Mondays and Where I Make Wood Work

It’s not only where I make my wood work, it’s where I lift my body to work, where my mind becomes engaged to the work I do and unites my heartbeats throughout the day with my intent. When it beats faster I feel purpose-driven with the kind of meaning that matters; it’s so much more than I could ever get from boring workouts. I allow my work to be hard, I want it to be, even tedious is fine with me and then seemingly unending work is OK because I anticipate the outcome as something lovely, useful, different, meaningful. My work is an extension of who I am and I find sanity and purpose there.within the walls of my own garage workshop – more than almost anywhere else. Work never bores me.

On the Monday morning I can’t wait to wake up, can’t wait to go to work, to get to my bench, to sharpening my tools and adjusting them to the tasks I will need them for throughout the day. I made my mind up to enjoy work decades ago, the pain and ache of it, the twist and thrust of it through my arms and fingers and hands and then too the exercising of my mind. When teachers told me to stretch my mind in studying the subjects that they found interesting and stimulating, they couldn’t comprehend that my choice of manual work was what would ultimately stretch my mind; me in my standing and my kneeling, my pulling, shoving, feeling, smelling, listening and stretching my body and my mind to do the tasks most of the teachers had never done nor saw values in, nor could understand anything of such things.

A history teacher in his tweed jacket and sewn on patches told me of the Luddites opposition to progress. It was standard teaching by educationalists so as to keep the fodder for industrialism coming to the factories. For my part I didn’t feel at all like he did in expressing their refusal to welcome something called progress. I asked him if he could understand what it was like to shave wood and plane and saw. To feel the vibrancy of making and creating designs. He punished my impudence with a cane rod. I smiled. I knew he couldn’t understand nor ever would.

There was a time in my mid 50s when I thought it would have been nice to have a few years studying and writing about woodworking and nothing else, but then I realised I have had 55 years studying, researching and writing. Having talked often to lecturers and such I realise how little they know of the making of things so I feel more satisfied because I can not only write about these things that are important to me but I can draw and sketch them, photograph them and now film them too. I many, many things in my three-dimensional world of making. In December I made two cots for my grandbaby and then in January I made a plywood workbench. We filmed every stage of both and put the work we did out there to teach others the skills.

Then in February I made a tool organiser with two drawers. Oh, in January I also built a pine garden bench and then in February I made a few smaller projects for our commonwoodworking.com beginner training program. I also made a second garden bench in oak in February and on into March too. Filming slows me down a bit, well, actually twice as much!

So hopefully you’ll see how interesting I have made my life. How though I am productive I chose off-the-conveyor-belt living as a way of continuing my life. That involves teaching the things I know as a woodworking artisan so that the things I have relied on continue on into the future generations. My life is proof of hand tool woodworking and had I not gone this course there might be much less available for people to discover because so much is lost when craftsmen and women die. You watch my videos making what others don’t and can’t without machines and such. This is the proof I speak of. As it is with many things it is about taking control of things. Looking to the future and planning whatever you can for it. It doesn’t always pan out but if you try you can’t be criticised for it can you? Have a happy Monday.

17 Comments

  1. Phill on 25 March 2019 at 10:49 am

    they say you can’t take it with you, but they are wrong. You take your stories and your knowledge and your art – unless you manage to pass it along during life. Few of us have the opportunity or the skill to do that. If you can impart to the young that a life of hardship and struggle is healthful and satisfying, you will have done what the Luddites could not. Rock on.



  2. yann le droff on 25 March 2019 at 12:10 pm

    Thanks ! I’m started my monday morning on my office computer, in a big industrial plant…Boring !

    i’m Lucky to read your’s monday morning ! thanks, and happy other day’s morning ^^

    yann from France



  3. Michael W. O’Brien on 25 March 2019 at 12:17 pm

    Paul, your life and your work is never boring to those of us who follow your wonderful work, teaching and sage words of wisdom. I have learned so much about woodworking techniques and tools from watching you and reading your books over the many years I have followed your work. You are a very special person indeed, and I thank you beyond words for all that you do to share and pass on your extensive woodworking knowledge to us.
    Cheers,
    Michael O.
    Alabama, USA



  4. Rick Sutton on 25 March 2019 at 12:37 pm

    Thanks for your continued inspiration this rainy Monday morning here near Philadelphia, USA. I’ve been working on a reproduction Harris LeBus sideboard (from Nancy Hiller’s book “English Arts & Crafts Furniture.” It’s quite a challenging piece of work for me. Been working on it (part time) for the last several months. Sometimes, like this morning, it’s a little hard to get started on completing it. But your blog always makes me want to get back down in my workshop to sharpen my tools and peel away the dust in my brain and put it on the floor. Thank you.



  5. Steve on 25 March 2019 at 12:47 pm

    Its funny when i used to do more machining, I would avoid rough lumber, always buying s4s lumber, thinking that rough lumber would be unnecessary wear and tear on my electric planet and jointer. I dread changing and setting blades on those. But now that I am trying to learn and do hand tool woodworking i am buying rough lumber purposely thinking “this will be a good workout”. And I can’t wait to get home from work to start cleaning it up with my transitional stanley #29, followed by my old #5 and 4. There is something therapeutic about the sound and feel of planning the wood by hand, i especially enjoy the feel of the wood to wood, like connecting to the wood I am working. Always looking forward to your blog and videos. Happy monday!



  6. ajens on 25 March 2019 at 12:50 pm

    Oh yes! You live and you learn. And may I add: You learn a lot mere from life than from school. My experience with my time in school equals pretty much the same as you describe, Paul. The way history was presented to us kids was killing every bit of interest in ancient time – if we at that time ever had any interest in the past at all… But thankfully it didn’t kill us kids. Back then I asked myself what we needed those history lessons for. Now I’m in my sixties and have lived so many interesting things in my life. And I’m able to understand the world! Well not everything, but anyway. With the years I even got interested in history too. But it gives much more sense in a way where you stand with a plane in the hand and think: Who invented it? Why? What did they use it for? What were they planning to build? How did they live? And why did they live that way? And, and, and. And then history becomes interesting.

    What was wrong with the school – and still is – is that it gives a feeling to many kids, that its trying to make the same out of every pupil while every pupil feels that that somehow doesn’t fit to him or to her, because they feel that they are different. And we ARE different, that’s what I’ve learned from life. You’ve got to do it your own way. If you’re a creative soul, you’ve got to express your creativity by your self, the school is not very good at pushing in that direction. But what a relief it is when you discover, that you can build something with the power that comes from your mind and your hands. It shows that you CAN create beautiful things even though you never was considered a genius back in school.

    I’ll admit, though, that school actually did give to me a lot of knowledge and facts who made it easier for me to catch up on the questions of life and how to live later on. In the time that then was future and now is past. But – hopefully – I still have many years to learn from life and reality, the best school in the world. But like in school a break still makes good to you, just to want even more to learn even more in the new school week which comes with the Mondays.

    PS: One good thing about history is that it shows us that humans are humans. So make life and work human.



  7. Andy Klindt on 25 March 2019 at 1:31 pm

    Long Live Paul Sellers!!!! I think what I have needed all along is someone to help me BELIEVE that I can do this! when I found hand tool woodworking I think the lightbulb went on for me that there are so many different ways to do woodworking. Thank you Paul for Giving of yourself in the way that you do. You have been very helpful



  8. Reggie on 25 March 2019 at 1:38 pm

    Paul, Thank you for these “Monday’s Pearls of Wisdom…” Saturday night is my Monday at work and I had stopped working on my workbench at work and was just thinking, “am I doing enough?” And as I read your Monday’s Work I said yes I have. At home this week I repaired 22 feet of fencing in which I used half lap joints to raise the fence post I didn’t replace yet 1 foot. The process took me two days due to the 8 bags of 90lbs of cement used. I cut my grass, tended to my garden, moved my spare wood pile to the other side of my home where I had installed 40’ of board on board fence pickets so that my neighbors would not be disturbed when I’m busy sawing early on my days off. With the fence panels repaired and the pile moved I was able to have another spot to relax and assess the next project in my yard or home. There are other things I also did where my wife reminded me to show face at my grandsons T-Ball game. Just when I thought that I’m not living up to my potential I read your blog and I’m motivated to do even more. I’m nowhere near the skill of the people on your team, not competing but keeping busy whilst my coworkers and neighbors are trying to fix the world for us from my shops break room or front doorstep.



  9. Robert Mielke on 25 March 2019 at 1:39 pm

    My last 55 years have been spent working so that I could retire doing my hobbies full time. My time working as an electronic troubleshooter trained my mind to be observant, diciplined and safe. In 2010 I grabbed the opportunity to retire, diving headlong into my woodworking and photography. The two passions kept my mind sharp as well as staying physically fit. I find myself challenged and fullfilled.



  10. jay gill on 25 March 2019 at 1:43 pm

    As always, thanks Paul! My take home from your teaching, whatever you do:
    Approach it thoughtfully. Take the time to learn and understand the nature of what you are doing. Understand the harmony.

    Approach it with accuracy. Your work should show that you care about it. Take your time and do it right.

    Approach it with an attitude of making the world a better place.

    and most important, approach it with respect.



  11. Jeremy on 25 March 2019 at 2:05 pm

    The luddites didn’t really mind machines. They actually operated many of them daily. They only destroyed machines owned by manufacturers who used them to get around labor practices. Those same machines also made inferior goods. The luddites only wanted good machines that were operated by trained people, apprenticed people, for fair wages. So when your teacher wielded the cane he was himself a luddite. He attempted to stand against your progress. Ah the irony.



  12. Glenn Dube on 25 March 2019 at 4:26 pm

    “I made my mind up to enjoy work”



  13. Joe on 25 March 2019 at 5:02 pm

    Glad you were able to find your calling and passion. Sadly too many don’t. College isn’t always the answer and too many educational institutions don’t know how to address this. Shame on your teachers.



  14. Joe Wilson on 25 March 2019 at 7:15 pm

    Made my first dovetail for the small boxes this weekend. It is ugly. I am 71 trying to survive cancer and have never done any kind of woodworking ever. Been watching your videos for last three months and they plus your blog has been uplifting. Went out and spent 115.00 on cheap tools. They did not work very well. Did get the chisels and the 35.00 plane sharp though. Guess I am going to have to get a good dovetail saw. Plus practicing my sawing. Keep up the videos and I will keep trying.



    • Tim. on 26 March 2019 at 7:50 am

      Your last two words say it all Joe. Whether it’s woodworking or beating that cancer – ‘keep trying’. Good luck with both.



  15. Chris Stasny on 26 March 2019 at 9:32 pm

    You should have ended this blog with “Amen”. Well said, Paul!



  16. Tom Angle on 27 March 2019 at 1:23 pm

    I wish you would have taught my shop classes. I never really cared for loud machines, they make me anxious. A hand tool class would have been wonderful.