Hannah, Sketches, Life, Work

Hannah is a detail person. She’s focussed on different points of view and made sketches of where she intended and intends to go. This is her first real, independent furniture design and I thought you should see it. Please remember that this work was all handwork and includes for the main part at least using wood that’s been planed by hand and rip-cut using only hand tools. No power routers, tablesaws or planers were used! This was her choice not mine!

Hannah’s first table design from scratch. Mainly cherry with spalted sycamore and figured sycamore. The feature dark woods are upcycle furniture parts.

Hannah’s time with me fluctuates and she just took a six-month COVID-19 sabbatical from the shop work we have shared about a day or two a week over the last four years. Put that together and she has been apprenticing with me for just about one year full time.

Look at the perfect shoulder lines close up to see the accuracy of her hand work and remember hand tools only took this table from roughsawn stock to what you see here.
Hand-cut dovetails!

During that time she has done and made many different things including helping me with the classes. I believe this piece exemplifies a woman who has the potential to become a fine furniture maker, a designer and even a leading light to the world of making.

Hannah made her workbench after a matter of weeks after starting working with me. This is all hand tool woodworking. She’s a natural maker!

Hannah is also an artist conversant with digital media and sketchbook pencil work. Personally believe that these two are much more essential to today’s woodworker than many might think. In all of the years I have been a designer-maker I have never been turned down after making a simple sketch in the home or office of a client. Why? It’s simple! And this anecdote might help. I met a wealthy client in the office 20 years ago and she had brought with her her architect who had designed a table that wouldn’t work. He was silent! She said, “Why will it not work?

I took an empty coke can and rotated the top counterclockwise as I held the bottom of the can. Of course, the thin walls collapsed and the top and bottom came together. She understood! I then made some sketches resulting in a $48,000 order for a new design. She put down the 50% deposit, I cut the trees from her ranch and six months later I delivered. It was the ability to illustrate in the moment that won the work. Hannah’s abilities to make, sketch and communicate equips her to succeed as an artisan maker in fine arts, I believe.

When senator Phil Gramm came to me over a decade and a half ago he wanted six designs. I have spoken of this before. He’s a high-demand economist and so is his wife, Wendy Lee Gramm. Top and bottom of it is that I drew the drawings in front of him and he left me with a very big deposit and all six pieces to build. Sketches clinched the deal as well as the ability to think in pictures, transfer them to paper through a carbon pencil and work out the time and materials plus profit for six pieces in under an hour.

Then there are the White House pieces for the Cabinet Room of the White House. These stand either side of the door leading to the Oval Office. But that’s another story from 2008/9. It’s definitely one worth telling the whole of though. One day — when I find time!

The most important thing for me has been the ability to convey all that goes on in my head to paper. My book, Essential Woodworking Hand Tools, is my true pride and joy. I took the tools I use and love and depended on for five decades and drew them, along with my own hands on the planes and saws and chisels.

Essential Woodworking Hand Tools
We went all out for this one. Smith sewn, full colour dustcover, Hardback cloth bound and full colour front to back. You will love it! I wrote it for you!

I wanted life in my drawings but then too, in every word I wrote, not the sterility of a computer interpretation, or words from someone else’s writing but from a lived life. These things so dominated the 70s, 80s, and 90s, on up to our era today. Of course, that has drastically changed in the last half-decade, where you can brush and paint and pencil sketch with a ceramic rechargeable pencil as a stylus. This works and I use one of these too. The drawings in my Essential Woodworking Hand Tools book are not digital at all. They were a work of love, as was the whole book.

Oh, we are taking delivery of new stock of the book in another week or two “all being well and the creek don’t rise!”

42 thoughts on “Hannah, Sketches, Life, Work”

  1. You touch on some topics I’d dearly love to see more of in your blog or in your videos. Firstly design itself – what looks appealing & well-balanced and what doesn’t ….and why? Equally importantly how to figure out dimensions, sizing, choice of materials, joints etc that will ‘work’ and be robust enough for the purpose intended.
    There are things I’d like to make for our home which need at least a bit of adaptation of your designs and sometimes to start afresh but I feel it’s an area I could use more guidance before I take those steps.
    If it’s not a topic you plan to focus on maybe you (or others) could suggest online resources or books that would help?

    1. Lost Art Press has some books, By Hand and Eye which goes into history of the ratios etc used and that sort of thing for design. By Hound and Eye is kind of a simplified version of geometry related to furniture design.

    2. David Pye has some books titled “The Nature and Art of Workmanship” and “The Nature and Aesthetics of Design”.

      Christopher Alexander(et al) has a really good book on design, but it’s more on the scale of architecture, although I picked it up for Permaculture design. It’s titled “A Pattern Language”. I can see where it would come in handy for designing an entire room or house, but some of it can even be applied to a box. Grab this one if you have the spare money and you want to go meta on your thinking.

      1. A Pattern Language (and The Timeless Way of Building) are two of my favorite books. Thinking in terms of patterns is applicable to lots of endeavors (in fact, Alexander’s books largely influenced computer science, where software patterns are the norm).

  2. Larry Christensen

    I agree Hanna has a brilliant future ahead of her. Regarding your book I checked it out from the local library, after starting to read it I return it to the library and purchased a copy. I’m glad you’re getting a new stock of your book was hard to find but well worth the search.

  3. Your book is outstanding! It is full of knowledge, not just information. And it is real! It is not very common nowadays to find honest knowledge, not biased, not sponsored. The printing is awsome, too.

    I look forward to the Brazos Rocking Chair book!

    Hannah, great work!

  4. Paul,

    I concur with Ermir; great resource and exquisitely photographed. (This is coming from someone who is both a furniture-maker and a photographer.)

    Keep on keep’n on!

  5. That is really nice. I’m always so impressed at the outcome of all your projects and it’s really obvious that Hanna has the touch and and it has been brought to the surface with your help Paul. It would be such a privilege to be able to spend even a week with you in your shop. I spend a lot of time watching your videos for the knowledge and also for mental relief. I suffer with anxiety and I find that watching and listening to you really helps me to stay calm and keep on looking to the end of this pandemic. Thank you so much for what you do Paul..

    Ontario Canada

  6. Good to hear about the book. None of the places that were listed to carry it had it for as long as I have been trying to buy it. I thought it was discontinued or something

      1. Ok great will try to order one shortly. I was worried shipping across the pond would be cost prohibitive. Thanks!

  7. Paul,
    Hannah will indeed be a successful designer and builder. A wonderful piece of furniture with exquisite craftsmanship! I am hopeful your book will be available here in Canada. Thanks for doing all that you do and for giving all of new to the trade, an encyclopedia of knowledge to turn to.

    Ontario, Canada

  8. Looking forward to seeing more work from Hannah. Love the embellishments and form of her table.

    I would also like a copy of your book. Finding a copy to buy has been difficult.

  9. Hannah has shown what hard work and talent can accomplish. She is an inspiration to all. A maker extraordinaire!

    1. I purchased my copy of “Essential Woodworking and Hand Tools” direct from Paul.
      Dropped in Abingdon post a 5:00pm. UK
      Arrived in Orange 300k west of Sydney (AUS) Tuesday 10:00am AUS (55 hours actual)!
      After 10,800 k travel and handling. No payment problems. Wow!
      Thank you Paul and all.
      Roger Karrasch
      Amateur Joiner, Retired Architect

  10. I just received Essential Woodworking Hand Tools book with the DVD’s yesterday. I’m almost finished reading Working Wood 1&2 and then I’ll watch the DVD’s. I’m almost finished preparing my workshop space in my basement. I need to purchase more hand tools and start to build my traditional European workbench.
    I’m so glad I prescribed to your blog Paul, and I look forward to seeing you more each day. You have given us a lot to enjoy and then share with my grandchildren, and great grandchildren. I’m the same age as you and I’m truly excited to learn this art. I hope to see you in person some day in Ohio. Thanks Paul. Your friend: SmokinBobLenart.

  11. Dear Hanna, what a strong statement in creativity, individualism and craftsmanship. I am deeply impressed!

  12. Well done Hanna! That piece is stunning, I think you may have found your own “George” in Paul. Keep it up girl, you are going far.

  13. Paul I went on Amazon to find your book Essential hand tools and Working Wood Part . Neither is available. Are they available anywhere?

    Thank you again for all you do to teach woodworking.

  14. That table is gorgeous and it does show me that what I want to do is possible ….
    I dont want to use power tool to do my woodwork… The work with the plane is so relaxing when you hear that wood start to curl in your plane… the feel of the grain and also the smell of the wood … All that would be missed if i use power tool and also i would be out thousands of dollars… All I can do at the moment is aspire to have my work come out at her level of craftmanship…

  15. Matt Evans-Koch

    Thank you Paul for showcasing Hannah’s work. The table is exquisite. I’m glad to hear you still have copies of your book as mentioned above by others. I will have to see if I can ferret one out.
    Like so many of your subscribers, I really appreciate your videos and your blogs for their information, wisdom and calming nature. Thank you again. Take care, stay well.

  16. Hello Mr. Sellers,
    Could you please elaborate on the joinery involving the dark woods, especially the piece intersecting the breadboard ends. Hannah has extraordinary skills and the table is a stellar example of craftsmanship. Never mind the fact it was done with hand tools and her own vision. Simply stellar.
    Thanks ahead for any information on the joinery.

    1. The breadboard ends are the authentic version I taught here: These have tolerance (elongated) holes that disallow distortion yet allow expansion and contraction in the widths of the boards. The dark insets at meeting points are recessed and glued. She took the wood from a vintage piece.

  17. Are the plans or the video series still available for making the Craftsman style rocker?

    If so, how might I acquire them?


    1. Eventually, it will be available as a how-to manual, but we are not there yet. Probably the best way is to sign up as a paying member of woodworkingmasterclasses.com, go to the Craftsman-style rocking chair project and follow the series that way. There is a pdf of the drawings for you to download and you can follow the video series in quick succession. This will cost you a month’s subscription. You can then cancel your membership or continue with us.

  18. I’m really looking forward to the book being in stock again!
    Have you considered also distributing it as an eBook?
    I would gladly buy both the hard cover (for the bookcase and for detailed reading and enjoying the pictures and drawings) and an eBook (for easier reading on the go or in bed 🙂 )

  19. Vidar Fagerjord Harboe

    Those tell-tale nicks below the dovetail… <3 I love it! Perfect! Hannah, well done!
    Does Hannah have any online content (instagram or similar)? I would love to follow her and see what she makes! Truly inspiring to see the piece; gives me motivation and ideas.

    Yesterday I looked at the hand-dipped candles we just started making at work. I work at a company that provides work for people with disabilities. Recently we bought a local small business that manufactures hand dipped candles. I looked on the underside of the three-armed "three kings candle" (inspired by three kings day), near where the "arms" connect to the central candle. Tell-tale droplets encased in the wax, the "not perfect" surface of the candle, the matte finish – hand made, and each candle is unique.

    Since I'm heavily infected by the woodwork bug, such details stand out to me as a stamp of a quality no machine can match. It is the same with the one luxury item I have, my Omega Speedmaster wrist watch, which is at least hand assembled. Too expensive, but I often think of the watch master hunched over my watch, assembling the tiny parts so that I – unbeknown to him or her – can tell the time.

    My eyes takes in the dovetail Hannah made, and it makes me think of how she held the chisel, how her thumb pressed on the wood to make pin and tail meet.
    The wax surface on a candle showing where wax collected at a joint makes me think of the person that dipped the string into a bath of molten wax until it became a candle. Enlightening in more ways than one, don't you think?

    That little nick below the tail… Perfect!

  20. Robert Brunston

    Very beautiful table! Great workmanship, I know your a woman.
    Great design and detail.
    Thank you for sharing.

  21. Congratulations Hanna! Beautiful table. Great work! Can’t wait to see more of your work displayed.

  22. Paul, are you aware that the creek referred to in the quoted saying is actually the Native American Creek tribe?

  23. Now I might get shot for what I am about say. I have been woodworking for quite a few years now, while I do not consider myself much more then a intermediate level craftsman. I have also been on IG for while and the one thing I have notice is like Hanna woman have a better eye for style in woodworking. Yes there are a lot men as well, but seeing the up and coming ladies jumping it to the craft and they have a great eye. A lot of them are self taught, and some have mentors. I think Hanna did a beautiful job on this table, she should be very proud of herself for what she has achieved. All the best Hanna.

    1. Well, you are wrong but that’s ok; wrong in the same way people say that half the populations can multitask and the other half can’t. Multitasking means doing many things badly and possibly one stands out above the rest. There has never been any empirical evidence that that half of the population multitask better than the other and in my view it’s the same with design! I have never understood why so small a percentage of women involve themselves in woodworking and especially furniture making. I have seen very bad designs from both male and female camps and of course, there are ten thousand male woodworkers to every female. I have applied myself in many ways to even this out through classes, teaching and training etc but in general women themselves seem to choose not to work with wood. I don’t know if this will ever change but it seems unlikely it will in my lifetime going off the statistics.

  24. Was on Amazon UK books last night: ‘Working Wood 1 & 2: the artisan course by Paul Sellers.’ A mere £176.75 in paperback. (‘Essential Woodworking Hand Tools’ is listed as ‘unavailable at present.’) Makes the price of a Stanley No 4 pale by comparison.

    1. Franc. You cannot take what’s said on Amazon as a price as fact. Many books have inflated prices like that but the supplier/s never ever stocked the books, they just use the title as click-bait for people. The book you mention was always sold for around £36. My paltry income from that as the originator and author is a mere 5%. The book is sold-out or out-of-stock. Nothing to do with me and not my fault. It would be better to not put up a comment from taking offence until all facts are truly checked or take the comment down, otherwise, people will think I am making £176.75 per book instead of the £1.80 I might get before costs!

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