Dare To Dream!

It seems there are two ways to dream. One occurs in the sleep time, when you drift away in sleep and your mind is being reprogrammed naturally with no input from you and a dream of one kind or another, unique to you, takes place despite you. The other is the personal shift you take to imagine the inclusion of something that at the time may seem unlikely, impossible or possible with a few nudges along the way. It’s the latter I want to talk about.

Two dreamers in their 70s

When I was young, 14 years old or so, I dreamed of becoming a woodworker. Had I been older, 21 or so, with a degree course under my belt, I might well have had to dream about changing direction. I know many young people who dreamed of becoming furniture makers, went to college to gain a degree in that sphere, and now push MDF into teeth and blades and cutters most of the day. After a decade or two, “in the real world.” they dream of becoming a woodworker still. Actually, that’s almost all of the “professional” woodworkers I know.

John Winter, an earlier apprentice and friend. A dreamer in his own right.

But the dream I am speaking of is more likely to happen in amateur woodworking realms than so called professional ones. I was in Blackwells Art & Poster shop in Oxford yesterday and saw a hundred titles on any category you care to name ranging from Art to Architecture and then hundreds more in subcategories. Looking at the upright splines as I searched, I realised that most books are indeed about dreaming to be someone else or at least allowing part of yourself to become partly something else which in my view is to become wholly something else and thereby more whole. You see, I have already talked about our course toward ‘becoming‘. Depending on your vision for what you envision becoming you actually become whatever it is as soon as you assume that role. When I left school at 15 I was no longer a schoolboy but a workman. When I started to work with wood at 13 in school I became a woodworker. When I completed my apprenticeship I became a craftsman. Ultimately I became a master craftsman and a crafting artisan. Ultimately, what I dreamed of at 13 and 14 was no longer a dream at 15 then 20 and then 50. I’m not sure if the books I looked into in the architecture section had enough information to learn architecture from. In fact I knew it didn’t. To become a working architect you  must be qualified and licensed. Can’t have any old odd bod throwing up plans for multi-storey buildings without the ability to beam stress test. But thumbing the pages made me think about those who dream. Books on architecture are mostly about inspiring, but I suspect the book buyers buy mostly to look at the work of a few dozen architects. On the other hand books that teach say design or drawing, woodworking and such are mostly about creating. These books are both about dreaming and becoming. About taking steps to develop ability. It is this that takes us into a dreaming where the dream can indeed become a lived reality. You look down the splines for a title. the title grabs you and you pull the book from the rest. The cover speaks to you and before you know it you’ve sat down somewhere quiet and the dream begins. 

If woodworking is something you have dreamed of through the years, I think it is important to pursue it. There is something deep inside calling to you. It would be a shame not to become who you should become. I am planning three different things to become in the coming years. three things I want to master in my lifetime. I once dreamed of becoming a writer and I wrote many a dozen articles for magazines and never had a single rejection.

Essential Woodworking Hand Tools
Paul Sellers. A dreamer and schemer of things like books. And guess what? He has no degree in writing or photography or art or woodworking and furniture making.

I once dreamed of writing a book and wrote several. Two are published and I have some more to bring up to date before they eventually go to press. I recall the first few efforts at presenting that seemed to me a disaster, and then Joseph took over and they became extraordinary experiences for me and I present almost every day. Some things you need college to qualify in. Thankfully my craft never will. Anyone and everyone can become a woodworker and own standards that far surpass any qualification you might need to get a job working. Actually, surpass some so-called professionals. Don’t you just love that?

Keep dreaming and become!

16 thoughts on “Dare To Dream!”

  1. Bear with me, for just a minute or two.

    What strikes me about how you speak (absolutely thrilled with episode #1 of your vLog) and write is how enthusiastic you are about the possibilities that exist for all of us to find some contentment and joy in pursuing the interest we all share here. Doubtless you’ve had difficult moments and times along the way, as that’s a normal part of anyones life, but your hope and positivity are what shines through.

    At a time when so many of us struggle to really and truly find and maintain a healthy work-life balance, these blogs are just magic. None of us are created to sit at desks, to stare at computer screens and smartphones, to be surrounded by manmade materials and completely cut off from the almost boundless possibilities that exist in the natural world around us. It’s draining, it’s futile and it will never give anything like the kind of satisfaction possible from taking time to interact with something natural and to shape *it* into something manmade, which I expect is at least subconsciously what draws many of us to work with wood. It is absolutely a natural pursuit and it probably does us more good than we might first realise. It’s more than a hobby in many ways is what I’m trying to say and I can honestly say that I never considered before *why* this was so.

    Thank you for provoking the thought process in me and for all the other good you do. It’s sincerely appreciated.

  2. I love this. Really! I am seventy years old, and I dream of working with wood for the rest of my life. Am about to dismantle the old workbench I made more than twenty years ago so I can repurpose the wood to make a woodworking bench of the design you recommend in your recent video series. It will be smaller and more useful than what I’ve got now.

    But book splines? That was a new one for me.

  3. Lovely post Paul, as usual.

    There is a term, “Backroom Boys”. I am sure it’s been around long before Lord Beaverbrook used it in a 1941 speech, and I’m just as sure it was intended to apply to women as well as men:
    “Now who is responsible for this work of development on which so much depends? To whom must the praise be given? To the boys in the back rooms. They do not sit in the limelight. But they are the men who do all the work.”
    You mentioned architects above, a subject I know about all too well, being a chartered structural engineer (we do the sums to make it stand). I ran a team of these backroom boys (and girls), and believe me the vast amount of effort required even getting a basic architectural design built is staggering. Now I’m not saying that the architect doesn’t deserve credit, but in this day and age I know from experience that all the real people doing the work receive very little. To expand further, I challenge anyone to name anyone who made it possible to walk on the moon, other than JFK, Neil and Buzz- and I bet there are tens of thousands of people who were involved doing the actual real work…
    I think that’s why we aren’t designed to sit behind desks and computers all the time. Your kind of woodworking allows all of us to satisfy our back room working tendencies, for instant and very personal inner fulfilment. Yes, as a bonus we may want to explain to others exactly how much skill and care went into something we made with our hands, but if we do, this usually only takes a few moments for their expressions to change in appreciation. I think a lot of us would bore even ourselves trying to explain the complexities of our everyday jobs to people to get the same result…

    1. “I challenge anyone […]”

      Günter Wendt. His is an interesting story and very recognizable to me. And he’s very easy to spot in all the old NASA footage, just about as easy as Dr. Von Braun (challenge #2) or Kurt Debus (#3).

      But I get the point you’re making – the other thousands are a tad harder. Just couldn’t resist such a direct challenge.

      PS: the movie ‘The Dish’ gives a little insight in all the work behind the screen in one tiny particular aspect, communication.

    2. Lawrence,
      Here are a couple of more names that should be in the list. Eddy Carpenter and Lenny Appel. Both were manufacturing engineers working at Boeing. Eddy worked on the Saturn 5 working 12 hrs a day 7 days a week. Lenny was part of the team that developed the techniques needed to build the composite components on the lunar rover. They were great mentors to me in my early engineering career.

      Thanks for bringing back the memories,

    3. Thanks Nemo and Paul!

      I know, I could have edited that challenge with a bit more care to make it less contentious, but I knew people would get the point- and thanks both for such polite constructive responses which add weight to it 🙂

      I’ve seen the dish, and is a perfect illustration of my point, thanks Nemo. And Paul, I too have learned so much from similar mentors, on things that the everyday person would not even notice. Fond memories indeed, and a quiet inner smile of satisfaction “I did that…”

  4. The first picture is heart-warming. And funny thing is you could’ve made the exact same picture (less some wrinkles) of 9-year olds, showing the same focus, concentration and drive. Perhaps with tongue hanging out even.

    They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks but that’s not true at all. It just takes a lot more doggy-biscuits.

    I was recently interested in learning more about music notation. To my surprise it turns out there are complete courses on YouTube. Also found a few piano courses. As a child I quietly longed to learn to play the piano, but it wasn’t something that was stimulated in my family, on the contrary. I now no longer have an excuse not to. Better late than never, I suppose.

    I’d better buy a big box of doggy-biscuits before I start my endeavour though.

  5. Robert W Mielke

    I grew up in a family of woodworkers. My father was born & raised in Germany and learned construction skills through an apprentice program. After moving to the United States he built homes from the ground up, doing everything necessary to complete beautiful homes. I was his apprentice.

    Now I’m retired and still practice woodworking out of my tiny apartment. No need for power tools here. My senior neighbors would disapprove. So I continue my romance working with wood with my simple hand tools. It’s physical and mental exercise that I dearly love. Bury me with my bench planes and chisels. LOL

  6. I have been very fortunate during my career. I pursued a job that I dreamt of doing from the age of 10 and, as someone who always worked with my hands, followed that dream and became a craftsman, and ultimately a master craftsman, albeit in the very limited field of restoring teeth and mouths and working to tolerances of 20microns (the thickness of a human hair), all freehand, often in the dark, upside-down and in mirror view! Now I am retired I have a hobby, just as rewarding and requiring those fine motor skills honed over 40 years. I can now afford the tools and the wood needed and have the time to practice those skills.

    My interest in woodworking was rekindled in no small part, by watching your videos Paul, and remembering my school woodwork teacher who was so patient, so careful to explain why we worked the way we did, but just as enthusiastic about using hand tools and who taught me those basic hand skills which I found useful throughout my working career.

    I thank you Paul, for reminding me how enjoyable and satisfying woodworking can be.


  7. Hey Paul,
    I was wondering, could one make a poor man’s plough plane? If so, can you pleeeeeease make a video on it.

  8. Wonderful text, wow! People from previous generations had what some call “legacy” (learning their trade from a more experienced person). It still occurs today, but not as in the past. A 92-year-old fellow went to home and started looking at some furniture I was making, and he tried to fit his finger nail in the junctions where were the joints. He was amazed that his nails could not enter the spots his hands touched and he asked me who in my family taught me that – I said I read some books and also from internet. He couldn’t not really grasp what I meant, and insisted in that question. I took it as a compliment, even though my furniture has several defects since I’m learning.
    I think the legacy from my generation is from internet (computer has replaced person-to-person learning) – i’m 29. I notice that people a little older than me, like 35 to 40, can’t go to internet and books as a way of learning, just something I perceived.
    I think by reading your content technology helped me a lot learning fast, gave me 15 years experience in 1 year browsing, theoretically speaking, a lot of things I’d not have how to learn otherwise, even more when it comes to hand work (I don’t know a single person around that works like me/you… And i’m in a big city). Anyway.. Practice differs from theory, but I do feel that learning all by practice itself makes the path longer, and no short cuts besides the trial-and-error. 🙂

      1. Having a opinion is what you call being a ignorant? Well, I don’t mind share opinions whether it does not make people feel bad about what i’m saying. I wrote many lines, you just some words trying to fit me under your assumptions. I don’t know but here the definition of “ignorant” is not going towards me.

        1. “I notice that people a little older than me, like 35 to 40, can’t go to internet and books as a way of learning, just something I perceived.”

          John, that’s simply a perception rooted in ignorance. People of all ages learn new things every day using online content, from vlogs and instructional posts and videos through to forum discussions and online publications, on a vast range of subjects and interests.

          Forget about age (as it has nothing to do with ones capacity to learn if one is sufficiently motivated to do so) and accept that a year of browsing the internet and watching videos cannot and never will impart 5 let alone 15 years worth of theory. Even theoretical ‘learning’ requires conscious investment in thought, the consideration of what is presented should lead to a personal critical review of what is presented to you as opposed to blind acceptance. Training by rote alone is not enough to say one has studied and learned something. You have to focus, consider and test your understanding. People of all ages are quite capable of doing so, with often inspirational results.

          To dismiss these truths leaves one wide open to being ignorant, to state it for what it is, not as some form of personal attack. Please, don’t be offended, but take it as an encouragement to challenge a misguided perception you hold.

          All the best,

          Paul G.

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