Things You’re Proud Of!

There are many things to be thankful for in life and for all of us it is mostly things surrounding our family, our special friends and our loved ones that make us truly grateful. When one person achieves something special resulting from hard work and great effort we all rejoice together because achievement that costs us is worth celebrating. Many things that I have made cause me to rejoice for the privilege of making them. Mostly they are things from wood, but sometimes too a building, a garden dug and a repair made that blends into the surrounding material world we inhabit. I think we are often proud in the right way. If you write software and develop a vaccine for a pandemic that saves lives, design a chair that fits or a bed for another to sleep in comfort and peace, these are things we can take pride in.

Last week we took possession of five thousand copies of my book Essential Woodworking Hand Tools and when the shipment arrived I opened up the first box to take out a new copy. I felt truly grateful as I thumbed the pages to see the quality and I felt all the more contented as I read just a couple of sentences on two or three pages.

You see, in 1990 or thereabouts, I started to pen my first thoughts on woodworking with hand tools for a class of ten. Little did I know then that I might actually develop and write curriculum for woodworkers learning my craft. As the book in my hands weighed in at almost 2 kilos or 4 lbs, and not quite 500 pages, I thought to myself, how on earth did we do this? I remembered a violin maker once asking me why Joseph and I made a cello as our first instrument together. I asked him why and he said because a cello is the hardest of the bowed instruments to make and get right. I replied, ‘Well, we didn’t know we couldn’t do it so we did.’

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Days later, the principal cellist in the Dallas symphony orchestra, Chris Adkins, sat on a chair on a barn floor playing the instrument and he played it for half an hour. When he’d done he handed it back to Joseph and said, “It’s hard for me to give this back. It’s just beautiful to play; so rich and easy!” Chris plays a Guanerri. To say I felt proud is an understatement because Joseph and I made it together.

In designing the two credenzas for the Permanent Collection of the White House, I never actually expected or intended to make them. It would be hard for me to convey how difficult it was to pull everything together to make them in the time allotted, but we did it.

Placing these two pieces in the Cabinet Room of the White House on the eve of President Obama’s Inauguration raised my awareness of just where I was standing. Again, I was very conscious of achieving something I didn’t know I could. Was I proud? I was!

Writing Essential Woodworking Hand Tools is another such task. I just started writing and searching through my hundreds of pages of notes and drawings in my journals. I took nothing from any other document or book or author. I wanted the whole book to come from my living work as an artisan woodworker and furniture maker. I didn’t know if I could do it and I certainly didn’t know I couldn’t do it so I did it. Now I couldn’t have done it without my son Joseph’s help. This was yet another ‘together-effort’ as was the cello and the White House pieces.

It was a joint effort to give it our best shot. What did we want? We wanted a hardcover, cloth bound book with Smith-sewn stitching because we felt the book would become timeless for many a thousand woodworking enthusiasts long into the future. It was a reference manual that has never been written and the drawings were made with my own pencils at the workbench where I have worked for over 55 years. To say I agonised over every word is no exaggeration. Every single detail mattered. Still, today, I read the words and I cannot believe I wrote them. It was a work from the heart of a man maker who’s done little more than work with his hands at a workbench to follow his calling. I hope you will enjoy my Essential Woodworking Hand Tools offering as much as I have had in the writing of it.

For now, the only place this book is available from is our website (https://rokesmith.com/shop) where we ship worldwide!

51 thoughts on “Things You’re Proud Of!”

  1. Roberto Fischer

    I appreciate the courage of not selling on Amazon. I feel like that’s the right adjective, what it takes to fight against the apex of predatory capitalism. I’ve ordered one for a friend of mine.

  2. Its a bummer that the price went up so much. It kind of priced me out of it. Unfortunately when it was much cheaper it was out of stock.

    1. No, Steve, I think that you are mistaken. The price has been the same since the first printing in 2016. It’s never been any cheaper than it is now because we have never changed the price. In the US currently, it will even be a little cheaper because of the fluctuating exchange rate at the moment. We did do a one-time discount for a short time, perhaps 15%, some years ago.
      I know I wrote this book, but it is a timeless work seldom seen and especially in the market of woodworking books today. It also matches my requirements for craftsmanship in that it is well made to the very highest specs — Smith-sewn, clothbound, hardback, full colour, my hand-drawn artwork and a beautiful, full-colour dustcover. I see much lesser books sold for similar prices with a fraction of the content and some having a mere 10% the quality. Shipping prices have increased because of COVID (understandably) but we even absorb some of this cost too.

      1. Never mind, i see what it is. Before, it only showed the price and shipping in Brittish Pounds, but now it shows it in US dollars. So it looks like its 10 more for the book and more for shipping , but it is the same price. I’ll order after I get my Christmas presents all taken care of.

          1. Steve p no offence, but a a skilled craft man has put his experience and knowledge on paper, 60-100 £,$,¥,€ is priceless really, the book would outlast human race if looked after. you can go sign up to a college course or wood working course or pay for dvds which is same price if not more but they will deteriorate in time. At the end of the day they won’t go into depth in setting up the saw to sharpen the teeth etc. If you think it’s too expensive keep that to your self or your wife. Don’t insult Paul if he priced his book at £300 pounds then I pretty sure it be worth it such a prestigious wood worker teaching the craft that which was taught in the golden age in U.K.. plus he got YouTube video that will help back up the certain things from the book.

      2. I can’t wait get mine that I ordered Monday, the price seemed reasonable even if it didn’t i would just consider it a donation to you for sharing your woodworking knowlege with others.

    2. Maybe try to think about it the other way: this book will probably live much longer than any paperback copy, so in a certain sense, it is cheaper per month of its lifetime. 😉

    3. I bought my copy at Amazon in 2016. I think it was $50.00 then. It has been a great reference for me and it is well worth the price. I am glad you brought the book back!

    4. Paul I consider I am privileged to have bought at your Oxford museum presentation event. Handed to me by your Son Joseph and signed by you. After being given a cup of coffee and biscuit by your charming wife.
      I did not flinch at its cost….when opening the smell of its quality and its. content has been a great source of information. It stands pride of place on my bookshelf, made following your tuition.
      I even got to hold your Stanley number 4.

      Thank you john2V

  3. It’s brilliant your book is back in print. I was so sorry to have missed the opportunity when it was out before. I ordered mine today and hoping it will be my reading (and watching as I also ordered the DVDs!) over Christmas. I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas and New Year.

  4. Felicidades maestro lo quiero pero quisiera saber si ay una versión en español ya aprendí mucho con sus videos en internet con gusto pagaría por este libro gracias saludos de México

  5. Thanks, Paul. I have enjoyed having my original copy handy and I have purchased a second one as a Chanukah gift for my Son. I’m sure he will find it as important a reference as I have. Thanks again for your teaching and inspiration.

  6. Thanks Paul. I received my copy today and it is certainly a very high quality production. I look forward to poring over it over the next few weeks.
    4 months ago, I had essentially never made anything with hand tools, but had a vague idea that it was something I wanted to pursue. I chanced across a channel on YouTube, made myself a pair of plywood trestles and a diamond stone holder, then embarked on the (your) workbench on which I’m now learning to make joints and build simple projects. I love it!

  7. Richard Kornicki

    I have just ordered a spare copy for my grandchildren. I think this will fly off the shelves with all the subscribers to Woodworking Masterclasses wanting one.

  8. Its a great book, i brought it when it first came out and refer to it often. A great read and a very good book that you can’t do without. Thank you for your Years of experience and hard work.

  9. My first foray into “Essential Tooling” was to get rid of the large power tools such as the band saw. I have a tiny shop so floor space is a premium. In addition, I disliked the screaming noise of power tools and much prefer the peace and quiet of hand tools. Yes this means that I have to use hand saws for re-sawing, and sawing curves etc. But that’s ok – I need the exercise. And I must confess that, yes, I kept the shop vac….as noisy as that is.

    I’m in my second phase of “Essential tooling” in that I’m getting rid of a lot of tools that I bought, but I don’t use. Several honing guides, templates for drilling shelf hanger holes…things like that.

    It’s good to get the space back in a shop that’s very small – about 10′ x 12′.

  10. Oh, goodie! I’ve been waiting for this. I have just ordered – can’t wait!
    There is great pleasure in good books for their own sake I think. This has a space reserved beside my copy of Ashley”s, the best book ever on traditional ropework.

    1. Roger L. Anderson

      Ashley’s! Once upon a time I built a three mast schooner….had Turk’s Head’s on all my screwdrivers

  11. I read your book “Working Wood The Artisan Course with Paul Sellers” and enjoyed it so much I couldn’t put it down. When your new book “Essential Woodworking Hand Tools” became available I purchased it right away. I didn’t order it with the DVD’s, But now would like to get the DVD’s. I am in USA… can you tell me where I can get the DVD”s ? I did a search at Highland Woodworking and it does not appear on their website… nor your book.

  12. Stephen McGonigle

    I really enjoy reading your posts Paul, as they come across as the musings a thoughtful man would make, or rather like your side of the conversation you might have with someone on a given subject.

    Too often pride is confused with hubris, and satisfaction with being smug or self satisfied. To have a pride in your work, achievements or family are all positive emotions. Self pride and having standards seem to have changed from being attributes to something to be scorned. Worse still, boastfulness and bragging gain approval, coupled with mock humility and self pity.

    Maybe I’m just out of kilter with current thought, but I was always taught that if you don’t respect yourself, how can you expect anyone else to respect you?

  13. Stephen McGonigle

    I also meant to add that two days ago after a vigorous walk along the Peak Forest Canal, I spent an enjoyable evening in front of my log burning stove, sitting in my favourite chair reading your book again. You were accompanied by some Miles Davies, Pink Floyd, Erik Satie and a glass of Bowmore single malt. A great way to spend the evening in a cold and damp Stockport.

  14. I understand completely what you are talking about Paul. I build 2 motorcycles when people told me I could not by myself. The last one I sold to buy a tablesaw, a drillpress, and a jointer. Now, many years later I have much better equipment, a really good selection of handplanes and I am learning how to use them much better. Now the shop brings in enough cash that I could buy a motorcycle. Imagine that. However at 70yrs old the motorcycle is no longer of interest to me. What most of us do not realize is that we are “doers” while the vast majority of people out there are not. They have no interest in learning skills with hand tools regardless of their application. We are a very small part of the population and I think it has always been that way. We seek to learn, to make, to build, to invent and that is a passion I am pleased to share. Consider Paul’s book like an encyclopedia. A decent set of those sources of knowledge can set you back $1000 so I consider the price for this book to be a bargain and I expect that I will learn a lot from it to further my experience base. The shop is where I go to make stuff and it has been that way for many years now. Aside from the satisfaction I get from dreaming up a project, successfully completing it and then see the wonder in other’s eyes, there is the joy of being able to say to someone “I made that”. We are probably about 10% of the population and likely it has been that way for many years. Celebrate our difference. We take great joy from this hobby/occupation. My shop supports itself by doing jobs nobody else wants to do and scavenging/trading wood and tools with others. It is a lifestyle I consider myself fortunate to possess.
    That Paul has taken the time to put all of this valuable knowledge to print and bind it well is a very good thing for all of us and we should embrace it. This is an investment and will likely pay off in ways most of us do not yet appreciate. I say “Thanks Paul for creating this valuable tome.” I will purchase a copy once the current purchasing madness has slowed down.
    And a Very Merry Christmas or Hanukah, Felice Navidad etc to everyone!

  15. Your book will likely be found under many a Christmas tree around the world and make their recipients rather joyful. That’s another accomplishment to be proud of.

    Looking at all those pallets of your books I must say that it’s wise of you not to sell autographed copies.

    1. My wife wanted me to have for Christmas present, darn she going to make me wait until then to see it, probably just as well because she most likely wouldn’t get it back.

  16. I too have the book from a few years ago and would now like to get the DVDs. Are they available?

    Thanks in advance

  17. Personally, I find the price of the book an exceptional bargain. How much is it worth to own a book that contains a rich depth of textual and visual information and 50+ years of experience in woodworking? The book makes this info available to everyone. People might say ‘I can’t afford it”, but it’s been my experience that we find a way to ‘Afford’ the things that are important to us. (A smart man once told me ‘You say you can’t afford to replace your car’s tires? If it were your only means of transportation and you got a flat, I daresay you’d find you COULD afford to replace the tire!” Anyway, a long way of saying, the book is not only ‘affordable’, it’s a bargain. My copy is already on the way, and I can’t wait!

  18. James (from USA)

    I bought a copy of the original edition and have used it ever since as a reference; just recently to re-read about sharpening a cabinet scraper. Paul’s ESSENTIAL WOODWORKING HAND TOOLS is to the woodworking artisan as Peter Reinhart’s THE BREAD BAKERS APPRENTICE: MASTERING THE ART OF EXTRAORDINARY BREAD is to the aspiring artisan bread baker.

    My first purchase, WORKING WOOD 1 & 2: THE ARTISAN COURSE WITH PAUL SELLERS also deserves a place in one’s woodworking library.

    Change of subject: I think we need a video of “Yo-Yo Ma” Sellers playing his cello!; Prelude to Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major.

    Happy Christmas and Happy New Year to all the Sellers and the crew.

    Remember: Life’s too short no to live it as a Texan!

  19. Thank you – ordered mine with shipping to Canada. Quality books, like quality tools are always worth it. Buying your book teaches me and supports you in continuing. Its a no brainer as they say here in North America. Happy Christmas & New Year to all of the Sellers folks.

  20. I ordered this one two years ago. It is a marvel!! Now I’m waiting for the Brazos Rocking Chair book 😊

  21. I have a library of woodworking books spanning about 35 years. Some 300 books in total. Many rare out of print works that are priceless to me. Now I have ordered the ultimate woodworking knowledge book to add to my collection. Can’t wait to begin reading late at night before bed. It will be a great shop reference and point of motivation. Thank you for the many years it took to bring it all together again!

  22. Dear Paul.
    In this post you list many things to be proud of. Book writing, cello making and credenzas for the White House. But the one thing to be really proud of is the fact that you built them together with your son. It reminds me of my own experiences with my father. The craft was different, but the joy was the same. As I see my own son and daughter grow and slowly learn the use and joy of tools, I slowly begin to understand the my father. And ever more cherish the time we get together. This is a gift you have given me. Remembering all those fantastic moments. And giving me the possibility to do the same with my children.
    Thank you.

  23. My daughters have bought some excellent woodworking tools over the years and each Christmas and birthday delight in asking me what I would like next, as again they have they have this time. They were surprised a couple of weeks ago when I asked for your book when it became available. It went something like this: “Well how about a course with one of the teachers you talk about? Thank you but no, this is what I would really like this Christmas. Are you sure Dad? Yes please, I am quite sure”. I went on to say that from what I have gleaned it might just turn out to be the best tool they have ever given me. Looking forward to the 25th Paul.

  24. Thanks for reprinting your book! Mine is on order and I’m anxiously awaiting its arrival. Thank you so much for all your wonderful videos and instruction on you tube. Im a beginner hand tool woodworker you have inspired me so much.

  25. Matt Evans-Koch

    I received my copy several weeks ago. I believe it was one of the last copies from the original printing as I was told that it had some shelf wear on the dust cover. Rather than take a chance on missing the opportunity to purchase a copy of Paul’s book, even though the new printing was in process, I chose to get the “shelf worn dust cover” copy. It arrived to my home on the West coast of Oregon in very good time considering the current pandemic situation. To my astonishment the book was in perfect condition with no wear, dust or even a hint of damage. Having paged through the book before starting to read it I came to the conclusion that this book would be worth much more that what Paul charges. The quality of the paper, the bindings and the content are superior to many of the more expensive books I have purchased on woodworking, architecture and boatbuilding. Even if you have to skip the purchase of a new tool this holiday season, buy a copy of this book. It will do more for your woodworking than many tools as it will improve the most important tool you have-your mind.

  26. I was looking forward to the book coming back in stock and was promptly announced via email about it.
    I ordered the book and DVD set immediatey and got the confirmation of shipping one week ago.
    Any clue about the delivery time to Bucharest, Romania?
    Or possibility to track the shipped parcel online?
    Thank you!

    1. The postal service says 3-7 days for Europe with the caveat “Please allow for Christmas delays and covid-19!” We cannot track the packages but I hope it arrives soon.

      1. Thank you very much indeed for the prompt reply!
        I today received a note from the post office and truly hope it is for the most wanted parcel, as I have not been waiting for anything else.
        I’ll pick it up next Monday and hopefully come back here with good news.
        Best regards and a peaceful weekend to you!

        1. I got it indeed few hours today, and the very first word immediately after opening the parcel was “WOW”!
          Congratulations for just another piece of work that can be called, beyond any doubt, masterpiece!

  27. Paul,
    I received my copy today. Nice book!
    I have been reading bits all day, your love for the tools and thepassion you have for the craft really shows in your writing.
    I hope you and your family have a great christmas and a happy and healthy new year.

  28. Hi Paul,
    I have a copy of your Essential Woodworking Hand Tools published in 2016.
    I find the size of the print small . And I understand why it is so.

    Is the size of the print in your current reprint bigger than the 2016 edition?

    Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year.

  29. This book is pretty much a rehash of common knowledge. I was hoping for something new. Maybe it will help someone.

  30. Mr. Sellers, could you please confirm whether this book and your current online courses supersede your earlier course “Working Wood 1 & 2” (book and DVDs)? And is this why you don’t list the latter on your website?

    Having followed for about a year now, I am getting close to the point of action and simply don’t know how much effort to expend to find the older course, given its relative inaccessibility.

    Thank you for your steady advocacy of woodworking as a means for bettering the world and its inhabitants.

  31. Paul,

    My compliments on your book “Essential Woodworking Handbook”. As a recently retired person, I have ‘relocated’ my place of business and my focus to my shop. During my work career it seemed the need for speed in the shop drove me towards power tools…..as time for woodworking projects was precious when career demands took 60-70 hours out of my week.

    Retirement has brought many surprises to the forefront…..and one that stands out is the new found joy of redirecting a good deal of the woodworking tasks to involve primarily hand tools. Your guidance in their use has been priceless, as is the increase in the joy of woodworking with hand tools.

    The odd part of the story; I ordered your book as a way to indirectly say thanks for the knowledge you share via your internet presence. While I am sure others will disagree; the cost of your book and the shipping cost to get it over the pond to the colonies pales in comparison to the value of the shared knowledge. Your writing skills are equal to your woodworking skills. My grandfather immigrated from England and would use the English expression “Know your onions” to describe being knowledgeable. That seems pretty fitting when it comes to you.

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge and all the best in the new year.

  32. Essential Woodworking Hand Tools;
    – ordered Dec 3
    – shipped Dec 4
    – arrived at my home in Canada Jan 4

    Covid, winter, other side of the planet, Brexit, xmas mail backlog – all surmounted. Ordering & patience is the name of the game. Cheers to the Sellers gang for shipping so soon after order placed. Cheers all

  33. Hi, will the book be printed in larger print for those of us with “old eyes”? Love the book but reading thru a magnifying glass is taxing.

    1. Thanks for the nudge, I will suggest as large a font as possible now to see if that is possible.

  34. Dear fellow fans, my copy of the book has arrived. It’s a masterpiece; just get your own copy and – for those of you shivering in the northern hemisphere winter plus lockdown – you’ll be able to use your time well. Thank you, Paul.

  35. Well today was a wonderful day. After an almost 4 week wait, I received my book in the mail today. Lucky for me that one of the flaps had been torn off but the book managed to not slip out or become damaged. To make a trip to the Midwest here in the USA from the UK in a single wrapped book mailer makes me wonder what your book distributor is thinking. Run some tape around those flap sleeve ends Rokesmith! That behind me, a sit down with a fresh cup of French Coffee I so proudly flipped through your many years of work and documentation. Extremely well illustrated with photos and drawing. Looking forward to a nightly read. Just wanted to say think you for all you do for the art of woodworking and taking the time to release such a wonderful book that will reside on the shelf next to my signed copy of “the Soul of a Tree”!

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