it difficult to convince the wife and kids (7 and 10) to travel to England so I can take one of your extended day classes. =)


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