Framing the Issues

The garden is of primary interest beyond but including my woodworking. Roughly that translates into garden growing boxes, in-ground planting, fruit beds newly planted and of course harvest time.

My winter project is my new greenhouse. It’s going in and up and the superstructure sitting on top of the deck I put in place over the weekend. Covid this year made me ever more aware that we need to take back control of what we sold out to imports.

In my case, I usually buy in seeds but this year couldn’t buy what wamted soon enough and ended up buying what I didn’t really want at overly high prices. Ultimately I didn’t get the seeds I wanted in the ground and the alternatives didn’t give me what I truly wanted, even though they grew just fine. It made me aware that I need to get a greater incentive for longer-term garden planning.

The greenhouse started with a mixed resource of materials, some of which came from more sheetrock pallets and so on. That front frame came from a pallet made from 3″ x 3″ in 8′ lengths. It wasn’t my plan to make the whole from pallets but from some new and some recycled. I have gained a few good pieces from the side of the road and inside or beside skips.

It seems more and more that my days and my weeks seem filled with frames. As my greenhouse framework at the back of the house stood clamped together, so too my Brazos rocking chair parts were jointed and framed. With most of the mortise holes cut, today I worked to tenon the back slats and side rails.

It struck me here again that most frames prior to say the 1960s were held together with the single mortise and tenon joint. Was it because something better came along to replace it? This question ran through my mind for a second at least. My answer? Of course not! Mostly it was because something quicker and skilless came along. I remember once seeing some beams from an old barn that stood for over 200 years. It had a 22″ wide tenons. The beams were 25 foot long, 14″ x 24″ sections with scarcely a knot in place and it was impressive to me. With our modern trend of dominoes and biscuits, Glue-lam beams and such, it made me think how unimpressive the things are that seem, well, to impress some of us.

How would I feel if I glued and screwed a jointless chair together that looked just like my Brazos rocking chair here? You know, sold it to a customer! Well, I would feel like I cheated them, true, but I would feel more that I cheated myself. That’s why I have never ever used a power router to cut a dovetail or much of anything else. I will be all the happier going to my grave knowing that I never used a pocket hole system too, but not in some self-righteous way! No, not that, just that my work will always come from the skilled work of my hands, my own judgement and my own power. This matters to me.

Anyway, seeing all the work I do come together is heartwarming. Nothing like it for job satisfaction!


  1. “knowing that I never used a pocket hole system too, but not in some self-righteous way! No, not that, just that my work will always come from the skilled work of my hands, my own judgement and my own power”

    Well put, Paul! Well put! And I think this clarification on your part is extremely important. I too feel the same way – I want to make things using tried and tested methods because they will last. Quite possibly for thousands of years! I just need to get a commission from a Pharaoh constructing some underground dungeons. 🙂
    I do use a band saw and a planer/thicknesser though. But the last tool on the surfaces is my mid-1900 Stanley No.4…

    PS: I’ve stated this many, many times before: A power tool and a hand tool whoopsie is a bit different from eachother. The power tool one equals using your best chisel to nudge a few fibres from a dovetail and then all of the sudden bring a cleaving axe into the mix.

    WoodWORKERS have the nicest kindling. 4s, smoothed, dovetailed… No splinters! 🙂

  2. Dear Paul,
    first of all, thank you for all the inspiration you bring.

    Would love to see some details on how you build structures like the greenhouse and shed, at some point mostly all of us will need one (or two 🙂 ).

    May i kindly ask you to consider a video / blog series about those?

  3. Mr. Sellers, you seem to be getting busier and busier, it’s hard to keep up with your pace! Pleased to see the green house looking so good, will you paint or stain the wood?

  4. Hi Paul,
    I learnt my trade as a monumental stonemason and started learning at the age of 14. My Dear late Father was a cabinet maker by trade and worked in the building industry also. I worked with my Father for many years and he taught me so much about his trade by using hand tools. I am in my seventies now and there’s not many days that I don’t go in my work shop. I still love working with wood and hand tools. I have been subscribed to your site for some years now and have learnt many of your tips and tricks one of which is recutting the teeth in a really old Tenon Saw and refurbishing the handle. Your method of recutting the teeth is a better way of doing it then mine. I use to masking tape the blade and set the teeth out on the tape 👎 You have made a beautiful job of your Rocking Chair 👌 How long did it take you to make and what sort of timber did you use? Keep the lovely good work up Paul. Cheers for now.
    Best wishes
    Channel Islands

  5. Paul I like your shed design and especially your joinery on the ends. Your approach to building certainly opens
    up new ideas of construction for me. Thank you.

  6. It seems I’m busier now than in years past. Maybe I’m just older so it feels like it, but I am using fewer and fewer power tools relying on my miter box much more. I work in strangers homes a lot these days and take my tool box I made in with me and seldom have to ask for a plugin for power saws, drills, etc.
    A customer gave me an old miter box complete with a 30″ back saw I take with me to the jobs now and haven’t used a power saw now for quite some time. I still use my table saw in the shop, but I certainly don’t take it with me to customers homes..

  7. I forgot to mention.. Imagine showing up in million dollar homes with little more than a miter mess, no noise and they’re amazed that anyone can cut wood by hand right in front of their eyes in their million dollar houses.. If only they paid for the privilege.. lol

  8. How do you fit it all in, Paul? I’m very glad you do, and I congratulate you on that rocking chair – it’s breathtaking. The colour is absolutely gorgeous – can you tell which wood you used?

    1. It was curly maple dyed with leather dye, sprayed on and not applied by cloth or brush. It worked, didn’t it. How do I fit it in. Every minute of my waking hours is spent before I begin. I do not take breaks, I don’t snack between meals and I push my body and mind to the same limits an athlete does when he’s running the race or putting the shot put or javelin. This, all of my work, writing, photography and so on, to me, is the same as all part of an extreme sport without the waste of energy a gym is to most. All the energy is used for good.

      1. Thanks Paul, and oh yes, it worked alright – totally, achingly beautiful, that chair!

        That’s a very disciplined approach you have there, which puts a lot of us to shame (especially me!), but it clearly works, which is our good fortune, too.

        How lovely it is to see someone in this day and age who is as content as you obviously are. Long may you continue.


      2. Thanks Paul. For the chair, do you think that applying garnet shellac would give a similar look to what you obtained with the leather dye? Looking forward to when you publish the booklet with the Brazos rocking chair.

      3. The point about your life as an extreme athlete struck a chord with me. I, like the majority of my country, am obese and i have entered middle age with the sword of hypertension suspended over me with a horse hair. I dislike the exercise for ots own merit. I do love working projects on the farm but i never thought it was intense enough to lose the flab. That post made me think. What if i lived life like an artisan cum athlete? Life changing.

        1. My preferred steps towards exercise-free success!

          I like exercise as long as I don’t know I’m doing it
          I like exercise as long as it’s not called exercise
          I like exercise as long as it’s called work
          I like exercise as long as it’s not called a workout
          I like exercise weights but only in the shape and weight of my #4 Stanley. . .no Bedrocks, please!
          I like exercise in the form of bench-presses as long as they are quick-release

    2. Hi Paul,
      Just wondering if you would ever have a series, video or published, on your rocking chair? I admire it very much.

  9. Dear Paul,
    Hello, my name is Amy. My husband Douglas has been a follower of yours since you first started making youtube videos. He is a huge fan of yours, in fact you and your videos are what have taught him his skills and passion as a woodworker! He always looks to your videos before starting a project to see if you have advice. He just recently finished his own workbench, so that he and our 5 kids can have a lifetime piece to create at. We have 5 kids and he works full-time, so he doesn’t have as much free time as he would like to devote to woodworking, but he is always encouraging our kids to still try the tools and create whenever they do have free time. Thank You for the woodworking lessons and also the life lessons that you have taught him over the years, it has made a difference in our lives! This Christmas we are focusing on making and giving to one another as gifts to exchange. I am writing you today to see if you offer zoom calls or live chats? This gift of talking with you would be priceless in our eyes, and unforgettable!
    Thank You for your time & Merry Christmas!

  10. Paul I rarely comment on anything on any site or blog. I am currently transitioning from power to hand tools and I find it both rewarding in building by hand tools and frustrating at times because of the learning curve. However I am encouraged by your insights and projects and will continue to transition. They say a trip is not about the destination, but about journey that makes it worth the effort. Thanks Paul, appreciate your efforts.


  11. On a different subject, if you haven’t already read it, I recommend “Handmade” by Gary Rogowski . A woodworker who lives the life. I think he and I are “brothers from different mothers”so to speak. We both suffer from “shop Tourette syndrome” when something goes amiss.

  12. How strange that you should mention the old beam! Just a couple of days ago I came across an absolutely huge old oak beam, washed up on a beach as driftwood. I commented to my children about the amount of work and effort that had once gone into it, and was still evident so many years later. It was hugely impressive even “in death”.
    Compared to an awful modern I beam joist which are the bane of my working life!

  13. Paul you are a machine and an inspiration to all of us who like to make things from wood. I have to say though, working with recycled pallets is always an exercise in compromise, nothing is ever straight or the same thickness. It is however, good for the brain when success and the finished product is appreciated and takes pride of place. I hope 2021 is a better year for all fellows in the UK. Thanks for all the great posts, most appreciated.

  14. Paul, interesting green house design. Don’t think I have seen one with such steep roof pitch. What are you going to use as cladding for your new green house?

  15. Paul: Thank you just does not seem enough for all the woodworking knowledge you have taught me. I would like to request more information on the “how to” for the green house. I have gardened all my life and found getting seeds and plants I wanted for this years growing season was near impossible. I look forward to see how your greenhouse comes out, and how I could build a similar greenhouse.

  16. Hi Paul – good to see you building a green house. I am planning to do the same, so interested the project progress. In the meantime, I’m trying to make boxes for my chisels etc. using your dovetail technique. Thank you for the inspirations…

  17. I see your work and it makes me wish I had more time and materials to work on projects. I have a large hill in my backyard I want to do terraced raised beds and a shed so I have space other than my little garage to do woodworking. I’ll get there one day, but I live vicariously through your amazing furniture.

  18. Wow, I don’t know how you do it Paul! Your work rate is phenomenal seeing what you achieve. You are a very productive person that’s for sure. Puts me to shame!

  19. It seems to me that, as craftsmen, we can tend to have more appreciation for our work than others. In a world of production made everything the desire to have handmade furniture seem to have waned. This ought not put us off though. We create more for us than anyone else. At least that’s the way I see it. Take care everyone. Merry Christmas to you all.

  20. Glad to see you are building a green house but very curious why you have a wooden floor for it. Having it raised off the ground as you do, will invite vermin to live and nest under it, and they will be happy to destroy your seedlings. It would be better in my opinion to have a rock/stone/brick floor in the middle and growing beds around the sides and back. Maximize the uses of the greenhouse!

    Yes, Covid certainly highlighted the need for people to grow their own food if they can. A small greenhouse is so very smart and if done right, can set up your veg garden perfectly each year. We have been growing veg in our garden for 30 yr now, so have it down pretty well. We rarely need now to order new seeds since we collect our own of most things.

    Just for reference for those of your readers that are going to think of a garden, here are some ideas. I hope it is not to forward of me but 30 yr of experience may save a few people some time wasted.

    Raised beds are best. Both in the greenhouse and in the garden.
    The raised beds in our greenhouse are 2ft high, 2.5ft wide, made from 4×4 untreated lumber. I installed hanging metal shelving above to hold the pots when i am starting my seedlings(harder for vermin to eat the seedlings) and they fold away when i am ready to transplant into the greenhouse beds and the vegetable garden itself. This year we had 12 varieties of tomatoes, squash, basil, cucumber, nasturtium, and 3 types of lettuce growing in the greenhouse from March up to the middle of November. We use only untreated wood of course because the chemicals used to protect the wood from rot is poisonous and leaches at least 12″ into the soil and therefore into the plants.

    A little garden grows a lot of food if planned. Companion planting is smart to minimize pests, increase pollination etc.
    We have (so far) 17 raised beds that are all 2’wide, and range from 20 to 50 feet in length, and in January I will build at least 10 more. We grow enough there to supply most of our neighbors and ourselves for fresh, frozen or dehydrated veg all started in the greenhouse. If you put gravel between the beds, it slows down the slugs so your early plantings survive. Our gravel walkways are 3′ wide to easily accommodate a wheelbarrow. We compost everything, no chemicals added, no pesticides, no herbicides. We also have 800 blueberry bushes on our little farm which I prune and and from those prunings start 100 more bushes (which I sell). Those pots with the young blueberries are over-wintered in the greenhouse. In our flower gardens there are veg and herbs planted in them as well. Composting is easy and is a great way to add mulch to the garden.

    So yes, please everyone, start a garden. My daughter with a small apartment deck has fresh herbs, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers growing. Nothing beats fresh organic self grown food.

    And then you have the energy to do great woodwork like Paul…(for me, striving to be half as good as Paul!)

  21. Thanks, Paul. I enjoyed this blog post as thoroughly as I always do when I spend time with you. It did stimulate one thought I’d like to share though. That magnificent barn beam, 25′ long, it must have come from a very old and magnificent tree. Having been born and raised in the USA’s Pacific Northwest, I’m keenly aware that too many of those magnificent and ancient trees were plundered without thought.

    My father was always a strong environmentalist and, with reference to those trees he said, “You can’t harvest what you did not sow.”

    If only we could have been more conscious 100, even 30 years ago, vastly more of those ancient forests would still exist today.

    It gives me great pleasure to see what you have done with your greenhouse and garden… more than that … inspiration. Thank you.

  22. Pocket-holes led me to building a wardrobe. The wardrobe led me to building a drawer with box joints on my table saw. Those box joints led me to build a work bench with half laps. My work bench has led me to building a dining room bench with tenon and mortise joints. All in less than 12 months.

    My point is, anything that engages your mind and hands to create is a good step in the right direction. Your evolution as a creator of things will take it’s natural course. My journey has taken less than 12 months.

    1. Forgot to mention, the journey evolved by watching Paul and others. I can’t thank Paul enough for instilling confidence that I can create and build beautiful things. Thank you Paul. I owe you so much.

  23. Hi Paul, have been going through your videos whenever i have time each day. Amazing content, great tips and instruction. Thank you for sharing your expertise, craftsmanship and genuinely great attitude.

  24. Hi Paul, In Canada we have a different perspective on what constitutes a winter project. Looking out across my snowy back yard I can only dream of the green house I would build in the spring once the frost has come out of the ground. Be safe Sir.

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