In an hour I go from neatness and order to a scene of seeming chaos yet I feel settled in the build of shavings at my bench and feet. In the same one hour, I’ve carved and shaped the whole seat to my rocking chair, formed the two tenons connecting the back from to the front frame yet no machine or so-called power tool pollutes me, my bench nor my work area and work. I shun the unskilled and reach for the skills now born deep, deep inside me over long periods where self-discipline and patience became innate.

My bench constantly gathers up the evidence of every stroke I’ve taken with muscle, sinew and the stretched extensions of my wrists, arms, hands, and fingers and then too each intake of breath as if the plane and the shave and the gouge exhaled my intent in shavings and shaved wood. I hear no voices as I work to pull and push the tools. I wear no mask nor do I allow devices to distract me or block out the sounds of my chisel hammer, planes, and the travishers and scorps that shave and shape my intent. I need no such cushions and pillows to soften the impact of my work; padding only dulls the significance of my handwork and in my world of making offers no value.

An upturned chair supports my working tools as I work the wood to form tenons and my reach is always convenient. In one hour I have made and I sweep once more the bench and the workshop floor, place my tools carefully once more, ready for use, and I stop to see what I have made, to examine the quality of my work, to search the depth of the grain, to question the balance of things now shaped by the sharp edges of my tools. I reach for the curved edge of my steel scraper and sharpen it yet again and without hesitation. This tool alone resolves all issues in wild grain that otherwise resists my handwork and levels the undulations left by my planing. My skills settle the matter and the power of my hands and arms, shoulders and chest reach now to rest in the finished work. As the chair settled on its shaped, upturned arches I feel a contentment I have never found using any other method for I know deep inside me that I just made a rocking chair with my own heart, body, mind and soul!

Sweeping and clearing are very much a part of the completion in my making. It concludes hour on hour the work of my day like commas and full stops punctuate my sentences and paragraphs. When sleep comes to restore my mind, my emotion and my aching body in the night, I find the rest that gives me perfect peace for when I wake to start once more a new day and a new dawn. These are the things I love about the lifestyle I have in working my wood by hand.

Have a good day my friends. Leave the COVID outside the workshop door if you can and focus more on the work of your hands. Yesterday is now gone and no longer exists, tomorrow doesn’t yet exist, but today is here and now and you can focus on making the very best of it you can minute by minute. What you do today paves the way for the future! This alone simplifies life’s workings.

28 Comments

  1. tim ziegler on 24 January 2021 at 1:40 pm

    Paul,

    I see a life time of skill in your workshop! A real joy to observe. Best wishes.

  2. Michael on 24 January 2021 at 1:46 pm

    The chair is coming along nicely. It was -2 in my garage this morning. I lasted an hour before everything was numb.

  3. gary clayton on 24 January 2021 at 2:05 pm

    Paul
    always great to follow your day to day accomplishments.

    I was wondering if the plans for the Brazos River Rocker were available?

    thanks and stay safe

    • Paul Sellers on 24 January 2021 at 8:14 pm

      Soon. I am just finishing the updates now.

  4. Kent HANSEN on 24 January 2021 at 2:12 pm

    Last night I was stirred by thoughts of life’s constant swirl and sleep was out of reach…your video calmed my mind and invited joy and peace…and sleep was welcomed…thanks, Paul!

  5. Chris Manning on 24 January 2021 at 2:14 pm

    Paul, I’m going to pin that last paragraph of yours on my workshop wall in an attempt to give me a kick when things don’t go right!

    As usual, an inspiration.

    THanks mate

    Chris

  6. Frank on 24 January 2021 at 4:34 pm

    Paul, that chair looks great. I can’t wait to see the finished product. Any chance you’d be willing to share your plans for some of us more novice woodworkers to try our hand at it?

    • Paul Sellers on 24 January 2021 at 8:14 pm

      This will be the next videod project, so follow on woodworkingmasterclasses.com

  7. clive on 24 January 2021 at 7:59 pm

    nice chair, am i right in thinking the seat is tenoned into the front legs, just wondering about the expansion of the seat and the resistance of the front rail

    • Paul Sellers on 24 January 2021 at 8:13 pm

      I’m guessing then that you think the seat expansion would have enough power to break the mortise and tenons in the cross rail? It would not. Imagine a sponge held between two jaws of a vise and then soaking the sponge with water. The vise would remain immovable. If the moisture in the seat is reduced to say 7% at the point of fitting, then the wood would most likely remain at 7% unless it went into a highly humid location. Even so, the fibres can still absorb moisture but the wood could not expand.

      • clive on 26 January 2021 at 9:52 am

        not sure i understand the concept of wood absorbing moisture but not expanding, surely a swelling would occur, if the rail tenons held the expansion wouldn’t buckling of the seat occur, is it likely that the seat would stay at 7% for its lifespan, much appreciate your response, an interesting topic wood expansion, as an aside why go to all the trouble with breadboard end joints if they can be fixed at two end points like your chair, not being critical just curious

        • Paul Sellers on 26 January 2021 at 9:58 am

          Size and use makes all the difference. Breadboard ends does not mean zero immersion or soaking with water, does it? Most kitchen boards are wiped and washed with water. Even kitchen tables with breadboard ends are in for a dowsing periodically and indeed regularly if you have children. It all comes down to the details. A rocking chair will never receive a soaking and they will likely never be left to the weather or exposed to a wide range of climate changes day on day. I think it is important to take risks now and then. There is not much risk in this case. Without risk, playing it safe, there would be no innovation. Why not experiment here and there. If I entered this into the UKs furniture competitions, it wouldn’t be first. If I made the same in MDf and painted it yellow with daisies on it might. Most people and examiners are indoctrinated enough to do and say exactly as you said, which is totally accepted and fine. That’s why they usually teach and judge and don’t make the extraordinary.

  8. Richard Lovinggood on 24 January 2021 at 11:57 pm

    Just received my copy of your book and am very impressed with the quality of it. You teach a peace that comes from working wood by hand that no power tool could ever bring. My great grandfather was a shipbuilder (did the finish woodworking on the ship and the cabins). I am just finding at 70 what you and he were able to experience for a lifetime. Thank you.

  9. Samuel on 25 January 2021 at 10:19 am

    I went to my uncles and I ate regularly, had a lot to do, and filled most hours with something.
    I came home and hit the ground running and got heaps done.
    Momentum is a real thing and the internal locus vs external of control is hard to acquire, especially if you’re not happy in your work: and you do need to eat and sleep properly too.
    They have a school of psychology that is quite popular because it strikes a chord with every truth we’ve ever heard. The core is focussing attention to be aware of your surroundings and applying yourself to what you hold as valuable and worthwhile.
    I think that’s why this blog appeals to so many.

    What did I do in an hour?
    Ai ai ai

  10. Andrew on 25 January 2021 at 11:46 am

    Factual, yet verging on poetry.

  11. Luca on 25 January 2021 at 2:03 pm

    The post that I needed. Amazing as always.

  12. Joe on 25 January 2021 at 3:19 pm

    Thanks Paul. One of the changes I made in 2021 was leaving Facebook and drastically cutting back on other social media and news. The only social media I now do is wood related and is still very limited. I’m seeing less doom and gloom but am getting enough news to be informed. I’m feeling much better and have much solitude in thought and body whilst woodworking. My workshop is my sanctuary.

  13. Steve P on 25 January 2021 at 5:22 pm

    Looks like I will need a lot more tools to make a chair. I see a scorp and various curved bottom tools. Will the video have a list of required tools?

  14. Jeff Kline on 25 January 2021 at 5:55 pm

    Your closing comment reminded me of a poem by Henry White’s worth Longfellow. It’s called the Psalm of life and here is one of its verses:

    Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
    Let the dead Past bury its dead!
    Act,— act in the living Present!
    Heart within, and God o’erhead!

  15. Joe Renta on 25 January 2021 at 6:07 pm

    As always, thank you Paul. Ready to get going on a rocker.
    Received your book last week. Instead of watching the bad news on TV I think I will wind down my day with a nice scotch and a few more pages reviewed.

  16. Thomas on 25 January 2021 at 7:28 pm

    This is quite a bit off topic Paul, but could you please show us how you sharpen your wood turning tools?

    I was recently bought a set as a Christmas gift, but haven’t been able to use them yet as I can’t figure out how to get them sharp.

    Any info you can provide is very much appreciated.

  17. Steven Lang on 25 January 2021 at 8:21 pm

    Paul, always good content and wisdom!

    Here are two of my thoughts on cleaning up!
    What do you think Paul!

    1. Use a push stick vs a broom to gather chips.

    (If you have finished floors, line it with felt, or old strip of bath towel, around the bottom and up the front and rear edges as required, or just leave plain)

    Reason: lighter, make any width you want, less dust, doesnt capture debris like a broom does, and its home made tool, just like anything else in your shop it’s a tool also.

    2. Use 2 dust pans vs a broom and pan.

    Reason: Easier to clean pile up, faster to miniplate the pans vs broom and a pan, and just as or more effect at the end detail.
    If you must get that last line of dust, mist dampen a rag and wipe, done. Let the rag dry over the edge of your trash can. Shake out and reuse!
    Use the size of pans appropriate for the type of material to be picked up ( density, mass vs just volume)
    I just us standard house plastic dust pans, Rubbermaid brand last and are durable and dont make as much noise. Thier size, I found can get debris in garbage can more effectively, than those oversized ones, if it dont go in the can the first time your just waiting time, when disposing.
    Small mess I just use the 2 pans one as the scraper and then together!
    When done just stack together an put in your favorite but handy place!
    Sorry Mr. Broom, Mr . Brush!

    Give it a try you’ll be surprised!
    Steven Lang. Columbus Michigan 🇺🇸

  18. David John Angaiak on 25 January 2021 at 11:00 pm

    Beautifully said, thank you for sharing your experience and insights. Very encouraging.

  19. Robyn WIlliams on 26 January 2021 at 8:57 am

    Paul I follow your posts and have to say most of your craftsmanship is but a dream for me, however it’s immensely satisfying to see that even a master makes an absolute pigsty of the workspace in the process! That I have a great deal of experience with.

    • Paul Sellers on 26 January 2021 at 9:48 am

      Robyn, In some ways I am often made sorry when I post pictures of my zone because people think that my workspace is constantly wrecked when in reality any workspace is always, always in a state of flux. I am a tidy, extremely tidy, workman. My space is small and must be tidy. If it were larger I would still use only the immediate space around my vise and bench. There are many reasons for tools and equipment, wood and such, to be free, not the least of which is the efficiency of time and motion. I leave pieces of wood on the benchtop because in shaping components I pull them back in periodically throughout the day to enable me to clamp what would otherwise be impossible in the vise. Tools I will need in a few seconds, over and over remain on the bench and then the interruption of thought is a major consideration too; is it worth putting this or that up or sweeping up when I need to keep a train of thought? A pigsty may be what you see but in my world of making it is never an excuse to have a works zone as a pigsty. I make my work zone clean and tidy when I come to a natural break in the work. Usuqlly, half a dozen times a day! It is nothing for me to fill three large bin bags full of plane shavings in an eight hour period. To create and make is to clean and tidy meticulously as part of the making process.

      • Vidar Fagerjord Harboe on 26 January 2021 at 1:41 pm

        Paul, it is good to see that your workspace looks exactly like mine whilst underway with a project. It might look untidy and a mess, but to me it is telling a story about what is going on. A heap of whisper-like shavings from smoothing and preparing for finishing. Chips and splinters from between two tails. Dust from sawing.
        It is tell-tale sign of work being done and that the task at hand is not yet tidying. Do not trust a clean chef near the end of hers or his shift!

        Or as I prefer to point out to my wife when she – rightfully so – comment on the state of my shop from time to time: genius master chaos. Supposedly, Einstein might have stated something to that effect. My wife just smirks at me…

        • Cyrille on 26 January 2021 at 6:14 pm

          What we’ve got the same wife?!

  20. Richard Thompson on 13 February 2021 at 11:52 pm

    I once saw a photograph of a late 19 th century canoe builders workshop This particular company is renowned as one of the best manufactures of canoes ever. The tradesmen are at the bench ankle deep in shavings from spiling planks and cedar strips for canoes.There were some brooms in the picture but these folk looked to be real busy.From such a mess some of the best small water craft were built so a messy workshop is no indication of the quality of work one can achieve .You can make a mess but at the same time make the best too.
    Keep on chipping on
    Richie

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