When I started working more online it became an alternative to hands-on training, and that led to even a replacing it. I was sceptical, I had no idea demand would develop to such an extent and that made me excited because I had worried that my background teaching from the perspective of a craftsman would end when I could no longer teach.
And it wasn’t just woodworking that people wanted, they were looking for someone with a background living the experience as a way of life, hence my adopting the term ‘lifestyle woodworker’ as my strapline alongside an advanced status of ‘amateur woodworker’.
Many of you have been with me online since we first began videoing my efforts, that has now become a course for apprenticing those who would most likely never find an apprenticing strategy with a working artisan. Your feedback over the years made me realise that we’ve succeeded in reaching and training thousands of woodworkers worldwide who could never have come to even one of my former hands-on workshops. Cost, family and work commitments, geographic location and so on, all factor into the equation. I knew at one point that I would never achieve my objective if I didn’t change my strategy. Whereas I did not plan to abandon all hands-on workshops at all, instead of reaching maybe a few hundred woodworkers, the numbers leapt to hundreds of thousands. Those who genuinely want to learn the real ways of working wood with hand tools can follow a series of projects that lay the foundation to gaining total mastery as a woodworker in many different spheres of woodworking. That said, one day I will hold some classes again. Even if you’ve done little more than watch the videos we make and post, you are still soaking things in with me.
So every day I think about you. Though your journey will likely be very different than mine it’s the journey that’s the most important. Over the decades I have actively been dismantling and even demolishing the effects of industrialism in my craft. Whereas many machinists feel that they are indeed following my craft but following a different path using machines instead of hand tools, what they really rarely ever see is that the two realms have almost no connection at all. Yet I well know that for the majority it’s the desire for developing and mastering skill and gaining insight and knowledge from those who established the highest levels of skilled work. Jig-making is very different than woodworking with hand tools yet all machines rely solely on jigs and guides to guide the wood or cutterhead to. It’s the means by which machinists guarantee a repeatable outcome as the offer the wood into a rotary cut.
In its very essence it’s machining. It’s also the degree with which you work with machines that makes the difference. Many if not most machinists use machines for every single cut they make. In my world almost if not every cut is made by my hands. Using my hands to push wood into a machine or pushing a machine along a guaranteed path is not so much my idea of woodworking even though I have spent years doing that too. When I use a machine I am machining my wood and not really woodworking per se. So my calling it machining is the extension of how men said it in my woodworking world up to the 1980s. Hence, you won’t generally hear me say woodworking by machine is power tool woodworking and you will never see me introduce a woodworking machine as anything but exactly that. Certainly not so much skilled work as such but a means to an end via a different journey.
Of course as the weeks, months and years have gone by since we began training online an increasing number of you have now struck the practical balance by adopting hand tool methods. You dimension your wood with machines, make clean crosscuts dead square, rip parallel, plane parallel but then clean up the wood ready for joinery without reaching always for the power sander or making those very ugly dovetails with a power router screaming its way through the slaloming jig. That was my goal from the start and that’s my success – leading others to become successful woodworkers. You have learned my methods of sharpening and then adopted and adapted your own. Paul’s way has never been “the high way.” as some have said. Paul’s way has simply been the equipping of anyone and everyone to discover the beauty of working with hand tools with your hands. I no longer worry about my craft dying because so many of you are now practicing the methods we advocate all woodworkers should own. You amateur woodworkers are the protectorate of hand tool woodworking. Hand tools are beginning to reign once again!
Which machines you buy or use is of course your choice. The bandsaw does me because it has always been a success story. The bandsaw resolves so many issues surrounding the reduction of larger sections of wood to the near sizing needed. Reverse engineering the effects of the Industrial Revolution in my life without accepting its amazing influence in the realms of industry has made me very happy. Going from a shop filled with machines to a shop with a few handfuls of hand tools has been so very freeing, believe me.
Approaching the making of furniture for my whole house is an amazing place to be. I keep all of my sketches even those designs I might abandon because I often retrieve the concept of them later. I so believe in this enterprise because of course I rely only hand tools alongside the bandsaw even though others might follow along but using machines where they can.
Anyway, the future for woodworking is ever-bright for all!