Well, I finished the last of the ten projects promised today and now I am onto the next woodworking masterclasses project, which began with a clean-up and put-up of the shop and a sharpen-up, as always.

We must stay isolated here. It’s to soon to return with confidence yet. This place feels bigger everyday and tells me that there should be ten people more here. My two apprentice friends are sad about not being here and are doing their best to stay positive. We have stayed connected as best we can but working together has become important to us all. I send pics of their work area or share a little face time or video with them but I cannot pretend (and neither can they) that it is even a close second.

The important thing for everyone is to spend even just a small amount of time making. Making is not just busywork you might give to tots to stimulate their interests and teach them about life’s textures. No, making is as intrinsic to us as using our eyes, analysing data, working to thought patterns, such like that.

Making is about planning and thinking ahead, where critical thinking is woven inextricably into the things we make as much as the act of making itself. It’s about decision making, prioritising, processing and so much more. In a world where such processes are now handed off to AI, CNCs and so on, finding a piece of steel for a blade to be made from, or stitching leather into a fly swat leaves you with that warm fuzzy feeling where, well, fulfillment abides.

When life seems all the more out of focus than in, it is important to think make. I don’t care what it is, really, but something useful comes to mind, like a hissy snake or a sandbox

23 Comments

  1. Claudiu on 15 May 2020 at 7:25 pm

    Hi Paul,
    In those times, having the possibility to see your work, see your advice and seeing your positive attitude make us feel a little better.

    stay healthy, and keep it doing!

  2. nemo on 15 May 2020 at 10:16 pm

    “Making is about planning and thinking ahead, where critical thinking is woven inextricably into the things we make as much as the act of making itself. It’s about decision making, prioritising, processing and so much more.”

    I appreciate how you don’t fall in to that age old false dichotomy, of either working with one’s hands or mind. I’ve always found it odd when teachers said that someone was ‘good in working with his hands’, how they seemed to imply that a well-functioning brain wasn’t really needed for handwork. After all, it’s HANDwork…

    I’ve always considered handwork to be first and foremost an ability to imagine things, what they should look like (‘design’) and secondly, how they could be made (‘manufacturability’). Only thirdly a matter of actually making said thing, the actual handwork. Which I consider more or less a formality, the actual execution, after the first phases have finished. Where of course skill, manual dexterity, hand-eye coordination, experience, etc. are necessary requirements for a good end-result, but most definitely not the only requirements. That’s why the remark ‘he’s good in working with his hands’ always irked me, and I’m glad to see you have a very different perspective in that regard and emphasize the mental processes that making also entails.

    That disdan for manual work from the elites goes back a long way, to ancient Greece, and has persisted to this very day:

    “What are called the mechanical arts carry a social stigma and are rightly dishonoured in our cities.” (Xenophon)

    Regards from a socially stigmatized and dishonoured mechanical engineer. Yet happy as a clam!

    • Bradley Jones on 16 May 2020 at 4:30 am

      Nemo, I like your perspective and especially the quote from Xenophon. Thanks

    • Paul on 16 May 2020 at 2:07 pm

      I fully agree with your comment. I have a masters in engineering -which you would have thought made me quite practical. I can derive equations and calculate things but learning to plan, visualise and problem solve is something I have learnt through woodwork. The UK’s obsession with universities is absolutely ridiculous. Thankfully some companies are bringing back apprenticeships, which are hopefully losing their stigma.

    • Randy Ewart on 16 May 2020 at 2:14 pm

      “Nemo” has shared a very keen and correct observation of a mindset that improperly exists in our society(ies), and sadly to our shame. Even in rural America such mindset or attitude is yet “alive and well.” Pointing it out and exposing it to the light of day helps to bring hope that, with time and true diligence, someday it could be corrected and set us on a better course. I appreciate “Nemo’s” comments because they reveal how prejudice, classism, and elitism have tenaciously entrenched themselves in people’s minds, and then they/we wrongly propagate it in others. But it ought never go unchallenged …. Master Paul, I humbly apologize for hijacking your blog article, which is very insightful in its full right and I am concerned for you and your whole staff in the current COVID-19 situation, but I was/am very passionately touched by “Nemo’s” comments.

    • Steve P on 17 May 2020 at 6:21 am

      I love watching a maker on YouTube named Uri Tuchman. Has a small shop where he makes all kinds of tools and overly complicated mechanical devices etc. But when you watch a few of his videos you begin to realize how sharp his mind is.

  3. Marty on 16 May 2020 at 8:22 pm

    As a young man I was a visual artist. I could draw just about anything I could see with my eyes and it’s what I planned to do for my occupation, but then just as I was finishing up my college courses in commercial art and such along came Apple and the electronic methods leaving many an artist out of work. I left the field to pursue other things and have often regreted it, but I had a family to feed. In the years since I lost a lot of those fine motor skills to chemicals at work, falls on the job and any number of other reasons, but I still apply those artistic skills to making things and imagining new things to make. I usually don’t work from plans or blueprints, but just count on my fingers and hope I’m still cutting something to 9 13/16ths or whatever, but most of what I make is spur of the moment ideas and reimagining the original idea I may have had. That sometimes makes reproducing the same item exactly like the one before a bit difficult, but I do somehow manage.

  4. JulioT on 17 May 2020 at 12:35 pm

    We still are semi-isolated in Spain. We have passed two months isolated at home, going out of it only for going to job (and not everybody) or buying food. I have been lucky, because this isolating “took” me with wood and tools to restore. I’ve spent at home all the time that I’ve not been at job. It’s been time for talking with my wife, mother and friends, reading several books, watching WWMC videos, visiting Paul’s blog… and being at my small workshop, of course. During isolation I’ve restored a #4 and a # 5 1/2 Stanley planes, a S&J 10 tpi 14″ tenon saw (made in 1940, by the way) and a 15 tpi japanese Gent’s saw, both of them with complete re-toothing . I’ve made the laminated beams for 3 sets of sash clamps heads that my wife gave me as Christmas gifts and a shooting board. I’m preparing tools and material for making a table for the kitchen and for making a complete revamping of my shop (a sheed in the garden by now, but a room inside the house when I can get the material I need). My hours at the shop, raining outside and concentrated in my tools and my wood, have had an almost therapeuthic effect, a way to maintain my mind in order.

    Some of my friends have passed this isolations becoming almost crazy due to, as they say, “not to have anything to do”. It’s not been my case.

    Thank you Paul, for everything you are doing for us, and not only to learning us woodworking.

    • JulioT on 17 May 2020 at 12:39 pm

      I meant “teaching us”. Sorry.

  5. Martha Downs on 17 May 2020 at 9:44 pm

    “think making”…words to live by. Thanks Paul

  6. John on 17 May 2020 at 11:35 pm

    Nemo’s remarks are very much spot on. One thing that I discovered as I began to do more wood work – an old house offers lots reasons to turn into a finish carpenter – was how very poorly the schools I went taught us the uses of what we supposed to learn. Arithmetic, algebra, and especially geometry become more and more useful as you do learn to do shop work. Even shop class was short on applying things learned in other classes down the hall that would have greatly clarified what was learned in both classes.

    • Paul Sellers on 18 May 2020 at 9:44 am

      One of the very main problems with education is much of what and how lessons are taught to children by teachers who often have little experience of life beyond the classrooms they too were raised in. Schools begin and end much of their teaching with nonrelational, nonexperiential exposure beyond the walls of the school. Classes taught by ex-students form systems that are mostly unrelated to anything much beyond any classroom and that is from birth to the mid and late twenties. Craft education should never be taught by former students but former artists and crafting artisans with a minimum of five or even ten years under their belt. Of course, that is never going to happen.

      • Dismal Dave on 18 May 2020 at 10:11 pm

        I taught high school math and science for a long time. Best lessons were when I could have students actually doing something. Used a compass course to teach vectors. What I learned in the scouts worked as a lesson.
        Went to talk to our woodshop teacher often and he would complain about the lack of faction knowledge.
        I found the best teachers were the ones who worked in another field before deciding to teach. They brought an outside, usefulness perspective. And, could see what wasn’t so useful. Funny thing was that almost all admin had gone straight into teaching, and didn’t stay with kids very long.

  7. Samuel on 18 May 2020 at 6:01 am

    Hi Paul, checking in to say hello, thanks for your continued efforts even tho on your own the mission may be more of a battle.
    I guess u can play your music louder?

  8. Donald L Kreher on 18 May 2020 at 2:01 pm

    Hi Paul,

    I very much like the look of the marking gauge shown in the first picture. Can you provide a project that shows how it can be made?

    My making has been to organize my Shop, making storage for clamps, chisels, and so forth.

    Reading your blog and watching your videos has been my entertainment.

    • Paul Sellers on 18 May 2020 at 2:37 pm

      Yes, this is an upcoming free video currently in the process of editing. We’ll let everyone know its release date.

      • Donald L Kreher on 18 May 2020 at 8:17 pm

        Great! It will be a fun project. And now that I am finally retired I will have the time to make it.

      • Cyrille Velez on 19 May 2020 at 3:53 am

        hi Paul, in what kind of wood the knob and the handle of the plane are made from?
        It’s handsome !

  9. Ray Powell on 18 May 2020 at 10:43 pm

    “Now what I’m going to do is ……” is that moment when everything stops and Mr Paul Sellers commands my absolute attention.

  10. Wayne Kitt on 19 May 2020 at 4:03 am

    Paul, I am a retired teacher of music (30+ years) as well as a semi-professional performer (French Horn). In 2018 I had a stroke (non-debilitating, thank goodness), but, because of the pressure to the head from playing, my playing and performing of any kind of wind instrument was taken from me. As a conductor and performing Horn player I had to be able to visualize the form and flow of whatever music I had in front of me. I had to know where it was going long before the music itself finally arrived not being able to “do” that left me with very little direction in my life, and for someone who was born in the year WWII ended, I definitely needed some direction in my life.

    I say all that in order to make that point that up now I have been floundering around dabbling in “hobbies” but nothing, it seems, could replace the depth of cognitive and artistic regimen of performing and playing. That is, until my interest in woodworking sparked from a long-desired wish to work with wood was sparked by your YouTube channel. There is as much intellectual artistry and expression in woodworking, especially with hand tools, as there is in any other craft. As a teacher, it was very aggravating to encounter fellow educators who would demean students who weren’t doing well academically but would be shining stars in my instrumental classes as well as in the wood-shop class (before that got eliminated 🙁 ….

    I am in awe of people like yourself who can plan out every step of the process, know exactly which tool to use to transform a raw piece of wood into works of art – whether it be just a “simple” marking gauge or a period-correct chair of unequaled beauty. For the beauty you share, I thank you.

    • Wayne Kitt on 19 May 2020 at 4:06 am

      I live in the San Diego area in Southern California, by the way.

  11. Andrew on 20 May 2020 at 11:58 am

    “Making” is so many things. “Achievement” is what I like to get out of it. If it works well and preferably looks good, it’s a nice feeling.

  12. Hank Merkle on 21 May 2020 at 1:26 am

    Where do we find the “10 projects” or are they not out in Blog form or video yet?

    I REALLY like the marking / cutting gauge – yes, I think I have 5 or perhaps even 10, but one more that I made from Paul’s instruction cold find its home in the front of the tool box or the till in the bench…

Leave a Comment





  • Roberto Fischer on Listening Up! It’s Important!I'd love to hear more about the sounds of a wooden plane when setting the wedge. What's the best for sound and tactile feedback when adjusting the plane: wooden mallet, metal hamme…
  • Jeff D on Listening Up! It’s Important!I'm excited for taste the 3-in-1!
  • Joe on Listening Up! It’s Important!Thanks Paul. This should be an interesting topic. I recall you talking about the sense of feel, sound, and smell when I first started watching your woodworking videos. At first I c…
  • Paul Sellers on Not Good, Not Good!Then I will discontinue our dialogue as we agree to disagree.
  • YrHenSaer on Not Good, Not Good!@Paul Sellers I have no interest in either the book in question or Japanese techniques. I said, plainly, that the tone of the review, a criticism such as the one you wrote of one a…
  • KEVIN NAIRN on Not Good, Not Good!I work as a carpenter and have lots of books on carpentry and joinery. In one of my older books, there's a mistake on a cut roof (a cut roof is a roof where the rafters and other p…
  • Paul Sellers on Not Good, Not Good!I am not altogether sure what you are saying. Tell me this, had I decided to contact the publisher, would he then have stopped selling the book he had little to do with except copy…