I have similar problems. It is difficult for me to decide how to spend the limited time that I have to devote to this hobby. To make matters worse, I’ve become more of a tool collector than a woodworker. Now I find myself believing that a $1000 dollar black and green floating tenon machine will make a difference.
I kid myself that I am “setting up shop for retirement when I will have more time”.
How do you decide what to do with your time????

Hello D,

Hope you are well. I contemplated this for a while because it’s important to me to feel I am helping you with your question. Firstly, it’s not uncommon to collect woodworking tools when you are interested in woodworking. There’s nothing wrong with that. Some authors did nothing more than research their findings and write about their findings without making a thing. Edward H Pinto collected treen wear and became an expert on treen. His knowledge amassed over many decades, resulted in a fine book entitled Treen and other Wooden Bygones. He was very interested in woodworking and though he did indeed work wood, the time it took for him to pull together his book left little time for him to become an expert woodworker as is the case for a full time practicing artisan like myself. His knowledge of treen and woodenware far exceeded mine though. He left a legacy from his interest. We have the same from many authors we admire and respect; R A Salaman’s Dictionary of Woodworking Tools, W Goodman’s British Planemakers from 1700 and then many more too.


From my experience being with amateur woodworkers over the past three decades or so, it seems their future was mostly woodworking related from the beginning; that they just hadn’t had the opportunity to get the training but they were the one’s that had all the passion. They each held to a latent interest in craftwork, and in our community, it is indeed mainly, but not limited to, woodworking. In the general mix of things, many wood-related issues begin to occur that impact our decision making. That was why I started writing my thoughts and feelings on what it would take for an amateur with a growing interest to have some kind of plan leading to a different concept in woodworking training. Today’s apprenticeship if you will. My thoughts in 1990 were somewhat radical but I was not alone. DFotted around the USA I found a handful of other truly independents. Drew Langsner out in California taught country workshops from his home workshop. Marc Adams in Indiana started a new teaching workshop in Indiana at the same I did.

My foundational courses kept expanding because in my early days of passing on knowledge I started to put together my notes from my experience woodworking and coupled that with the feedback I got from the then-new classes I was teaching. Before long, the era of digital photography hit the new world at faster-than-lightning speed. Remember at the time of my writing, YouTube is but 15 years old and still in its infant stages. Amazingly, I contacted the former owners of my how-to curriculum in woodworking, about 25 of them, and they are now back in my ownership again. I am currently working through them to bring them up to date but looking through them and seeing the very beginnings of my writing I felt goosebumps just thinking about republishing them as I complete the revisions.

This was my Craftsman-style design for the first ever rocking chair course I offered. It became a 43 page how-to booklet.

With so much knowledge now at our fingertips today it is all too easy to “Google it!” rather than read a comprehensive book or article. hence my quest 10 years ago with my first blogposts. Hard to imagine now but there are 1,400 blogposts and 30 million views together 33,000 comments from all of you guys. Later we felt people needed more of the basics because our woodworkingmasterclasses.com had gained such ground, so we put our commonwoodworking.com website up to help new woodworkers follow a course. With this as a foundational entry it made things simple. Of course, that does not mean ‘googling things’ doesn’t cause confusion. Read enough in comments and reviews, product information, catalogs and magazines and already the very thing that consumes our time is the processing of far too much information. We are now learning from reading and watching this overload of information and so the needle just keeps getting buried deeper in the mounting hay of the now worldwide haystack.

The workbench class from2007. I have rewritten the small bench booklet based on this early curriculum I wrote. I think that you will like it.

My advice will come manifold. Here it is. Make a list of what you feel is indeed important. We can procrastinate and put off making because we feel we need to have a mass of power equipment, special hand tools, a designer workshop and some kind of over-massive workbench built from a seasoned hardwood. None of this is really true. The list should be headed with what do you want in becoming a woodworker? Nice tools, cleaned up repaired, restored and ready to go or a lineup from prestigious makers from around the globe that, well just need nothing to do to them. In my world, restoring a vintage Stanley #4 and 5 means immediate training in the workings and maintenance of bench planes. Strip them down and pout them together a few times and you will have it down in a heartbeat. Use the plane to work the wood and you will soon be tweaking the leavers and adjustments as though you were born with one in your hand. This then of course, goes for all the other tools. So you will see that it is not just that buying secondhand saves on cost but more that the tool becomes the vehicle through which you then learn about how the plane functions, how to handle it and how to mainain it which of course, includes its idiosyncracies.

My suggestion in all of this is to budget your money. Decide on what you want to spend. For instance, buying a Stanley plane could be say a maximum of £20, and then too, you might prefer to look on different venues or even advertise for tools in your local paper. Yes, this costs, and yes it takes effort,t but you might be surprised by the results. Oh, and by budget I do not mean some arbitrary figue in your head but a paper copy with pen and paper in front of you resulting in a physical commitment for you to follow.

My next consideration is perhaps harder to do. What about budgeting your time? I believe in budgeting because it makes clear the objective we need to save. The saving here is mostly time. We only have so many ‘daylight’ hours. We suffer the illusion of saying “Just Google it!” implying this is fast and effective. Generally, this takes a very unique mind to have that much self-control and of course, Google knows this. Looking for a plane on eBay results in looking through dozens of offerings for the bargain ‘Buy-it-now’ bargain when we passed the ideal one on page one. Perhaps consider allowing say an hour to find three tools. Same of course with catalogs and so on. If in the day time was money, then of course for us time surfing the internet is indeed not so much money but time no longer available for working with our wood in the garage. Budgeting time for woodworking will indeed mean allocating time. This can be evenings not watching something elsewhere like TV or on a device. You must budget this woodworking time around your family if you are the only one interested in woodworking but, as it was with my boys, woodworking can be a family interest and the kids were with me every evening in the workshop from around 4 pm until bedtime from an early age. the result was very capable woodworkers whether they became woodworkers full time or not. Again, write it down. Work to it and keep a record.

Budgeting space. This is important too. Workbench space needs a place and finding the space is hard for some of us. Work out what you have and how you can future-proof your growth as your interest expands. if you are collecting tools as part of the endeavour then perhaps finds or build a tool and equipment shed. that way you are not climbing over stuff to start working at your bench and your bench is clutter free. The basis for my woodworking course is that with about ten hand tools you can make every woodworking joint that’s ever been made. Importantly, you do not need many more than that to make just about anything from wood.

My idea to build a workbench in the garden ten years ago was to knock the stuffing out of advocates touting that you needed a massive behemoth of a bench “to stay put!” Such statements are indeed erroneous but they also promote a certain type of prideful strutting that’s mainly unnecessary and puts the novice off. All of those special winding mechanisms, hounds-tooth dovetails, massive sections with tenons that take a month to chop through. You can build a good bench in your garden in three or four days and use it for a hundred years and you only need some pine and ten hand tools you can buy on eBay to do it. I have proved this time and time again. How? I used to offer a three-day course in Texas to sixteen students per class and they all loaded up their benches at the end of the third day!

The important thing in my world is to live in the day and each day as it comes. Don’t do as many do and wait for the illusional retirement. Why do businesses always take the best years of your life and then somehow let you go after 50 years? Make life happen now with the start of the budget. Show it to your family and see how it fits with them. Tweak it and then look for the enjoyment.

Okay Dan. I’m done! Hope that this helps.

46 Comments

  1. Albin on 15 September 2020 at 11:43 am

    What a timely post. I’m in the process of building your bench (soon to be my/mine) in the basement. I’ve struggled to get enough time to be down there.

    I think I’m going to set aside a few time slots each week dedicated to the relaxing sound of shavings hitting the floor

    • Steve P on 15 September 2020 at 8:21 pm

      That is how I built my bench. I told my wife I was working on it and I needed 30 minutes per day to work on. Sometimes a little more on weekends. 30 minutes per day adds up a lot faster than procrastinating.

  2. Sylvain on 15 September 2020 at 11:48 am

    – Waiting for retirement means one’s house will already be fully furnished and kids are married and already have bought some flat pack furniture. Then one is limited to make small items like boxes and other occasional gift. (Unless one decides to replace existing furniture.)

    – “$1000 dollar … floating tenon machine”. Setting up machines eat that precious time you are looking for. Machine is only useful when doing many identical pieces.

    – Budgeting space. This where you need agreement from the family because everyone would like to use the coveted space for other uses.

    • Michael Michalofsky on 21 September 2020 at 11:27 am

      I have the festool domino
      Sorry to say but
      To be honest
      The machine is FANTASTIC
      I want to do so many things but
      So little time in which to do them

      • Paul Sellers on 21 September 2020 at 2:18 pm

        It’s nice that we offer the development of highly skilled methods and development on my blog and other platforms and everyone has the freedom to espouse unskilled methods in the same place without prejudice. I like that.

      • ANTHONY M TOMLINSON on 21 September 2020 at 11:06 pm

        @Michael Michalofsky good on ya. As much as i enjoy my efforts to master hand tools, I do also love well-made machines. Am I a heretic??

  3. Ted Sherman on 15 September 2020 at 11:56 am

    Very well said, Paul. Thank you. I needed to read this today.

  4. RONALD R KOWALEWSKI on 15 September 2020 at 12:11 pm

    Thanks against not only for the excellent teaching in hand tool work, but also the shift of a lived life by choice.

  5. Pheroz Tengra on 15 September 2020 at 12:20 pm

    What a beautiful blog – budgeting money/space/time . A roadmap for every person. The worst thing one can do is – do not procrastinate. Hats off to Paul for a wonderful writeup.

  6. Sherri on 15 September 2020 at 12:54 pm

    When I was 15 I went to visit my grandparents in England. My cousin gave me a few woodworking tools that I had admired that had been my great grandfathers. He was a joiner and his brother was a mason. Here is where my woodworking journey began. Those few tools and a Disston Saw that had been my Dad’s was how I began. It was unheard of in those days for a young girl to be a carpenter. I got a lot of teasing and put downs but I persisted. I still persist and enjoy the relaxation my small carpentry endeavors give me. I don’t have many tools. I don’t own a table saw. But, I am not exclusively a hand tool worker either. I am in the process of making a coffee cupboard for myself now. My daughter wants one too. I can’t imagine laying down my tools. I don’t know what I would do with myself.

    • Paul Sellers on 15 September 2020 at 1:02 pm

      How very inspirational, Sherri. What a story! I never had to face that kind of issue because woodworking was very much a man thing in my early days so I never saw a girl or a woman with hand planes and saws and such. It is such a sadness to see how very few women are involved in my craft. Hannah, my friend and my apprentice, is one of the best in terms of ability and skill yet she had to claw her way through university to get degrees she didn’t particularly want or need. Then she found woodworking and she is growing in skill and ability and her knowledge is just excellent. I wonder how many there are out there that would love to make their own furniture? I hope this changes and rapidly.

      • Steve P on 15 September 2020 at 11:33 pm

        I have been trying to include my daughters in my woodworking as I can. So far one of my teenage daughters has built a box, and a ukulele that turned out beautifully. We are currently working on a desk. I let her use a bit and brace to drill the holes and she really enjoyed that part. I don’t see her being a professional woodworker as she has other interests for a career, but I want her to know she can build her own quality furniture for herself or friends or even as a hobby

  7. Vidar Fagerjord Harboe on 15 September 2020 at 1:57 pm

    I lived in the future for years. Got depressed by the fact that I could never afford going back to university to get my degree (never got one, and am content with that now), my dream shop was impossible to build for at least a decade and so on. I focused on what I wanted and did not enjoy what I actually did have.
    I then met someone that teached me to be thankful for what I have and to enjoy my life while it unfolds in stead of focusing on what I wanted.
    I then met my wife, got kids, bought a house with a small garage that now is my shop. 🙂 And I am enjoying every moment of it!

    Living in the now is important. Enjoy what one have NOW, not what one might get in the future. Plan for the future, but do not think that the plans are set in stone. “They are more like guidelines” (captain Barbossa). 🙂

    The song “Cat’s in a cradle” comes to mind. It is kind of a given when we’re talking about kids, but put the song into other contexts of your life.

    “We’re gonna have a good time then”

    Do not let that quote fit your life. Have a good time now!

  8. Dick Hutchings on 15 September 2020 at 2:20 pm

    Aside from specialty planes, I don’t have any molding or plows, I have everything I need in metal planes. I can’t seem to complete a project though. So I’ve started building a hand plane because I think it’s a quick enough project that I can complete. This will most likely become a passion for a while and then I’ll get back to building my Martin style D28 guitar. I’m at the detail point on that. There’s just not enough planing in building a guitar and I want to make shavings on a daily basis because that somehow brings me a lot of happiness. According to my Fitbit, I got quite a workout last night sawing and planing.

    In the interest of budgeting time and maybe finishing a project, I ran the 2 side plates of my Krenov style plane through my thickness sander. That was a joy as well and allowed me to finish the glue up before going to bed. Oh yeah and I cut the angles on the bandsaw after cutting the pieces to length with the handsaw. It’s a real juggling act to satisfy the desire to work with only hand tools and still complete a project. I have no deadlines but if I don’t complete a project in a week or more, it’s liable to be forgotten as I move on to something else.

    I thank you very much for sharing your woodworking wisdom.

    • Paul Sellers on 15 September 2020 at 2:31 pm

      Have you gone through the projects on https://commonwoodworking.com/ and our free ones on woodworkingmasterclasses.com ? The tool tote, wall clock, pieces like that? These are free project-based courses. All the surfaces need planing, round-overs, things like that, some spokeshaving and joinery. common woodworking is full of courses and guides, exercises and such.

  9. Marty on 15 September 2020 at 3:35 pm

    Saving for retirement? Paul, when I first began to take woodworking seriously, well, more seriously than before I had nothing. A little over 6 years ago I traveled to South Carolina to help my father in his old age with little more than the clothes on my back. I had lost everything I owned before then including all my tools and so on. A short six years later I’m sitting here in the garage with a nearly fully equipped workshop capable of doing some pretty decent woodworking. Of course I don’t have the finest tools and I probably make too much sawdust and messes, but from where I was just a few years ago to now is like a completely different world. My only income is from social security and from the little bit I’m able to sell here and there . I’ve managed to acquire both hand tools as well as power tools, table saw, planer, bandsaw, etc., but by far my favorites are my meager collection of inexpensive planes I’ve purchased for under $30 each to improve by sharpening, oiling and so on. I hit upon a great deal on chisels and keep them as sharp as I know how. I purchased clamps as often as I could, built the bench that was once pristine condition and is now looking well used with no sign of slowing down.
    Retirement? I’m 61 and have little to no intention of slowing down to be what I would consider retired. Of course I have health issues, but as long as I’m able to turn a stack of 2 by boards into a nice piece of furniture or whatever it is I’m making I’ll keep doing it.
    Now I’m teaching others the things I’ve learned with among those is how to avoid cutting off their fingers.
    You’ve been a huge help so owe you a debt I’ll never be able to repay. I do thank you.

  10. Paul Boegel on 15 September 2020 at 5:14 pm

    Having had this as my main hobby for over 50yrs I think back to the times when my dad encouraged me to join him in the workshop when he was not on the road. I have bought and sold my power tools over the years to get to the point where there is not really anything that I want. I understand very well what you talk about as budgeting and time is one of the hardest. However, since it is a hobby for me the time does not always figure in as it is MY time so I can use it as I wish. I recently bought a Bailey 5-1/2 for about $60CDN and I will do a restore on it shortly. I have done several planes already but bought a couple of Veritas planes because they are working art and a pleasure to work with. I am not a collector so if anything does not have a use it goes into a selling site. All that said, I consider the time I spend in the shop as therapy for living in the city. It is a place where I get to do what I want, when I want and how I want. I am using my hand tools a lot more now but the power tools have their place too. I think I have the best part of both worlds. That is a happiness I can abide. This is a valuable site for me aside from the massive learning I have experienced to better enjoy the hand tools I have. It is my way of surrounding myself with like minded people which is always a pleasure.

  11. nemo on 15 September 2020 at 11:17 pm

    “[…] buying secondhand saves on cost but more that the tool becomes the vehicle through which you then learn about how the plane functions, how to handle it and how to maintain it […]”

    In my case, buying the tool was the entrypoint to learning woodworking. That tool was a Stanley #4 plane that I bought about 5 years ago in a 2nd-hand store with the idea that ‘it might come in handy someday to plane a bit off a sticking door or window’. Not knowing how to handle one, a quick internet-search later I ended up on YouTube where an English gentleman explained how to take it apart, fettle it, re-assemble and use it. Then one thing led to another, and before you know it you end up using that plane nearly daily, find yourself making dadoes, dovetails and mortise-and-tenon joints, using card scrapers, wiping the sawplate or planesole over a rag-in-a-can and pausing your work for a very quick ‘touch up’ of the chisel on the sharpening stone before continuing. I sometimes laugh at myself when doing so.

    So instead of a wanna-be woodworker who bought a tool, I was a tool-buyer that ended up learning woodworking.

    When I thought I was just buying a 3.50 euro plane, in reality it turns out I bought access to a whole new set of skills.

    (and worse… you see an older man in a store who’s missing a few fingers and ask if they happen to be a woodworker, pointing at their hand. And before you know it you realise you’ve spent half an hour pleasantly talking about wood and working wood with a total stranger. BTW, it was the router that did it, not the circle saw, as I assumed.)

  12. Samuel on 16 September 2020 at 1:40 am

    Brilliant blog post to take to heart.
    Pondering on what the need and outcome is is crucial: I was thinking of the piles and drawers of belongings of junk and treasure interspersed in my place.
    If someone said…we need to make room for your dear friend to sleep in this room and he needs the wardrobe space.
    Or we have to prepare the bathroom for Bob to stay because he needs a place for recuperate etc etc.
    My point is that all the barrier to doing something drop away when we have the light on a need and the time is now. Oh to have such clarity 🙂

  13. Dan Anderson on 16 September 2020 at 2:01 am

    Thank you, Paul and everybody for contributing to my original query! I am so grateful to have found Paul Sellers and chosen to attempt to adopt his ways and philosophy of working wood. And also all those who are along for this journey who have the advantage of more experience and skill than I.
    Reading these responses has reminded me to keep it simple and keep plugging along as I did when I built my Paul Sellers bench and the handful of projects from his Masterclasses. I am blessed with some fine hand tools, and additionally have many power tools. But those ones don’t provide the same satisfaction.
    It has occurred to me that I am letting my frustration of not “producing” enough lead me to believe that “production” tools will solve this. I realize now that I need to get back to following along with Paul, finishing a couple of the unfinished projects, and getting to building that craftsman style rocking chair as had been my plan before. A worthwhile goal indeed!

  14. John Cunneen on 16 September 2020 at 9:21 am

    Paul, thank you for this. I used today to work out the replacement posts for my brother’s front fence. The detail I worked out on the weekend. I used the workbench with a few extra bits to work out the practical cutting. Then I took to the top of the bench and flattened it and brought the vice jaws to the same level. Used the old planes and got a workout. Thank you for your inspiration and guidance.

  15. BillS on 16 September 2020 at 11:34 am

    Paul,

    How do I get the booklet on making the bench you pictured above? Thanks for all your knowledge and teaching.

    BillS

  16. GreenAndBlackWizard on 16 September 2020 at 1:07 pm

    I think I know just what green and black floating tenon machine is being referred to.

    I have one. Here is what I can tell you. Instead of mallet and chisels, a hollow chisel morticer will speed you up by about three hundred percent. Leave time to tidy up and muck about, that comes with mortice and tenons.

    Use the green and black floating tenon morticer and you can improve another three hundred percent upon the hollow chisel morticer option. No need to stuff around with anything at all. Everything perfect all of the time.

    The most time you will spend, is to arrange your work for morticing.

    Hope that helps.

    • Paul Sellers on 16 September 2020 at 6:56 pm

      But we like cutting mortises without the invasion of substitutes. All machines will replace us all one day because they are 300% faster. In commerce that’s important, but to think we install machines so that we can piddle around sweeping the floor and tidy things are, in my view, quite ridiculous. My blog addresses these distorted perspectives and so does my life as a fulltime lifelong artisan making his living to support a family of seven on a single wage. We do this on a daily basis, word by word as we build into a future we strive to reestablish. We are not looking for 300% faster and time to muck about and tidy. Our world is real woodworking. The blog makes that absolutely clear. WE WANT SKILLED HANDWORK BY OUR OWN HANDS!

      • Len A on 18 September 2020 at 7:39 pm

        Very well put, as ever.
        Who wants to aspire to sweeping the floor? I want to make my own shavings and wood chips and then I will sweep them up and pass on to an old friend of mine to use to start his fires. He also happily receives all my non useful offcuts for his wood-burner. In return he has passed me a load of well seasoned mahogany his father rescued from the River Thames after a bombing raid. My friend is in his late 80s and had kept this mahogany for a project he never got round to building so has passed it to me to make a cabinet to house my planes and chisels. I know who has the better bargain but he is happy and I am happy.

  17. Charles W Judd on 16 September 2020 at 1:23 pm

    Thank you for luminating the thoughts of so many of us, I am one of the faithful retirees who recently realized I have been chasing my craft more than practicing it.
    I have had some successes that have garnered recognition and I have taught woodworking at a wonderful craft school in North Carolina for many years. Now that I have concluded my working years out side of my shop and have the luxury of time I am struggling with the fact that although I have a lifetime of leisurely study, it far outweighs the time applying that knowledge.
    My journey now is to begin again, old habits, bad habits and incomplete habits have plagued my work for to long, don’t assume that experience means expertise, it doesn’t!

  18. David on 16 September 2020 at 5:23 pm

    I know the feeling of needing “that better tool” or “the best/newest tool”. Earlier it seemed that practicing with my cheaper tools didnt make better results, and thought my skills werent improving. Until i realized that older tools, like my late father’s vintage Sears smoothing plane made in USA just needed a tune up and cleanup. I ended up learning new skills from tuning the plane, which was a win in the long run. For me right now, ive been wanting a better table saw, and a bandsaw, but in the meantime tuning my existing TS needs tuning, and i could just resaw the stock i need after cutting to length, provided i keep practising my skills in resawing. What i try to do when i think i need a new tool is, “is there more than one way to accomplish the task? Can it be done with hand tools, and require more time?”. From that i decide wether to buy the tool or not. Just my thoughts and my process.

  19. Mike Z. on 17 September 2020 at 7:01 am

    Agreed to this all. I had to sell all of my aging shop equipment and downsized to a space the size of a postage stamp. How to continue woodworking without a newer mini commercial wood shop was a difficult discovery. Thanks to many but mostly Mr. Paul Sellers, who said learn to sharpen freehand and buy this small packet of tools – it will unlock the door to what I was looking for over 40 + years. I am working wood better and in the ways I always knew I could, with mostly hand saws and hand tools and love it! I knew this could be done, but never met any one person in the US who had the skills to help show me the way. Thanks again and please keep up the good work, when something is truly important enough we will find the time and a way to make that happen.

  20. Vidar Fagerjord Harboe on 17 September 2020 at 2:02 pm

    I find myself chuckling a bit when I read “this machine makes your work XXX% faster”… It may be very true indeed, and no doubt electric tools both have their place and would be the correct choise in some sircumstances.
    But let us put it this way: How many times during a year do we need this green and black oblong-dowel hole maker? In a production environment and for a manufacturer of one-offs that utilizes this great invention to increase productivity and thus his/her income, sure. Get one and get on with it.
    But for me? The thing costs about NOK 15.500,- and a pack of 450 dowels to go with it, another NOK 500,- or so. Let’s take that down to an even 15.000,-. That is well over 50% of one month salary for me. And there is a limit to how many pieces of furniture I could fit in my home.

    For a hobbyist, or even for a maker of one-offs, I cannot see why saving time is so important.
    If I suspect trouble with alignment on a table top, I hammer in a pin nail in the middle of the board (one near either end) then clips it with a plier. Those boards will never move on me during the glue up. The small pieces of metal will never ever be a trouble.

    I do own a planer/thicknesser, though. Some machines make sense, some don’t.

    In my opinion, which does not mean anything to anybody else. 🙂

  21. Keith Haug on 18 September 2020 at 12:41 pm

    Great post and the best part your motivational lines in the end
    thanks for sharing

  22. Shirley J on 19 September 2020 at 4:48 am

    Hi Paul,

    Thank you once again for sharing your wisdom and insights.

    Regards.

  23. Canny Scot on 19 September 2020 at 8:31 pm

    Interested to the photo of the 6 books in this blog. I already own the two on the left – ‘Hand tools – their ways of working’ and ‘Dictionary of (woodworking) tools’. I’ve read the first & dipped into the second as I’ve slowly acquired the basic second hand tools via eBay. Both of these books are excellent. I’m 18 months post a basic woodworking course at our local community workshop that’s been established in a nearby bothy. Not heard of the other books. Are they worth owning??

    • Paul Sellers on 20 September 2020 at 10:15 am

      Understanding wood is a great introductory-level book on learning about wood though it will not replace the experiential learning using the wood. It will shorten the learning curve for new woodworkers, that’s for sure. The Pinto book is interesting but not for learning and the cabinet maker’s notebook is more philosophising about areas of woodworking but much better than these journalist writers writig about a year’s vacation gap year from journalism to work for a moter bike repair shop and the telling everyone about why we work or something.

  24. Canny Scot on 20 September 2020 at 5:58 pm

    Many thanks, that’s very helpful. I’ve just ordered a copy of ‘understanding wood’ online.

  25. Dan Miller on 21 September 2020 at 4:55 pm

    There are scores of woodworking books on the market. I rarely recommend any. One that I highly recommend is Bob Flexner’s book “Understanding Wood Finishing”. There is so much misinformation from both the manufacturers of finishes as well as from woodworkers and Flexner cuts through it all. He does not come at it and present here is THE finish to use. He goes through all types and shows strengths and weaknesses from application to protection to appearance. Flexner has been a finisher for many decades.

  26. Paul on 21 September 2020 at 5:50 pm

    Tools can easily become an obsession – they are just beautiful things in their own right. I went a bit crazy in the beginning, but over time I’ve learnt that I don’t need so much, I resold a couple of planes I bought.

    Aside from tools, quality wood is a real expense. My woodworking now revolves around what I can find in regards to wood. I find loads of nice wood just thrown out, or in skips, or for free online – teak, oak, mahogany – all usable with a little imagination. I picked up a huge cupboard made of cherry last week, someone was just chucking out for free. So I will take is apart and reuse every last piece of it.

    Not just saving me money, this also focuses my creativity and makes me very productive – I like the challenge up repurposing or upcycling something.

    • Paulo T on 22 September 2020 at 11:13 am

      I’m so much on board with you on the up cycling, Paul (Oram)!

      At times retrieving and repurposing ‘free’ material has actually cost me quite a lot (time+petrol+real state on my tiny workshop); never as much as if I’d bought the final product though.
      Heck, I even dare say that I’d not be willing to pay for the quality of the final product! What, with all the flaws and learner’s craftsmanship it still beats most better looking fake furniture from *kea

      As I often say “If I had to PAY to be able to do these things I would. The fact that I am saving money building it, and saving good stuff from being dumped …it is a plus!” 😉

  27. Kathleen Basiewicz on 21 September 2020 at 9:42 pm

    Paul, being an child of military parents, I always seem to try and spend time with my dad who would be gone for like 30 days at a time, and then sleep long enough to get rested up and gone again. He was a jack of all trades when he was home, saying that if you don’t know how to do something, there is a book on it. Well today there is a page on google on it. I spent most of my adult life working on factory floors. Retired as a machinist. I loved using my hands and shortly figured out that I need to find some thing to get my hand busy again. I have an 8 X 10 uninsulated building that is my workshop. We used it to store the lawn tractor and garden stuff. I started out thinking that I had to have all this machinery, but after finding you I quickly changed my tune. I so enjoy making furniture and projects by hand. So much more satisfyingly. I still have the machinery, but I seem to use it less and less. However, I do love my miter saw and bandsaw. I bought most of the stuff second hand. I love having to plane anything that I am working on. There is some thing so satisfying about curly shaving falling on the floor. I just wish I had more room, because my work bench takes up so much room in such a small building, but I am proud of it, seeing I built it. One Winter I used my back porch and kitchen/ dining room to build a kitchen island. It is 22W x 46L x 39H with a granite top. I put castors on it so it could move. The granite top weighs 250 lbs. Not my only piece of furniture, but I guess it is my pride and joy. Love reading your blogs.

  28. Douglas on 22 September 2020 at 5:02 am

    Paul, the third project for me was a mallet with very limited tools. I took a fresh cut hardwood trunk – 6 inch diameter from a neighbor – from raw green timber to a workable mallet.

    Your comment of liking to see the woodworker’s marks on a piece led to this project, thank you.

    I rough cut a 5 inch near square block from the trunk after hours of hardwood sawing with a timber saw and Near new Japanese saw.

    Next, four cuts parallel to the heartwood half the trunk length resulted in an oversized handle. Rough improvised cabinet scraping and a little sanding finished the rough mallet.

    Spread out over short sessions for several days let me feel out the balance and, most importantly, the handle size to fit large hands. Boiled linseed oil coats finished the mallet.

    Thank you Paul.

    Functional, durable, custom fit and within my limited toolset were my goals.
    I had a timber saw, Japanese pull saw, one 3/4 inch chisel, a 3 inch repurposed steel scrap as a cabinet scraper and sandpaper for the project.

    End result is one custom fit mallet and eight hardwood offcuts for future projects.

    A hatchet handle versus a knuckle straining claw hammer handle was in my thoughts.

  29. Stephen Tyrrell on 22 September 2020 at 5:23 am

    Woodwork is going to be my retirement job but I am doing my apprenticeship now, right here at woodworkingmasterclasses. Building boxes and stools, a table is next, followed by the lamp. I am fortunate that I have no one to answer to so if I work hard, that retirement job might start early.

  30. Paulo T on 22 September 2020 at 10:52 am

    A feel a bit daunted to add another comment here among so many inspirational life stories, but wanting to help on the main topic and not having come across this anywhere here:

    One of the beauties of hand tool work, woodworking in particular (I guess stone carving may not fit the bill) is – they are silent. 🙂
    Not completely of course, but considerably more so than power tools!

    This, I found is an unparalleled benefit when all the time you can budget is ‘after you clock out of your paid job’ – here’s a possibility for using some of your evening minutes (maybe even after putting the kids to bed)

    I use this as one of my main ‘selling points’ when I try to convince friends either to join the club 😀 …or transition from dirty (air, sound and, compared to a beautifully crafted tool, often visually pollutant) power tools.

    Don’t get me wrong, I grew up from electronics to mechanical and pneumatic engineering (near nil degrees here, just practical approach and solving the problem via repurposing what I had at hand)… and I still appreciate a good ‘automated tool’, it’s just that often they are designed for a purpose very different than my own – I don’t want ‘easy’ or ‘quick’. I want it ‘enriching’ and ‘character building’ – hand tools deliver this much more for me, silently.

  31. Paulo T on 22 September 2020 at 10:53 am

    Ps: pardon for my novel of a comment. I get excited quite easily 😁 (will work on that)

  32. Will Raffle on 22 September 2020 at 11:38 am

    Great post Paul. I only discovered you in the last month or so but have now watched so many hours of you working. Your advice here is great and, speaking as a guitar teacher, it really resonates with what I say to my own students. Guitar suffers from the same problem – an absolute deluge of information and products which take away from the job in hand. I will try an practice what I preach and get out into the shed!

  33. Mick Rumble on 22 September 2020 at 9:45 pm

    hello Paul, I am contemplating making a craftsman style rocking chair from your plans.I intend to use sycamore and am not too sure that the the relarively slender rockers would be strong enough in sycamore. I have a couple of legths of 41mmwide sycamore which I think would be ideal to make into srtips about 3 or 4 mm thick.I could make the laminates into rockers just slightly thicker than the ones on your project.I could laminate around a convex former of a concave one. Any comments would be greatly appreciated, thanks,and thanks for the great projects.

    • Paul Sellers on 23 September 2020 at 8:40 am

      Hello Mick, Well, my thought is this. It will look like birch plywood rockers. If in doubt as to the strength, why not cut one to roughed-out shape, turn it over onto the floor or a concrete surface, and stand on the highpoint. To truly test it further, bounce a little. The rocker pressure will be halved by using the two rockers. I have used many kinds of wood to make rockers like this and it is unlikely that sycamore will break but this is a good confidence booster.

  34. Matt Woods on 24 September 2020 at 6:59 pm

    Mick, I have built 3 of Paul’s craftsman rockers, two from walnut and one from North American Sycamore. A friend had a sawmill and sawed up a sycamore tree from his farm. I weigh around 220 lbs and have rocked in the chair for 5 or 6 years with no problems. It never occurred to me that the wood might not be strong enough for rockers. I was also able to find some quartersawn stock in the pile of sycamore lumber I had. I used it for the arms and the lacewood appearance is very nice.

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  • Mahomed Moorad on A Future PastAs usual Paul, you continue to inspire us, taking us through journeys of life through your perspective which enriches us with the lessons in them. Looking forward to your memoirs o…
  • nemo on A Future PastYour point is very valid. Didn't come across as a rebuke at all (and even if it were, nothing wrong with a gentle rebuke). As I was writing the stairs comment, I half figured it wo…
  • tim ziegler on A Future PastThank you Paul. I like the reintroduction of the use of pinch dogs in your article for joining wood together. I intend to give them a try. You always have something new and interes…
  • Gary on A Future PastNot only do you teach us how to use the many hand tools in the world you also are teaching us ways to use this life we have been so freely given and that aging is not a reason to s…
  • Paul Sellers on A Future PastNemo, I would have liked to build wooden stairs, spiral ones even, but I sometimes wonder how many hours people think I have in a given day. This is not in any way a rebuke. More t…
  • nemo on A Future PastFunny you didn't want to mention the name of the disease and its connotations, because for the first few months I heard the name it puzzled me, thinking of Project-Corona every tim…
  • Michael Rodgers on A Future PastReally enjoy the stories as well. So I have been to Reagan Wells and you made me curious about why, in all of God's green earth, you would settle in Reagan Wells. I love the Texas…