Still Designing and Making

It’s often hard to see the future with certainty. We have all lived with and through attacks and threats of attacks reaching back through centuries and some indeed have lasted centuries long. The important thing to see is that we, as individuals and nations, have lived through them and come out the other side. Yes, there’s always the so-called ‘collateral damage‘ hyperbole entertainment films have indoctrinated our empty heads with along the way. The lost lives of those we love and then too those we know nothing of matter greatly. Especially is this so for the ones who lost their lives unnecessarily. Far, far too many. Today, we know of many different influences we knew nothing of even ten years ago. The importance of life going on seems always critical and life indeed is and will continue going on.

My work has changed very little over the years. I make and I design. The work I put together with joints stands freely after a week or two and my little dot on the globe, the workshop where I work, the place I live, makes the tiniest little footprint. Pandemic or not, we make! It’s important to me to feel I matter because of what I do and who I am. Fame is unimportant. Numbers don’t count much. I put myself out there as a resource and mentor to pass on what I know and to ensure that my craft never dies. I am answerable to no corporate empire and choose to be answerable to you. Some times you say something to me that I don’t like. I look, listen and change what I can if indeed I feel I need to. More important than that though, I want you to know that you matter much more than you might think. I can be abrupt. Texts and messages can seem ten times harder. Once it’s out there they are hard to retrieve. Your little dot of seeming insignificance impacts the world in the same way a butterfly flapping its wings in my meadows fans a breeze that stretches to then blow in the Philippines and me writing a paperless sentence without ink and pen spawns an outcome in a family or an individual in Tasmania and Honolulu. Imagine! Imagine is a suggestion and then too a kindly instruction to consider deeply rather than just a request!

My self-imposed isolation began exactly 21 weeks ago, actually, it’s over five months now. I have tanked up my car with 60 litres of petrol since January 1, 2020, as I had decided not to use my car for getting to work for a year unless there was a task I needed it for that was important. COVID helped, but my mind was already made up. 60 litres is 15.85 US gallons and 13.19 UK gallons. In the meantime, I have enjoyed many aspects of life since the new world began emerging. People just want something called “normal” even though everything in the old world seemed quite abnormal rather than normal to me.

COVID-19 has not gone away. We are learning to live with what we currently have. The news is difficult to believe now because we are unsure of what the media presents to us as a one-source-will-fit-all presentation. Institutionally, many institutions seem less fit for purpose these days as they indeed try to redefine who they are and what they actually do. The media is one such institution. Manufacturing news is different than presenting it. No one seems exempt from the feeling that there is less job security in what they do. I’m satisfied that change should take place and that the people should make the changes within their tiny dot plot on the planet. It’s hard on those who are unwilling to see the need for self-restraint. It’s easy to think that we need more than our neighbour but we don’t need too much to survive if we just take care in all the decisions we make. I don’t need anything much different than what I have now and nor do I need to do much different than I have always done and do now.

37 thoughts on “Still Designing and Making”

  1. This is a great and insightful post on many levels. I am not the kind of person who watches the news before all this COVID business, but now I feel I must to keep abreast of events. I find it hard to stay calm sometimes. Just to go to the grocery store is a trial. My daughters’ college ambitions are being totally disrupted and I sometimes worry for them. And yet my woodworking is a release, it occupies my mind and keeps me centered. Stepping into my tiny hand tool shop is like entering my own bubble and escape. I can be creative and step away from the chaos and consider orderly thoughts.

    Thanks for all your efforts, Paul, in these difficult times. I see how hard you are working to create videos, even on your own. It is appreciated.

    1. I like Paul have reached an age where reflection increases each day. Let me assure you that the path(s) that society has put in front of us are not always the best for us. While I don’t find a lot of people that decided to have an raise children to regret this role, I do however find that many of the very abitious people that thought formal education was the answer and climbing the promotional tree would bring satisfaction ended up very disappointed.

      My life has in many ways been a wandering one, where my son once said, “Dad what have you not done”. I left home at almost 16 years of age to join the circus as a roustabout. Ended up being a furniture sales person, painter, Police Officer. Returned to school to gain B.A., Master and PhD (without defending thesis). Went on to become consultant across many industries / organisations, working around the world and didn’t plan any of it. Just followed my heart and grabbed at opportunities.

      Also have a beautiful family of wife, three children and 11 1/2 grandchildren. I am a blessed man.

      Part of my sucess has been in my faith and rejection of fear as a motivator to do or not do.

  2. There can be no nations without first becoming communities. I enjoy your community immensely. Thanks for that. And your designs!

  3. Great post. You inspired my Covid workbench build. Just the last of the screws and mounting the vise left and finishing. 5 foot rebates and grooves with tools arrived fresh from eBay was daunting. First had to restore the record 44 and the off brand rebate plane. I didn’t have good luck or good management and had to rip a half inch from my five foot wellboard with a saw I just learned to sharpen! But it worked. Can’t say there are no gaps, but it’s solid.

    1. Jon,

      I’m in pretty much the same place. Got my Record 044 last week and ploughed(plowed?) the groove in the laminated top last night. Best of luck with completing yours!

  4. If that lamp was hand made I would love to see a video. Your skills never cease to amaze me. And, I am 80 and still making shavings for a living.

  5. Thanks for this. It’s been all to easy for me to drop everything. “What’s the point” I think. It seems I can’t trust anything or anyone, much less the media. Not a good way to conduct myself. And it doesn’t take but a quick message by a guy whose work I respect and whose personality I like to get me back on track! Thanks for your message today. Sorely needed.

  6. Hello Paul,

    I agree. I tried some Life Insurance work and hated it. I’m back to woodworking and living it.

  7. Thanks for an insightful post, Paul. I’ve revisited my love of woodwork, since the March lockdown here in Perth, Western Australia. We are, at present in a state with zero cases and nearly back to “normal”, but the daily news is still disturbing as we have family in other states, the UK and US. I have found woodworking to be a breathe of fresh air from the concerns of a COVID world and good for my mental health to not be constantly switched on to digital media.

    After 8 hours of working online for my day job, I love switching off by walking into my shed to work on a project or two. I’ve just installed a new bench vise and have started looking at designs to build my own tool rack out of heavy jarrah. In visiting my father recently, he took me into his garage and gave me my great-grandfather’s old wood turning tools, original chisels and small block plane. My Dad brought these half way around the world (from Plymouth UK) with him and I love that they have been kept in the family.

    Anyway, I wanted to say a huge thank you for all the videos, blog and other resources you share so freely and wishing good health to you and all the fellow woodworkers across the globe.

    1. Paul an odd thing about the lockdown is the affect on the wood yard where I buy most stuff. The slowdown in trade has left much of the wood looking very grubby .Black hand prints and sometimes footprints on the planks. It all needed extra planing to get it clean again . Now I tend to give most parts a lick of varnish before assembly to try to keep it presentable .I wonder if you ever do that yourself . Your lessons on Dovetails have been very useful lately . I might try to minimise dovetails on my next set of drawers . Good practice though .

  8. Once again a thoughtful post. I suspect most of us feel pretty much the same way. We are seeing great change on a daily basis and grabs for power in the people supposedly ruling us for the good reasons but subverting them to their own purposes. Those people will likely pay in the long run. I will do the same and go out in my shop and work on improving my skills. That is my happy place. I suspect that most of us that go to the trouble of making things are thinkers as you no doubt are. A day in the workshop is always better than a day in the office. It pleases me to think that pretty much all of the things I have built for people over the years still survive and are in use after many years. How special is that?

  9. where i live there are people who deny covid exists. i have workmen in my home replacing a crappy chipboard floor that has due to the high humidity in the south turned to mush and black mold. They told me that the pandemic is a hoax. Because i fell through the floor of my trailer, i had to have workmen and the price was right so there you go. I wonder if the workmen of old were thieves like these “gentlemen”. I got a contract and foreman lied to my wife saying i agreed to overages of $5K! We didn’t pay but you know there are lots of scammers out there!

    1. Sorry to hear this. Yes, people say COVID doesn’t exist but we know they are denying the truth. COVID is real and we just all do the best to take care of our neighbours.

  10. Paul, you just keep up the great work and sharing that you do. I have come to respect your ways and attitudes. Press on regardless.

  11. Aloha Paul ,
    The moment I saw your light, I saw a ‘telescopic’ center post added to it to make it both a sofa lamp and a ‘mast torch’ light for the living room. Just a thicker top deck and dowel pins to set the height needed.

  12. Corana has people drawing sides. Those who care and those who could care less. Look out for the later, and for September and October[historically the high death rates of the Spanish Flu of 1917-8. Bee Safe, Bee Wise, Bee Healthy.
    Aloha ,
    Mark Baker

  13. Blessings to you Paul. Your words, teaching and good natured insight is so refreshing in this world gone mad.
    You have inspired millions of would be wood workers. Taught us how to restore, sharpen and ultimately love the hand tools we find in pawn shops, second hand stores and antiques dealers.
    Thank you for all you do and for making a difference in my world.

  14. Without any perceptible decision, my wife has self-quarantined for the last five months. She works in her gardens, and on sewing projects. She watches Japanese cooking shows, and practices new recipes. I am her guinea pig…and most of her new creations are, I admit, rather good. She is content to have no interaction with neighbors, or anyone else. Her only contact with the world is through me (I must shop, and get supplies, and take broken things to shops, and go for walks).

    We’ve both had our “three score years and ten”, and then some. We get on with life, as well as we can. We don’t see our grandchildren, but there are video chats on a smart phone. We make do.

    I walk my black Labrador, Hannah, more often, now. Rather, she walks me. She makes it clear to all we meet on the paths that she is the leader, and I the follower. She is old, too, but doesn’t realize it…a perpetual puppy. She smiles and laughs at everyone, and everyone responds in kind. Any dog is a blessing. An old dog, an old friend, is a miracle.

    With all the new treatments, new protocols, and emerging vaccine candidates, the COVID-19 threat no longer looms so huge and dark on our horizon. We recognize the possibility (nay, in the long run, the probability) that we will become infected. But we face this prospect with far more optimism than a few months back. We believe that we will again be able to share frequent contact with family and friends.

    COVID-19 will undoubtedly have long-term dire effects on many. Lives overturned, businesses lost, dreams smashed. We know this, and have empathy for them. But most will survive, begin anew, and many will thrive in years ahead. What may not be so clear is that this pandemic will have some beneficial fallout — many have begun a more healthy life-style, with changed diets and patterns of activity. Most of us now recognize, realizing anew the incalculable riches of family connections and friendships.

    I have searched and found two old friends, long since lost in the mists of the intervening years. Found them, contacted them, renewed our friendships. One had branched into realms of political thought far removed from mine — when we both realized this, we instinctively walled off all discussion of areas where we knew that we could never reach agreement…our friendship, our memories, our past lives were far more valuable to us than senseless discord on subjects where we have no meaningful influence.

    I believe than many of us have redrawn our lists of priorities. I hope that for most people these changes will allow them to focus more on family, friendships, good memories, and plans for the future…and to focus less on posessions, luxuries, and conveniences.

  15. That lamp is a beautiful piece of work. One idea that I’ve toyed with but never really tried to realize is a lampshade or possibly a mobile art piece made of laminated oak that was then sawn across the grain. I have a book mark I use that was result of making an oak newel post that I laminated from four pieces. In trimming it to length, I had to remove slightly less than a quarter inch off an end. The off cut maybe 1/16 inch thick and shows the open pored end grain pattern of the oak, in a symmetric two-fold reflection. I though about making more but realized than even with a fine handsaw, I would make more sawdust than panels. Looking at your shade made me wonder how larger panels would work as a shade. Now I can really use the shop for the time being. It is uninsulated and the weather has been in the low hundreds Fahrenheit.

  16. I know it maybe isn’t really the point of your post but you certainly matter to so many Paul, myself included. You read a question of mine on your AMA and said my name when you did… I felt like Mick Jagger himself had spoken it at a concert. I downloaded the video and playfully boasted how I was famous now to many eye-rolls from my daughter and wife. But more importantly you taught me something with your answer and did so very genuinely, for free, and that is truly special. You fellow woodworkers that put your hearts and souls and knowledge into the internet ether for us really mean the world to me. I hope I am lucky enough to give myself out to others after I have spent a lifetime learning and working the art.

  17. Great blog Paul. I’ve just got out of isolation due to the chemo I’m having. During my illness, I took up woodwork as a hobby just to get me up in the mornings. I’ve had a number of “oops” moments but that is all part of learning. I got subscribed to your channel during lockdown and it’s the best therapy I’ve had.
    I’m trying new techniques almost daily and I’m pleased to say this is my “new normal”.
    My point is during all these uncertain times, people can adapt and make to most of the situation

  18. That’s a beautiful lamp, Paul.

    I’d like to thank you for your amazing teaching and generosity. I just started woodworking in June and quickly came across one of your YouTube videos. A couple horrible dovetails later, I was buying tools left and right. I bought a bench top from a friend and put it on two plastic saw horses. The vise is nice but doesn’t work well (not sure if I broke it or what). I made a couple lidless shaker boxes for chisels, etc. and limped through the hanging wall shelf (small version), frustrated with the vise the whole time. So I took the plunge and built the workbench (I didn’t have the plough plane or rebate plane yet so I used the wellboard method from your book). Took me over 100 hours to build the bench, but it was 100 fun hours. I later added the sharpening stone shelves and the drawer, and now I’m working on the side table (the top warped so bad that I couldn’t salvage it, so I turned it into a nice little cutting board) and the desktop organizer (I spent about 12 hours just with stock preparation on Saturday). I’m a bit amazed at how much I’ve learned in just a couple months when I look back.

    Your step-by-step instructions and no-nonsense guide to tools and their care have made “killing time” during the pandemic a lot of fun for me.

    * And just now an old chisel arrived from eBay .. I love this!

  19. Since WWII we have lived in unusual times, most of that time of the Cold War was very stable and led to huge technological developments. We are richer now than ever and global poverty has been falling while good indicators such as health and education have improved around the World. Technology will continue to improve our health and education and give us more free time to indulge in our arts and crafts and hobbies and pastimes. Let us give thank to be lucky enough to be alive now and not in some dark and dismal past. Despite Covid, it will pass and maybe we will reevaluate our lives for the better as the threat recedes.

  20. mark leatherland

    Great post Paul. Also some thoughtful replies. I feel very thankful for your insights in life as well as your woodworking mentoring. Thanks so much.

  21. Stephen Tyrrell

    I do hope that lamp appears a s a project sometime. It will have to stand in line behind a number of others, but I would love to give it a go.

  22. Great words and a beautiful lamp, Paul.

    G’day from an individual in Tasmania.
    Regards Adam

  23. Graham Gibbons

    Great blog , whilst new to woodworking at a late age it has helped me significantly during this period. Thank you

  24. Thomas Locatell

    I am looking at the cabin project with the mind’s eye of a finish carpenter, attacking it with the broken-down body of an old laborer and fulfilling it with the mad-cap energy of a perpetual dreamer. If I can pull it off, I will go to my rest with the satisfaction of a life well lived.

    Building a cabin in the woods from the trees to the newel posts has been a lifelong dream. Two massive pine trees got me the timber frame. There’s a long way to go but with time seemingly warped by the COVID crises, the only limitations for a pensioner like me are money and ultimately the grim reaper. Wish me luck.

  25. I suppose your greatest legacy will be the great body of individuals you have inspired, informed and refreshed with the craft of woodworking. I am curious about the articles you produce, which will also form part of your legacy. Do you ever sign your work? There is plenty of scope for enhancement and personalisation by incorporating a symbol or curiosity, you know, like “mouse-man” did. But perhaps you shrink from such ostentation and artificial value-enhancement?

  26. Is there some way of raising the electrical switch for the lamp higher up on the construction?

    It’s at an awkward height for oldies and temptation height for little people.

    And the little ridges at the bottom seem like a fiddly cleaning job indeed…

    The grain’s gorgeous and the lines are sweet-smooth. Thank you.

    1. Vidar Fagerjord Harboe

      Andrea, the wire is routed through a groove in one of the legs. you can either countersink the switch anywhere on the leg, but it will probably not look too good. You can opt for a foot operated switch, or get a fixture with a built-in switch on the “stem”.
      Another option is to use 12V LED bulb. That way, you can have a tiny switch anywhere, but you’ll end up with an ugly power supply at the socket. Not a problem if the outlet is beneath furniture, though.

      Placing the switch hidden from view is important, or it will clutter the design.

      1. Not to take away form the beauty of this lamp. If you decide to make your personal version and individualize it. Another option for a switch would be a small push button switch recessed at your desired height on the inside of the leg. You could have it protruding just enough to activate the on/off point. The only thing you would see is a little silver dot if you did it right.

  27. One new tool I use now is a Steam jet sold mainly for cleaning tiles etc . I took an old (80 yrs ) Spanish guitar apart with this .The fine nozzle jet clears out all the old hide glue and leaves no wood damage . One of the trickiest guitar jobs is working round the Spanish Heel joint holding the back . I managed that perfectly with no upsets . What a bonus this steamer is . I have also readjusted the neck angle accurately , which would be a nightmare to many people . Renovating is such a satisfying game of solving puzzles and cherishing old things .

  28. The COVID-19 pandemic had a sudden and substantial impact on the arts and cultural heritage sector. The global health crisis and the uncertainly resulting from it profoundly affected organisations’ operations as well as individuals – both employed and independent – across the sector. Arts and culture sector organisations attempted to uphold their (often publicly funded) mission to provide access to cultural heritage to the community; maintain the safety of their employees, collections, and the public; while reacting to the unexpected change in their business model with an unknown end. Many individuals across the sector would temporarily or permanently lose contracts or employment with varying degrees of warning and financial assistance available. Equally, financial stimulus from governments and charities for artists would provide greatly differing levels of support depending on the sector and the country. The public demand for in-person cultural activities was expected to return, but at an unknown time and with the assumption that different kinds of experiences would be popular.

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