Today’s the Day I Make

I milled my wood on Thursday last week, oak. It’s a new design with a drawer built in, tapered legs and such. It’s something I have made by machine in the past, not something done purely with hand methods so I am looking forward to it. Actually, I doubt anyone has seen this done before. Anyway, I am looking forward to the prototype this week.

Last week Izzy and I made, photographed and filmed and of course I made yet another spatula and three-legged stool for the two series on common woodworking. Every time I work on stuff for Common Woodworking I get excited, not because of the project making but the fact that hundreds of people will use the work plan to develop the ever important skills I’ve relied on throughout my life. Anyone new to woodworking, that means those who have never made much with their hands and almost all wood machinists, is in for a pathway to discovery. It’s that that excites me the most. And then I am fully cognisant that many who have come to adulthood and have never taken a lump of wood and shaped it into something useful and even beautiful are in for a unique experience. To go from this…

…to this in just an hour

and then from here…

…to here is no small thing. Remember we live in an age when almost everybody will actually know no one who actually crafts anything with their hands from wood. More amazingly is the reality that with less than ten lifetime hand tools you can do this…plus a workbench or workmate. Then, more amazingly still, it takes exactly the same tools to make the three-legged stool. How about that for unlocking the inhibitions caused by fear of failure.

So this week we will be filming again and catching my working on video. I have a couple of ideas. The ever present thoughts I have for the house furniture we will be building is prefaced by the work we have already committed to on Woodworking Masterclasses and Common Woodworking and then too YouTube. It’s working!

26 Comments

  1. Ben Simons on 7 May 2019 at 5:15 pm

    prototyping in oak? Must feel pretty good about it. 🙂 I’m excited to see what you’ve got in store here.

    • Michael Wiegand on 13 May 2019 at 12:24 pm

      Paul’s prototyping is not the same as most folks.
      He is skilled enough to know what he makes is going to be right or even excellent according to most anyone’s standard.
      I think he says prototype to indicate he will be coming up with the steps for you and I in a logical order that makes sense to his internet student.

  2. Bud on 7 May 2019 at 5:53 pm

    I think the spatula is a great project for both beginners and advanced craftsmen. I’m excited to see what you come up with in the house furniture department. Your design esthetic closely follows mine, so I always enjoy seeing what you have on the burner. Here in Texas we have just about finished Spring and a hot and wet Summer is fast approaching so air conditioned shop time is a relief from ranch work…

  3. Paul on 7 May 2019 at 6:09 pm

    Ok I have a question about the spatula, and apologies if this is really dumb. What do you use it for? When cooking I am used to a thinner utensil that I can easily slide under a fried egg or a piece of fish. Sort of like Paul’s “burger flipper “… that’s what I would call a spatula. But what sort of cooking would you use this utensil for?

    • Greg on 7 May 2019 at 6:45 pm

      Thicker ones like the spatula pictured are great for stirring soups, sauces and stews. The hole means some liquid passes through, enhancing the stirring effect and minimizing splashing. The curved side is great for fitting to the side of bowls and pots. You’d need a flatter one, as you say, to flip an egg or turn a burger.

    • Steve on 8 May 2019 at 5:25 am

      I find them useful for baking especially, stirring cake mix or frosting or pancake batter, and then scraping the sides of the bowl to get as much of the batter off to not waste it. If you make it you can customize the curve to fit your favorite mixing bowl. I also use them to scrape smoothies/milkshakes out of the blender.

      • Paul Sellers on 8 May 2019 at 8:16 am

        This particular spatula is especially good for those heavy mixes and the hole helps to improve the actually mix of fluid introduction or loose mixes. But it is that elliptical shape that scrapes the inside of the bowl that is especially helpful in keeping the mix together that cooks and chefs like the most. Once they pick this up and use they won’t let go of it..

    • Keith on 9 May 2019 at 5:28 pm

      this is a spatula, for mixing and scraping, youre referring to a flipper, often called a spatula incorrectly. Learned that in home economics in 6th grade 🙂

    • Terrence OBrien on 14 May 2019 at 4:42 am

      Don’t feel alone. I had the same question but you asked first. I learned something. I guess it’s a bit like my neighbor looking at my router plane and saying. “What’s this thing?”

  4. Ronald Moravec on 7 May 2019 at 6:21 pm

    I am “beginning” lathe work with one I purchased in 1979, did a small project or two, then retired it for 40 years. So far I made two carvers mallets from 3x3x12 hard maple. One piece construction. Hard maple is really HARD. Carbide tools barely cut it.
    So I am back into wood, hand tools. Shop is being set up. I joined a wood turning club. Around 35 people show monthly for a demo and critique of what members bring in. The work is amazing, like nothing you could ever imagine. Two ladies are members.
    The part you will like is the large number of people doing woodworking.

  5. Evan on 7 May 2019 at 6:30 pm

    Off top of head, I would use thisfor chili or a red sauce for spagetti or gumbo.

  6. Holland Vaughn on 7 May 2019 at 6:39 pm

    I have learned SOMUCH from you Paul! Thank you so very much. I have gained so much confidence in my work that I experiment with design & technic; all because of you. I just turned 60 & I look forward to spending more & more time in my shop. PS… I just knocked together a shave horse. I don’t know why I didn’t build one sooner. I would love to hear from you about that wonderful tool, & draw knives, frows; making tool handles, using axes of all types, especially those used in the shop like small hewing axes & carpenters axes. Good luck my friend. I am looking forward to your next post!

    • Greg on 7 May 2019 at 6:47 pm

      I second the shave horse – would love to see a Paul Sellers version. One that’s versatile and not just for greenwood shaping 🙂

      • Scott blakely on 8 May 2019 at 3:38 am

        I am curious as to what characteristics would make a shave horse only applicable to greenwood shaving. I do a fair amount of both with mine. The real trick to to make one that holds any piece of wood as stable as possible. And that allows you to work on really long and relatively short pieces comfortably.

      • Paul Sellers on 8 May 2019 at 8:27 am

        I think that it is important to understand the functionality of shave horses in relation to the crafting of wood, mainly chairs and mainly in woodlands. Whereas they do have functionality in a woodshop, they don’t offer me much or any more than my vise and workbench. Therefore, though I have used them occasionally, I would not want to give up floor space to house one when my workbench does all that I need. Whereas green woodworking has it’s place, promoting it as a way of making a living is only practical for one in a few thousand in a particular geographically advantaged place. A few people in a hundred thousand might spend £20-60 on a wooden spoon, most will buy a solid beech version from IKEA £1.25 before dreaming of a hand made spoon or spatula.

    • Mark Stone on 7 May 2019 at 8:24 pm

      Yes, Paul please make a shave horse.

      • Scott Carro on 8 May 2019 at 1:31 am

        I Agree!

  7. Steve on 7 May 2019 at 6:53 pm

    I don’t recall you ever using Walnut and I was curious as to why. Thank you for all you do I always look forward to the blog posts.

    • Steve on 8 May 2019 at 5:18 am

      Browse through the projects on Woodworking Masterclasses. I just recently made the serving tray he used walut and maple on.

    • Paul Sellers on 8 May 2019 at 8:12 am

      Walnut in general can be prohibitively high in price and especially here in the UK. I have never really understood the controlling power importers and distributors have here in the UK, together with price controlling. Quite difficult to deal with. I tend to use woods that people can get hold of most readily. I liked living in the USA because there was this flex you got from young entrepreneurs with a bandsaw mill in the middle of nowhere harvesting from where they stood. It was great. Find a rancher with 10,000 acres wanting rid of mesquite and you were in ‘hog heaven.’ In Britain life is a bit more clinically restricted somehow – less diverse, more controlled. Additionally, here in the UK and Europe I think too, people, customers and users, tend not to like what they call now ‘brown wood’ furniture which usually means or includes heavily stained woods like oak, mahogany, walnut and such. There was reason for the staining; it was to even out colour differences within the species.

  8. Tad on 7 May 2019 at 11:22 pm

    Stay the course, Paul. I would rather not tangent off into some other area (shave horse) before we get through the house full of stuff to make and even more.
    There is plenty of information out there on how to build a shave horse and other raw timber, primitive skills techniques.
    Stay with what you do best- teaching your brand of hand tool woodworking (with a bit of machine assistance).
    You have a unique position of helping pass on skills that were sure to be lost in the machine era where people (like me) would either go to the machines to do the work or to the museum to see how the primitive way was done (more for entertainment than actual work).
    Your skill set is needed and you seem to be on a course or have a direction in mind that will deliver your skill to many.

  9. Bill on 8 May 2019 at 1:20 am

    What wood types do you typically use or find are best for a spatula?

    • Paul Sellers on 8 May 2019 at 8:36 am

      Acy of the Acers would be good, that’s Maples and sycamore. Beech, cherry and many others. Two things to avoid would be toxic woods, which you can search for in Google, and woods that can add taste to the food. Also, highly porous woods with diffuse porosity tend to absorb juices into the surface fibres. The woods I mentioned about are fine, but oak has large open cells as tubes that will wick up juices and some of the cells are extremely wide and cause checking in the extremes of heat and dry and saturation that occurs in cooking with wood. My first choice might be maple. It’s fairly dense grained, hard and solid throughout. But don’t dismiss any off cuts of cherry and beech either.

  10. Scott Blakely on 8 May 2019 at 3:31 am

    There are a number of sources for shaving horses out on the net. I just built one recently to follow on from the bowl carving horse I made.

    They can y simple affairs to quite involved projects. Mine was more towards the later due to the mortises involved.

    Very useful to have in the shop as well.

  11. Xaviour on 21 May 2019 at 8:06 am

    Nice, the oak feel on the spatula may be inspiring.
    Keep on sharing

  12. Daniel Hopwood on 25 May 2019 at 11:21 pm

    I made my spatula out of white oak from the firewood pile. Haven’t had any problems because of the porosity. Just smelled of it today, and no odor at all. Have been using it 2 or 3 yrs now. The curve is made to fit a certain stainless steel bowl. It is finished with raw linseed oil that comes from Sweden; no additives, and they say they remove the proteins from the oil to help prevent mildew from growing.
    I can see that other woods you mention, particularly the Acer family, would be a better choice, but sometimes I have to use what I have.

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