You Are Special…

…and then you are the same. It’s not a look alike thing, more a feel alike. But it doesn’t destroy your uniqueness. Amateur woodworking and its woodworkers is not at all a new thing. In times past most men did woodworking in support of their daily life, a rural worker repaired his cart though he might be a stone mason, householders knew good planing techniques and repaired and restored jamming window sashes and frames. Someone repairing something in wood was really quite ordinary. Such things in most households would be quite commonplace. Then you might not know that the wealthy gentry and even royalty had members of the household who practiced the art of woodworking in all of its many diverse forms ranging from bow making and making fishing rods to furniture making and wood turning. In their case it was their hobby and not a means of support to them as such. I started seeing the demise of real furniture making in the 60s with one furniture making business after another closed with the retirement of its owner and then too educational entities taking over the validation of craft with its introduction of anonymous certification according to written curriculum with choose the right answer from five rather than through peers in traditional guilds. There are a few furniture maker/designers around, many of them finding additional support from a primary earner or family member, parent etc, who pursue their endeavour as a job and can indeed earn well, but most don’t. So it does look as I predicted two decades ago that the art of hand working wood for woodworkers will be preserved in the doing of it by amateur woodworkers and less likely the professional maker. The professional makers have become more the boutique maker of one kind or another, studio designers and such. Actually, a few decades ago, they wouldn’t have worn much more than overalls, a pencil behind their ear and a long sleeved shirt rolled up to the elbow. Anyway, all I am saying is that most of the woodworkers I enjoy the most are the ones known as amateurs, ordinary, unpretentious characters from every walk of life.

Yesterday someone stopped me in the local supermarket. It happens once or twice a week on average. “I really like watching your videos, Paul.” We’ve not met before but people I meet often feel that they know me and from them I often hear, “This is really quite surreal!” I take it as a compliment. We stop and chat when we both have time. It made me aware of the impact our work has and this enables me to see just where people are in the scheme of what we’re doing. It’s gratifying that the people I meet are for the main part just like me, ordinary blokes like me but with a passion.

Mostly they didn’t know something about woodworking so they Googled it and somewhere from the great abyss of Google my name popped up. It happens frequently enough and I almost always ask them about the their woodworking, tell them about our vision and then ask them about their current occupations. It’s true that most of them engineer things using computers followed by people who simply use their computers in the day to day of life. They all isolate small pockets of in their homes and gardens for creativity with wood. That’s what woodworking masterclasses.com and then my youtube channel to a lesser degree have done to advance woodworking in the lives of people I may never meet.

Ordinariness is actually a very special place to thrive. These rarer pockets of sanity restore the lost days of other work to stimulate the brain and release the therapeutic value of craft work. It’s the ordinariness from past centuries that continues thriving in the private enclave of amateur woodworker’s life that matters. These men and women seem to be the ones that withstand the hard knocks of opposition and no matter what comes against them they just keep getting on with it. As our vision into the future unfolds we will build on the past works we have taken on singlehandedly for almost three decades so far. It’s these last five or so years that have been the most exciting though. Whereas at one time I could only sow seeds in the lives of 200 people a year, we now reach hundreds of thousands who believe hand tool woodworking is for them. The methods we use seem pivotal to their love of woodworking as much as to their personal growth and wellbeing. My meeting woodworkers everywhere I go proves to me that real woodworking is alive and kicking and that it will be the amateurs like my self that will keep the true craft alive.

28 thoughts on “You Are Special…”

  1. Fernando Cela Pinto

    All your words are true. I live thousands of kilometers away from the UK, in Brazil. I am not fluent in English and I read and make this comment with the help of a translator. I knew your work on the internet and I followed him. I got your book and I got it as my master.
    I also have the feeling that I already know you, in Portuguese, we call it empathy.
    Unfortunately I discovered woodworking after 50 years of age, but it’s been a great adventure.
    Thank you Paul

  2. I am from Canada, originally South Africa, and “re-taking” up this long lost hobby in the most traditional way is a very welcome distraction from the hard reality of today’s fast pace race which we call “life”.
    Please don’t stop sharing and making content, you have many hungry amateurs running circles like a cat for Temptations whenever you post a new project or tip or technique.

  3. Thanks Paul. I like being an amateur woodworker. I think the first video I saw of you was making dovetails. I watched several others over the next few months but for some reason you stood out to me. Then, I had a heck of a time finding you. All I could remember was your name was similar to the star in the Pink Panther movies. Several google tries later I found you again.

  4. I am from Chile and I cannot thank you enough for being a master to me through one of your books, Youtube and this blog.

    Thank you Paul. I hope someday I will go to England and meet you in person and maybe have a coffee.

    Greetings,

    Rodrigo

  5. It is a shame that the ‘educationalists’ got their hands on craft apprenticeships. They analyzed the final needs of the craftsman and then tailored the training to achieve those needs. Unfortunately this cut out a lot of the unrecognised coaching and attention to detail that went on. It also engendered a willingness to accept a job which was ‘good enough’ instead of demanding excellence which needed time and was not in the curriculum.

  6. Michael Anderson

    I always find it to be in my comfort zone to hear a British wood workers explaining their trade or passion of wood with out all the American razzmatazz shouting and hard selling and generally just being a pain in the arse. They some times must think every one is a moron taking half the program time saying what tools to use, it’s just so frustrating. Well done Paul.

  7. From South Africa, absolutely appreciate your work in sharing skills.

    You won’t be surprised to find out I work at a software company and find an incredible satisfaction in creating things with my hands. What’s even more rewarding is the ability to build things for and with my children – the fact that my sons (7&9) and daughter (11) will drop the ipad every now and again to come spend an evening in the tool room without prompting. Often this is talking and watching, but just as often it involves them grabbing a block plane or spokeshave and doing something to wood. (One day this will be craftsmanship I am sure – and if not, at least a lack of fear at doing things by themselves).

  8. Kent Blair Lewis

    There are a few things that we do where we feel connected to our ancestors, woodworking, sailing and painting….house painting, not the fine arts kind, although if done correctly, it is art. I feel my family peering over my shoulder, silently guiding the cut I am making and amazed at how noisy a power tool is. My Uncle telling me how to feather paint and use enamel on the trim because it looks better, wears longer and cleans easier. A Sailing Master past laughing as I play with lines and sticks on our small sailboat. Our connections with the past will continue into the future through craft we create today.
    Thank you for sharing the craft.
    Kent

  9. Good morning from Texas Paul,
    This weekend I was in Austin, TX for a wedding and spotted a Woodcraft store along the highway. The parking lot was full of cars and there were lots of people in the store. Of course I stopped and was like a kid in a candy store. I did notice that most of the people were looking at power tools and such. I seemed to be the only one looking in the hand tool case. I did come away with two new gouges, a Celtic pattern book and a lovely piece of walnut for a project I have in mind.
    Have a blessed day!

  10. Paul, your videos and blogs have been incorporated in everything I build. From shade mounts to footstools I now see the different ways I can build things or improve on things already made. If I was to ever meet you I would nod my head and let you pass because there will be no way I could thank you in passing. Your Master Classes, Blogs and YouTube videos are helping the “Masses.” The one way I can repay you is by teach my grandchildren and helping others. Thank you Paul.

  11. I’m an amateur woodworker in Vancouver Washington in the US. I watch your videos nearly everyday either for tips or just inspiration. I live in an apartment complex so I use just a small little garage, it’s limiting, but still very enjoyable. Just yesterday I had my 4 year old daughter with me helping me build and it was a great feeling. Teaching her to use her hands to build something, she’s just blown away by the idea that she could make something all by herself someday. Hopefully more people are doing this with woodworking as well as other crafts so the next generation can carry it on as well!

    Thanks for doing what you do! (Plus I love your blogs)

    Jake

    1. There is a generation emerging where woodworking should be as it should be, non-gender specific. I think dads and mums will be changing the future and children may well do as I did and pick their careers before it’s too lat and according to what they truly feel they want to do.

  12. Paul, while having a beer with you would be enjoyable, I believe working with you on a project would be more satisfying. Keep up the wonderful service you provide to woodworkers.

  13. I watch one of your videos nearly every night mostly because of your passion that comes thru even what must be the simplest procedure for you but challenging for us. Also, thanks for taking the time to show us your craft. A lot of other video makers rush thru their methods. To your credit it’s done lovingly. By the way, what kind of hand plane is that in the picture?

    1. I think it’s an ‘infill plane’. Very beautiful, very heavy, and pretty sought after, if I’m not mistaken. If you search this blog for ‘infill planes’ you’ll find much more about them.

      Alas, an infill plane would be wasted on me – the limiting factor on my woodwork (or photography, or…) isn’t the tools – it’s the guy handling the tools. And I fear I’m far from the only one where the tools aren’t the limiting factor for the quality of the work.

      Still, it’s a beauty to look at. And if I ever stumble across one at a thrift store or fleamarket, it’s coming home with me!

    2. It’s was called a Scottish panel plane. Nothing really that special about it but nice to have if you can find one on eBay.

  14. Here in Brazil I have been following your work for some time. It inspires me and helps me improve my manual woodworking. I’m always spreading your texts and videos on my social media to get more people to know the pleasure of manual work.
    We’re here watching, learning and enjoying what you do, Paul.

  15. Dear Paul,
    Thank you for inspire me practicing with carpentry and wood working at my early 50’s. My father teach me the basics 40 years ago and you helped me to develop my technics from shaping the timber to board and give life in more complicated projects. Selecting the right tools and using them properly having learn it from a master of your kind is a privilege that I highly appreciate! Many thanks Master!

  16. Hi Paul

    Thank you for rekindling my love of woodworking using hand tools, up until a year ago I was a machine woodworker and hated the noise, dust and lack of skill. As a retired dental surgeon I was seeking another level to woodworking and I found you on the internet and that was history .. many thanks. My 12 year old son Luca has become entranced and loves creating in wood and in a few months has excelled in making a three legged stool, the small tray, cheese board, wooden spoon and a hand carved bowl images of which he has downloaded in to your masterclass gallery . It gives me so much satisfaction to share all this with him and see him fascinated working with wood. His next project is to build himself a workbench.
    With great gratitude for all your hard work and vision.
    Phil Taylor

  17. Thank you, thank you, for all your peaceful and wise words. I love the way you teach and your passion for woodworking. I will be teaching a class of five high school aged students in a couple weeks. I get 15 weeks to introduce them to hand tools and beginning projects from your series. I have found a passion for this and I hope I can convey that to my students.

    Renea

    1. And I am sure you can do it, Renea! Remember, when they are carving out their project, you are carving something lovely out them!

  18. I have been a carpenter for 42 years now. I have taught young men how to layout houses, build intricate roof systems,erect winding and curving stairs, make trim, build cabinets etc. I look back on my career and the things that give me the most satisfaction are the projects made in my garage for my children or grand children., I build them things to remember me by, and now I make them with hand saws, tongue and groove plains, chisels, gouges, router planes etc. I have atleast 4 table saws, 5 chop saw, planers, jointers, disc sanders, and on and on and on.
    But when it comes down to it, it’s the stuff built with muscle, finesse, dexterity, with tools I have tuned and sharpened that means the most to me. And now a man who has been a carpenter all his life looks to another tradesman for guidance and inspiration to take him to his retirement building furniture by hand in his shop. It’s humbling being a 62 year old apprentice of sorts. Thanks Paul

  19. Jose G Martinez Jr

    Mr. Sellers, I am just a simple country boy from Texas. My hobby as a kid was burning wood, specially pine. I loved the smell of it. 30 years later, I’ve realized how nurturing it is to work and create with wood. I have 2 live oak trees in the back. Every time I trim them I keep all the good branches to see what else I can do with them. Thank for the teachings. I always look forward the blog and the videos. Had I known this 25 years ago about your classesI would have made sure to sign up to be your student. Never mind , through the web I have become your student.

  20. Thank you Paul (and the team) for continuing the work you do for the likes of us. I take great pleasure in the time I get to watch the videos, and have finally been able to finish the frame saw which was so expertly presented and taught by you. It works like a dream! 🙂

    Please keep up the good work, and in the vain hope, one day my woodworking will not be something of when I have the time to do, but something that I do to support my family.

  21. Thank you Mr. Sellers.
    I am from India and have taken up woodworking as a hobby post retirement now at the age of 60. It is really a soothing experience to work wood with hand tools. Your posts and Youtube videos have been of immense help to me in my woodworking journey. Please do continue to share your knowledge with laymen like me. Thanks again and kind regards.

  22. Stephen Wardley

    Before writing this comment I was reading through some of the ones posted by others and it’s clear that your philosophy and attitude to your craft is touching the hearts and values of most everyone who comes across your teachings, be it via your school or through the internet. I’m sure you take great comfort from just how much you inspire others across the world to pick up a hand tool and fashion their own masterpiece. I’m from a family of woodworkers of various streams but chose not to follow my Father into the trade but instead chose the motor trade along with my elder Brother, it is only now at the age of 62 and quite late in life that I feel the calling to pick up a hand plane or a tenon saw and create my own modest works of art in my Fathers memory with a little pinch of regret that I didn’t do it sooner.

    I’m fortunate that in my formative years My father passed on enough of a spark to me that Paul Sellers can re-kindle into a flame.

    Bless you Sir.

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