Today is Monday!

And they do come around quickly, don’t they?

My carvings grace the doors of historic San Antonio, Texas. The building was a restored winery of the 1800s and these medallions made to match the originals that were removed by unknowns.

I have been interested to share my future with you all for a number of years. My future reflects on the lived life of my past as a woodworker working full time for five and half decades so far. In some ways my past ties in with today’s quest by the older generation (mine) to see the need for adopting a lifestyle that exemplifies care and concern for the planet and then of course care to take ourselves along a corridor that’s not a conveyor belt manipulated by the global economics of consumerism. I 1985 I decided not to buy products that had more than one wrapper when most had three. Waitrose, a supermarket chain here in the UK, sold it’s coffee in disposable cups for a decade. On the cup it had the recycle logo with a small line through and a blurb that looked like it said recyclable but actually, with my glasses for the fine print, it said ‘Not yet recyclable’. So a decade’s worth of cups in the landfill. Disingenuous at best!

We evermore face shouts from the left and right in self-righteous proclamations by the myriad different causes and in a shrunk world few things seem as constant and as consistent as they seemed in our days past. Whereas we did indeed come from the pre-digital world prior to the now sped up world spun ever faster by the digital era and mass misinformation and information. The earlier age I speak of was the age where the results of new scientific developments left out the unknowns we now call consequences. Plastic carrier bags are an instance and then the fleeces we wear and the underarm pollutant stuff too. The time has come when no one can claim ignorance of the present though we are indeed well judged and condemned for all manner of things passed. The one thing we woodworkers can enjoy and be assured of is that wood is one of the most amazingly sustainable resources on the planet. That’s provided we take care of it that is. Remember that the rampant fires in Australia affect all of us as have the same in California and elsewhere.

I made this bread board based on a version made in the mid 1800s.It has a joint line along the ling axis and the breadboard ends are grooved and pegged with draw-bore joinery. There is no glue on this one and it has been in daily use. There’s no reason that this one shouldn’t last for 170 years.

Wood remains supreme as our resource to make the most remarkable things from. When we do its always a multi use item, be that a cutting board or a rocking chair. All the more is that so if and when we take the time to make well what we’ve made. The woodworking we have, woodworking with hand tools, is well proven technology that’s proven to last for decades, centuries and even millennia. What a privilege to be able to work with such a resource in the every day or weekend of life. We have the proven technology that the wood we use is sustainable and self sustaining as long as we harness any greed that might manifest individually and now corporately. As long as we ask the right questions and do the right thing, no huge conglomerate will be exempt again from any and all accountability, no government or governance and even the very greatest giants in the new-era empire building is too big to be brought down.

Recycled from a yellow skip destined for the dump. A small box like this should last for 300 years.

A good thing about traditional woodworking is the reality that it does not mean living with the old fashioned or the outdated. Because the human body flexes and bends to every angle under the sun, the tools they handle will shape anything we want or need to. A combination of chisel presentations forms a leaf or a wooden ball held inside a wooden claw and we can with a little or more training work within thousandths of an inch or a millimeter just using our very own hands. Meditate on that for a minute. I mean really, just switch me off, close your eyes and think about your hands cutting and carving and shaping anything you want with your own hands just for a full minute. Go on!

Leave the competition outside the workshop door as I have had to for decades now. Rely on being non defensive for your stance in using your hands and hand tools to work your future. Now competition is non existent to you as it is for me. Let others use terms like, ‘Paul’s way is the only way.’ and, ‘Paul’s way is the high way.’ ‘Paul doesn’t use machines.‘ or, even, ‘He hates machines’, such like that. Anyone that knows even the slightest thing about me knows that not to be anywhere near the truth and it doesn’t at all discredit anyone except the one that says such things.

So my friends and fellow woodworkers, it’s time to just open your eyes to the reality that your wood and your hand tools, a dry place to work and a bench you’ve made yourself makes you a happy bunny. I would that some had taken the time to know me better to find out what I really feel about this or that. I would have gladly talked to them to make things clearer for them as indeed some have. That way we could all share in our joint happiness. The outcome of my life now is many decades of quality output with teaching, writing, developing curriculum, filming and research combined with hands on training and even two current apprenticeships (with four more on the way) exemplifying my ultimate passion for continued training for all.

27 thoughts on “Today is Monday!”

  1. People do not value well made things anymore. The throwaway society exists today. Take for example old furniture. I bought an 18th century mule chest (coffer in Wales) for £25 in an auction. It does need some work, which I have nearly completed. This chest has taught me a lot about carpentry using my hands. I even cut dovetails for the drawers by hand after looking at Paul’s video. Finished it will last for centuries again.
    Yet, people rush to buy flat pack furniture which will last 5 years- if you are lucky. Where is the sense in that?

    1. That’s a broad brush you’re painting with,Peter. Yes they do. Everyone’s tastes are different or they change or whatever. In different regions and at auction houses there are bargains to be had but they may not match our wants or ecxpectations. I think perhaps we are seeing changes take place and especially in a larger percentage of our young and many of whom live more minimally than ever. I hope that we can keep our eyes open to shifts in culture that precipitate the revival of valuing what and who we have.

      1. Hi Paul, there is also the fact that average houses in the UK, especially starter homes, are much smaller that when I bought my first one more years ago that I like to recall, and builders like to cram as many properties on to a given area in order to maximise profits.

        That means there is much less space for furniture than there used to be. Many modern homes built recently don’t even have places to put wet umbrellas or muddy wellies, let alone older larger furniture. Such is the way of the world, more’s the pity.

  2. There is a series on Netflix about the manufacturing sector under the name of Broken. Not a great one to watch if you know of no alternatives to the current mass manufactured sector. I figure most people who read Paul’s blog and follow the work here could come up with a few though.

  3. I often get request to repair or modify “flat pack” furniture, the last bookcase I shortened had shelves with a core of corrugated cardboard. I marvel at the construction methods and learn from them. I do these things at no charge because these are my friends and they can’t afford better stuff. A flat pack dresser for $300 or a handmade one for $3000. They just don’t want to take the time to understand the difference, they just want something affordable right now.
    Pollution from years ago was much worse, they poured chemicals into rivers and on land, killing everything for hundreds of years. Only recently have they begun the cleanup process which will take years to remediate. We have an old mill in town where the buildings are being remediated, oil eating bacteria was put in the ground to remove chemicals. Plastic bags were effectively banned in one week in our state. All they did was put a .10 tax on them and all the stores stoped issuing them.
    Technology is improving our waste stream, our oceans, rivers and land are being cleaned up slowly. Keep in mind that it was a few hundred years in the making and you just can’t clean it all up in a day. I think things are getting better as people become more aware of the consequences.

    1. How true, Tom. Whereas ignorance can be accepted for a season, ignoring must be confronted as in intercepted as near as possible to the source be that gossip, malpractice, abuse, prejudice etc. I think how the Thames suffered and still suffers though it is now one of if not the cleanest river in Europe. The one that has an adverse effect in polluting the river has been the very river authority that’s supposed to protect it the most. It’s not so much polluting but occasionally lapses take place that they are fined for. Actually, the river Thames is supposedly the cleanest river in the world that flows through a major city. This is a major feat considering that fifty years ago the river was so polluted it was declared biologically dead. … Sewage was being discharged directly into the Thames.

      1. Yes Paul. The real shame for the country, is that the push to clean up rivers and the sea did not come from the UK’s own legislators but Bruxelles

        1. And why do you say that, I wonder? It’s not politics that cleans up the filth but the single individuals who say I am not going to do this or that or I am going to do this or that. Too many enterprises, be they governments or politicians, even enterprises that started out with well-doing at the core, become too top heavy and so fail more than they succeed. It’s the people I see on the weekends volunteering themselves into sweeping leaves on cycle paths and picking litter up that make the difference. You cannot legislate volunteering; it comes from inside the person doing the clean up. Bruxelles is made up of politics and politicians are far too distant and unpredictable to be ruling what takes place in the hearts of the people I am afraid.

    2. Of course, the irony is that if they aren’t in a super rush, they could learn the skills and spend $300 on lumber and make a dresser themselves that is comparable to the $3,000 one. Most people have the time if they were to stop being seduced to watch TV.

  4. Its interesting, that breadboard looks just like the ones my parents had while I was growing up. I believe they got it in the 1940s though so not nearly as old. But looking back i think that is one reason why i like “breadboard ends” on tables and such.

    Also good timing of this blog post as I just watched the new film Dark Water yesterday.

  5. Tom mentioned that there are a lot of folks who can’t afford a 3K dresser and so rely on flat pack for 300. Wouldn’t it be cool if we had the equivalent of Habitat for Humanity focused on furnishings?

    I’m thinking along the lines of getting groups of woodworkers together to build your house full of furniture to furnish low income peoples homes.

    1. There are “furniture banks” that do this. check out the Furniture Bank of Central Ohio, for example: https://furniturebankcoh.org . They mostly rely on donations of used furniture, but I know some have groups of woodworkers that donate their services to repair donations and/or make new items.

  6. I look forward to your blog and your insights on life and things. At seventy one I can relate to your thoughts and examples on things,and life in general. I think as we grow older we learn to appreciate our memories of our youth the good and bad. I also find that I am more observant on most things but in a quiet way . My solace and quiet time comes from the sounds when I am in the workshop I use to listen to the radio I don’t anymore the sounds of the saw the chisel the mallet and the swoosh of the hand plane and the feel on the shavings bring me peace. As the Holidays approach I wish you and your family Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and thank you

  7. Spot as always Mr Sellers!
    Thanks for bringing a sense of patience and purpose; much needed in this world, and appreciated by your readers!
    Have a great Christmas all, and if you don’t celebrate Christmas let me wish you a Happy and Healthy 2020.

    1. I don’t know but it was a major restoration of a whole San Antonio historic area and this was for a winery. And I was commissioned for half a dozen missing carvings by a man named Mark Truax who worked with his brother Jeff Truax who is an accomplished and respected builder there.

      1. Hi Paul,
        I know you are very busy providing great content for us. Would it be possible to sneak some carving into one of your builds? There is the Texas star video and the wall clock has a bit of molding and there was some wheat chip carving on something else. Just want to expand a bit. Many thanks.
        Sincerely,
        Joe

  8. Yes Paul ,today is indeed Monday .Last week I discovered that what I thought was Friday was in fact Sunday . The horror ,to me , was I had “missed” a Saturday for the first time in my life . At 76 I suppose it`s to be expected .

  9. Paul, you state “As long as we ask the right questions and do the right thing, no huge conglomerate will be exempt again from any and all accountability”

    That is true but I see it as a high hurdle to clear. More and more people are conditioned to order from Amazon because of convenience and perceived value. The result has been a shift away from Main Street business toward sweat shop existence inside huge warehouses.

    I’m canceling my Prime membership so Amazon becomes my last resort instead of a first impulse.

    1. Steve, for as long as I can remember, the main street in my city has been a series of re-sellers of mass-produced foreign-made goods. I don’t understand the pining for a by-gone era of local shops because I don’t really remember it ever existing (I’m 40ish). There were one or two – there still are – , of course, but they were in the minority. The local clothing shop still seeks its garments from Italy, or Bangladesh (nobody really cares it seems). The food shop might be locally owned, but it’s ingredients are global and its impact still considerable – and plastic. I understand your dislike of Amazon, but for me the high street has always been about consumerism over need and the calls for localism seem to never really address consumption and source (of materials/goods). Does my excellent local sandwich shop source its Avocados from Scotland? Not really. My ideal high street would be a mix of providing need (bakers, shoe repairs, clothing shops etc) and activity/community Libraries, cooking schools, education centres, borrrowing/sharing centres, gym halls and even local workshops and such like. The heart of a community rather than a place to go and buy things, which it has always been in my lifetime. Most importantly, build it so that the impact you have/it has on the world is visible and accountable. Show us the true circle of the goods that we buy or eat. Anyway, just some ramblings. Great article Paul.

  10. Rebecca De Carlo

    A society mesmerized by video games on cardboard desks is a happy society. We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Your work, Paul, and the number of people watching and learning, or at least wanting to learn, dreaming of having tools and a shop, is proof there is hope.

  11. Lukas Sandström

    “joint happiness” 😉 is that what you feel when the dovetail comes together properly? 🙂

  12. It may be off subject but, I can never understand why people are offended by your love of hand tools. Before watching your videos it could take me hours, granted l may have been doing it wrong, to sharpen a chisel with a guide. Last night when making a shooting board in 5 minutes total I had sharpened a chisel and was back to work. The funny thing is that the other day when I was using my table saw, I don’t remember a single phone call text or e-mail from you telling me I was wrong. Just some thoughts. Thank Your for being such a great Teacher and Mentor.

    1. Kevin F, i think some people get offended when they are said to be “machining” the wood. Which is interesting because back in school i did a certification called “machine tool operator” where i became certified to use mills, lathes, etc. I was proud to be capable of “machining “metal. Somehow with wood people take that as a negative connotation when in reality it is not. Just a different way.

  13. There are profound spiritual aspects of woodworking that this post points to. Woodworking is inextricably linked to Creation. Good woodworking adds to Creation, and the good permeates through the web of people involved (the tool builder, the woodworker, and the chain of people that will enjoy the created work). Of course we also have the choice and ability to try to destroy Creation through carelessness, laziness, and greed. How amazing it is that we have the ability to participate.

  14. C. Isaac Zúñiga Coto

    Buenas tardes Paul saludos desde Costa Rica tengo algún tiempo siguiendo sus publicaciones y me gustan bastante ya que me recuerdan a mi desaparecido padre muchas felicidades por la.labor realizada a lo largo de su carrera por nuestro loable oficio que al menos a esta lado del océano se a venido deteriorando en calidad y valor como tal.
    Soy Ebanista de oficio y mantengo un pequeño grupo en Facebook llamado Ebanistas Costa Rica me he tomado la libertad de compartir en esa comunidad virtual algunas de sus publicaciones siempre haciendo mención de su autoría por supuesto con el respeto debido a sus creaciones sin embargo si existiese algún incoveniente al respecto me lo hace saber y con gusto lo dejo de hacer y elimino las que he compartido en mi grupo.

    Sin más saludes

    C. Isaac Zúñiga Coto

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