There is an exclusivity I see in all walks of life where one group disregards others who don’t feel as the other group or groups do. It’s funny how we use the term ‘exclusive‘ to describe something ultra special. ‘He’s wearing an exclusive suit!’ for instance. Or Mercedes cars are very exclusive. I have seen fashion gain more and more popularity in all areas of life including woodworking. People try to set themselves apart by buying the very best. Imagine spending £5,000 on a single plane made from bronze and special steels with infills of ebony and such. The engineering itself is exclusive but what makes the whole exclusive is the ownership of such a plane. I do own some fine infill planes of old that I acquired for a reasonable price, as a gift and such, but certainly, they were under £2-300.

Infil planes are nice to own. I have had this one for 40 years.Necessary? Nope! Work better? Nope! Just nice!

In many ways I too might be called exclusive because in general I work exclusively to train those who sought and are seeking the hand tool skills I use and have relied on throughout my worklife. But of course, this was never to create my own exclusive zone at the preclusion of those who wanted to use machines. This is just what the miffed accused me of. No, I did it because the demise of my craft evidenced itself in the lives of what was to become unskilled work. I was saddened enough to do something about it. So here we are using almost exclusively hand tools to create beautiful work. This weekend I heard of a dad who just made my baby cot for his own child. For me, this is where the ordinary becomes so very extraordinary.

What I do is not at all fashionable and nor is it governed by fashion. You can buy a Lie Nielsen plane or Quangsheng or any other plane from around the world. So too saws and such other tools. My Aldi brand chisels from the supermarket chain, the ones with wooden handles and steel hoops, do everything a chisel should do and that without compromise. Add a little sweat equity as I did and they will be customised to you. These chisels do everything a Sorby , a lLie Nielsen or an Ashly Iles will do and then indeed those ‘exclusive’ chisels from the so-called high-end maker’s around the globe.I try to avoid snobbism and sending woodworkers in pursuit of tools they might ill afford because, well, you just don’t need them to improve anything you do. My working with the same set of Aldi chisels for 10 years 6 days a week, 52 weeks a year thus far says it all. I can attest to the strengths as those befitting makers of old. They sharpen well, hold a good edge for a long time and they are strong and durable — rarely do I pick up any other chisel. Cost? £8 for a set of four. So too the new Spear and Jackson hand saws, the ones with the wooden handles, and the secondhand Ebay Stanley planes. In my world I have no need for exclusivity. I have owned machines throughout my life’s work as a furniture maker and woodworker and still have a couple kicking around. I certainly would not be without my bandsaw because of resawing the large sections down to the small pieces I need, but I could be too.

Pretty? Nah! Functional and comfortable to use? Absolutely!

Since I began to use social media platforms to reach out to those wanting to start woodworking seriously rather than say a pastime only, I’ve offered inclusivity ways with low financial demand and free training that’s bridged the gap between the haves and the have nots. Take a look at our common woodworking site and even join in to see just how much we do and have done. Also, remember that there’s a vast percentage of stuff on woodworking masterclasses too that’s free including the subscription. We do need your support. I’ve reached out to those who might think that they could never do it for a host of reasons including not having money, ability, learning disorders and so on.

The toolbox i am building from vintage mahogany retrieved from an old table
My most recent dovetails

I’m showing you these pictures of a recent make first to show you my work. But I accept that seeing this might put you off. So I now want you to go to my next picture here.

Hannah’s completed tool chest

This person’s work above is exemplary of any master woodworkers. She at this time had spent roughly 75 days in training with me and had gone through my foundation course which you will find on our commonwoodworking.com site where all instruction is absolutely free. She worked on many things including her workbench before starting this but her work is always lovely. So we prove yet again that there is nothing at all exclusive in our exclusivity to teach only handwork. We have reached many, many hundreds of thousands to be as inclusive as possible to any and all peoples worldwide. All of this work, mine and my apprentice’s she was 30 years old when she started her tool chest, came completely from using only hand tools — no power equipment at all. Exclusive? How? Where? When?

Hannah first came to me in November 2016 and she too has become highly skilled.

Hand tool woodworking from us is for anyone and everyone. Yes, we don’t see many women working wood and nor do we see many from different cultures and backgrounds, but they are there. We reach people in every country in the world. Person by person we are changing things to challenge the status quo. It’s working!

39 thoughts on “Exclusivity”

  1. Hi Mr.Sellers, I have a #4 benchdog handplane I purchased from rockler a few weeks ago, i set everything up and tuned it. It edge planes well, but cannot perform when I surface plane. Even on a straight cup free board, the shavings are not at all thin and aren’t full length and I have to press down very hard to get anything on a pine board. I built a wooden plane few months ago and it seems to perform similar during surface planing. It doesn’t feel natural, could you please explain or suggest a solution?

    1. Verify you have a relief angle.
      Without a relief angle, the plane will skid on the board.
      You might have rounded the cutting edge while stropping.

    2. How sharp is the iron? If you’re new, it’s really hard to know what sharp “feels” like. It should really be sharp enough to shave with. In practice not all planes have to be this sharp 100% of the time (e.g. scrub planes), but it isn’t that hard to get one to that level of sharpness, so it’s a good “benchmark”.

      Also, check the angle of the iron’s bevel. If it’s greater than 45 degrees, it won’t cut, it will just skid because the edge will never touch the wood. This is why you need clearance angle (sharpen the iron to about 30 degrees, which is 10 degrees less than the angle it’s held at in the plane body).

      1. Yeah it’s pretty sharp I can push it on a piece of paper and it will cut without me having to slice it. I read an article on having the bevel be way to steep. I think I might have over done the micro bevel. Thanks!

    3. With the blade installed, and retracted so it doesn’t stick out, verify with a straightedge that the plane is flat from the front to the back.

      Some modern planes are still a little coarse, in factory form.

      Mr. Sellers posted a video to this point, awhile back. Cast iron or wood, the principles are constant. The sole must be flat *when the blade is installed*.


    4. You say it edge-planes well. So starting there, have you tried planing with each side of the blade and the middle. If not, withdraw the blade until there is no shaving. Then very gradually advance it, running the sides of the plane and middle along your edge, until you get a shaving. That will let you test whether the blade is set parallel the sole, and if there is any variation in sharpness across the edge. If that has some trouble, fix it. Then on the face of the board, using a crayon or something similar, draw a grid of lines giving about 1 to inch squares on the surface (use scrap for this). If the board’s surface is uneven, you will get spots where the lines are removed and areas where they remain. This time too, you should start with the blade with drawn and advance it gently between a series of passes over the entire surface. Another possibility is that the screw that holds the cap iron in place, or the cap iron screw itself is too loose, which can allow the blade and chip breaker assembly to move around.

  2. What drew me to your course of instruction is the ease of starting out.

    Those of us that watch our budgets realize early on that your approach means we can get on without huge capital expense. You peeled back the curtain to demonstrate an approach that is repeatable, satisfying and affordable.

    Your efforts on our behalf are a worthy pursuit to be emulated.

  3. Mr. Sellers,

    I know you address almost half a million woodworking amateurs in your teachings and writings, but I feel your work closely related to me, my working conditions and my living in general. It is your inclusive way that makes this possible. You have taught me how to restore and bring to full use second-hand tools, how to reshape and retrofit new tools, how to sharpen and maintain the tools I have – this means freedom to me. Add to these technique, add the workbench, add countless projects, your book …it is a long list and I am greatful to you!

    I wonder if it could be possible for us to pin our locations on a single map and see a geographical distribution of handtool woodworking lovers.

    Keep up the great work! You are changing a lot of people!

  4. Héctor Piastri

    Thank You Paul for sharing all your knowledge, whith love and pasion. I find it so inspiring.
    Greetings from Uruguay!


  5. I listened to everyone’s suggestions and now my plane works like a charm. Thank you to everyone that helped.

  6. A journeyman instructor introduced me to your site when I was learning boatbuilding. One of the visits we did was to Lie Nielsen. Yes they are expensive tools. But having met the man and seen his dedication to the craft of turning out what are basically works of art, and employing a good number of people to boot, I can’t help but appreciate those as well. That said, I have had to catch myself from needless spending once in a while. One of my most used chisels is my Dads old Stanley from the early 60s when he built a boat. It has a plastic handle and keeps an edge with the best of them. You do keep some of us on our toes Mr. Sellers 🙂

  7. Some people think that exclusivity is a worthwhile pursuit. They buy the most expensive. Sometimes and I suspect often they find that the Mercedes is no better than a Ford or here an old Holden. It gets you from A to B.
    Old infill planes are often beautiful reminders examples of the plane makers work. These were made with a small number of tools. They were valued by their tradesmen users, coddled and kept well. When fashion passed them by they were put away.
    I have two that were cheap and broken, but carefully repaired. They do work and as well as an early Stanley once sharpened and tuned.
    They are not exclusive, they are old and a bit the worse for wear. Like their user.
    Thank you Paul for all you do.

  8. Well all I have to say about Hanna’s work is WOW . Also to apprentice with you she has to be the luckiest person in the world right now . Keep up the great work and thank you for the videos .

  9. Paul,

    I read an article about a forthcoming TV competition show in the UK featuring some of “the UK’s top woodworkers” whose work will be judged by a “panel of experts”.

    Surely you’re involved in this!?

  10. Dear sir, thank you once again on the practical yet effective way to the art of woodworking with hand tools. The emence joy and passion felt when your wood working project draws to fruitation. Words can not described the feelings felt!

    Keep on doing what you do best! We will be around to appreciate it.

    Thanks to you and the team!

  11. Don’t “Exclusive” and “Exclusionary” really mean the same thing? In the U.S. we are again confronting our failures to be inclusive of people who aren’t “just like us.” One of the reasons I love Paul’s “George Stories,” is that George embodies a generous spirit who not only invited Paul into the arts and mysteries of the craft, but at personal cost made it possible for him to experience growth into excellence while avoiding the temptation to judge others.

  12. The lack of availability of the Aldi chisels “excludes” me from owning them. Hoping they show up in the stores again soon.

    1. There are plenty of excellent chisels just gathering dust in antique shops and bric-a-brac stalls. Have a look around while you’re waiting for Aldi. They may not match in appearance but will perform superbly when sharp. Also saws, as long as the plate is straight these can become superb tools with some TLC and elbow grease for as little as £5.

      ‘Enjoy the process.’ :o)

    2. Aldi only stocks chisels in American stores around Father’s Day (early June). Gotta pay attention and snag some, because they go fast!

    3. @Scott Thieben,

      If lack of chisels is keeping you from woodworking, and you’re in the US, PM me on masterclasses, @ejpotter. I can help you out.

    4. People have fixated on the Aldi chisels ever since that video, but Paul did in fact state in the video that you can sharpen almost any chisel exactly the same way. That was the game changer for me.

      The big deal with the Aldi chisels was that they were so cheap (£8.00 for a set of four at the time). But, I can almost guarantee you they won’t be put out at that price ever again.

  13. Lonnie Funderburg

    I am a numbers person. Your 450,000 subscribers says it all. Thank you for showing me that my tools were dull.

  14. Thanks for another great post Paul. I took your advice some time ago and bought several sets of the Aldi chisels which I gave to my grand children as I help build their tool sets. The chisels work great and are a real bargain.

  15. Hanna’s work on the draws is inspiring and I commend her for that and you for your teaching, my dad was a craftsman/carpenter and when I was old enough to use a plane the first thing he taught me was never sit the plane face down it should be on its side.
    Keep up the good work.

  16. Well, that struck a few chords! I bought a set of four chisels last year – weirdly for £8, but not from Aldi. I noticed on the packaging for the first time in my life that it said these chisels need to be set and sharpened before use.
    Ha! Thanks to you Paul I know how to do it and they are just fine.
    Also last summer I helped a lady friend pull down a thoroughly rotten chicken shed and found a couple of old chisels on the floor. A 1/4″ and a 1/2″ – they were clumps of rust. Not now though, they are clean(ish) and sharp and work great.
    From the previous comments I now know why the No.4 Stanley plane I got for a tenner from Ebay doesn’t work as well as I hoped and more importantly, how to correct it. Every day is a school day ain’t it!
    But I wouldn’t decry anyone desiring and spending their money on the likes of Lie Nielsen tools. They are exquisite works of art in their own right. I don’t own any and couldn’t afford them anyway, but I’ve handled some and they are truly lovely.
    I’m a mechanical engineer and take great pleasure in the best tools and instruments I can get my hands on, but the truth is that a middling Halfords socket set will serve perfectly adequately and outlast most of us with correct care.
    Well done to Hannah for the tool chest. That’s a lovely bit of furniture. I wish I was good enough for that.
    I’ve sometimes wondered why so few women take up the traditional crafts. Years ago I taught a lady called Irene the art of TIG welding and her work is exceptional. She went on to make bespoke aluminium motorcycle race frames. And the best engine builder I ever knew was a girl, also called Hannah, who worked for me in the 80s. Both crafts are about precision and patience, nothing to do with strength or machismo.
    I’m no carpenter and never will be. The pleasure for me is making something useful from stuff that would otherwise be firewood or landfill and getting old, rusty neglected tools back to useful working condition. My garden benches and rescued tools will never be beautiful but they are functional and thanks to you Paul I no longer have to rely on crude step joints – I can cut the odd mortise and tenon now and then!

    1. Your article is interesting. I think there is a tension between woodworking craft(work that meets expectations) and the need for some craftspersons to obtain extraordinary possesions Exclusivity seems to be an index of social capital.

  17. J.R. ((Ronn) Winn - Vermont

    Paul, in one of your videos you discussed Japanese saws. I believe that you are not partial to them but you do not object to them either. I believe it has something to do with not being able to sharpen them easily. Because they are razor sharp and the metal is very thin they have to most likely be sent to a professional for sharpening. I own 4 or 5 of them and have gotten used to them but being razor sharp I have nicked myself a few times on my weak hand. I find it now to be helpful to wear a heavy glove on my weak hand when using those saws and I religiously do so now. This is just a suggestion for your blog but maybe you disagree. JRW

    1. Dear JRW,

      I believe choosing tools has traditionally been closely related to geography. Only in the last decades there is this possibility to order tools online anywhere they are. I own two japanase saws myself. They are not better than push-stroke saws, not worse either. Being different, there are times (once or twice a month) when I would choose them over european style saws, but I could do without if I didn’t have them. …as I am sure that once a month some guy in Japan chooses a push-stroke saw for some particular need. My japanase saws are induction hardened, they can’t be sharepened. If they were not, I could resharpen them using Paul’s technique matching the required angles.

      As for cutting your weak hand with them, along with the heavy glove, you could consider looking into your technique for any possible improvement safety-wise. …I used to pull my push-stroke rip saw more than I should, the saw would get out of the wood and I would compromise my safety. Your situation must be different, but I hope you’ll solve it for the better!

      Take care,

  18. I’m drawn to dumb tv shows where they try and survive in the wild to win a prize. I’m drawn to them to see how they cope, but also manage their time without anyone else to blame but themselves.
    What I’ve seen tho is Having a repertoire turning objects to your own ideas and overcoming problems is yes vital for physical survival — but just as critical to mental health and feeling you are a person with worth and purpose.
    With that in mind I know I really need to make further use of the training here, and as many do look forward to new blog posts.

  19. I remember setting things up and helping the missus cut some dovetails with a little saw I made for her, I wasted them out for her with my coping saw (don’t want her nicking those lovely fingers like I do mine!) so she could transfer the marks and cut them, popped out the last bits and showed her on a pair I had how to slide them together which produced a happy grin.

    It is an absolute blast watching someone look at this pretty little thing they made (with a little help, need a better setup for coping out waste or something better to bonk chisels against) and tuck that knowledge in their pocket and pin the satisfaction to their shirt.

    Thanks for all the lovingly shared knowledge delivered in that lovely english accent.

  20. Exclusive or unique? ” The car in front is absolutely unique, apart from the car in second place, which is identical in every respect “. –Murray Walker .

  21. John Carruthers

    I heard on tv a comment ” British gentlemen’s clubs are exclusive……they don’t so much let people in as keep people out…”
    (Michael Palin I believe)
    How very true.

    Your ‘club’ Paul, is inclusive, and long may it remain so.

    1. Was it one of the Marx Brothers* who said that he would not want to belong to any club which would except him as a member.

      * It probably was not Carl.

  22. Douglas Commons

    Very well stated Paul. I agree whole heartedly that “exclusivity” often excludes many. When I see woodworkers using tools that are way beyond what I can afford I tend to feel that making fine furniture is out of the picture for me because I don’t have the high dollar tools to make it with. Quite frankly, one should never be made to feel that way. I’ll grant you that those high dollar tools have very high quality and probably don’t need much work out of the box. But I enjoy taking tools that others have discarded and making them useful again. You mentioned using Aldi brand chisels. I think that says a lot. If a world renown woodworker like you is humble enough to use chisels bought at a grocery store, and make fine furniture with them, then so can I. Thanks Paul.

  23. I am a 70 years old retired mech. Eng. from Sri Lanka and after watching your videos on woodworking I stated with very few old tool to do my old furniture maintenance and now it has become my number one hobby with good exercise. The day spend with very high mental satisfaction. Thanks to your training videos. Long live paul!!!!

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