With all the flooding taking place throughout our island, the transport systems are under even greater pressure in the country. Despite warnings to stay put, people traveled and then, of course, there are those who were already en route to somewhere who were just caught up in it. Many modes of transport have stopped running altogether for different reasons linked to the storm. With unusual white caps on the rivers and lakes and the closure of even Dover port itself, a rare happening, we’ll have to see what happens when the storm subsides over the next couple of days. My travel plans changed yesterday and I arrived home safely as the storm came to land. I’m thankful we took no hits damage wise. We’ve had an unseasonable amount of rain this fall and winter. The Thames seems constantly high. I am glad I don’t live on the river’s boats as many do.

What’s this to do with woodworking? Nothing at all. Just thought you might like to know I am not always in the workshop. I like to drive. Daytime, nighttime, any time. But of course, if you’re keeping up with me I am not taking to the car automatically anymore. I am trying not to use it except where necessary. I think that this is my 9th use of it in the last 35 days. Before that, it was daily. Yesterday was necessary.

Often as I travel I plan future things I’ll make. An idea comes to me when I see a blank sheet of paper in my mind’s eye. An idea comes to me when I see a floor, two walls and a ceiling meeting together in the same mind. The empty space is an opportunity for a designed piece of woodwork to come together. I have almost always formed joints in my mind before the wood even comes up.

I see a pile of mixed woods, a piece of waney edged yew or some chestnut and my mind fills with a riot of coloured woods culminating in a piece of furniture. I sketch without a pencil and speak notes to myself as I travel north. In a northern pub waiting for lunch in Stockport, I hear a hundred voices all speaking with the same accent I have. I tune in and out of the conversations, filter out the dull and latch on to the interesting ones. I here the words wood and plane and saw across the room, turn, and someone nods to me. “Paul Sellers!” he mouths. I give a thumbs up and he carries on talking to his friends. They look round, give me a thumbs up, and my meal arrives piping hot. No ceremony, just a friendly “Hi’ from some fellow woodworkers in the middle of a 340-mile round trip to see my daughter and her family in my home town.

Now it’s Monday!


  1. Steve P on 10 February 2020 at 1:27 pm

    Oh wow! I’m often sheltered from global weather due to living in San Diego my whole life. But looks like environmental changes are wreaking havoc when I see stuff like this. Safe travels!

    • Paul Sellers on 10 February 2020 at 2:58 pm

      Not altogether sure if we can let our local county councils off the hook here though. The issue often is that the relevant agencies don’t keep the drains and drain ditches cleared for years or indeed don’t dredge the rivers when they should. Also, the canals get silted up too. This all builds up and environmental changes now take some if not all of the blame even though that too is a major issue. Also, in my view, global environmental issues are caused mostly by global consumerism so maybe we should call the global environmental issues global consumerist issues.

      • Keith Cocker on 10 February 2020 at 4:54 pm

        Glad you trip north was a safe one Paul. I have to say a word in defence of local councils and agencies though. In the last 10 years they have been absolutely starved of cash so they do what they can with the little they have! As for consumerism – its chicken and egg I think. People are encouraged to consume like its going out of fashion!! We consume too much, travel too much and waste soo much. It won’t end well. Best wishes.

      • Steve P on 11 February 2020 at 12:34 pm

        That happens here as well. Local agencies try to “save money” by postponing or cutting maintenance on pipes and drains, and tree maintenance, only to get sued for 10 times the amount they “saved” the next year when flooded roads ruin cars and houses, or in some cases city tree branches snap and crush cars, sometimes with people in them.

      • Allan Babb on 19 February 2020 at 2:01 pm

        The Ancient Greeks, in fact the whole Mediterranean area, found out that cutting down all the forests leads to the silting of streams and rivers, along with the drying up of springs and even the eventual collapse of the civilization. Planting forests, or just allowing natural succession to occur, is important.

      • Benjamin Griffin on 23 February 2020 at 10:00 pm

        It’s broadly accepted that straightening and dredging rivers makes the situation much worse. Rivers only hold about 1% of the water catchment. Slowing and holding water before it reaches the rivers is what’s needed. Beavers might be the way forward. They may be crude but they are wood workers all the same.

    • JBarleycorn on 10 February 2020 at 11:09 pm

      I’ve only lived in California since I moved here from New England this third and final time with my parents in 1955. You may find this interesting:.

      • JBarleycorn on 10 February 2020 at 11:13 pm

        [Addendum: First day, second comment and thus far I’ve discerned there is no “Edit” feature and no links are allowed. I’ll try to, “Go and sin no more”.]

    • Lynn L on 12 February 2020 at 11:55 am

      Paul, in your “mental woodworking” journey described above you mentioned chestnut; is that a species you have in England that is different from the American Chestnut that is now almost extinct, owing to the tragic chestnut blight of the early 1800’s? Or were you merely dreaming and imagining that you had a stash of the good, leftover chestnut?

      • Paul Sellers on 12 February 2020 at 12:22 pm

        No, yes. The chestnut is suffering, but when it dies or gets in someone’s way it becomes available.

  2. John S on 10 February 2020 at 3:06 pm

    Greetings from San Francisco….We also had a MASSIVE wind storm yesterday, a good howler coming right off the Northern Pacific but at least in our case the damage was minimal and luckily no power outages on my street.

  3. Eric Bear on 10 February 2020 at 3:37 pm

    When you wrote about the whitecaps on the rivers, I immediately thought of those living aboard the narrow boats. Seems like a wild ride for them.
    I completely agree with your statement regarding officials needing to take at least some blame for not minding the maintenance of drains and waterways. That is something absolutely within their purview.

  4. Douglas Hathawsy on 10 February 2020 at 3:46 pm

    Obviously she storm is concerning. I pray for the safety of all. Your experience in the Pub is heartwarming. I too would love to say hi to you in public like that. Since I live so far away in my little town of Fairview, Utah, USA, that is not likely to occur. Here’s my this up though, 👍.

    Thanks Paul, I learn much from you.

  5. Thomas Goss on 10 February 2020 at 4:25 pm

    Let me assure you Mr. Sellers… should I meet you in a pub there will be a beer coming your way and a stop at your table. At the very least you have earned a bubbly. Thanx for aging well and bringing your passion to my home.


  6. Tom Bittner on 10 February 2020 at 5:26 pm

    We have the same issues here in the states for a really long time. Problems arise when money intended for maintenance of rivers, dams and bridges get siphoned off for other programs.
    Only when a storm hits does anyone pay attention but no one ever seems to get in trouble for “redirecting” the funds.

  7. Don MacIver on 10 February 2020 at 6:32 pm

    Here in South Africa we have a similar problem in that Municipalities do not do the work we pay them to do. Any rain and almost all the drainage systems fail, either from no maintenance or, less often, from too much rain.
    We are lucky to have wood creativity to keep us sane!

  8. Scarlett McCalman on 10 February 2020 at 7:44 pm

    I was born and raised in New York City, and in the winter it used to snow. Now it hardly ever snows. I check the air quality rather than the temperature before going out and about half the time it says the air quality is moderate, though sometimes it indicates the air quality is unhealthy. In addition to other sustainable habits I am pursuing, I am trying to not purchase any new lumber and work exclusively with scrap or reclaimed wood. There is an abundance of unused wood in my industrial neighborhood in Brooklyn. If I ever need an extra piece of something I can sometimes trade a piece of cherry for a piece of walnut say, with a fellow woodworker. We underestimate our impact as consumers, and it’s something I am glad you bring up given that you are respected by so many people. Please continue sharing your observations, insights and skill with woodworking as well as other subjects, it is needed.

  9. Paul Reuvers on 10 February 2020 at 7:47 pm

    How was your meal?

  10. Richard Villamil on 10 February 2020 at 10:01 pm

    Your storm first hit Vermont with 15 inches of snow and 1/2 inch of ice as a mid layer. A lot of power outages and the workshop got too cold to use for a few days. At least we didn’t have flooding although we will see what happens when the snow melts! Back to sharpening my plane irons a la your instructions!

  11. JBarleycorn on 10 February 2020 at 11:21 pm

    Mr. Sellers,
    My attitude towards weather such as you’ve described is that as long as you don’t hear a sepulchral voice intoning “Noah!” there’s not much you can do about it except “Batten Down the Hatches”. (If you do hear such a voice, I’d suggest sketching up plans for a very, very large watercraft.)

  12. Stephen Tyrrell on 11 February 2020 at 3:11 am

    Hi Paul

    As you may know, a large part of Australia, although not so much as the social media would have you think, has endured months of bushfires, after one of the longest droughts in our recorded history. Now many of those same regions are being deluged with rain, some of them flooding.

    The flooding is not altogether a bad thing, with empty water storage dams slowly filling and farmers able to plant crops for the first time in many months, if not years.

    It has ever been this way in the Land of Oz, we just seem to have forgotten. It is fair to say, though that these weather events are far from normal.

    • Paul Sellers on 11 February 2020 at 7:58 am

      I think we must acknowledge the simple reality that we have and are consuming far more in our modern days of excess wealth than ever in the history of the world. Very few people would know to plant and grow food or even prepare it from scratch. See this across the whole of crafts and you get the picture that we want to buy our not working manually and creating creatively using manual dexterity but work to ‘buy’ relief from manual work and crafting. Even crafts have been dumbed down to albeit scaled-down industrial processes used by manufacturing industries; unquestioningly we resort to a plethora of machines and support equipment to clog up the hardened arteries of creativity we can program with a computer and as it is in agribusiness we sit in leather office chairs to keep tabs on the soil, feed 10,000 chickens or send out agricultural equipment to tell us how the condition of the soil is or whether the ‘hogs’ are on full gain..

      • Jay Gill on 11 February 2020 at 4:05 pm

        I think what we’re seeing with the canals etc. is e equivalent to planing against the grain, it can be done, but takes extra effort and thought.

        It’s interesting that we refer to life survival skills (growing, making food, enough skill to build useful shelter etc.) as crafts. It’s critical to teach our children basic skills, at least enough to stay alive. I think that the lessons learned slowing down to make things will go a long way towards getting peoples head in the right place to confront our current problems.

        There’s another reason for us to learn to make. In my opinion there is nothing better than to point to something and say I made that, I know every nook and cranny of every piece. Perhaps it’s only when you make something from scratch that you can see the harmony in the thing and enjoy being part of that harmony.

        Can you update us on the autists? I wonder how they react to your teaching. Do they get the same sense of fulfillment from making that we do? What do they do well, what’s hard for them?

  13. Mark D. Baker on 11 February 2020 at 3:28 am

    Aloha Paul,
    when you work on Yew and make cuts, does it hurt you? At least you don’t bleed sap as Yew does.

  14. Nathan J on 11 February 2020 at 10:30 am

    Living in Australia there is always some environmental catastrophe waiting to happen. This years a bit different but has been a mixed blessing I feel. My folks where in the thick of the fires in Batemans Bay. House survived. Many beautiful gumtrees destroyed. Many will recover.
    Observations from small town Ballarat is the days of 23 degress Celsius and over, plainly feel hotter and more humid, it’s not getting any better.
    Giving up the car is completely necessary not to mention planting new trees, anywhere and get others involved too.

  15. Steven Newman/Bandit571 on 12 February 2020 at 5:17 pm

    How long ago, when EVERYTHING was powered by coal….that the infamous London Fog was actually Smog….and for how long did the world walk around in such a coal fired haze? Some have a very short memory….and forgot history, when it is so much easier to blame others.

    Wood burners, then a forest of smokestacks for coal furnaces. Every picture of a “Modern Factory” always included a smoking smokestack…to show the factory was indeed running..looks at any ad from the 1800s……Ruhr Valley, Sheffield, East coast of the USA…..Like an ad from Disston & Sons……

    Weather patterns have always gone in cycles….some years, a blizzard or two, then the next..no snow. Some summers, too much heat, then the next, they are laying off Lifeguards at the Swimming Pools, as it is too cold to swim, in July. How long ago was the “Mini Ice Age”….and the year without a Summer?

    “Those who do not learn from History, are bound to repeat it…”

  16. Gary Hunt/Tn Traveler on 13 February 2020 at 1:34 am

    All ya’ll talking about the weather and all I can think about is that puzzle in the third picture, wow

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