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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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!