Experience tells me not to crave the past and what was, but to embrace the unknowns in an unknown future can sometimes be difficult. The future, for me at least, will always be the adventure I enjoy — the future to unknowns that seem all too often to defy predictions. In my world, changing the future is after all as much up to us as it is mere happenstance. Without the ‘us‘ in this there is little chance of us shifting from the former abuse of what we grew up with, in, into the better future. It’s been that way since I wasted my years going to school. I am so glad university never held any promise for me . . . no security, no sustainability, no hope. My hope defied the status quo. I’m so very glad that maggot on the hook never enticed me. Of course, university is for the majority and the majority need qualifying to work. I have no problem with that. For what I now have there is no university or college or teacher or lecturer that could have given me a thing. I like this also. My mentors and teachers were workmen. All of them, men working hard to provide for their families! They were working men that bent their backs and legs and arms all the day long that never balked at getting their hands and their faces and their clothes dirty.

They didn’t wear jeans as a trend but as a working clothes. A tear was a tear from a catch on a nail or a splinter of wood that snagged them as they worked. They were thinking men, thoughtful men working from experiences that they passed on. These men knew no gym work, never ran for fitness and never wore lycra yet many of them rode for miles to work on vintage steel-framed bikes, wore baggy pants and cloth caps and heavy jackets and coats. This was their resistance training, they just didn’t know it, as was planing and sawing and lifting wood and such throughout the day. There were no showers at work to ‘freshen up’. It was just what men did.

But, of course, times change. It’s a very different world. Whereas many would love the life I have had, others are also very happy working with and in the exciting new technologies emerging and are no less the person they are for wearing work-appropriate clothing fit for purpose.

These are pretty fancy compared to the surgical masks we had in the mid 60s.

In those days we wore surgical maths to catch the dust before our lungs did for about eight hours every day all week, every month? Why? Our millionaire boss refused to put in any dust extraction. Some days the fug of makore dust and several other hardwoods was so thick we could barely see three meters and less ahead of us let alone one another. But this was the world I grew up in and it was fine. I liked woodworking enough to get through it. I heard someone say recently that they hated to have to wear a mask to go into a shop to buy something. It made me think! With COVID-19 constantly raising its ugly head everywhere, surely the naysayers who cavalierly walk around saying there is no COVID can see the writing on the wall. surely they too can wear a mask for ten minutes.

Talking heads telling everyone how hard it is to wear face masks for ten minutes.

Twenty years ago they laughed at me as I demoed dovetails at woodworking venues throughout the USA. What they didn’t know was that I wasn’t an amateur but a proficient master. They left me alone after snickering behind their hands and nodding to one another. Little did they know then that a quiet de-industrial revolution was taking place by a lone woodworker from the UK. Back then I was the only one out there in the face of the giants of the woodworking machine world. The new target audience for them became the amateur market and they successfully persuaded all amateurs to embrace the more modern and efficient strategy. Machines were flying out the door in all of the US Woodcraft stores and so too Rockler. These were the two big sellers there then and of course, there are many others out there and online now. Thousands of them!

Of course many are still laughing . . . all the way to the bank. It’s not just the router you buy but the accompanying battery of bits and support components known as accessories. Jigs and guides to cut a single dovetail are as ubiquitous as the must-have and go-to router bits. But how much of what was then did they truly need? My estimation is maybe 10%, and that is being generous. Many newer gurus have finally accepted the ethos of my early days that the rewards of handwork far exceed the use of so-called power tools. For 55 years I have worked in both world but its making by hand that is my ultimate reward. All of the projects we have made over the past ten years came from hand tools like chisels and planes. In many cases the chisels that lasted and outlasted all others were the cheapest. My Aldi chisels are second to none as are my £20 Spear & Jackson saws and my Stanley number 4 and 5 bench planes without retrofits of thick or cryogenic steel cutting irons. You don’t really need anything more. I’ve proved it for decades. Woodworking? Just do it!

When I made the floor lamp last week I felt really proud of what I had achieved, but then I thought back to the shoe tidy and the hall stand, to the spice rack and the laptop desk. Who would have thought that such beauty could be made by “Just a bunch of amateurs!” following a few video courses online in their garages. But thousands of you are now doing it and doing it with ease and confidence. Just as a piece I design on the back of a bike as I ride gives me pride, so to you guys flexing your muscle at the bench when you take an oversized piece of oak to a bandsaw or a handsaw and rip it down to near size and plane it by hand. You are all my pride!

58 Comments

  1. Baard Nossum on 30 August 2020 at 9:29 pm

    Thank you for letting people regain pride in themselves.
    Respectfully,
    Baard Nossum

  2. Brian Lowery on 31 August 2020 at 12:41 am

    You weren’t the only tiny voice speaking of the joy of hand woodworking in the world of machines. (And I’m not saying that you implied this) In 2003 I met Frank Klausz at a big machine woodworking show in Nashville, TN. I asked him about a box joint and he said that a dovetail was better. In just a couple minutes he fashioned two pieces of wood using only hand tools into a beautiful dovetailed joint. He signed it and gave it to me. I still have it. I had always been familiar with wood working tools, but never tried anything like cutting dovetails, but Franks influenced me to try more complex joinery. I met you via the Internet about a decade later. I thank both of you for keeping woodworking with hand tool alive.

  3. Samuel on 31 August 2020 at 1:02 pm

    I’m me..this is well known,..ha.
    So my story is small and I should try harder.
    Still..!
    I used the techniques I’ve learned here and planed off a broken section of a gate rail, glued a new piece in, sawed and planed it back to dimensions and huzaah! Fixed!

  4. Juan Carlos De Abreu on 31 August 2020 at 2:10 pm

    Gracias Sr Paul por sus enseñanzas un fuerte abrazo desde Venezuela. Dios lo bendiga.

  5. Jim Vibert on 31 August 2020 at 3:22 pm

    Well said Paul! As I look around my 2200 sq. ft. shop and all the 3-5 horse power pieces of iron that take up the majority of floor space my pleasure always is at my bench. I’m in my ninth decade of woodworking and one of my prized possessions is my oil rag can. Thank you so much. You have turned my old Stanleys into Lie Nielsens.

    • Humanic Element on 1 September 2020 at 3:26 am

      Wonderful!

    • James Becraft on 1 September 2020 at 6:34 pm

      Thanks for your wisdom as well as your woodworking acumen.
      Appreciate your focus on hand tools. My 3000 pound multi-tool doesn’t bring me the joy chisels, hand planes, and handsaws do. A motorized hand routers is a fearsome and noisy thing :).

  6. Jay Gill on 31 August 2020 at 3:31 pm

    “. They were thinking men, thoughtful men working from experiences that they passed on.”

    Thinking, thoughtful men, now there’s 1/3 of the equation. Another 1/3 would be motivation and faith. And lastly as you point out pride or rather the ability to use the energy from a job well done to propel the next task. I think you hit all of these in this blog.

    Also, I used my trusty handsaw to take apart a large tree that feel during a storm, I was quite happy cutting 6″ diameter branches and the occasional 12″ piece (thanks for the sharpening videos). I’ll tell you, you look at wood differently when dealing with large “living” chunks, talk about stresses in the wood! No loud chainsaw nor fear of losing my own limbs, just quiet focus, me and the wood. Thanks for the gift of hand tools!

  7. Paul Boegel on 31 August 2020 at 4:15 pm

    After many years of pursuing my hobby I spent 15yrs as a tool demonstrator for Delta Machinery so I managed to work off a lot of my machinery. I have a 50yr old Unisaw I had rebuilt a couple of years ago and it has earned its keep many times over. However it quickly became apparent that regardless of how many power tools I had that I still needed the hand tools. Power tools are great for making lots of identical pieces but there is still the need for hand tools as eventually you come to a point the power tools will no longer go. However I feel that if I had actually built my workbench first I may have done more work with hand tools. There is a deep satisfaction I have always felt working with hand tools especially if I have mastered some. Thanks Paul. Take care.

  8. Steve P on 31 August 2020 at 4:22 pm

    I have to say, before I stumbled across your videos and blog and accepted them, I was disheartened at the thought of having to go to Rockler to buy all the machines according to what the people “in the know” were telling me through salesmen and magazines. I was wondering how I was ging to afford $10,000-20,000 worth of machines and jigs(rockler has a jig for literally every thing you have to do in woodworking, all mdf for a mere $100 each). After seeing your videos, it hit me, i don’t need to do it that way. But I still people spend $15,000 on tools to make a $200 table.

  9. Norbert on 31 August 2020 at 4:55 pm

    I came across another problem. I never thought mich of power tools, so I bought a book about handtools by a well known author. His demonstration of how to tune handtools properly completely discouraged me. I needed to be a machinist according to his instructions. Luckily I saw your youtube videos and managed to attend one of your courses.
    Thanks

  10. Alain Briot on 31 August 2020 at 5:52 pm

    “….others are also very happy working with and in the exciting new technologies emerging…” Paul, you are working with the latest technology to share your knowledge. If you were not I would never have heard from you or benefited from your teaching. Thank you for embracing the computer age and online teaching 🙂

  11. Alan on 31 August 2020 at 6:19 pm

    Sorry Paul, but you didn’t totally waste your time going to school – after all you can read, & write. It’s not that far in our past (and I’m your age) that the children of poor people were illiterate.

    • Paul Sellers on 31 August 2020 at 10:58 pm

      And I am sorry, Alan. I learned to read and write out of school, after school and later in life. The school told my parents, “Paul can never be educated! He’s ineducable!” I learned maths and English language with a man standing at a joiner’s workbench as we worked planes and saws into and onto the wood. Algebra came later and so too geometry. As I said, school for me was a waste of time. I was fine with that. I could stare out of the windows and watch the kestrel hovering above and so too the skylark on high alongside as it thrilled me with its incessant song. Nothing to do with school of course. In school I learned what bullies were, most of them teachers who caned me for not learning things, and how to dodge them as best I could. It was in school where I saw teachers humiliate boys of 11 or 12 who couldn’t pronounce certain words or letters in a certain way and who were made to stand up in front of 30 other children who could pronounce them. These men and women were just cowards with no compassion. The day I left at 15 years was the happiest day of my life.

      • Conrad A. on 31 August 2020 at 11:55 pm

        There are 3 types of “smarts”… book smarts, street smarts and life smarts, of these three… you have the most valuable and cherished, life smarts… usually obtained through the generosity of others.

        I too went to University for awhile and became indignant with the sanctimonious Professors that seemed to be more interested in impressing upon their students their superior level of their knowledge, rather than helping to pass it along. If you didn’t get it the first time around, you were penalized by ridicule and/or a failing grade.

        I too had teachers that told me that I was not going to amount to anything. I had the great joy of seeing a few of teachers at a class reunion and handing them my business card at large national U.S. Bank, with the title of “Vice-President” on it, commenting “guess I’ll never amount to anything”.

        I rose through the ranks to become a department head, with the help of people giving me the benefit of their life experiences and knowledge, with the unselfish desire of wanting to see me succeed.

        More valuable than any dust covered diploma hanging on a wall, I am forever grateful.

        • nemo on 1 September 2020 at 5:31 pm

          “There are 3 types of “smarts”… book smarts, street smarts and life smarts, of these three…”

          An acquantance (Texan woodworker too, incidentally) told me once, long ago, that ‘there are those who learn from books. There are those who learn by watching others. And then there are those who have to piss against the electric fence for themselves.’

          Must admit that I have been a student at all three schools.

          • James M Gill on 6 September 2020 at 3:18 pm

            Cool – there are others like me who were told (at age 8 mind you) that I would never graduate high school. I failed two big tests, I didn’t have any clue about social ques and behavior, and my brain really does work differently. I was sorta pleased to look back at this after getting my PhD.
            As to learning styles, there are a lot of wet fences in the shop :-).. I hated school, bullied, board etc.. College was another waste (or better – wasted). Not until graduate school did I figure out that schooling is about gaining skill and confidence to be able to trust yourself to learn what you need to satisfy your own curiosity and needs. Of course then you learn to choose what to learn…. and of course eventually finally if you are lucky you learn to listen.



          • John Besharian on 20 September 2020 at 8:15 pm

            Well “Nemo” (is there a “Captain implied there?), that saying is credited to the late, great Will Rogers. He of the Depression Soup commentary: “So thin you could read a newspaper right through it” fame and many, many more.



      • Steve Powell on 1 September 2020 at 7:11 pm

        Thumbs up to the education, I had almost the same school experience as you in the US, took me a long time after mostly working as a millwright in a factory and a carpenter on my own depending on power tools, to enjoy woodworking with hand tools. I admire you for what you did with your life as I’m close to your age. I enjoy your video’s and my most favorite recent book is The Village Carpenter.

      • Sandy on 1 September 2020 at 10:59 pm

        Paul,
        I understand exactly what you are saying about education. I respect those who could go on and get a higher education. There are needs for Doctors and scientist and such. But for those of us who did not fare well in structured schooling… I dropped out of school at 16 and never regretted it a bit. I am 64 and picked up my education and knowledge on my own. Worked manual labor jobs for many years. Eventually working my way from a machinist up to my current position as an Engineer with a Large manufacturing company. When I confide in a coworker that I don’t have a degree they are astonished. I only said that to say that if a person wants to learn something there are other ways to get there than the higher education rout. I didn’t have the opportunity to work under the kind of men you referenced in your blog but would have jumped at the chance to learn a craft as you did. I am enjoying the skills that you have taught over the last several years and have made furniture and gifts that my children and grandchildren will enjoy and brag on for a lifetime. School is not for everyone and there are needs for those people as much as there are for the ones I mentioned earlier.

        • Gerard on 2 September 2020 at 8:22 am

          As a professional engineer (i.e. someone who knows what needs to get done, but can’t do it himself), I’ve always said fresh graduates are mostly useful as landfill: they have to be taught. I’ll be forever grateful to the tradesmen who taught me a lot of what I came to know about aircraft structure (I was an airline engineer, until sudden retirement recently). I learnt a lot by asking them “What did you do last time?” plus “What worked, and what didn’t?” – then I’d try to design a repair to those criteria. I also had some of them on a week-long course I wrote and gave for new graduates; the tradesmen were worried about the maths. They quickly realised how much they actually already knew, and that the maths wasn’t actually that hard. Everyone knows stuff: the trick is to get it out of them by giving them self-confidence.

  12. Joe on 31 August 2020 at 6:27 pm

    Thanks Paul.

    The challenge I see facing as a parent will be helping my daughter (now 8) as she gets older to sort out her career choice. I am fully aware it is her life to live and not mine (including where she wants to live in the world).

    It would be stressful for me if she didn’t want to go to college. I know there are other options and careers out there that can be fulfilling. Any advice on how to have the conversation with your children to help understand what they want to do with their lives? How did you do this with your children? It’s a ways out for me.

    Mostly I want my daughter to have a career she enjoys that will let her get by in this world. I got lucky in that in high school, I figured out I liked science. Once I got to college, it was clear to me that I wanted to be a chemist. Period. Didn’t know what it paid. Didn’t care. Doubt anyone could have changed my mind. If my daughter has conviction that makes it easy for me. I guess I worry if she is wishy washy and doesn’t have any clear idea.

    • Bjarne on 31 August 2020 at 8:25 pm

      First of, thank you Paul. I really appreciate the gift you have given us all. I will cherish the knowledge and I will pas it on to my children.

      To Joe.
      Don’t have that conversation. Make sure you let them see the joy of manual labor, as well as the pleasures of education. Follow her up in all her choices and be supportive. Make her see the beauty of the world around us. Not the things we surround ourselves with. I know this isn’t easy. I try everyday. And more often than not, I fail.
      I have a higher degree in International marketing. But I work in construction as a Lordy driver. You can have the best from both worlds. Teach them the love of work. Not as a means to an end, but as a reward in itself. I pray that my children find something they truly love. That’s all.

      • Joe on 1 September 2020 at 3:33 pm

        Thank you. This makes complete sense.

    • Noel Rodrigue on 1 September 2020 at 1:17 am

      Joe, I’ll second Bjarne … you don’t have to have “a conversation” about the ‘big future’. The way I see it is your role is to provide whatever ‘tools’ are needed for her to be able to see and feel what she wants in her future. Kids aren’t dumb, sometimes they need a bit of encouragement but not straight out ‘direction’. Smooth and easy “did you see this”, “how does … make you feel”, “you don’t need to …”, “you might want to look at/ consider/ ask others about …” are probably easier ways to make it.
      I guess I got lucky with my kids, they’ve ‘found’ themselves. They’re happy, what more can I ask for?

      • Joe on 1 September 2020 at 3:36 pm

        Thank you. Her birthday is in a month’s time. Over the last year, she has used my Stanley 151 spokeshave a lot (to make swords out of 1×2’s, etc.). For gifts, I have bought her a spokeshave and a number 3 Stanley handplane.

        • John Besharian on 20 September 2020 at 8:45 pm

          Congratulations on getting her tools to call her own. Now you may consider getting her her very own vise to safely hold her workpieces while teaching her of Archimedes: “Give me a place to stand and I will move the earth”. More than that, remember that if she finds out what it is she really loves to do and can learn it well enough to master it; even as she earns a living from it she’ll never “Work” a day in her life.

  13. Gary Egbert on 31 August 2020 at 6:32 pm

    I do work with power tools but very much enjoy the hand tool work I do where I can take my time as I create something. Too often when working with power tools it is tempting to be in a hurry and it is easy to make mistakes (I cut it off twice and it is still too short syndrome)or something even more dangerous. Thank you for the thoughtful reflection Paul

  14. Al on 31 August 2020 at 6:55 pm

    As a lifelong Do-It-Yourselfer, I have accumulated the typical collection of home-owner power tools (contractors style table saw, sliding miter saw, jigsaw, circular saw, a cordless drill or two and yes and even an electric router!). My total investment, spread over 30+ years has been significantly under $2,000. They served me well through multiple home renovation projects, as well as quite a few set building projects for the high-school drama club. But I limited myself, to dimensional lumber commonly available (i.e.; “1 by X” and “2 by X”) and ran scared of anything that needed to be made from solid wood other than 3/4″ or 1-1/2″ thick.

    With the help of Paul’s outstanding videos, I have entered into the realm of true woodworking using hand tools. This has opened up a all sorts of new possibilities for me, and I have gotten the hand tool bug. I especially enjoy the precision and the detail that goes into hand tool joinery. More importantly, the ability to dimension lumber into whatever thickness that you need completely transformed how I looked at woodworking.

    BUT, dimensioning rough lumber by hand takes a lot of time, and I am at a point in my life were time is becoming more and more precious. So I am now seriously considering investing in a larger band saw (I have small hobby band saw I bought for model building), a thickness planer and ultimately a small jointer in order to more quickly go from rough material down to usable stock.

    I have learned a lot using hand tools to dimension rough sawn boards and have MUCH, MUCH more to learn, but I want to focus more of my time on final refinement and joinery tasks.

  15. Tim Nickerson on 31 August 2020 at 6:56 pm

    THANK YOU PAUL!!
    I was fortunate to take several courses from you in Texas and learned how to setup and use hand tools. At that time, I had some power tools but did not enjoy the noise and dust. I can’t describe the joy of using a plane on a piece of wood or a scraper instead of sandpaper to get a smooth finish. The smile as I rub my hand over the smooth wood says it all.

    Now I’m enjoying your videos and learning as I go…
    Thank You
    Tim

  16. Howard Hurley on 31 August 2020 at 6:56 pm

    Well said, as always, Paul.

  17. Alexandros Makaronis on 31 August 2020 at 8:55 pm

    Hi Paul,

    I started watching your videos from March 2020 during the COVID quarantine and started to exercise what I saw from you.
    Till today, I managed to built a mallet, a marking gauge, 2 picture frames, a router plane and just finished my plough plane.

    You are such a good and inspiring teacher.
    Regards from Greece

  18. Thomas Locatell on 31 August 2020 at 9:01 pm

    A drill press and a cordless are the two power tools I can’t live without as I make the pieces for a timber frame/post and beam/conventional cabin. The most fun I have is when I go out in the woods to harvest the dead, downed trees that would otherwise rot. Saw, axes and wedges with a handcart to trundle the pieces home, fabricate and then trundle them to the storage unit. When it finally goes together on a patch ground somewhere it will possibly be the last and best major job I do, though I hardly picture myself whittling in a rocking chair on the front porch. Having no car is a challenge but has freed up money to buy things, the major purchase being a home for myself after being stuck in an apartment for four years. The neighbors even complain about handtools but they have a point about the chiseling and other banging, sawing and planing not so much.

  19. LaMont King Jr. on 31 August 2020 at 9:07 pm

    Absolutely excellent article Paul. Thank you for being an inspiration for us inspiring to be the best version of our woodworking selves.

  20. mark leatherland on 31 August 2020 at 9:14 pm

    It’s great to think that you are proud of us lot making nice things in our Garages. I’m proud of the nice things that I’ve made so far and about how I’ve made them. All thanks to you!

  21. William F French on 31 August 2020 at 10:09 pm

    Paul,
    Excellent blog – thank you for the inspiration and reminding me not to forget where I came from.

    • Dave Wrigley on 31 August 2020 at 11:20 pm

      Hi Paul
      I am 80 with serious illnesses, after watching your videos I have started woodworking and have learned so much from you, to date 2 large chests one for my shed rubbish to give me room tho work, the other for my neighbour for his garden furniture cushions. So far I have not tried dovetails or mortise and tenons but, god willing , watch this space. Thank you so much for your inspiration and the fascinating and interesting videos

  22. Serhat Akiska on 31 August 2020 at 10:10 pm

    Paul,
    It is thanks to you and your ongoing encouragement, I am in the process of building a roubo style frame saw to resaw a couple of 4ft long, 4”x6” white oaks labs. I am only two years into woodworking as a retired architect, and with your philosophy in my head, I believe I have accomplished a few nice pieces for my children and grandchildren. Although I was thinking that I wasted my time in architecture school, I came to appreciate the skills I learned in school as they helped me designing and constructing furniture. As long as we learn from the “wasted time”, it’s a win-win for us.
    Meeting you in person is in my bucket list!

  23. Greg Fitzgerald on 31 August 2020 at 10:11 pm

    Amen

  24. chris ussher on 31 August 2020 at 10:32 pm

    I am a little surprised at the bitterness in this post. You are literate and articulate. Your education was not wasted. As to the naysayers and snickering, “he who laughs last, laughs loudest”

    • chris ussher on 31 August 2020 at 11:35 pm

      I see your reply above, I stand corrected sir. I know that even in more recent times in less brutal environs, schools have accepted writing off 10% of boys, who do not pick up reading due to ‘learning disorders’ – actually just learn differently. I have reached a point of asking middle aged men in physical occupations how well they read – when supplying written educational materials. There is still a lot of illiteracy in wealthy countries. Sorry you had to explain yourself

  25. Roger Browning on 31 August 2020 at 11:01 pm

    Thank you for the words today. I really appreciate them.

  26. Jeff Tapp on 1 September 2020 at 12:04 am

    Thank you sir.
    It was only earlier today, when watching another channel on woodworking, I was having these same thoughts. The lady in question seemed to spend an awful long time setting up various machines to cut a Dovetail joint. I swear the very thought I had was “Mr Sellers would have cut it with just one saw, a couple chisels and maybe a mallet!, and would likely be finished in one tenth the time!”
    So much waste. And why? Because they hadn’t learned the skills to even use a hand saw. They were able to make an instructional video on how to make a very complicated jig to use 5 different machines to cut a Dovetail. But couldn’t use a Dovetail saw and a chisel!!
    I was slightly late to the party, but was fortunate enough to be trained by a master of the trade. And in all my years since have been grateful for the lessons he taught me. Take pride in your work. Never cut corners. No such thing as an easy way, just the right way. I carried “hundred weight” bags of cement and sand up ladders and stairs. And have known the true joy of being bone tired from a proper day’s labour.
    Now I have 3 late teens early 20’s, and I am ashamed of what I have done. They are wonderful people and I am very proud of them, but not one of them has “worked” a day yet. Even now, crippled and fairly useless, I can outlast any of them. And they are not alone. I at one point employed many, and the younger generation are fully reliant on the machines and gizmos. Without a jig they are lost. I did watch one young man earlier though, restored a little faith, was very upset at other Youtubers constantly using CNC machines to cut out circles. He managed with just a pencil and electric jigsaw!
    Thank you for your teachings and your wisdom. Hopefully many will see and understand your worries. I hope that my children will be able to understand before it is too late, the wonder and true joy of working with your hands with basic hand tools, who you care for yourself. And with these tools you can create amazing things.

  27. Stuart Woodcock on 1 September 2020 at 4:01 am

    Hi,
    I have been inspired by you to go down the hand tool route. Also i cant afford upwards from 1k Australian dollars to buy the powered machines. Having a couple of hand power tools helps me.
    The amount of power tools for the wood worker is mind boggling. I have been looking at bandsaws and they can sell from $150 to, well, the skies the limit.
    I dont have a lot of time to research out what i want as I’d rather be making things or making my own tools.
    My point is id rather spend my time learning useful skills than buying and setting up expensive tools to make things quicker.
    Im trying to escape the fast lane not load more stuff into it

  28. James Monette on 1 September 2020 at 5:05 am

    Hello, I enjoy learning how to work with one of the most amazing things on this earth, wood. Recently I have been able to do some projects that have helped me to use this natural product and it was done with mostly hand tools, hooray.
    On the other hand I do not have any optimism that we will see a change in mankind’s headlong plunge into self destruction. It is sad that we will take down our beautiful resources with us. Not pessimistic but logical. Nevertheless if we could be taken out of the mix than there could be hope, for us and our beloved crafts whatever they may be. I am optimistic. I remember playing in my dads wood shavings under his saw and making boats out of the scrap. Fortunately I still have some of those same tools today and use them! I believe there is a future for the trades just not exactly what we may believe. Sound crazy? Things getting better? Sound crazy?

  29. Artem on 1 September 2020 at 10:32 am

    Dear Mr. Sellers,
    I have always been afraid of the power tool. Loud sound, injury risk, fine dust in the air, it all looks more like torture.
    I can’t watch a video about woodworking on machine tools, because it looks like a meaningless kaleidoscope in which one machine replaces another at unimaginable speed, reminiscent of the beginning of Chaplin’s film “New Times”.
    It was just a few months that I discovered woodworking with hand tools, thanks in large part to your video. Thank you very much.

    Artem. St-Petersburg, Russia.

  30. Andy on 1 September 2020 at 11:56 am

    I liked the phrase “de-industrial revolution”. But I think I will hang onto my circular saw, especially for recovering useful cross sections from used timber, before making something more hand-wrought.

    • Nathan Jones on 1 September 2020 at 1:13 pm

      What is to be learnt and what can be learned is all possible only in the fullness of time. Aman Paul.!

  31. J.R. ((Ronn) Winn - Vermont, U.S.A. on 1 September 2020 at 5:26 pm

    Paul, I used to think I was a good wood crafter until I started watching your videos which I have learned a lot from. I am at the point in life (age 67) where I would like to hang on to my digits so if I can do it with a handsaw or hand tool I would prefer to go that route. I believe, as you, that the key to success in working with hand tools is to have a good razor sharp edge. It is more than half of the battle. I am still partial to sharpening with oil stones as that was the way I was initially instructed almost 40 years ago. Do you advocate water stones over oil stones and if so, why?

  32. Mark D. Baker on 2 September 2020 at 5:47 am

    Spot on Paul!

  33. Marian on 2 September 2020 at 1:36 pm

    Dear Paul, encouraging and inspiring words. Thank you !
    Marian, Slovakia

  34. Mark on 2 September 2020 at 2:26 pm

    The world needs more Paul Sellers. Your love of your craft and willingness to share knowledge are beyond admirable. I read very few blogs but enjoy all of yours. (Mark in Jupiter, Florida USA)

  35. Ray Powell, East Sussex on 3 September 2020 at 5:10 pm

    I am now 76 years of age and have been messing around with wood, on and off, as a hobby since was 15 when I left school to the disappointment of my woodwork master by taking a job as an office boy. Since being retired I have built up an ‘enviable’ collection of powered woodworking machines each one tempting further the illusion of enjoyment and satisfaction to be had lined up in my garage and workshop. It was while making a chest of drawers that it dawned on me that the perfectly machined dovetailed drawers and the perfectly sawn and joined lengths of wood amounted to nothing really. It suddenly felt that all I was doing was joining together machine formed Lego-like pieces of wood not far removed from what is available in today’s superstore retailers. It’s rather late in the day for me but I am now in the process of resurrecting and relearning the skills of hand made woodwork. Following your easy going demonstrations I have found so much enjoyment from the simplest of things such as cutting dovetails, mortise and tenons, sharpening saws, chisels and so on. But the biggest and most valuable asset for me is your ‘knife’ wall technique that my even my lovely old woodwork master Mr McGrail didn’t bring to my attention all those years ago. You are unique Paul and you have my undivided attention.

    (P.S. my education also only began when I left school at 15 too and by listening and watching it led to me to being a moderately successful businessman for most of my working life)

    • Paul Sellers on 4 September 2020 at 5:17 am

      Thanks for this nudge, Ray. It was so nice to read your ‘reality’ experience. I think that few machinist woodworkers ‘cross over’ to the other side once they’ve spent so much money and time to establish machining wood as the more advanced and logical pathway. Personally, I never use the term power-tool woodworking in written or verbal form because machines are just that, machines, and not so-called power tools at all. I know that I will not change the world’s use of that, but it’s not my intention to and it doesn’t matter how others perceive them. People think I am anti-machine, people that don’t know me well, that is, but that’s not true at all. I enjoy machines from time to time. I little contract saw is handy for making fencing and other carpentry work. Even a power planer/jointer is useful for thickness planing and jointing edges and such. I just choose to use a bandsaw alone for my rip work and especially on 6-10″ thick recutting of hardwoods and such.
      Re school and education. In my world I was spared the trauma of primary education by the biases of my lovely Mrs Bell. She was the only teacher that never caned me or bullied me and understood that I couldn’t learn as other children did. She was patient and kind and left me to play in sand and with paper, paints and such. I was only 7-8 but I loved her very much.

      • Ray Powell on 5 September 2020 at 8:19 am

        I have recently been saying goodbye to most of my machines leaving me with a small band saw and a drill press. Now waking up some of my old hand powered tools such as the Stanley hand router that has been laying dormant in its cardboard box for so long….

  36. Mike Z. on 6 September 2020 at 6:30 pm

    I applaud you – “De-Industrial Revolution” should be a term we all pick up and use! I grew up in that era when the home shop became a smaller version of a commercial workshop. Those whirring machines always scared me half to death, and I have many friends missing not just digits but actual appendages from those powerful machines. I longed to learn the quieter and more hands on approach of hand tools, but could find no one person save from the older retired person who used to use a hand tool here or there. It was not until I discover Mr. Sellers and his many varied outlets that I could finally learn what I had wanted for over 40 years. I too sharpen freehand now, and use saws and hand planes to size and process my wood. And what a happier person I am for all of this knowledge and experience – thank you for allowing a dream to become a reality. Please keep up the good work, and here is to continued good health.

  37. Stephen Tyrrell on 8 September 2020 at 4:06 am

    I was thinking this morning that if I had come to woodworking earlier in life (I am 62), I would probably have a garage full of power tools costing over $10,000. Now, because I first googled “how to build a workbench” 18 months ago, I can work in a tiny space, with a single Paul Sellers workbench, and a collection of hand tools (admittedly I have bought quite a few) that have cost me maybe $2,000 all up.

    Every weekend I am as happy I could be making things, practice joints, making mistakes and fixing them, no noise, no dust, just me and my hands, enjoying the process of making.

  38. usvintagewood on 10 September 2020 at 9:03 am

    Woodworking has long been associated with hand tools and many people use these exclusively. The biggest argument for hand tools rather than power tools is the control and precision that they allow. The woodworker controls everything that happens directly in the use of hand tools. There is also the point that hand tools will always be, well, handy. Users don’t have to worry about a dead battery, not working near an electrical outlet, or running out of fuel. Hand tools are also usually small and are easier to transport and store than a large, automated option. The biggest disadvantage of hand tools is that they create a much slower process. This can be frustrating to some and even detrimental to professional woodworkers with high volumes of work. Hand tools also take much more skill to master. This is because users are responsible for each movement with no aid from automation. Because of this, new or inexperienced woodworkers might struggle for the results they want.

Leave a Reply Cancel Reply





  • Elliott Timms on Toolbox Build UpdateTool storage has become a real problem for me, since getting the woodworking had tool bug I'm fast upgrading storage of the ever increasing collection of previously unloved and neg…
  • Michael on Toolbox Build UpdateI have been doing this for years. Most of my wife's garden tables and potting tables are made of pallets, some with rollers mounted to move around. In this country (the Netherlands…
  • Jeffrey on Toolbox Build UpdateHi Paul What fits in the toolbox, exactly? Certainly not a full size saw? Pax, Jeff
  • Stephen McGonigle on Toolbox Build UpdateI have the tops from 15+ oak drop leaf or gateleg tables. A wonderful source and cheap if they're stained or marked. Seasoned for 80-100 years! I bought a 7' ash wardrobe at auctio…
  • Stephen McGonigle on Toolbox Build UpdateDennis, have a look at Paul's videos. There's a lot of information sharpening, all given in Paul's inimitable no nonsense style. If you haven't got his Essential Woodworking Handbo…
  • Thomas on Toolbox Build UpdateI can't believe how quickly you get these things done. Can't wait to see the videos!
  • Darren K Lee on Update on My Book- Essential Woodworking Hand ToolsWe had a saying in the Army that when training Soldiers, you had to show them what "right" looked like. Thank you, Mr. Sellers for showing what right looks like. Doc Lee in Arkansa…