It’s Been a Year

I think that everyone is questioning what is normal anymore. My year has been very normal and normalcy for me is mostly that life revolves around my making and working on things I make from wood. With a dozen and more decent-sized projects filmed, made, stacked up and under my belt, I remind myself of just how fortunate I am to have been able to keep up with my work even though my workload actually near doubled.

Looking through my archives of pictures for 2020 I even took myself by surprise. This hall stand for coats and shoes, brollies, scarves and hats is a great success in my house. I installed the prototype there as a temporary answer until I design yet another for my Sellers Home piece yet to be designed and made.

The thing that makes it difficult is that this piece is about as good as it gets and will hold all of the daily coat and shoe needs for a family of six. Can I do as well the next time, when I build the new design for Sellers Home? Well, I did it with the Sellers Home Rocking chair, of that, I am thoroughly convinced. This rocking chair aligns with all the stars for me. It fits like a glove and fully supports me throughout.

Then remember this, my clunker to classic saw handle revisit on a brand new S&J saw? It’s a great exercise in shaping and searching for the perfect fit to your personal comfort. How important is that? Well, it transformed the saw and not only in comfort and appearance but in functionality too. I felt that I had the most perfect control once this was done and it was not my imagination!

Following on from shaping saw handles the hand mirrors with inlays and chip carving came together. These were a very nice addition and they are utterly hand made and without anything more than a hand router, and some shaping tools like spokeshaves and rasps and scrapers. Just an afternoon’s work for anyone, that’s all!

Ask yourself if these would not make stunning gifts for Christmas and birthday presents. Imagine.

Of course, as it usually is wIth me, I didn’t just make one, I made four. Two went for presents!

My Craftsman-style tool carrier is a nice and enjoyable piece to make and for someone wanting to establish their hand skills this hits all of the highs for a high-five when done! You will learn a great deal from this and that includes some very precise layout procedures. Loads of dovetails and some mortise and tenons as features too.

It wasn’t too long before I made a series of projects I would need to film myself and this was really a first for me because we have two full-time videographers trying to keep up with our output.

Here I may take the liberty of skimming the surface a little because though ten projects were filmed by me, there are in some cases repeats of similarity as in say the pâté spreaders, the dovetail templates and the marking gauges.

I did enjoy the challenge of filling in the gaps while we all worked out what two-meter rules were and then too what it was to shield if we were indeed particularly vulnerable.

From a quick sketch . . .
. . . To a finished project duly installed for my granddaughter at her home first . . .
. . . and later at mine with the second one!

Most everyone here started to work full time from home and that left me with the run of the place for several weeks if not months. My creative juices worked overtime to design and make so make I did. What else could I do. Nothing had stopped me this far and certainly I would do everything to see that COVID wasn’t going to stop me either.

Alongside my palletwood garden boxes came my shoji screens. This was another new one for me.

After that came the plane totes from yew and then too the knobs.

These knobs were not turned though. They were carved by hand.

Some questioned the possibility but then saw how I did it in the free videos.

I will continue this tomorrow. I am only up to May

29 thoughts on “It’s Been a Year”

  1. Paul, it’s been really enjoyable stumbling upon your blog/YouTube channel during lockdown. You have got me interested in doing more woodworking, especially with hand tools.
    Your toast tongs, did you do a video on that? I know it’s a simple build but I am one of those sort of people that need a plan to follow.

    1. I’m interested in the toast tongs idea too, but could see a variant being used in pasta cooking.

      In certain recipes involving long strand pasta (spaghetti, linguine, etc.) you often find yourself working with the strands in a pan. Italian chefs uses a pasta fork, which is a bit like a carving fork but with longer, blunt, tines (they often look like tuning forks). Being metal they’re not suitable for non-stick pans, so a wooden version would be perfect.

      So, something like those toast tongs, but narrower (around chopstick size) and longer.

  2. I am asked often what it is that I make. My response is “whatever I want”. If I can see it in my mind, I can draw it and go from there. Next is to make some Norm Abramson Adirondac chairs. His plan is a very comfy chair and I happen to have come across some 3×8 full dimension Western red cedar which my new Rikon 14in bandsaw will slab into 3/4in stock. Too much work here for hand tools so the thickness planer and bandsaw will do most of the prep. However if I was making just one it might be different. I have enough cedar to likely make 6 chairs so will start that this coming week. We are fortunate indeed Paul. Truly blessed.

  3. Robert Lenart

    Hi Paul
    Thanks again for all your help. I’m still making my workbench and getting close to attaching the legs to the aprons. I get so many ideas from your blogs that keep my interest going. Your friend from Brunswick, Ohio In the USA. Happy Easter to you and your family. Bob

  4. Ah, you would have fit in quite well in Elbert Hubbard’s Arts and Crafts movement in 1895. His community was located in East Aurora, New York.
    The partipants were known as Roycrofters. The community still exists as a living museum of sorts.
    It is too bad you don’t have free videos to show how you create. Not how to’s, just videos to show you working.
    Keep up the good work, JIM

  5. Wow. I don’t know how you do it Paul. I haven’t even had the time to watch all the videos! Let alone make them. It would probably take me a year to make that hall coat rack…

  6. Paul

    Thank you for the teaching and inspiration, particularly over this past year

    As the saying goes, “one can always make lemonade out of lemons”. Between 8 weeks that I was banned from working due to my age and the severity of the pandemic in New York City followed by the next 40 weeks of remaining isolated outside of work, the unique opportunity to devote time and energy to expanding my skills as a “maker” has been a major high point of my life this year. The creativity and positivity of working with wood, making and learning from my mistakes, and enjoying the process was always uplifting and a major counterbalance to the sorrow and tragedy that all of us encountered. I completed your coat rack and floor lamp; terrific lessons and exercises using the sliding bevel and angles. From there I planned and created a combination toddler bench/bookshelf for my partner’s daughter, all with hand joinery using your techniques. Finished off building a set of Adirondack chairs (I must confess, mostly screws) and an accompanying outdoor coffee table, once again all hand joinery.

    Looking forward to many more years learning from you

    Jeff W

  7. Paul, I wonder what your preferred method for attaching a mirror to wood is. It is not a trivial problem given wood movement and potential damage to the reflective surface.
    Connecticut USA

    1. I don’t have experience attaching mirrors to wood beyond small mirrors up to six inches wide. I would say that running a groove would be the safest way, possibly, or of course, forming a rebate and planting a bead for retention.

  8. Gregg Germain

    Paul writes:

    “I think that everyone is questioning what is normal anymore.”

    Hi Paul,

    Not sure if you are saying that you DON’T think anyone is questioning what is normal…or if you are saying that everyone is questioning it.

    Personally, I don’t question nor care what “normal” is. I think it’s a false concept. We’ve had it good for decades and we tend to think of that as “normal” but it is anything but normal if you look over the broad haul of history.

    Personally (and I only speak for myself), “normal” is also in the eye of the beholder.

    There is no “normal”…there is only what’s happening today. And if it’s a problem well we improvise, adapt, overcome, and live. And if today is relatively good then give thanks…and keep on living.

    1. What’s normal for one is not normal for another. I have heard at least five times in the limited circle I have been in for the years of covid say they miss the pub, another missed clubbing it, while others complained consistently about having to wear a mask for an hour. Others miss sports and the gym for some reason I can’t at all relate to because you save money yet all exercise is free for the taking like pallet wood is to making garden boxes. I have worn masks in the past for 8-hour days week on week and year on year, why would I feel sorry for someone going in a grocery store for five minutes to buy their cigarettes? People do have different takes on this thing called freedom. What matters is of we can keep others and ourselves safe with a little inconvenience. On the other hand, there has been tremendous loss and pain for people who have a serious need for company and friendship as well as losing loved ones. `this is what matters. It is normal to comfort those in need and grieving, caring for our elderly, support workers, people often passed over, such like these. This is the normalcy we should be really considering.

      1. Gregg Germain

        Paul writes:

        “On the other hand, there has been tremendous loss and pain for people who have a serious need for company and friendship as well as losing loved ones. `this is what matters. It is normal to comfort those in need and grieving, caring for our elderly, support workers, people often passed over, such like these. This is the normalcy we should be really considering.”

        There has always been pain, grieving, need for company, and friendship. At times it was much worse than the levels today.

        Just think of the Black Death.

        But I totally agree with you that it should be normal to comfort the afflicted.

  9. Paul Mouradian

    Hi Paul,’
    I enjoy all your utube videos and various types of woodworking areas.
    However I sent a request awhile back regarding the need for 8 bar clamps to do your 2 x4 laminations joinery work bench. In Toronto there doesn’t seem to be a place to rent 8 “36” clamps. I was hoping if you could give woodworkers alternative methods in gluing 8 or 9 2×4 wood without purchasing 8 clamps. I do use clamps but I can’t see using 8 large “F” or pipe clamps for other projects. I am a percussionist and have only so much room in the garage besides my timpani!!


    1. Ah! I do recall this. I don’t at all feel committed to answering every question that comes in here, especially if I don’t have an answer or the answer would be too specialist for the general good of all, for instance, “How do you cut a compound dovetails for a slope sided serving tray?” however, often others have had a similar problem and will make such suggestions if they see that I have not. So, I don’t have an answer for you, Paul, not without some serious consideration and time. I am sure others might. I can’t imagine being a woodworker without half a dozen clamps in my arsenal for long-term use.

    2. John Morrison

      a solution for getting 2 “36” clamps (double this as needed, if you want to make more)

      1. pick up two 1/2 inch pipe clamps e.g. Bessey 1/2-Inch H Style Pipe Clamp on Amazon or Home Depot in Canada ($20 CAD per set each, so $40 in total for 2 sets). Do this before next stage as you should take the clamps with you, to make sure they fit on the pipe you are going to buy. Can buy clamps online, but next step you might want to do in person – to guarantee clamps screw on to the pipe you buy.

      2. pickup some pipe e.g. search Home Depot site Canada for Black Steel Pipe 1/2 Inch x 72 Inch. Check it is in your local Home Depot, Rona, Lowes etc and turn up with a hacksaw, or borrow one in the store – probably one where the pipe is – there was in my local Home Depot in Richmond, BC Canada ($21 CAD before tax will get you a 72″ piece of pipe which you cut in half to make 2 pipe clamps – you only need 1 threaded end for each set of clamps). 10 foot pipe available – if you want to make 5 foot clamps. Check the clamps fit on the pipe before you cut it 🙂

      So $60 in total, but you have 2 serious 3 foot clamps that will last you a lifetime. I did this with 3/4 inch pipe clamps and 2 x 10 foot pipes – overkill, more expensive and a challenge to store 5 foot long and heavy pipe clamps! But I’ll never be without big clamps and kinda fun to work out how to make your own clamps. Otherwise Craigslist or suchlike or join a local woodworking cooperative for a while, so you can borrow. Last alternative – find a friend who has some and turn up with a 6 pack of her/his favourite beer. Best of luck from Vancouver, Canada.

    3. For the lamination, You can use screws like Paul did for the plywood workbench.
      If you don’t want to leave screws in your lamination, glue one board at a time, remove the screws and glue the next one.
      For this kind of work, I would use Torx screws and an electric screwdriver.
      This technique (screws + fender washers) has been used with solid wood by the guy who runs the blog “the barn on white run”
      see for example blog dated May 15 2016.

    4. I’m a bit surprized mr. Sellers didn’t give you this answer, so I will:


      Use a long enough, sturdy beam of wood; attach two blocks of wood to one surface, at appropriate ends. Cut a few wedges from scraps of wood of appropriate thickness so you enough range of adjustment. Such quick & dirty clamps are easy to make for the rare occasion you need them. I don’t have enough long clamps myself, and this is how I intend to make my workbench top.

      I thought this was such a common way to clamp wood as to be nearly obvious to everyone. If you enter ‘use wedge as clamp wood’ in your favourite search engine, you should get plenty of results with images to give you more inspiration. For example,

      I’ve grown to love wedges. They’re smart contraptions, on the same level as the wheel or levers.

      1. Not sure if this ‘surprise’ passes for a criticism but time constrains me all the more week on week to the point that I would easily be overwhelmed were it not for the support of my friends here at work who put their whole hearts into everything to make sure I am okay! Thank you for answering and researching something that fits.
        We have used wedges in vids here and there for thin pieces, I am thinking of the coaster set I think, and wedges work but are absolutely unnecessary if you do buy some clamps. I obviously don’t have a “love” of them at all though, but they do fill a gap occasionally. Oh, and I stopped visiting sites online for the same reason given which is the time constraints.

      2. Not criticism. But as I mentioned, I was surprised. Nothing more, nothing less. Because it seemed such an obvious solution to me. Call it the “poor man’s clamps”, if you will, to fit in with your series of poor man’s tools. Every old woodworking book I have (and even general ‘handyman books’, so ubiquitous in the ’70s), shows how to use wedges (and often rope, tightened the way one tightens a frame saw) for clamping. I’ve seen my father use wedges countless times. Hence my surprise at not seeing this solution mentioned. For making the workbench, perhaps the wood that will later become the legs could also be initially used as improvised clamps this way. Would remove another hurdle for beginners making your bench (i.e. not needing a selection of long clamps).

        I buy good second-hand clamps whenever I see them and have acquired a usable collection of them over the years. But long clamps are pretty rare to find, and I don’t need them often. But they do take up space. Nice to have, without a doubt, but certainly not an absolute necessity, if you know a few ‘tricks of the trade’ (e.g. wedges).

        1. I have used “Spanish windlasses” sometimes. One has to protect the arrises of the pieces, otherwise the pressure exercised by the rope will mare them. It would be quite effective to clamp the two leg-frames. Not so convenient for the bench-top lamination where using wedges would be more practical. Caution, the two blocks on the beam shown on the first picture of Nemo’s link must be very solidly fixed to the beam to resist the pressure. Make first a test without glue to verify it is strong enough. A stronger but less convenient option would be having the two blocks between two boards. Take precaution to avoid glueing the lamination to the makeshift clamps.

  10. When i needed more clamps than I had I made them using threaded rod and some lengths of steel. steel lengths about 6″ long. drill a suitable hole in each end. Stuck a piece of wood on one side of the steel, and continued the drilled holes through it. Put 2 threaded rods through two of the steel / wood “plates” and added nuts. Put this over whatever needs pulling together. A ratchet ring spanner helps pull the nuts down quickly. If you need a longer clamp than the 1m rod it is easy to join 2 or more with long joining nuts. You can apply a lot of pressure with this system. I happened to already have the rods and steel, so they cost me nothing.
    For many problems it is often a matter of looking at what you have that can perform a solution. I often find solutions to problems that allow me to do things on my own. When fitting a door I have 2 wedges that the door sit on a the correct height, for example, so I can put the hinge screws in with one hand whilst supporting the door with the other.
    I wanted to put some wooden rails under a shed to raise the floor joists off the concrete base. I simply jacked up one end with a screw jack, inserted one close to the middle, lowered the jack, added others behind the first, then raised it again to add the rest at the front before finally removing the jack.

  11. Noel Rodrigue

    Paul, here’s a suggestion: when you mention that ‘this or that’ has been done in either a free project or in MasterClasses, could you insert a link to the project? It would be most helpful in speeding up the ‘finding’ rather than ‘searching’!

    But, in any case, thank you for the education.


    1. Whereas that is true and it would be helpful, my time is premium, month on month it gets less and less, and even I don’t know exactly where they are because of making over 500 videos excluding YT, so for that to happen I must put the info I give out from my head into the search box too. So, as I did with my kids when they were young and researching, I gave them the right suggestions and they put them into the search boxes. That way we all get to participate some. One of their strong suits as adults is their capability to research. But, thanks for the nudge. We can always try for better.

  12. I say old chap, ain’t it time for retirement? You should enjoy yourself with some golf or some bowling. Stress and strain for work ain’t good for you.

    1. I’d say Paul enjoys his woodworking (and teaching), just fine, and is far from ‘stressed’ 🙂

      Golf… way to ruin a good walk, but each to their own 😉

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