I don’t know about you but this year started with deep concerns and the chasm of disappointments seems to have deepened in just a few days into2021. It’s not us, the working people with boots on the ground that create the stir but those at the so-called top that stir up the unrest in our souls. But politics and global economics aside, covid-19 too, we are what matters most. I have no need of sports and no real need for politicians either. They are just there on my periphery. What matters to me is not world fame, other gods that are no gods at all, and neither is it recognition or power but whether I can work designing and making and living life without such influences too much in my face. That said, though the world has some real issues even worse than politics and even pandemics, we should not be ignorant of nor discouraged because the news gets massaged with nods, winks and intonations and inflections to cause fear, angst and unnecessary anxiety. Here on the outside of screens and lenses the real world of people begins in the destiny we have to make things right. We’ve had some catastrophic influences on our daily life but we are mostly all at home or work or working from home to make life tick and matter and when you are a maker, little seems to change. At the garage workshop I am making the first piece of furniture for the sellershome.com range in the living room. I finally have my design down and made and it’s my version of a working rocking chair for the 2021 year in the millennia.

I finally got it to fit exactly where I want it to fit and with a few minor tweaks here and there I have been able to make or design a joint for every connecting part. My original prototype as is often the case was all screws and no brains–a kind of pocket-hole thing dumbed down to remove brainwork, skill and technique. Today the quest is all joinery sweetly cut by hand and eye, chisel, saw and plane. Yesterday we filmed the start and today we are making more videos for YouTube. A new series of lockdown projects to keep your development going so some very simple and some not so simple but very doable!

It is hard to conceive that the world is on a better course but when you think about it it might just be. Glass half full or empty, I found myself full of happiness throughout the start to this year. Are there two faces noses almost touching in this picture or is this just a glass standing alone? I have a feeling we will all see things differently but my joy of woodworking is stronger today than it was when I began in 1963. I am just as excited, just as fascinated, just as willing and all the more encouraged. Why? How can this be? Well, mostly it is because of you. You see, my craft in the art of woodworking using hand tools was almost dead 30 years ago. So bad was the decline, the only place that hand planes were really seen was as an image on a carpenter’s van and business card logo. Certainly not in the tool kits of carpenters and woodworkers. I am confident now that my craft is far from dying because it was taken out of the hands of professionals and firmly planted in the hands of responsible woodworkers that saw the ethos of handwork as something very positive. So no, it’s not going to die because professionals shunned the hand work demands for skill because you didn’t! It’s actually going ever deeper into the hearts and souls of those of us I call absolute and total amateurs. Amateurs? Is that insulting? Not at all! I will remind us all that we are doing the things we do with hand tools because it is the single most rewarding method for working wood and any and all crafts too. We do it because we LOVE IT!

amateur (n.)

1784, “one who has a taste for some art, study, or pursuit, but does not practice it,” from French amateur “one who loves, lover” (16c., restored from Old French ameour), from Latin amatorem (nominative amator) “lover, friend,” agent noun from amatus, past participle of amare “to love” (see Amy).

Meaning “one who cultivates and participates (in something) but does not pursue it professionally or with an eye to gain” (as opposed to professional) is from 1786, often with disparaging shades, “dabbler, dilettante,” except in athletics, where the tinge formerly shaded the professional. As an adjective, by 1838.

This is who Paul Sellers is. I have been an amateur woodworker for 56 years working daily at the bench six days a week. I wake up at the beginning of the new year chomping at the bit to get running, pulling pushing, lifting and making. I wake every morning the same way and of those 17,000 days of woodworking full-time 10-12 hours a day, I can barely remember one when I didn’t enjoy it.

41 Comments

  1. Keith on 14 January 2021 at 12:29 pm

    I’m an engineer, the glass is neither half full or half empty! Its twice the size it needs to be.
    Keep going Paul, I love your work.

    • James M Gill on 14 January 2021 at 4:13 pm

      I’m in management consulting, we need a new glass

      • Ben C on 14 January 2021 at 5:07 pm

        Graphic artist here. Maybe if we print a design on the glass no one will notice it’s not full?

        • Steve P on 15 January 2021 at 8:31 pm

          I’m a beer aficionado: The glass isn’t empty…yet.

          • Steve D on 15 January 2021 at 11:38 pm

            An investment banker just drank everything in the glass.



          • Graeme on 18 January 2021 at 4:38 pm

            I’m a metrologist (measurement science practitioner) – I need to know the measurement uncertainty budget.



          • Gerard on 18 January 2021 at 6:27 pm

            Good news and bad news: that investment banker refilled the glass – but with what? (Yes, it’s an engineer’s joke).



    • Myk Hough on 18 January 2021 at 6:29 pm

      I’ve given up drinking. I just want to see my friends and family face to face again.

    • Steven DeLongchamp on 18 January 2021 at 8:50 pm

      I’m an electrician. I don’t think that matters but, I say the glass is not being used to it’s full potential.

    • Allan Greene on 18 January 2021 at 10:36 pm

      I am a commercial jet pilot. Woodworking projects are much like landing an airplane. If you can walk away from it at the end of the day with everything intact you’ve had a successful day; and likely learned (learnt for my British brothers and sisters) something you can use in the future.

  2. Andrew on 14 January 2021 at 12:41 pm

    Woodwork is therapeutic and is certainly going to see you through COVID19 and its variants in good physical and mental form. I’ve found it highly annoying that those at the top appeared so ignorant, especially in the early days. I find myself asking what is the precise mechanism in coughing, sneezing, etc which generates droplets. What is their size distribution. What sizes suspend in air and for how long? How long does the virus in a droplet survive. Will it become harmless if the droplet dries out completely? Will summer UV led to total relief from the pandemic in conjunction with all the other precautions? Then I hear 2 metres separation, with absolutely no technical justification. Is that 2m upwind, downwind or sidewind (probably best). Does it work indoors and outdoors? I know I am ignorant of these things, but I wish those at the top and their experts were not.

  3. Bill Whitman on 14 January 2021 at 12:52 pm

    According to a scientist, the glass is always full – part liquid, part air.

  4. Anthony on 14 January 2021 at 2:32 pm

    Great insight into a disturbing situation. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  5. Jon Bowers on 14 January 2021 at 2:44 pm

    Those at the tip are all idiots. I’m with Paul, put your hands on a good tool and make something, anything. You’ll feel better.

    • Paul Sellers on 14 January 2021 at 4:09 pm

      I’m guessing you meant those at the top, Jon?

  6. Todd Trebuna on 14 January 2021 at 3:33 pm

    Appreciate your thoughts. I find myself seeking the solitude and peace of the workshop more and more. By trade, I am a police officer, but I have the soul (but not the skill) of a woodworker. The connections I desire these days are fibers and grains, steel and scribes. In the words of Robert frost, “And that has made all the difference”. I enjoy your channel, work, ethic and spirit. Thank you for sharing yourself.
    Be well.

  7. James M Gill on 14 January 2021 at 4:26 pm

    I’m really looking forward to the houseful projects! You mention that your prototype often uses screws, pocket screws and similar “short cuts”. This got me thinking. Would it make sense to have each joint presented in two forms, one fully hand jointed and the other with simple short cuts with the goal being that beginners could still complete the project even though they may not have the skill for every joint yet. FYI – I’m not talking about power tools… rather simpler, easier joints.

    You could weigh in with how to choose between the two, and of course your advice would be critical as to how to proceed.

    One of the things I like best about your projects is that they are well thought out as teaching tools, with each one leading the learner to develop/hone new skills.

    Just a thought, but I’m thinking towards a goal of working with Habitat for Humanity to have new homeowners and volunteers build furniture as well as the house.

    • Paul Sellers on 14 January 2021 at 8:27 pm

      Nooo! And I would never ever use a pocket hole system either! I just used screws with mostly unglued joints and it wasn’t to cut corners it was just te=o expedite my time to get angles and shapes right before working on the final piece snd using any old wood I could find, mostly 2×4 studs and such. Most people don’t understand a couple of things. I have taken 6,500 students through my classes face to face. It’s a week-long course so 48 hours. They followed the course I now teach online in woodworkingmasterclasses.com and also our sister site commonwoodworking.com. Anyone who makes a=t the half dozen pieces we teach gets the identical instruction. From the six-day course, students then attended a second six-day course which was making the craftsman-style rocking chair. So in just twelve days, I took 20 students from zero woodworking all the way through to the rocking chair and, guess what, not one of the students didn’t make a quality rocking chair that couldn’t be sold. Hand tool woodworking is not rocket science. My students never failed. I can teach in four weeks what any degree course takes three years to teach and any private school takes nine months and £10,000 to do. We have to think differently that’s all. I see people shelling out way too much money for a that’s not worth much more than the paper it’s promoted on because colleges are the qualifying entity before anyone will employ a graduate.

      • Roy Biggin on 15 January 2021 at 12:36 am

        Hi Paul. My father was a joiner born 1912. He taught me all that I know (which isn’t very much after watching your progs. I am a (was) a musician until this virus took hold .and you have given me a new lease of life. by the way I am 82 and so is my wife who helps me out. Keep up the good work.

      • James M Gill on 15 January 2021 at 4:00 pm

        re: pocket hole… sorry – no offence intended 🙂
        re: college – I totally agree – what a rip off. As you know here in the US sending kids to college is a huge financial burden $60k+/year for at least 4 years. Some predatory schools actually set up degree requirements that require 5 years. Worse at the end school and $320,000K lighter you’ve still got to apprentice in the real world. It’s one more example of something that should never be “for profit”. I don’t think there is a discipline that isn’t better learned with a mentor to guide you and a commitment from the student. Of course it helps if the mentor/teacher is as thoughtful as you are about how to teach their subject!

      • Samuel on 16 January 2021 at 7:12 am

        I haven’t learnt enough online but it is very useful. I admire the people who have. I guess just have to get out there and make mistakes and then try again. I find it hard to watch, make notes and then go out and do, especially pre workbench, dunno. Maybe that will change with the healing hands of time..and perseverance

    • Terrence OBrien on 19 January 2021 at 1:20 am

      I have followed Paul’s instructions and built things I really didn’t think I had the talent to build. But, I did. I put a laptop on the bench and just did what he did the way he said to do it. Thank God he didn’t dumb down the joints.

      • Samuel on 19 January 2021 at 3:31 am

        Yeah, that sounds the way to go about it.
        I was not advocating dumbing down joints cos then the purpose is lost.
        Swiss Family Robinson movie..
        “But if we don’t have lions and tigers and things. Well, that’s the whole idea!”

  8. Neil Greene on 14 January 2021 at 9:23 pm

    Thank you once again for your insight into the events we deal with. The people at the top are those who vacation after telling us not to leave home. They eat at restaurants after forcing businesses to close. Marie Antoinette is indeed alive and well. I fear that I will never again travel back to England but through your blogs you bring back great memories. Stay well and keep producing great work. To those of us who are older, you and your young ones are an inspiration.

  9. Paul Mouradian on 15 January 2021 at 2:27 am

    Hi Paul,
    I will be 74 years old this year and am a retired professional musician and school music teacher. I get up every morning since I have been retired now for 10 years but am passionate and enthusiastic as ever for learning new things. I am inspired each time I see your workshop videos, hear you talk, sense of humour and a joy seeing you enjoy your work. I am that way with my music practice and performance. Stay safe and well, Keep on trucking dude1

  10. Anthony Janflone on 15 January 2021 at 2:46 am

    Paul, I’ve learned so much from your videos. There are those who know how to do stuff but not enough experience to teach. You sir, are the greatest! Blessings!

  11. Vidar Fagerjord Harboe on 15 January 2021 at 9:46 am

    A positive side-effect of this pandemic, at least here in Norway, is that people buy more books, takes domestic vacations, engages in arts and crafts – and woodworking – lots and lots of woodworking! Several times per week, my Facebook feed includes a post from somebody saying “thanks for letting me join” in the woodworking groups I have joined. Not all people do that, so I’m thinking “tip of the iceberg” scenario here. Sans Titanic, hopefully.
    For the most part, these groups have a majority from the Domino and pockethole club, but there are lots and lots of people making high quality items. I discovered the Lie-Nielsen beading tool (no 66 I believe), which I hopefully will come across at some point. Or the equivalent.
    There are also some people that present their projects that looks like something I made in school at age 10 – but they are MAKING something! I try to be helpful and point them in the right direction, in stead of ignoring them or mocking them (which would get me kicked out of the group pretty quick, thankfully!).

    I try to share my knowledge as best as I can, and often I find that my post is the last one. Some follow-up questions might pop up, of course. This is NOT to my credit, as I stand on the shoulders of giants. But I find it amusing and interesting when incredible simple solutions that uses technique and hand tools, gets the job done in a hurry in stead of requiring a NOK 20.000,- purchase. (that is most of my monthly paycheck and would make for an incredible expensive coffee table…)
    Two cauls, two clamps, a spring joint and a sash clamp. Done. The other tip was “get a plano glue press”. Then a Mirka sanding thingy (which supposedly is among the very best tools I’m told – and I do not dispute that).

    When ever I share “old school methods”, I point to commonwoodworking.com, this site and a select few others that shares knowledge and the notion that “anybody can do this” (most, but there are people I would not let anywhere near a cheese slicer. Slicer? The Norwegian word is ostehøvel. Ost is cheese. Høvel? That’s a plane. Can I get a no.3 cheese plane, please?).
    I know I have converted at least two persons from pure machinists. I only pass on what I’ve learned – and my experience, which is based upon the knowledge I got for free from others.

    Thank you, Paul. I’ll do my part to keep the knowledge alive!

  12. Rick Selby, South Carolina, USA on 15 January 2021 at 1:42 pm

    Amen Paul
    I spent 2 years in college to learn what I had already learned in high school, Drafting and design. It was 2 years of wasted time not making money but spending it.
    The only advantage it gave me was that it looked good on a resume. I only worked as a draftsman for 4 years, left that for a great job repairing almost everything you could think of and loving every day of the last 48 years.

  13. JD Dupuy on 15 January 2021 at 8:45 pm

    I very much like the way you described our current situation on all fronts. I have little use for the same items you mention. Don’t even like to watch the news. Just the weather to see how wrong they get it. I repair homes for a living. New windows, doors, siding and trim. After 21 years on my second career and approaching 60 in August, I managed to build my retirement shop 3 years ago. Winter time slows job work down here in the Midwest so there is plenty of time to walk out the back door, walk into a warm shop and flip on the lights and get to work on something. My only regret and I hate having them, is that I didn’t build that shop 10 years ago. Something always got in the way even though the financial side of the project was never an issue. Time and motivation was. I hope to have many years ahead of me to enjoy my time away from all the BS of this world in my little woodworking shop.

  14. nemo on 15 January 2021 at 9:39 pm

    “[…] those at the so-called top that stir up the unrest in our souls.”

    I was pondering a little yesterday evening, how there are many politicians but no leaders. (Being at the top, as manager or prime-minister, king or president, does not necessarily make you a leader.) The mind wandered to Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. Wondered how someone like him would lead in these times. Yet all I see is people of the caliber of Commodus.

    As I read your line at the beginning of my reply, this quote of Marcus Aurelius (who, incidentally, had the same initials as Marie-Antoinette yet couldn’t be more different) came to mind:

    “You always own the opinion of having no opinion. There is never any need to get worked up or to trouble your soul about things you can’t control. These things are not asking to be judged by you. Leave them alone.”

    This one, though, says it most succinct and best in my opinion:

    “I do what is mine to do, the rest doesn’t bother me.” (M.A.)

    A motto to live by.

  15. Kathy Spera on 18 January 2021 at 1:16 pm

    As i am in the middle of restoration of a silverware chest I think to myself and ask myself in my head how you might go about this. It is a somewhat poorly constructed yet hand cut finger jointed box of very, very thin oak that looks as if it had at some point been dropped on its ear and has a few cracks . Be the glass half full or empty I felt that at some point the respect and perspective of not only the preservation but the originality of the maker’s eye was worth saving. My husband and I love hearing your uplifting perspective on where we fit as amateurs along with the great tutorials you share freely in garnering our interests in the world of woodworking.

  16. Mike carapiet on 18 January 2021 at 4:32 pm

    Hi Paul I am in myself not to bothered with what goes on in the world. It is what it is , and in many ways if I were to concern myself with joining in the why’s and wherefores of what is going on at this time I would get nothing or very little done. That to me would be a waste of my time, and life does not give you that much time to start with. So I focus and involve myself in learning by actually doing and following those like yourself who take the trouble to share with us what you learnt. Thank you for that and long may it continue.

  17. Larry on 18 January 2021 at 6:15 pm

    Peace and love to ALL my brothers and sisters. And thank you, Paul, for bringing enjoyment to my life with all your teachings. It has been truly transforming to me.

  18. John on 18 January 2021 at 6:35 pm

    I love this. Thank you, Paul. A few years ago a friend and I wrote a book about the church in America, and we identified ourselves as “proud amateurs”:

    “It’s true that we aren’t vocational pastors, expert theologians or professional church planters. In fact, we are proud *amateurs* — but in the older, more interesting sense of that word…[Amateur] comes to us from the French and literally means ‘lover.’ It implies a passionate love for the thing itself, quite separate from any compensation (money, fame, career) that could come from it.”

    We went on to say that we were writing as people who love the church.

    I’ve tried to take that amateur spirit with me in other areas of life: my woodworking, my photography, but even my professional life as a writer/editor, and in my family. I always want to be learning, always open and always humble, always starting from Love.

    Thanks again.

  19. mike on 18 January 2021 at 7:17 pm

    I am an Registered Nurse (operating theater).
    I can use what ever amount is in the glass.

  20. Roger Browning on 18 January 2021 at 9:33 pm

    I am one of the ten kids in my family. First lesson from my mother. Learn how to build and start a fire. Second lesson. Dig some red Georgia clay and do a good job in forming and firing two glasses, mugs, and plates. Third lesson. Sell one of each to be able to fill the others with food and drink. Mama was never wrong!

  21. Noel Rodrigue on 19 January 2021 at 1:10 am

    Paul, thank you for pointing us/me to the “www.etymonline.com” page. I didn’t know that it existed and will find good uses for it.

  22. Stuart Smith on 19 January 2021 at 9:02 am

    Interesting thoughts and agree with the ideas you express. On a practical note what’s the best glue for joinery.
    I have used cascamite( with mixed ( no pun) results. PVA derivatives and gorilla glue.
    When I was a boy my uncle used “scotch glue” which I believe is animal derivative?
    Now we need a common sense approach to the bewildering range of chemical products that are out there

  23. Wanda Alverio on 19 January 2021 at 10:20 am

    Hi Paul, I discovered my love of woodworking later in life and am a budding amateur. Your videos are so helpful! Keep up the good work and I’ll keep watching and supporting you. Congratulations on the book. Looking forward to it!

  24. Mark Schafer on 19 January 2021 at 3:07 pm

    I wear glasses.

Leave a Comment





  • Luca on In An HourThe post that I needed. Amazing as always.
  • Andrew on In An HourFactual, yet verging on poetry.
  • Samuel on In An HourI 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…
  • Richard Lovinggood on In An HourJust 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 grea…
  • Paul Sellers on In An HourSoon. I am just finishing the updates now.
  • Paul Sellers on In An HourThis will be the next videod project, so follow on woodworkingmasterclasses.com
  • Paul Sellers on In An HourI'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…