I’ve Got Room to Work Again!

Update 15 May 2018 4pm GMT
I want to apologise for the broad brush I used denouncing educators. I wrongly based my evaluation of teachers on the teachers and lecturers that taught me throughout my teen years who showed little aptitude toward the craft itself even though they were supposedly trained. I don’t believe that all teachers teach because they can’t do it and know of many excellent teachers as friends. I don’t see myself as a teacher but as a mentoring craftsman in a craft where teachers from a skilled background seem to me, all but gone.

Some of what I have said here is how I feel but could be hurtful, unfair and has no place. Please accept my apology.

Kind regards,


Notes from my Journal May14 2018

It’s Monday evening. I just finished making the wall shelf from my teen years. It was an amazing feeling to relive something so pivotal from 55 years ago. My hands are strong now—a hundred times stronger than back in ’63—and with only lean sinew and pure muscle with no fat in them anywhere.

My hands have stood the test of time and never have they failed me. So too my eyes. I’m grateful for that. But it was the spokeshave and the spokeshaving that spoke to me most; no pun intended. I remember back then thinking I could peel potatoes with one of these. The wood peeled up, curled in twisted spirals and then spun weightlessly away to the floor. I picked up the shavings and kept them on the corner of my bench as gatherings. Gathered. They were gathered by my fingers and set apart as a collection of gathered workings. These were my workings and they were the first shavings of quality I’d ever made. Other boys laughed at my stupid collecting, but I could care less. I’ve never cared when people laughed at me for doing what I do with what I use.

As I shaved and shaped my wooden boards this week the memories flooded in. I am sure I was learning but that was not what mattered. I wasn’t good at it and that was not what mattered. What mattered was this. For the first time in my life I was immersed in a sea of discovery. A passage had begun. I did’t understand the logic of any of it. It made more sense than math and the English language. Geography offered me nothing and history then was mostly about the Luddites halting progress which I understood altogether. I was escaping the status quo. I was discovering new possibilities and a world of making seemed filled with possibilities. To do woodworking I learned the art of ducking under the radar. Even when my parents were summoned to the head teacher’s office and after he had told them I could never be educated I still managed a few hours of woodworking and metalworking. This became my paradise. I left school and became what I am still, a passionate manual worker. Oh, I did go to college. Sat through many hours of boring talks and lectures knowing that the lecturer taught because they couldn’t hack it in an adult world. I passed all of my exams well enough, but it was none of this that equipped me for what I do now. Had Google been around when I was sixteen I would have learned more than I ever did in college. And in a short fraction of the time.

So, my past behind me caught up with me in the making of my wall shelf. I chose some quarter-sawn oak for mine and it looks nice. Today I will apply the shellac finish and polish it out. They other amazing thing is this. Even without all of my things in place, in cupboards and on shelves, I felt in total control and felt I could make anything wanted with nothing added. I have bags of room around me so no complaints from me in my new garage space. Best workshop yet.

39 thoughts on “I’ve Got Room to Work Again!”

  1. Rick De Roque

    Let me first say that I’ve always admired your woodworking abilities and have learned many things from your Hand skills. But I think you do a disservice to the many fine teachers in college and universities when you disparage them by stating the only reason they teach is because they can’t make it in the “adult world“. I had many find teachers in college that would make it just fine in the “adult world“ but chose teaching because they loved to teach and were good at it. I don’t mean to be negative but felt that was uncalled for.

    1. Rick De Roque

      Paul, thanks for clarifying the remarks. Hope I didn’t sound too negative. Just felt you were brushing with too wide of a brush.

  2. One who apparently cannot make it in real life

    I am an university teacher and a researcher. I teach because I love teaching. I found my calling from my field of research and I enjoy every moment of my working hours.

    To say that college teachers teach because they cannot make it in real life is utterly disrespectful. You have a large group of loyal followers and still you feel the need to dismiss and belittle other people. And all because they have different life goals and values than you.

    I honestly do not understand that.

    This post makes me regret buying your books and DVDs.

    1. Well that’s very sad that you regret buying Paul’s superb books.

      With your education and life’s experience surely you are able to dismiss another persons words without getting off your bike.

      You are being ungracious in your opinion of Paul, I feel.
      Correct me if I am wrong, Paul used “lecturer” as singular and “they” as plural.?? He did not ” belittle other people” he was simply referring to his experience
      Having left school with a very average education coupled with a low self esteem, I feel I was failed BUT also because I didn’t listen!!
      I worked for 30 years as part of the great unwashed self employed. I can recall, on occasions, working in homes of lecturers and some, only some, wouldn’t know one end of a hammer from the other. Now I can say that and you can’t call me disrespectful because it’s a fact…….they paid my mortgage

  3. Paul,

    I am sure you agree the internet has brought you success and a big following. Do you realize that the science and technology that makes it all possible was developed by people who worked on some very abstract things? Some of those scientists and mathematicians had extraordinary skills in building machines and doing experiments, some probably never held a hammer in their hands and pounded a nail. What if I said you couldn’t hack it in the world of educated and informed?

    I understand your need to espouse your values but why do you dismiss others? In doing so, you surely have lost my respect and admiration I have had for you since your ‘real woodworking movement’.

  4. People misspeak and Paul, even if he was speaking from his heart, must have misspoken because of his closed-mindedness on the topic.

    “Those who can’t do, teach?” Paul has proven himself how wrong the saying is, and the fact that he enjoys teaching so much suggests his misspeaking.

    He enjoys writing too even though he says: ” It made more sense than math and the English language. ” So he is contradictory between his words and actions, but actions speak louder than words.

    Paul and his team are not known for making apologies — at least not in public — possibly because of their rise to social media success, but Paul does need to say sorry this time. Arrogance breeds contempt, and this is what we have been seeing in the reckless Trump Administration. Paul must resist going down the same path.

  5. By the way, Paul has a team of videographers, social media managers, etc. He needs an editor for his blog. Find someone qualified either from the existing team or from outside to help him with the writing; every good writing needs a good editor.

    1. Jeremy Smith

      Your post here and above. You wrote them as if to an audience. Whom are you trying to convince? If you have issues with what the author has written wouldn’t you direct it at him? But you’ve chosen to direct it outward as if you are trying to rally…somebody.

        1. Jeremy Smith

          Yes you did mention Paul, but in a way a 4th grader would when he is trying to get others to join in the teasing. Your comments read immature to me. Try a little less third person when responding to a person on their blog.

          1. Teasing? So you looked at every constructive criticism as teasing? Develop some confidence…you.

  6. Thanks Paul. Glad you found your calling and passion.

    The shavings story brought a smile to my face. One day I was taking the arris off of the edges. I was getting those nice thin pigtails (which I happen to like as well). My six year old was there. She was captivated by them. Played with them and even took one in the house to proudly put on our fireplace mantle. I don’t think I could have been any happier at that moment.

  7. I tend to agree with Paul. Not so much to defend him, but because there are SO many “so-called” teachers out there. Think back to the age of his memory (18 – 21) most of us dreaded going into a classroom to the mind-numbing rote reputation and regurgitation of facts (that probably meant nothing to us at the time) But enter one “educator” who puts the facts into us with some relational meaning and viola! The student can’t wait for that class to start and be part of the interaction!!! Those of you whom have written in are hurt because guess what, you are the exception to the rule-good teachers. To find high school or college professors teaching, seems to be a rarity, My drafting class in college was taught by a teachers assistant. Why? Well the story goes the college couldn’t afford teachers, the reality (solely from my perspective) they had money to spend on plenty of other things, but CHOOSE not to allocate that money to teacher’s salary’s. If we were to strip some CEOs or CFOs of their ridiculous salaries and just give a portion of that money to an “educator” guess what? We would be “vetting” our future “Paul Sellers” students for the classes he or she wanted take so he could learn!

    1. “but because there are SO many “so-called” teachers out there”

      Paul is not specifically referring to the “so-called” teachers. He covers EVERY teacher.

      1. “Oh, I did go to college. Sat through many hours of boring talks and lectures knowing that the lecturer taught because they couldn’t hack it in an adult world.”

        How in the world do you interpret that as meaning every teacher? I was raised by a PhD and married into a family of teachers, many of whom also possess that degree. None of them found that to be offensive. Rather, they mostly shook their heads and agreed that it’s too often the reality in education.

        Of course, they are good at their jobs, and nobody has ever said such things about them. I suppose if you’re a poor teacher who cannot be bothered to examine your shortcomings and improve upon them, such statements can sting.

        If you feel the need to reframe such statements to mean all teachers rather than those who actually fall short, perhaps that is because you know you are a member of the latter group, despite your inability to admit it to yourself.

        1. You know your thinking or your way of thinking or argument is similar to what we now see everyday in the US news?

          When asked why the President said “no” when he was asked if he knew about the hush paynwnt, his rep. defended him by saying by “no,” he meant he did not know about the timing of the payment. The timing thing wasn’t even part of the question asked to him.

          Paul has apoligized and moved on, and you still tey to defend something that is indefensible by hairsplitting.

          You quoted teachers you know who don’t feel offended. I know people who condone all kinds of things but they do not represent what the society at large accepts. Other teachers have spoken here and if some are hurt by a mispoken statement, it doesn’t matter what the few teachers you know think. I could always get away with badmouthing any group of people or race by finding a few members who belong to that group or race to agree with me no matter how outrageous my views might be. That wouldn’t make me right, would it?

  8. Well done, Paul!

    Reading and taking an inference not quite meant when writing is so easily done- I read and re-read emails before sending by habit because of this. Even so, the saying goes “he who never makes mistakes never makes anything” and it’s so true. It is a good measure of your integrity and personality to apologise as such above, and I hope it clears the air for those offended.

    Personally, I have had both absolutely brilliant and utterly despicable teachers and all in between; it’s both extremes I remember the most- but even now I regularly think of the good ones, how they inspired me, and how I would love the chance to meet them again and show them the person I have become because of their guidance and influence. A good teacher I am sure has this as a driver for their career, but even then I don’t think they fully understand the influence and place in our hearts they can occupy. Good teachers have a vocational calling, bad ones have a job. Society: more of the former please!

  9. I have a doctoral degree and totally agree with the disputed generalization Paul made. I doubt he made it with any malice though. I also doubt that he meant is as an absolute.

    People need to grow up and not be offended by comments like that. Generalizations are made in contexts like this because they prove a point, not because they are absolute.

    If anyone is offended it is their fault, not the fault of Paul.

    1. “If anyone is offended it is their fault, not the fault of Paul.”

      Seriously?! From someone with a doctoral education?

  10. Paul apology is instant and sincere, and it shows Paul knows between right and wrong, unlike what we are seeing in modern and now corrupt America.

    He is greater than a lot of people in power.

          1. So you think if you keep on using belittling words, that would make your look greater? I am sure you also think Paul should not have apologized and stood his ground like the guy who.lies everyday.

  11. Words that hurt others. We all say them. We can’t unsay them. We can’t undo the hurt. We are in debt to those we hurt. But we can own the hurt we have done. We can apologize.

    Words of apology. They don’t automatically stop the hurt. Sometimes we want the apologizer to stay in debt to us. But we can forgive the debt. And hope that our debts to those we hurt will also be forgiven.

    1. Washington Post has found someone lying more than 3000 times since taking office. He has apologized not one single time. His debt would be forgiven by many whom he had hurt if he ever had the courage to admit he lied even just once.

      1. Tell me Richard, was Mrs. Clinton a truthful person. Since you are sourcing the Washington Post, I guess I could source Fox news?

        Do you see my point? You have thrown politics into every one of your posts and it does not belong here. Everyone has their opinion as they should. This is not the place to force yours down our throats. Extremely narrow sir.

        1. When the most powerful person in the world lies everyday and believes he can get away with it, every person with conscience and integrity has the right to call him out. Or her out if Hillary Clinton were the President. When I see people put forward atguments using the same logic and behavior as the liar does, I call them out.

          1. By the way, I am not talking about his policies. I don’t care if he tries to kill the Obama care or kick out all the ILLEGAL migrants. But the world must not pretend his daily lies are ok. They are not ok because after him, the next President can and will do the same.

          2. Paul Sellers

            Richard, This is not the place for the political direction you have taken things. I’d prefer it not to go in this direction any further.

      2. My apologies, Paul, for having created an unnecessary distraction to your blog. I will refrain from doing so again. Thanks for your tolerance.

        1. Well that’s a relief Richard I was starting to think this was your sole chance for a rant.
          Perhaps while you practice a little restraint from putting the world to right you might like to look in your mirror, don’t forget the image you see is the reverse others observe and perhaps not bother to inform you of your boring faults.

  12. Tom Ashworth

    Gracious, this brought opinions to a boil, didn’t it? Someone even managed to slip in political commentary. Probably a yankee… or a professor, but never mind that right now.
    My college background was in fine arts, specifically painting. Worst experience of my life. Teachers who gave me one grade and my studio mate another to see how we would react. Teachers who worked out lists of what I would work on that semester, only to grade me down, giving a list of reasons for the “c” that was the exact list we developed for me to work outside my comfort zone. The one sole exception was a furniture design and woodworking intro class I took, unfortunately, spring semester of my senior year. He was outstanding.
    So, all you teachers who were offended by Paul’s comments should realize that not everyone is lucky enough to have had you for a class. Sometimes, teachers can be jerks, or unqualified. Just like any other profession.
    I meant the yankee comment, tho’.

  13. Chris Harmston

    In my overly lengthy educational experience I would have to agree with Paul’s generalization that most teachers in my generation of education were less than poor (I am 55). However, contrary to Paul’s experience I was lucky enough to have 4 absolute Gems (that is a very low percentage across the large number of very poor teachers that I would characterize exactly as Paul has). My children are now in High School. Indirectly, I would characterize their experiences of good/poor teachers as closer to 50%. Extraordinary as 1 in 100.

    Up until High School I was a flunky. I was threatened to be held back nearly every year of my elementary and middle school years. I HATED school and I performed worse than poorly. I do not think this was all my fault as I think my teachers played an important role in my lack of early success, but I do take responsibility for it. Once I was in High School I had two most extraordinary teachers. First was my science teacher (whom I attribute specifically to my success in college) and second was my woodshop teacher who had actually taught my father when he was also in that same school. My woodshop teacher was my Mentor and my best friend. He taught me more than working with wood. He also taught me how to play pool and other social skills I lacked. Most importantly, he taught me that a career in wood was not going to be something for me (he was right). He hooked me up with a cabinet shop for a summer internship. What a nightmare as I learned what “woodworking” with machines and particle board in a high throughput cabinet shop meant. It shut me down from that career path in a hurry.

    My science teacher taught me that the few gems of teachers out there made my continued education worth it. I went to college and earned 3 degrees (all Cum Laude) in Physics and Materials Engineering to the point of completing all coursework and research for a PhD in solid state physics when I realized that being a scientist was not my calling. It was a couple of my professors, whom I respected tremendously and learned the most from, that actually helped me understand that being a career scientist or academician was not my calling. These two were amazing teachers but beyond that they cared about me as an individual and helped to guide me toward a career that I now feel I was more suited for.

    While he turned me from a career in wood, it was my woodshop teacher who kept me passionate about working with my hands and wood in particular. He provided the seed for the hobby that has continued to this day. Although I went down the machine path for many years and became somewhat dispassionate due to my lack of precision, it was/is Paul’s approach and “teaching” that has brought me back and put hand tools back into my hands. Although, I will not give up my table saw…

    I appreciate what Paul has stated about his personal experience. It is his experience which has nothing to do with my own or anyone else. Others have vastly different experiences and views. I accept those for what they are. Paul’s experience and perspective, and while similar to my own, is different. I do not agree with everything he says. But I love his approach and willingness to share and teach. I accept his opinions and apologies without judgement. I will most certainly continue my membership and read with eagerness what Paul has to say.

    1. Paul Sellers

      Hello Chris. Thank you for your commenting. I have expressed that concerns I have were indeed addressed or voiced far too generally and I regret that. We are all here to help one another achieve our ambitions and of course teachers, academics, engineers and so on are often at the forefront in that they generally reach the upcoming generations before all others. I believe that for the main part teachers do indeed do a sterling job, often in the most difficult of circumstances, to teach and train young people. Indeed, I work with and benefit from their protégés every day and without the investment those teachers made in them over two decades i would not be able to achieve a fraction of what I do. I will go to much greater lengths to filter out my intransigencies in future because it is indeed about building others up and not tearing down. I know that my views and opinions are not always altogether wrong but they do need tempering with a less critical approach. Thankfully I have the opportunity to do that and I will.

      1. Doug Mongerson

        Thanks Paul for your sincere apology and explanation. I think it is a touchy subject because so many people who are successful with their hands are not so successful in the academic world. And the perception is that people who work with their hands are worth less……
        I for one have no doubt that you have proper respect for the teachers of the world.

  14. During my 26 years of education I have encountered all types of teachers. There have been good ones and horrible ones. There have been too many who teach by humiliation and intimidation. It’s rare to find a great teacher but when you do it’s like a breath of fresh air. Most of the teachers I met along the way should never have been allowed to work with students. Sad but true.

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