…I have to rein myself in, but it is uplifting the making of things — anything at all. Taking something quite raw, perhaps even waste, and converting it into a project built to last for a lifetime, is a part of what we do. Crafting of every kind is usually the harvesting of raw and refining it for the making of something highly defined to enhance life by its functionality and then too its beauty. Mass made and cheapness is here to stay, we accept that. What we cannot accept by our complacency is that there is no place for the development of skilled making for all and then too the owning of things made to enhance the life of all.

Imagine, two kids, a single parent, perhaps two parents, all sitting around with their devices open and one says to the others,

Hey, have you seen this. This guy is suggesting people can make all their own furniture to furnish the whole of their home with. I mean from the ground floor up. Bunk beds, special beds, waste bins, and lampshades. And he says you can do 99% of the work with just hand tools and no machines if you want to. Wouldn’t it be great to make a dining table or a coffee table?”

Send me the link!” another says, closing her device in excitement.

And me! I’ve never heard of such a thing.

So who does the actual work?

Well, this guy is saying that we all can do it; work on different projects or the same one all working together.

That’s so very cool. I wish we could. I never did any woodworking, only what I learned in school a bit. I wasn’t very good at it.

Well, he says the projects are as near to hands-on courses as you will ever get, and that he already provides hundreds of other videos you can learn from that support you too. Not only that, he has Q&A’s planned for everyone to get involved with over the next few years so that you never are left on your own.

Sarah! What do you think? Can you find the time to do it too.?

If you and mum find time so will I. Count me in.

So my thoughts run ahead. I’m thinking this will pique the interest of those who might well have been left out seven decades ago in state schools that had even more vision then than they do today in that educationalists have stolen the years when generations should have had strong exposure to crafts of every kind but were denied it for a lack of vision. Admittedly these leaders are more the puppets of blind visionaries that see no value in the art of craft, but they could at least have turned to those that do. Unfortunately, there is no qualifying body of experts any more who can steer a committee of academics to embrace the reality that not everyone should apprentice in their pseudo systems under that ‘apprenticeship scheme‘ banner without putting their economy price tag on it.

So we have wrestled the future from their hands as best we can and our testing the water over the previous decades means we will all be taking the plunge into an unknown, uncharted future. Can we do it? You bet your life we can! Imagine…


  1. Steve P on 11 February 2020 at 8:21 pm

    I guess the biggest challenge is getting people past their fears and intimidation. You know what I think would be interesting is using the app MeetUp to make some regional local groups to meet up and help each other out. Some of these things have been difficult for me, even watching 30 videos ten times each doesn’t click as well as if a real person who “gets it” showed me in 5 minutes. Like sharpening a card scraper.

  2. Thomas on 11 February 2020 at 11:21 pm

    I just love your passion. Thank you for helping me change my life for the better Paul.

  3. Al on 12 February 2020 at 3:30 am

    I am actually quite heartened by the fact that “making” as a concept is truly on the rise. Younger people today embrace the idea of upcycling and repurposing to make new things in ways that my generation would have never even considered. There are also people out there hacking together highly functional, innovative and useful gadgets using inexpensive Arduino computers connected to cheap sensors and servos, or designing unique custom devices made with an inexpensive CNC laser cutter (or even people making their own laser cutter out of recycled bits and pieces of computer hardware).

    I know that is not traditional hand tool woodworking, but it still is the process of making something useful out of raw components. It gives me hope that the spirit of creation is still alive and well (even if it is taking the shape of a 3D printed gizmo). Yes, it is a completely different form of skill and craftsmanship (and if you have tried your hand at 3D surface modeling, you would recognize it as a form of craftsmanship), but at its core, it comes from the same desire to build something yourself instead of simply consuming something made by others.

    • Paul Sellers on 12 February 2020 at 7:55 am

      May I suggest that you and maybe even the majority miss the point when you compare apples and oranges as being fruit in the same genus. What you describe as not “traditional hand tool woodworking” suggests that it is some way related to or some kind of extension of it when in reality it is simply processing materials by machine and technology where handwork has nothing more to do with it than locking materials into place so that programming can take over. I propose that this type of thinking might even suggest that the neurons are somehow capable of replicating what we actually feel in the natural multidimensional ability and agility f the human body in the movement of the hands and arms to somehow upload the impartation of skill, and that is indeed far too long a stretch. These two spheres, hand tool work, and machine-only work should, must be treated as two totally different and unrelated spheres and entities unless of course elements of machining, such as stock dimensioning and such, are used.
      Now, as you say, crafting with the mind and punching keys is a sphere of creativity, but I’ve watched schools throughout the world over the last decade training even little children to use, process and ultimately program in preparation for declaring them apprentices to the new technology giants as yet to emerge. AI and robotics will indeed altogether dispense with the need for man-ufacturing as we know it except to monitor practices and processes and even then that too will ultimately disappear. Surely you can at least see that children, teenagers, and young adults emerging from colleges and universities have no exposure to true and skilled handwork with their perspective of craft as an obsolete way of engaging with materials. Surely you can see that when the machine, no matter the type, enters the sphere of working it sits squarely as a barrier between the senses and sensibility of making. ~we are after all more sentient than we actually realise. If all we can do is visit stultified living history museums to see what was past we will see craft and art in the form of actually still making continue to die on the vine. I do not reject the progress made in spheres of technology, it is a remarkable thing and I use it daily, but I do weary a little under the pressure brought to bear on my work by people who fail to see the efficacy of my work and it’s true value to this current era and indeed the future and therefore telling me that I should accept what is only a substitute, yet they say is equal to or even better than craft and the art of hand working. In reality, it is a form of disempowerment and an exceptionally poor substitute for the multidimensionality handwork gives. Oh, and I do not believe that the young are making more. They are not. Making is indeed dying out.

      • Al on 12 February 2020 at 3:59 pm

        I would love to exchange views with you in an actual conversation, but with all do respect, I have to disagree that making is on a decline. It looks different, but the spirit is the same. I find in this spirit of creativity hope for our future. And really, that was my point.

        I think you understand that technology is nothing but a tool. Even the handplane was a new tool (a new piece of technology) at one point in time and its introduction enabled greater productivity, greater repeatability, and greater precision. That in turn led to the ability to create items that the world had never seen before. Creativity evolves and is enabled by new tools.

        It is true that computers and machines can and are used to automate repetitive processes. But they also can and are used to enable trule creative processes too. They are also democratizing creativity. As the accessibility of these new tools continues to expand (and even explode), it is making it easier and easier for new generations to make and create unique things instead of being limited to what they can find on the shelf at the local big box store. And there is a budding culture of makers out there that is doing just that.

        I am hopeful for the future because I believe making is endemic to the human spirit. And really, that is all I am trying to say.

        • Paul Sellers on 12 February 2020 at 5:40 pm

          Well, I do respect your point of view on this. I tend to be more vocal when people call machines tools because it infers that it’s just something, anything that simply gets the job done for them which is fine, except I prefer a different point of view which no one else ever raises and so I do it for those of us in the minority. I would say though that whereas you call them and technology ‘tools‘, and you expect me to see them the same way you do, I don’t. You see that’s your preference and liking, but you can also call an apple a pear and it doesn’t make the other a pear except in your mind. You can do that freely of course. I see technology and machines purely as mechanised methods of production and manufacturing needing no handwork or manual dexterity much beyond loading, turning twisting and stacking; no skilled work of any kind unless of course it is indeed skilled keyboard work and I accept that that is truly skilful. You mention the hand plane being the technology of the day. Nothing of the kind. It was a real hand tool and not a substitute for one as is any machine. But for me, I must always say that it’s this that makes it a mechanised opposite of the manual dexterity I talk about in my world. I am far from opposed to this mechanised system of manufacturing as an alternative reality, nor am I saying the making of the machines you speak of and relate to require little if any of the sentient presence we need for our working with hand methods. In my world the tool is an extension of my whole being and demands my total presence via the engagement of both my primary and core sensing what’s needed at the cutting edge for every single cut I make. I am in no way trying to convert you or anyone else to my way of thinking, just perhaps stating the obvious. A machine may be referred to as a tool, but it is at the end of the day just a machine, clever though its designing, development and manufacturing may well have been. But it’s my human interaction with the woodworking hand tools that separate me as a crafting artisan to his skilled work that makes all the difference.

          • Al on 12 February 2020 at 6:44 pm

            Thank you for the reply, Paul.

            I hope you know that I also do respect your point of view. I really believe that we are both more closely aligned in thinking than these words may make it appear!

          • Paul Sellers on 12 February 2020 at 7:03 pm

            Yes, thank you. I see no reason not to have creative dialogue and then for someone to stop us and say have you thought this way or that?

          • Emma Skinner on 16 February 2020 at 8:55 pm

            Paul, I’m a woodcarver in Lincolnshire and I am autistic. I don’t make useful things, but I have a passion and I want to share it, my imagination distinguishes me over skill. And I have stumbled upon your site and I have found a role model, what an absolute inspiration you are.

            I’m a member of a local adult autism forum and I want to show them what you have done so they let me show fellow autists the joys of working with things we can scavange.
            Thankyou so much for sharing your work, I feel empowered and inspired from reading what you have written.

        • Jim on 2 April 2020 at 9:49 am

          I have an interest in all sorts of making, from 3D printing and wood working. What using hand tools offers me is the intimacy of understanding a material through my body processing it. I have never got out of breath printing something, but regularly do whilst using my body to create something with hand tools.
          There was a time when I would have used Machine tools to make a task “quicker or easier” but in reality that takes away some of the pleasure and achievement and intimacy that I now desire.
          The first time I finished a piece of oak with gnarly grain to a silky smooth finish using just my hands a plane and a scrapper will always remain with me.
          Each piece of wood is different and offers a different challenge to get from it what you desire. When I am woodworking I think of nothing else and life slows down to an acceptable pace and a smile is on my face.

          Thank you Paul for all you give to us, and the real pleasure that I now have in Hand tool woodworking.

  4. Tom Bittner on 12 February 2020 at 2:25 pm

    I think that in time jobs will change in ways we can’t imagine today. There is already virtual reality and some day very soon augmented reality. This is where you are virtually connected to a computer at 5G speeds. I’ve already seen how addicting computers can be so imagine a time where people are plugged into a collective intelligence.
    Perhaps handwork, crafts and nature will be our salvation.
    An alternative lifestyle.

    • Jay Gill on 12 February 2020 at 4:53 pm

      I’ve used “augmented reality” where the “real image” is manipulated. One of the first uses of AR is integrating more information. For example the heat signature of a part could be displayed on the image. I’ve seen demos where the user could look at a machine and get parts #s and/or connectivity and containment instructions.

      Imagine how cool it will be to have our glasses detect squareness, or to show the line you want vs. the line you are cutting. It may even become possible to record sensors from Paul and compare with what you are doing. Not as good as Paul looking over your shoulder, but it would be cool to hear his voice suggesting you go a little slower. Of course we know the first thing the Paul’s AR videos will say is “it’s time to sharpen up” 🙂

  5. Chuck MacNaughton on 12 February 2020 at 2:37 pm

    This is a wonderful observation. My father was an accountant by trade, and yet he framed our basement and the upper story of our house by hand (hand-sawn, brace-driven and hammer-nailed), using a power drill only to bore into the concrete floor for anchors. He built a dining room hutch without a single electron being harmed, cutting elaborate scrolls with a cheap little Olsen coping saw. I of course eschewed his skillset for that taught to me in my high school shop class. Using power tools felt so much cooler. After my father died and I had inherited his modest collection of tools it became abundantly clear that for all my practice with power tools, I had not a clue how to use any of his hand-planes nor most of his saws, because I had never thought to ask him for instruction. They languished on a shelf for nearly two decades before I began longing for a truer connection to the projects I had always undertook with power tools.

    Thanks to you and others–ironically as the result of the technology that brought us the internet–I have ready resources to learn these skills, and I have, slowly. The result is a deeper connection to the things I build, and certainly a greater satisfaction in the building itself. And, though my father has been gone 23 years now, using a hand plane or a brace brings me close to him again, not just because I’m using his tools, but because I’m using them the way he used them. It is an amends of sorts, both to him and to the world we’ve collectively dismissed in our thoughtless lunge into the future. Many thanks, Paul, both for your instruction and your wisdom.

  6. Jay Gill on 12 February 2020 at 4:40 pm

    In psychology there are experiments that suggest memory is enhanced by thinking about something in multiple ways, meaning the more of your brain is involved the more likely you are to remember something. I’m going to take the liberty of “extrapolation” and say that the brain seems leverage this idea of what can be called neural mass to develop concepts and ideas and integrate them into its environment.

    As a programmer I have to say there is a craft to it. The best programmers can look at code with out reading it and describe it as ugly or beautiful. I can say from experience you sense it when you’re going against the grain of the language. And yes there is absolutely a harmony between the program components that feels right, even more so between the programmer, code and user. Programming is making. However, coding does not use the same amount of neural mass as wood working, it’s conceptual, all in your head, no hand/eye coordination, no muscle memory and so less neural mass hence fewer ideas and concepts.

    To me the major difference between wood working and coding is that working with wood is an analog experience vs coding is which is digital. Programming is a digital experience. Everything is absolute 1 or 0. It’s all about rules with little or no variability to add texture and complexity.

    Wood working on the other hand is an analog activity. Unlike code, each piece of wood differs from the next. Take a knot, it’s there because a branch grew. But why dd it grow there? Unlike the digital world there is no absolute answer. It grew there because of an enormous number of factors so complex that they can not be described or captured and reproduced. Perhaps the complexity of organic things makes it easier to generate new ideas.

    As I said above, making something beautiful requires the deep understanding and respect for the media, craftsmanship is part of making whether digital or analogy. But working with organic material (analog) gives the brain more to chew on, and for whatever reason we humans seem to like that.

    • Paul Sellers on 12 February 2020 at 5:26 pm

      Perhaps, Jay, I might add that we don’t just like it, we just don’t realise we actually need it.

  7. John S on 13 February 2020 at 4:32 am

    Call me a reactionary but I still earn a living by working with my hands. I plant a vegetable garden each year and my wife and I preserve the vegetables we grow and make jam from our fruit tree harvests. I am a Machinist by trade, a Mechanic by necessity and a wood worker by choice. My wife knits and crochets and bakes her own bread. We have survived a long marriage by our mutual willingness to work and by our mutual love of learning and to that end I’ll offer that the “Apprenticeship” never really ends because the moment it does, you stop learning.

  8. Vivian Parker on 13 February 2020 at 8:30 pm

    Modern life with its mass production has robbed people of the satisfaction of hand crafting beautiful and needed objects of daily life. Therein lies our freedom! But the backlash is here to stay, I am thankful for that. And you are leading the way, Paul Sellers and team! I’m so grateful for your lessons. Funny story: I’ve been trying for weeks to purchase a Stanley spokeshave. Amazon: fail, waited weeks and it never arrived, the seller said just cancel. Home Depot: fail, waited weeks, package carton arrived at the store crushed and empty. HD says, just cancel. Another lesson in patience, I guess, out here in sunny California!

  9. Hasan on 1 April 2020 at 9:54 pm

    those carved pieces are very beautiful. It’s almost unbelievable that they can be done with hand. I seem to never understand how one is made. Is there a video or a book so one can learn the process?

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