It is quite coincidental that I have been reviewing images of the White House pieces I designed and made for the Cabinet Room of the White House. I decided several weeks ago to write the story behind building them and what it took to develop the idea and then deliver them to the White House on the eve of former President George W. Bush’s departure and President Obama’s taking up the presidency. Here we are once more to see history repeat itself. I was walking along the corridors and into rooms of the West Wing in January 2009; I was 59 years old. When President-Elect Joe Biden takes office I will be 71. This week’s events around the world are capped with significant changes for the USA. Seeing all of the news footage took me to my all-too-brief visit to the US capital and my being escorted around the White House by the First Lady’s assistant. We got the personal tour as we waited for White House staff to deliver the pieces into their new home in the Cabinet Room. This, for me, was icing on the cake.

This past month we acquired permission to use the pictures from a photographer who documented the build to begin updating our archives and fill in the gaps in my own images that I took at the time of building the White House credenzas. Up until now, the effort it took to complete these two pieces has been more a snapshot yet the work was highly demanding and never did I work such long hours to complete on time if not a day ahead. An hour’s sleep per 24 hours for me during the last week was not uncommon.

I have started to write a series of posts fresh from my memory and supported by my drawings and notes kept in my Journals to explain what no other maker of White House pieces could do as readily in the previous millennia. With over 300 items of handmade furniture used and exhibited around the West Wing of the White House, furniture pieces and knowledge of their makers are often lost in the anonymity of those artisan’s lives. I do doubt that, in the business of politics, the makers of many of the pieces will actually be known. No matter, the pieces do reflect the true art and craft of handmade pieces. I am pleased to have been able to make my contribution to this collection.

59 Comments

  1. Jim on 9 November 2020 at 12:35 pm

    It will be very interesting to read your own story about the White House design, the why and how it came about as well as the details about how you designed and made the piece.
    I’m looking forward to reading it as much as I look forward to all your posts.

    I have read all your blog posts here and seen most of your contributions after I found your youtube channel and I think you are doing us all a very big favour to share your knowledge and experience.

    Thank you!!

    Kind regards, Jim

  2. Richard Harnedy on 9 November 2020 at 5:01 pm

    Hi paul

    Any plan to make the credenzas a masterclass project. Very different project and would build skills and test the more advenced members.

    • Steven Kafka on 22 November 2020 at 6:55 pm

      Is there a video or, documentation with pictures on this project? It really grabs my imagination . Thanks for sharing this!

  3. Chris Rogers on 9 November 2020 at 9:08 pm

    Hey Paul-

    I’ve always been interested to hear how the White House found you to commission the piece.

    I had thought the White House had a team of restoration and furniture makers on staff. Was it one of them who contacted you? Or assuming you were originally commissioned by the Bush administration, were they familiar with one of your pieces from Texas?

    I read in one of your older posts that the process of the commission was fairly ordinary in that someone called you up to place an order. But of all the fine furniture makers in all the US… I’m sure someone went through a lot of time to chose you as a maker for a piece for the White House and there has to be a story there.

    Looking forward to reading more about the piece.

    -Chris

  4. Bruce Eddy on 9 November 2020 at 10:10 pm

    Paul, a small correction. Joe Biden is not yet, and God willing will never be, our president-elect. While the liberal, aka democrat, run media has declared him winner, the official government autorities have yet to call the race. Sadly this election is caught up in corruption and collusion. America’s very existence is on thd line. I don’t know your personsl politics and don’t need to and I would hate to see this forum devolve into political speech. I have followed you for years and havd enjoyed them all. I grew up in the Norm Abrams days here in the states. He was considered a god here but alas is more a machinist. You gave me the confidence and skills to create my first dovetailed box by hand, I will never forget that. I own all the machines but have little interest in them these days. I also bought one of those “miracle” dovetail jigs years ago, still haven’t been able to make it work. Stick with what you do and who you are Paul, you are a rare jewel in a confused world. Thank you for what you givd us. Bruce.

    • Roberto on 10 November 2020 at 1:01 am

      “I don’t know your personsl politics and don’t need to and I would hate to see this forum devolve into political speech.”

      He writes this right after vomitting his own personal opinions. The lack of self-awareness is unbelievable.

    • Bob Sheppard on 10 November 2020 at 2:19 am

      Its funny that Mr Eddy says he doesn’t want this forum to devolve into political speech, yet he’s the one who brought politics into this.

    • Allen on 10 November 2020 at 12:51 pm

      What a fool Mr Eddy shows himself to be.

      • Tharkaan on 10 November 2020 at 1:03 pm

        I was wondering when these fools would start appearing on even Paul’s forum. More appropriate to call them tools. I do apologize for my rant.

    • PCowles on 10 November 2020 at 1:29 pm

      Mention of the White House grabbed my attention. I was anticipating seeing the beautiful pieces made, and learning some interesting tidbits about their production and history. When I saw you mention who you think is the next US President, I realized you are completely uninformed about all that has happened here, not only this year, but for a couple decades. The corruption is so entrenched that even our media outlets are paid to lie, to stand in front of a burning building and say the Marxist protests are mostly peaceful. That’s what Joe Biden is, a disgusting criminal who sold our country out to a communist party, but the media portrays him as a “mostly” kind grandfather and dog owner. 71,000,000 legal votes went to President Trump, more than any other President in U.S. history. Hundreds of thousands of ballots showed up in the night, all for Biden. Mr. Sellers, I have enjoyed your videos immensely. Following your workbench build to make my own was a joy in my life in the darkness of this spring. I’ll use the skills learned well into the future. However, this post has left a bad taste, and unless I see some sort of retraction to your original post, I probably won’t feel so inclined to click to see what you’re writing about. This will be my loss, as far as receiving more of your woodworking wisdom, but that one above statement was just too divisive and inflammatory. Many will disagree with me, but many will also agree. Blessings of wisdom to you.

      • Roberto Fischer on 10 November 2020 at 1:33 pm

        PCowles, learn to tolerate other people’s points of view. This is a big problem with your segment of society, intolerance.

        • pcowles on 10 November 2020 at 4:56 pm

          If no one ever speaks up, we will be imprisoned by the whims of very wealthy and powerful people. This is not intolerance of a point of view. Is that what you would say of the early Patriots who fought for this great new nation to be free. Paul mentioned something very divisive to many of his followers. I thought he should know his mistake – that our election is far from over. Thanks for allowing me the liberty to speak my mind. Over, and out.

      • Paul Sellers on 10 November 2020 at 5:26 pm

        What an interesting twist. The choice to click or not is entirely yours. This is the freedom I endorse! There will be no retraction. Nothing I said was inflammatory and nor was it intended to be.

        • Jean Claude Peeters on 10 November 2020 at 7:39 pm

          That is what I love about you!

        • Chris Manning on 11 November 2020 at 2:49 pm

          Well said Paul! We do wood here, Mr Eddy and friends, not politics. Paul, your credenzas are truly beautiful, and because I’m unlikely to visit the White House, I’m grateful that you shared it!

        • Tom on 16 November 2020 at 8:54 pm

          You have unfortunately made ill remarks about the US several times. Most recently in your Instagram post when you said “Only in America” when you were unhappy with the tape measure on your new tool not having metric. If we “only talk wood” here, maybe we should keep our snide comments to ourselves.

          • Paul Sellers on 17 November 2020 at 9:30 am

            Not snide, Tom, and you have no right to accuse. My “only in America” comment as freedom of speech could equally have meant America has the right to do as it pleases in its own land as opposed to being dictated to by a greater continent amassing ever greater power. You cite only one comment which you may well have got wrong, who knows nbut me, and then infer that there are several.



      • Stefan Dingenouts on 10 November 2020 at 6:17 pm

        No one will regret seeing someone like you leave…

      • Jean Claude Peeters on 10 November 2020 at 8:14 pm

        “but that one above statement was just too divisive”
        “When President-Elect Joe Biden takes office I will be 71…”

        I’m sorry to inform you that is what the whole world is told: Joe Biden is President-Elect.
        “unless I see some sort of retraction to your original post, I probably won’t feel so inclined to click to see what you’re writing about.”
        I’m afraid you are barking up the wrong tree here.

        We are a community of woodworkers. Here, in this world wide community, we don’t care about votes. EVEN IF you would use a powered router, we wouldn’t think of your decision (which may be frowned upon, to be honest) as divisive.

        I wish you well…

      • Allen on 10 November 2020 at 8:35 pm

        “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak, and remove all doubt” – Mark Twain

        • John C. Miller on 16 November 2020 at 7:51 pm

          Dear Allen, that quote is from Abe Lincoln- not Twain

          • Paul O on 17 November 2020 at 6:40 pm

            “Never trust anything you read on the Internet.”
            -Abraham Lincoln



      • William H on 17 November 2020 at 1:23 am

        For the love of Pete, would y’all relax. Us Americans have a lot to learn from the rest of the world.

        First, we can stand to learn a little bit about woodworking! Thank you Paul!

        Second, we could learn to be a little less angry and outraged when others disagree with us. Thank you Paul!

        Third, try relaxing, try smiling, try…enjoying things. Thank you Paul!

        Fourth, we have elections. You win some, you lose some. As my 5-year-old niece reminded me: Uncle Will, you get what you get, you don’t get upset! Thank you Emily!

    • Stefan Dingenouts on 10 November 2020 at 6:22 pm

      This is your chance to show that you have a some integrity left… you claim you don’t want to bring politics into it, while being the ONLY one who started a thread about it while it’s not even remotely relevant to the article…

      So less talk, more showing integrity, please… Remove the post you only made because of politically motivated neediness.

    • Barry MacKay on 11 November 2020 at 6:52 am

      Bruce, it is a shame that you had to drag the utter embarrassment that is US politics into one of the last remaining “happy places” in the world. Please be nice and focus on the story and accept it in the spirit it is given.

    • Joe C. on 16 November 2020 at 2:21 pm

      Nothing Paul said was incorrect; Biden *is* the president-elect.
      There’s nobody in the world who would benefit more from demonstrating widespread voter fraud than President Trump, but he’s provided no evidence in his statements (verbal and/or social media), nor has his lawyers presented any evidence in any of the many lawsuits that have been filed. That suggests there *is* no evidence.

      We conservatives may not enjoy the victory going to a Democrat, but we live in a democracy, and for me that means respecting the will of the people even if, and especially when, their will is opposed to mine.

      tl/dr: Be a patriot and accept the results of the election.

      • Larry O'Hanlon on 17 November 2020 at 1:43 am

        Joe Biden will not be President Elect until all states ratify their votes and the Electoral College selects him on December 14th. I know the news media has declared Biden the winner, but they would now, wouldn’t they.
        And to those who keep saying we live in a democracy…. we do not and you better hope we never find ourselves in one. We live in a Constitutional Republic, there is a big difference.

    • Ulrich Heigl on 16 November 2020 at 6:13 pm

      Please stopp posting fake politics here. We talking WOOD

  5. L. Matthews on 9 November 2020 at 11:07 pm

    Paul, This is a beautiful design and a certain testament to your craftsmanship. I have been a fan of columns in the design of case work whether they are smooth, fluted or reeded and the columns set these pieces off. The use of Mesquite native to Texas is also a winner. Your previous commissions for dignitaries surely made a well deserved impression that undoubtedly contributed to making these stunning examples of style, design and craftsmanship. Having these two in the White House is a permanent “One Man Show”. Bravo and well deserved.
    P.S. I hope this commission will be covered in one of your books starting at zero and step by step with drawings, pictures and werbage covering the trials, emotional strain and sweat through delivery all while under a tight time constraint.

  6. Richard Hutchings on 10 November 2020 at 1:52 pm

    It may be too early to discuss anything involving the WH. Too bad we couldn’t stay on topic. Looking forward to learning more from you.

  7. Stephen on 10 November 2020 at 2:17 pm

    What a terrible pity that matters have got to the point that the mention of “White House” and “Biden” triggers such vituperation. Paul, I think most of us want to hear the story and see the photos of your work. From an interested non-American.

    • Steve Powell on 10 November 2020 at 7:21 pm

      Yes, I want to read about the Design and work that went into those beautiful projects

  8. Michael on 10 November 2020 at 2:17 pm

    We all are here to talk about wood and tools which help us to put things together and build what we need for better future. Politics at the minute are incredibly divisive in the UK and the US so could we please leave them out of here.

    Love your stuff by the way Paul.

    Thanks

  9. Wesley on 10 November 2020 at 2:40 pm

    Perhaps a silly question, but can these pieces be seen by visitors in the white house? When I google images of the Cabinet Room I don’t see any furniture except for a table and lots of chairs.

    • Paul Sellers on 10 November 2020 at 5:18 pm

      I have pictures of President Obama with my credenzas there in the Cabinet Room. My future posts will show them there.

      • Vanessa Kitty on 16 November 2020 at 10:26 pm

        That would be wonderful Paul. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and skills with us.

  10. nemo on 10 November 2020 at 3:49 pm

    As I was reading this post your words ‘it’s not that I can’t compete with IKEA; IKEA can’t compete with me’ (loosely quoted/paraphrased) came to mind. Another thing that came up was the remark of your former schoolteacher, telling you and your parents that you can’t be educated.

    Perhaps he should have said: “I can’t educate him”. It would have been closer to the truth.

  11. Robert Sexsmith on 10 November 2020 at 4:16 pm

    Paul, Like you I have this ideal that Political views are part of live, that we should pay attention too.
    As a Canadian we have our moments as well. But If we do not know our history we keep making the same missteps that affect us. I like to read your blog’s watch your work.
    Watch the young generation They love to talk and look for the mistakes. My son and I have played this game for years. The longer it takes to find the mistake the better to work is [that is both of us making different things].
    Bob

  12. Michael Pisto on 10 November 2020 at 5:45 pm

    I’m a fan of seeing all these types of beautiful pieces in European palaces, old homes, museums etc and to see yours in the White House, it’s gorgeous Paul! I’m glad you have a magnificent piece in the WH for generations to come and admire! It’s amazing to see how wood can be transformed from a tree into amazing pieces.

    You’ve taught me so much Paul from your videos and your books. I wish other people had your skill at teaching the art and craft.

    Thank you!

  13. Roger Allen on 10 November 2020 at 8:23 pm

    Amazing work, Paul.
    Were the four wooden pillars symbolic and I assume you used a lathe snd if so was it foot driven by a foot treddle or an electron?

    There are the Seven Pillars of Wisdom and the Fourth Estate. Why four here?

    Symbolism speaks so eloquently to those with eyes.

    I am dismayed that even this site has descended into the mire. Let us return to the civility of fine-timbered folk.

    What timbers did you use and are you familiar with Australian timbers, Huon Pine being king in my view.

    • Paul Sellers on 11 November 2020 at 7:39 am

      The lathe was not a treadle late but at the opposite end of the spectrum, it was a One-Way lathe. Not so deep with the observation of pillars standing tall. It was however about balance and the size and proportion I wanted for the doors. The wood is primarily mesquite from my second homeland Texas. Additionally, I used ebony striping for accent and some Oak salvaged from a dropped limb of an Oak planted at the White House by President Harrison during his term of office. The eagle is from walnut, Bois d arc, curly maple.

      • Jim Monette on 16 November 2020 at 10:57 pm

        Interesting comments, all because of an observation about measuring. Anyway, recently I was able to make a small folding table from plans on the internet. Rather than make it full size I decided to cut the measurements in half. If I had used metric it may have been easier. All the wood was repurposed. Some of the wood was dark and very heavy. This wood tore out when I tried to plane it so I sanded it and used a card scraper. I wish I knew what kind of wood it is, it is a greasy feeling wood. I also used Sapele scraps for the table top slats, also hard to plane. Out in the yard I retrieved a long piece of packaging wood that sat in the elements for about 3 years, tropical wood maybe luan. It was fine, no rot. I live in Vermont so the winters can be tough. Thanks for the training you provide so freely.
        Obviously you got quite a rise from simply mentioning the results from an election. I am neutral in politics and I do not vote. One of my good friends feels it is wrong for me to feel the way I do. He is not malicious or anything, he just thinks it is a shame that I and others like me do not wish to be part of helping the system to be better. Others have called me a dirty skunk. The fact is I have cast my ballot in favor of the government that will bring relief to all men, not just a few. It is God’s Kingdom government. Most have heard the words of what is termed the Lord’s Prayer; “ …let your kingdom come “. That is a real government. You only have to vote once for that administration.

  14. Mark D. Baker on 11 November 2020 at 5:47 am

    Wonderful Piece, Great Work
    Aloha

  15. Robert on 11 November 2020 at 6:06 am

    I keep looking at the third picture with the inlay. It is beautiful. How did you get that shaving without damaging the perpendicular grain in the wood to the left of the inlay?

    • Paul Sellers on 11 November 2020 at 7:24 am

      It comes from a #80 cabinet scraper, Robert. We had a lot of planing and scraping throughout this work.

      • John C. Miller on 16 November 2020 at 7:53 pm

        Thanks! I had the same question . Aloha Nui Loa.

  16. Chris Smallwood on 11 November 2020 at 10:36 am

    A beautiful piece of work. Thank you for sharing this and for all the help and inspiration you have provided. Fine craft of any form transcends politics.

  17. Christophe on 11 November 2020 at 3:30 pm

    Paul,

    Like others have mentioned, I would really enjoy reading more about the process of doing a piece for the white house (the design, the work, the choice of timber, etc.).

    I would also love to read more about your “normal” work you did during your years as a furniture maker in Texas (and UK). Such as : the kind of clients you had, the type of furniture you were making (any specific style/period)

    Cheers !
    Chris

  18. John Morrison on 11 November 2020 at 6:14 pm

    I hope there is a signature, plaque or other maker’s mark inside or on the back of that cabinet – that names you. History should know who made this fine cabinet. Thank you.

    • Marcin Klos on 18 November 2020 at 6:01 pm

      I believe in the May article (“IT’S BIG, THIS MAKING!”) on the topic, there is a picture of Paul signing a piece.

  19. mark leatherland on 16 November 2020 at 10:51 pm

    The credenza is just lovely. The wood beautiful.
    I like the design where the 4 pillars remind me of the 4 columns of the northern facade of the White House itself.

    • Paul Sellers on 17 November 2020 at 9:23 am

      I’m not sure anyone else saws that. Well done!

  20. Casper Endlein on 17 November 2020 at 2:03 am

    The only wood that is involved is between the ears of the individual s on both sides of the fence.Heads up, Paul.

  21. Dave Engstrom on 17 November 2020 at 5:59 am

    I am wondering how long it took to make the piece? I make furniture myself, but I am afraid to do inlay work such as yours. It exceeds my skill level, I am afraid.

    • Paul Sellers on 17 November 2020 at 9:07 am

      We made two identical credenzas to sit side by side in six weeks for the two with four to five skilled furniture makers and three to five assistants helping periodically as needed. The minimum working day was 12 hours for the skilled men and more likely 16 hours most of the time. If you can make these cabinets then you can certainly create the inlay.

      • Dave Engstrom on 17 November 2020 at 10:35 pm

        It must be quite an honor having some of your work in the White House. Not many have that distinction. I have learned a lot by watching your videos over the last few years. I am quite proud of you and your abilities. You seem to really enjoy what you do. The craftsmanship on the credenzas is just excellent. Museum quality. My hat is off to you and your team. I strive to imitate your work and I find it is like eating an elephant. One bite at a time over a lifetime.

  22. Roger Browning on 17 November 2020 at 1:36 pm

    Paul, thank you for what you have done, what you are doing and for the promise of the woodworking things that are to come. I recently read an older article of yours referencing making gifts for other to give during Christmas. My little heshed has been a busy place doing simple items such as spoons, cutting boards and birdhouses. I’m using cedar to build the birdhouse. My source for the roofs and sides are the thin cedar planks that are normally used to line closets, the tongue and groove stuff. The ladies love the birdhouses and they are using the left over curls from hand planing the cedar in center displays for the table. I enjoy utilization and it never hurts to bring a smile to the faces of the ladies in our lives. Thanks again for all that you do!

  23. John Van Wagner on 18 November 2020 at 2:46 am

    Pual, the credenza is amazing! Beyond that, please know, that when I cut a board with a hand saw that I sharpened, when I smooth that board with a plane I fettled, when I assemble that board in a hand cut joint that I made, a part of my father and my grandfather lives on. Were it not for you, I would never have thought about picking up those tools! Let alone, trying to learn the skills to use them… And you may rest assured knowing that I am helping my son in law and my grandson learn those same skills. Thank you! From a greatful (former power tool using) American.

  24. Glenn Smith on 19 November 2020 at 10:40 pm

    Paul;
    It is indeed an honor that your work is on display in The White House and will always remain so. I look forward to learning more about the details of how it came to be so. Thank you for posting on the site to inform us of this.

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