Make, Making, Made

The sandbox drawings are done, as is the prototype which is fully made and currently being tested by my granddaughter who is putting it through its paces with daily testing on the deck outside. My potatoes are doing really well, both in the ground and in the growing boxes I made. I am hoping to grow fifty percent of my needs for the year. I did buy some seed potatoes but I also saved my best from last year’s to sow this season. Peas and courgettes (zucchini), runner beans and much more are spouting through and my tomato plants are the sports from last year’s crop where we let the seeds drop into the compost. Each year this happens and it has been successful.

Last week I posted on the successes of making projects for WWMC and YouTube, as well as the challenges of filming myself in my own isolation. I am enjoying spending even more time than ever making and that includes things I never thought I would ever need to make; I will fill you in in the future. but perhaps think of how we do things to adapt our attitude to life. I was thinking about isolation as everyone else has had to think. Some people have self-isolated for years and decades because, well, they just enjoy their own company and have never really needed to be with others and they never feel lonely at all. Others, on the other hand, are totally gregarious and have a deep need simply to be with other people even if they actually live isolated lives within the context of crowded places like the tube, London City, a factory of five thousand, and such. For some of us, perhaps most, it’s a world where we dip in and out of crowds and we are happiest that way. In my world of making it is mostly necessary self-isolation, otherwise, I might really get very little done. There is still a degree of dipping in and out of social intercourse, chit chat and such, that’s nice though and it’s this I think that most people enjoy at going to work with others that online cannot achieve.

I think there is much more to making than a cleverly authored and contrived book on manual working as a subject; where some writer/journalist/scholar spends a decade or two in academic realms and then discovers a plumber somewhere earns more than he does and decides to follow the patterns of the working-manually man who digs ditches or mines coal, cuts down trees and makes guitars. Suddenly we end up reading about the world of working manually as if he or she has some kind of special insights for us to glean from without realising he’s more on vacation from a more academic realm and somehow dips into the world we already know all there is to know about it because we do it.

Hand work, making things with our hands, has, is, the multidimensional world of realness. A tree falls to the floor of the forest, a man pulls it, loads it, slabs it and makes from it. The forest fills in the gap left open as the sun’s light filters down from the hitherto closed canopy to the open earth inside the green-tinged dome. Opened canopies self heal with new life stretching from the earth and the understory revitalises life there. Don’t you love the realness of working life itself? I do. Working is not a story book of entertaining but how we thrive in impossible conditions to change what was to something else, something better, cleaner, purer.

My world of hand-made deindustrialises that British work called the Industrial Revolution as best it can. I don’t need miniaturised industrial processes to clog up the arteries of my world any more than I need that excess level of cholesterol in my body tissues to clog my veins and arteries. I make a simple garden box and fill it with compost to grow my food in and I made. I plant potatoes and they grow; I grow and I grow potatoes. I feel better for seeing green shoots emerge within a frame I put together and built from pallets at the end of my garden and sanity comes to me in a form that no therapist can give to me and no authored book on what it is to work manually could ever give to me. I was taught to work by men and by my mother. So too that row of dug earth now filled with more green leaves that show me where my hands dropped in my home grown potato seeds two and three weeks ago.

My spuds and my hands made this. It’s my hand-made, hearth-crafted veg soup for supper.

And here we are a week on and my hands took more wood given to me by a scotsman living in North Wales as a thank you for a class I gave to him as an exchange in friendship. A non-taxable exchange that cannot be bought or sullied by interpretation and sold in a book or even a blog post. I reshape the wood with a handsaw and a rasp, a spokeshave and a plane and I, little ol’ me, make what was not into a new what is.

It’s a plane handle, yes, but it’s a plane handle with attitude and a handle I can handle my plane with for even greater levels of control and then too of perfected workmanship. It dispels the myths and mysteries of complex, politicised world strategists where newscasters and politicians flex their verbal muscles with highest crowing like roosters in a hen coop when a cockfight breaks out to establish who has the most clout and supremacy. In making I make sense and in making sense I find peace and in peace I sow seeds that set others free from the pandemic that preceded the thing we call the coronavirus by decades and decades of abuse.

So I made videos for the first time and things went mightily wrong as did woodworking for woodworkers working wood for their first time, but I did not give up when I filmed for a whole day and all the lights were on to say that the sound was indeed recording and I that evening I found that no sound had been recorded at all and I had to redo hours of work by remaking the whole of it. I am not the broadcaster or the politician plying words that can be rephrased, restructured, or whatever. In my world of real, I must start over because once the chisel cut is made and the plane stroke changes the colour I cannot just say ‘whoops!’ And this week and last week and now for six weeks, I made.

I made a garden and dug soil (I almost said ‘dirt‘, which I learned from living in the US, but someone in the US corrected me ‘cos I said it in a vid), planted spuds, and grew some peas and such. My fava beans arrive this week which I am truly grateful for and I will save some seeds from those because they are non-hybrids. Don’t you just love the potency and perpetuity of things just like that? I mean non-hybrid seeds. I mean, I am talking making and growing and cooking and, well, just living life and not this pre-pandemic thing called ‘living the dream‘. Loving realness and making it your own is critical to simply being well. It creates it’s very own sanity. If I didn’t have my now precious garden I would grow a pea in blotting paper in a glass jar just to see the root go down between the glass and the leaves turn green as they pop out of the top of the jar. This one thing alone made me want to grow food. The seed in an ill-equipped woodworking workshop in a school I totally hated made me want to work wood for fifty-five years and the result of which is a lived life without ever knowing boredom except in airports.


  1. Hi Paul: Keep it up! Whoops is my favorite part. That’s how I know it’s real!

  2. Loved the post!

    I am foremost a gardener, my friends, and a hermit. I’d be gregarious and i am the people person as they say but the drama is too much for me. Don’t move my cheese!

    Growing grows you like making makes you more than what you were. I treasure both.

    I work on a computer that crashes about 1/2 the time i use it. I used to get frustrated. Moving through the stages of grief to acceptance, now i find it like a surprise breaking of wind, kind of expected but funny nevertheless. At my age both are more common. Whatever. Building something just plain feels good. I like nobility in my tools, garden, wife. A sturdy hammer doesn’t fail like high tech does. I want veggie soup now.

  3. Yesterday I made a mortise for my project. I sharpened chisels, I used knife walls, I used the method you showed in a video comparing a mortise chisel with a bench chisel. It was not perfect, but close enough. I am pleased with the outcome, more than I would have thought. Thanks for teaching me. I didn’t need a jig, or a router bit, or a mortise machine, just hand tools including a bit and brace. How satisfying.

  4. Paul – ‘thank you’ is all I can say. This was beautiful. I am learning to make. And just last week I stood in my shop and told myself as I looked around, “I made this.” It was a moment of true satisfaction.

  5. – Even if one is not gregarious, choosing to stay at home and avoiding to go outside for external reasons is not the same. It is nevertheless a constraint.

    – Most of the office activity has no direct relation to producing something or a service; it is done for traceability/control purposes and (hopefully) the result is not used most of the time. It allows one to buy food and other necessities but is somewhat only indirectly linked to one’s needs. It is also the case when one does only a small part of the process.
    That is why doing real things for oneself (and relatives) gives more satisfaction.
    That is not to say that “intellectual” activities can not also give satisfactions nor be creative.

  6. Strangely, in these strange times, I’ve found a calm I’ve needed. On Monday, when sitting outside, my father said “that tables a bit short”. So all those stud offcuts from my bench build last year have a use.: 32 mortices done by yesterday, tenons cut today. Played with the router plane I made last year; ugly and perfect.
    My beans, peas and corn and onions are in; tomatoes, chillies and squash are waiting patiently; fennel, lettuce, kale and radishes will come; hoed weeds and raked moss are baking in the sun; and tulips are dancing to their last song.
    Tits are checking out the birdbox (but I’m secretly hoping they leave it for the bees again).
    Chinese diamonds gave my tools their glint again and my new card scrapers, burnisher and shellac flakes are on their way.
    All is calm……….
    ……but I miss my daughter’s hugs.

  7. My first Paul read. Wow Paul well said. I think I might become a regular reader. I am neither male or into wood but my husband finds great joy in learning from your videos. I Bought your books for hisChristmas and he was overwhelmed.
    You are not ‘just’ a woodworker it a philosopher.

  8. Anxious to see the sand box project. GGD just turned one. Also hope the marking gauge shows up as well.

  9. Dear Paul.

    I hope you are doing well and keeping busy. Today i made homemade pasta from scratch with the kids, as usual i found instruction from an old man on youtube. Kids were fascinated and hopefully will remember this in later years. I also made beer battered hake and onion rings from scratch, again from youtube. Videos on youtube and like are vital for access to learning new skills and passing years of experience onto younger generations. The video work you and your team do is vital for woodworkers.

  10. I often wonder how there ever was an agricultural revolution, because whenever i dig and plant, watch things grow, it all seems so natural, so innate. Like i am truly grounded both literally and figuratively. I still have never tasted fruits and veggies as good as my dad used to grow in the orchard, especially corn. You can pick and eat at the peak of freshness. Not picked weeks too early and shipped across the globe, from razed rainforest.

  11. I like your wooden planters, Paul. What do you put on as a bottom? More lengths of pallets or some outdoor ply?

    1. Nothing on the bottom. Just soil to the bottom except for an inch of gravel for drainage.

  12. So pleased to see the photo of the gauge! I’ve been meaning to do that for ages since it seems so obvious to make beams with fixed pin separations set to the two chisels I use for almost all of my mortising. I’ve thought about making a square beam with 1/4″ and 3/8″ spacings on the two sides, which would handle 90% to 95% of what I do. I use 3/8″ more than anything, so if I made a second with 3/8 on one side and 1/2 on the other, I’d handle 99.99% of what I do and could have two different 3/8″ settings at once, one per gauge.

    Plan B is to take the two mortise gauges I already own and put in a screw to lock the brass slider at 1/4 and 3/8. The screw could be relaxed for the oddball cases. Not sure why I’ve not modified them in that way as it would take about 15 minutes!

    The trick is to be alone, but feel needed and connected. If you are physically with others, but don’t feel needed and don’t feel connected, that’s just miserable. The greatest gift we can give each other is to acknowledge and celebrate each others’ intrinsic value, which has nothing to do with what we do or achieve.

  13. I need to make myself a plane handle. Thanks for the inspiration!

  14. Another post that has me agreeing wholeheartedly with it. Eagerly awaiting the video of the mortise-gauge.

    Yesterday ate the first homegrown lettuce. Just lettuce, a bit of dressing and some spring onions. Tasted good, very good. Homegrown and self-prepared. Other things in the garden are doing very well too. A veritable cornucopia of food that’s growing within arm’s reach, love it!

  15. Alan Adler examined structure and earned a graduate degree in Package Design from Pratt Institute. He is the organizer of two organizations, Source Packaging and Cases by Source, which produce custom bundling for everything from airplane instruments to clinical gadgets.

  16. Keep the granddaughter away from saws at this stage! I bought my little son a wooden workbench, which soon became a workpiece! Now grown, he loves woodwork and diy, and likes to buy tools for his dad.

  17. Paul, I long to read all your blogs and watch your YouTube videos. So many ideas I have gained by your builds and theories. I had made a sandbox pergola over three years ago and wanted to keep it for 5 years before tearing it down. But now I have other ideas and want to downsize the sandbox and build one similar to yours. My grandson is going on 6 and my last granddaughter just turned 1 and I need The space for family events(after the pandemic) and one of many vacation spots around my property. This will be build soon. Thank you again. Reggie aka BackYardJackOfAllTrades

  18. I am so waiting on the video about the mortise gauges. I have been wanting to do one for a while, but I getting stumped on on the lock mechanism.

  19. Thanks Paul, I enjoyed reading this.

    My Gramp who i lived with growed loads of veg, he had 5 freezers so we enjoyed home grown veg all year round. We were fortunate it was deliscious and nutritious. This was before the term organic was a thing.
    It gave him such pleasure to provide for the family in this way. I can see this now.

    Runner beans are great if you blanch them in salted water for a couple of mins before freezing them btw. (Sliced thinly first)

  20. hello I see myself as an inventor. I have invented countless handmade bicycles and motors in my garden. Thanks to this CD, I can do the test operations very easily and easily. I recommend it to all of you.

    1. Mark,

      I’ve seen bicycles made of bamboo. Maybe you could invent a wooden framed bicycle. A yew longbow can be made to shoot thousands of arrows with draw weights up to 225+ pounds…so why not? Maybe the frame would have to be thicker to compensate for the specific density of the wood. I don’t know why it wouldn’t work. I would be interested in following a project like that.

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