Styling Life

Lifestyle, lifestyling, lifestyler – terms as yet unrecognised and unused to describe a person’s way of life when linked to how they work to earn their living. Is it a fanciful term? Not for me. I picked my future before lifestyle existed as a word. I became a lifestyle woodworker because everything that I did in a day pretty much revolved around those elements that made my life a complete dedication to craft and the art of work; indeed, perhaps something that truly expressed the combining of whole-life daily activity.

My old planes. What’s to say about them? They knock the socks off all of my steel versions.

For me, it is sad that so few can claim lifestyle-woodworker as a title describing who they are. I am never sure why so many think that you cannot make a living from what I do doing it the way I prefer to do it, but it is what it is. I’m fortunate, I picked my life as a woodworker at age 14 back in 1964. I also had two parents to both support the notion that I would and could make a decision at that age to choose my future and pick an apprenticeship to kickstart my life as a maker. Many might say it was the apprenticeship that paved the way. It wasn’t. It was an individual or two that had time for me. My school years were some of the happiest and then turned to become some of my saddest. I almost wanted to put sadist in place of saddest. Two teachers made life miserable with fear. Leaving school was a euphoric day. I walked away to new freedom and a new calling. I became a woodworker and would be a woodworker for the rest of my work-life. Lifestyle woodworker is a perfect title for me.

John’s rocking chair is faultless all the way through and he’s now selling his work.

In most of my writing, I have had to include these words in my dictionary so that the red lines stop popping up to distract me. Lifestyle for me is everything I do. Yes, I am a lifestyle woodworker and I use this combination of two words to describe who I am and to stimulate others to think about how their lives might unfold if they too make a decision or two about what they want to include in their lives. Perhaps it is because woodworking is the greater portion of my day outside of six hours sleep a day that I say I am a lifestyle woodworker, I’m not sure. The predominance of my life, my work, is my woodworking, yes, but for me, it is not just making things from wood that makes it so, it’s what that work and life includes. I love writing, drawing, planning, sketching, photographing, filming, teaching, examining and researching. And it doesn’t stop there though. For me, it’s an invasive, exhaustive subject that embraces the best of the past and the present but also the future. It envelops me within the world of nature to include my gardening, nature excursions every day, my shop working wood and other materials and everything else in a way of living that I didn’t just drift into but one I’ve chosen, picked out the stepping stones for searched deeply for. This is my day-to-day living as an artisan. This is where I interact with all of the elements. Lifestyle is a decision. It’s lifestyling and it happens whether you are conscious of it or not. The best lifestyle is the culture you decide to create that suits your belief in a wide range of areas and then too the ways that you want to include in living your individual life. In other words, you don’t just drift according to every wind and doctrine you come across. Each tiny portion of your life is based on some conscious decision to include it in the culture that is slowly defining you and who you are to others and in the world of others.

Hannah set herself the challenge and finished her toolbox. I like the grey and the painted finish, the locking catch and the level-to-wood recessed handles.

Let’s call this lifestyle because it is so very inclusive of all the things you feel important to you.

Lifestyle is the combination of things you have consciously chosen to include into your day-to-day life living with and in as much as you want to include. If you work and need to work and want to work, then live working with something that meets your criteria. I would never choose to build and own a swimming pool but I might want a home near a clean river or lake that I could swim in. I don’t need a gymnasium to work out in, my work itself gives me all the resistance training I need. Golf? Argh! From choice, my ideal place to be and work in is the countryside surrounding me and preferably near moving water such as rivers, estuaries and seas. I want a simple unpretentious home to suit my needs. These are things that you can work towards and work into your future. It doesn’t usually happen all at once.

Hannah is well along the way to becoming a lifestyle woodworker in her own right.

I am told often enough to stick to woodworking, avoid politics, comments on contrary things and such like that. I have had to dismiss comments and distance myself from those I see as nothing but bullies exerting their form peer pressure, mostly nothing more than passive-aggression at the end of the say. But you see, I’m not just a woodworker. I’m a thinking man, I make careful choices and stick at it with things good and nad that my life is surrounded by. My choices are rarely knee-jerk but conscious decisions. Freedom to think and express are part of my constitution. As I make my pieces of furniture my mind goes to pandemic illnesses around the world. I see missiles being thrown and fired and then too news presenters with a twisted lip who seem to me not to so much actually present the news but reconfigure it with a twisted lip, a nod and a wink, judge and jury dressed in smarts their told to wear, just as guilty as the masked hoodies lobbing rocks in capital cities around the globe.

Early starts give bright sunshines tom my workday. We should never despise the day of small things like this.

My pieces of wood get trued and shaped and fitted into their respective recesses and I tap them home with my clenched fist of true purpose and deliberation. My clenched fist? Oh, no! Not what you think at all! Not an angry fist, just one that cushions the wood but gives direction and feeling as I unite two perfected opposites. Multidimensional unity!


  1. That’s what I say when I hit a golf ball….Agrh!
    I like the companionship from golf and then the solitude when I kayak and take my photographs. I also ride my bike, read, garden, repair things around my house and help others do the same. I also like to create things with wood and I learn a lot from masters of the craft but do not regret never making it my life’s work.
    I know people who just love what they do, so much so they never want to stop what they are doing. To each their own I say, I find it limiting to just do the one thing all the time. “Variety is the spice of life”
    Yes, I’m a “ Jack of all Trades and Master of none”. It’s the journey you take and the companions that walk with you along the way.

  2. You have said what so many try to say but not so easily understood. You keep doing what you do. I love you and your craft and the way you teach it. If you ever come back to Texas you and your clenched fist will be welcome in my humble shop and home sit.

  3. I live the life I love and I love the life I live. And I’m so grateful for that. There’s so much life out there which I find so very interesting. I can’t and won’t live the life of everybody else, though. But I can live my own life the way I like and do. I can’t change the rest of the world and I don’t intend to. There’s not much to change in my own life either just minor decisions once in a while. It’s enough for me, yes I really love it!

    I think your philosophy is fantastic. From what I have seen of your wood work it is as near perfect as it is possible to be. I am not a woodworker but a retired secondary school teacher. I am seventy nine years of age but still feel young except that I have reached the age of loosing friends and aquaintancies, my mind is not what it was, never could spell. My pupils would often correct my spelling for me.
    I just wanted to say that often over the past few years I have read your material and enjoyed each one. I shall finish now or I shal end up with a large tome.

    JOHN FLOOK Bristol England.

  5. Paul, I always enjoy and learn from your work including your blog. In this one, though, I must remark on what an excellent job Hannah made of her tool box.

    I’ve been experimenting with design for a Dutch-style tool chest using raised panels on the sides and back. I’m going back to my design after seeing and studying Hannah’s tool box.

    Has she created and posted a video about this piece?

    Best regards to you and your colleagues.

    1. Sorry to disappoint: Hannah is gifted at design and deserves compliments for her work but in this case, Hannah followed my design from 20 years ago throughout every part of the toolbox build as did John, Jack and now possibly dozens of others who followed the video series on woodworking masterclasses last year. You can see a blog here outlining the toolbox series or indeed join us on to follow the series yourself. If you would like to read more, here are three articles I wrote as blogs specifically covering this toolbox series:

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