This Year Started

Two and a half months have passed already, imagine! We makers just keep making and making keeps us both safe and sane. I’ve got three rockers under my belt, together with all the 12 new episodes it takes to make one. Plus, I also have one of my Brazos rocking chairs which I just completed in December. I am pulling together final drawings from my notepad to make the plans for everyone to make their own rocking chair. It’s been thrilling hard work. I have loved it and loved the outcome.

Today we all ate lunch on planks of cherry pulled atop two sawhorses. We kept our distances and the fresh, home-made soup and nut roast tasted better for being in the workshop surrounded by our life. Hannah’s rocking chair now has shellac on and Jack’s both its shellac and cork upholstery. He chose this as an alternative to leather while Hannah is awaiting delivery of the hide for hers.

John concluded making the most perfect example of the Joiner’s Traveling Toolbox following the directions for the small booklet I wrote almost two decades ago and finally adding the brass handles and a very nice self-fastening lockable lock. He followed the tradition of painting it black and now his tools are home.

He also decided to add an apron drawer and fitted that this week too. Establishing your space is always essential so that tools placed suit you and you alone. It is a rare thing to find such skills become owned in this day and age I think.

What an example these young people are of capably making a decision to find and follow their calling. They all have university degrees but felt a strong desire to become makers. But then it is not just makers though! They chose to do what all furniture-making machinists do and that is to constantly tell me you cannot make a living hand-making furniture. That’s rubbish! I don’t listen to such soppy statements and neither does it seem likely that they will either. They have discovered their callings as many more of my apprentices have through the decades.

They will take their orders for handmade pieces from those who seek their work. Eventually, they will be known furniture makers in their own right and this defies what I heard one college lecturer from a UK furniture college tell his students in front of me; that is that you cannot make a living from becoming a furniture maker. I was gobsmacked! I told his students right on the heels of what he said that I had done it for five decades and that if they made their minds up, they could do it too. The lecturer? Well, it’s true, he couldn’t make a living from his efforts. But it wasn’t because there aren’t customers willing to buy, it’s because he didn’t have a work ethic that goes beyond a nine to five mentality and secure college income. Everyone should query why their teacher became a teacher.

In my world of making there are a handful of people who stride out to make no matter the cost. They are few and far between, but they are there, believe me. All we need is someone to believe in us. Mine was a man named George, but before him was a man I called Dad and a woman I called Mum!

Years ago, decades ago now, I decided it best never allow any government scheme to invade my workspace; that I would defy systems that somehow funded a program or worse still demanded college. I know it will work for some, but not my sphere at all. A well-trained crafting artisan can teach an apprentice all he or she needs to know. If I can personally teach over a hundred thousand people high-quality woodworking every month for over ten years to date, then surely it proves an alternative reality can not just survive but thrive too. It’s thriving just fine. Believing in others makes life happen!

8 thoughts on “This Year Started”

  1. Reminds me of a saying I heard, possibly by someone that invented something or started a company from scratch. It was something like “everything is impossible until somebody does it!”

  2. Reminds me of someone I knew a long time ago now. His wife once said to me; their sons often said that something they had been asked to do was not possible having failed, then Alfie would annoy them by doing it.

  3. Thanks Paul.

    For the three or four years prior to 2020, I was average about 10 hours a week woodworking. In the 2020 post Covid world I am averaging about 20 hours a week. My wife, daughter, and I have a much closer relationship from all the time together though it took about a month to get used to it. Not that I would have wished Covid on the world, there have been the proverbial silver lining.

    I do believe that a career can be made in hand tool woodworking. Not only is the income side important, the expense side is important as well. If one can find a non-consumer driven mindset (a real problem in the USA) to life that helps. Also, avoiding debt really helps keep the options open. Sure, hard work is required but then again, when isn’t hard work required in life. Interestingly, Bill Bryson in his book about growing up in the 1950s/60s had an interesting fact. If were to adopt a post WW2 lifestyle, you needed something like only half (or less) of current wages to be able to do so.

  4. Lowell Holmes

    I have both rockers that I made in Texas in Paul’s classes.
    I made several of the Brazos rockers for my children afterward.

    1. Hey, Lowell. So good to hear your voice from across the stream. How are you? I think you will really like this newest baby of mine too. I have three of them at the moment, alongside a Brazos rocker and a Craftsman-style oak version.

  5. dear paul/fellow readers, i’d be grateful for any thoughts on the following:
    -do you pick the tiny bits of burr out of your strop, or leave them (particularly if they are quite small)?
    – if tidying up an old wooden spokeshave, what’s the preferred surface finish (ie shellac or something else)?
    – for a metal 151 spokeshave with a somewhat roughly cast trapezoid mouth, does fettling the mouth make any difference to anything – or unnecessary?
    – would it be regarded as ‘abusing’ a good quality tri square (with tempered blade) if it is used with a marking knife, or is this accepted practice for proper woodworkers?
    thankyou kindly

    1. 1) forget the bits
      2) Shellac
      3) The mouth makes no difference, open or closed, square or trapezoidal. too much bizarre info on this.
      4) It takes nothing to true-up a hardened steel beam with a flat-file once every five years. Just use the knife against the beam and get on with life–Live!

Comments are closed.

Privacy Notice

You must enter certain information to submit the form on this page. We take the handling of personal information seriously and appreciate your trust in us. Our Privacy Policy sets out important information about us and how we use and protect your personal data and it also explains your legal rights in respect of it. Please click here to read it before you provide any information on this form.