Who Would Have Thought?

I have written often enough about preparing for a project from time to time, but thought then to put together something more cohesive, to help others to see what I actually go through in prefacing a project. I am still not done after eight episodes. Who would have thought it could take eight substantive blog posts to get to this point in prepping wood across? But I thought it was both interesting and important to count the costs that come up, that exceed the material costs but yet include our costs in time, physical and mental output, wear and tear on vehicles, trailers, peace of mind and so on.

If you have been following me, you will see that the planes come to play a key part when we don’t have machines like a planer to do the hard graft and replace the more skilled work needed for us. Using hand planes requires a change in attitude, if you are a pure machinist, in the same way walking does when every journey you ever took since school was in a car, on a bus, train or even on a bike. I spent 12 months riding to and from work last year and pretty much abandoned my car to do it. It took quite an attitude change because for over 50 years I had relied on something I had not really altogether needed but merely preferred. Cell or mobile phones have done the same to just about every individual I know. They are mostly the new security blanket for adults and very artificial ones at that.

In the first month in January 2020, it seemed always to rain most days and then snow over ice. I know, not quite arctic conditions, but the point is that we compare situations and think we are all offered the same opportunities when rarely is it apples for apples. From my 23 years living and working in the USA I noticed that it was not that unusual for an average home garage to contain half a dozen woodworking machines in a two- or three-car garage alongside all kinds of routers, jigsaws, air-nailers and compressors. That’s on one side of the garage. On the opposite wall, you might find a MIG welder and a wide range of support equipment including a chest of mechanic’s tools and such. For those in an apartment in Ealing or East Manhattan or Brussels, it doesn’t compute. Hand tools on the other hand do. I think that it is true to say that, for the majority of woodworkers worldwide, a machine workshop is out of the question – even a small bandsaw is out of the question. But it’s here that hand tool woodworking comes into its own. I am not here to beat machinists over the head. I have said it before and I will say it now. Woodworking by machine is not the same as woodworking by hand and neither is it meant to be. It is, however, an advanced way of industrialising woodworking for industry, and therein lies the difference for me and many others too. In my world, our world, it is the less advanced and not the more advanced way. Someone said that Britain and the US are two nations divided by a common language. So it is twixt woodworking and machining wood. I like machines as long as they don’t invade the wonderful workspace by more than 5 square feet. That’s me.

The ubiquitous chopsaw seems only to take four square feet of floor space, but with the outrigger support this space can be multiplied by eight or more.

Machines have their place, but machining wood is not the more advanced method of working wood, it’s the less advanced in many ways. Fact is, most machinists are not actually woodworking but simply machining it. Now I hope that those reading this will not get offended and click me off here: hear me out before you do. First of all, there can be a dozen reasons, good ones, for owning and using machines. You are time-strapped, it’s what you have, you don’t have the skill for hand-working wood, you have a disability, you have less strength than you did, a medical condition. My bandsaw saves me hours of work in any given week. I could not do all that I do without it. Why? Time, mostly! Well, that’s the same for most everyone. I drew the line at the bandsaw because I wanted to keep the physical strengths and mental acumen working my whole body the way handwork demands gave me. Rather than resign my body and mind to waste, as I did when in the business of making products as more of a machinist again, I wanted the high-demand handwork gives me. Making that decision made me determine that I had to have an answer not for the machinists, who might never give up on the ease machining gave them, but for that vast majority that would never work wood because they would never nor could ever own a place that could accommodate machines. Of course, it goes much deeper than that. People are looking for something more demanding than passing and pushing their wood into the teeth and cutterheads of one machine after another. They want the enrichment that skilled handwork brings to their lives. Calligraphers don’t switch on their computers to develop their skills at handwriting and creativity, do they?

Not a garage workshop machine but then where does it stop.

You have to believe me when I say that machining wood is a pretty skilless pastime. Especially does this become apparent when you take a plane in your hands that you just picked up from a cobwebbed shelf in the basement of your father’s home; a plane that lay unused and untouched for fifty years. Indiscriminately, you place the rusted sole onto a piece of knotty two-by-four and lunge at it with a two-handed fist grip. For your effort, all you see is chunks and tears beneath brown skidmarks and you immediately put it back. The expedition is over – the jungle is too thick. Forget the swollen rivers and the hard climbs. It’s just too much!

Now that said – that machining is usually skilless – the outcome of machining is quick and easy and this is where the appeal is. In the UK, you probably work a 35 hour week, so it’s not like the US where a workweek might be many hours more and then you might have a second job too. My personal workday has consistently been 12 to 14 hours in a day, mostly at least 10. Now my workday is different than most. I finished shoveling gravel on a pathway in my garden at 9.15 pm the night before last. My choice. I was filmed for the last episode of building the bookcase throughout the day and of course, every ounce of that was skilled handwork. I don’t have a commute which believe me is work too. An hour and a half both ways does extend your day and you have school pickup, kid’s bath time, meals to cook and then there is the trip to the game for the kids’ sports to pack into the yet incomplete day. I get it! But here is the rub! Most woodworkers can never have machines. “Most” being the worldwide world! Making time for woodworking is a struggle. In times past it was easier, I think, because I went to work for another and then came home to the garage to make my own stuff and find my sanity. Throughout my life, I supported a largish family on a single wage – some might say it was more survival. Well, one day I might just tell you about the rich rewards of having three or four boys in the workshop with you most evenings as they made everything from garden boxes to violins, three legged stools and spoons and spatulas. This was a decision. Some may not have that choice. I don’t know.

My struggle to wake up the once sleepier world of woodworking has now paid off. Aside from hosting three young woodworkers in their 20s and 30s in my workshop every day, I have a following of woodworkers from around the world copying what I have taught them online. They’ve bought those rusted planes that once were made redundant on cellar shelves and fixed them up. They’ve found old saws and sharpened them after derusting them and they have become competent woodworkers. You see, they believed what they saw, read and heard and that is all it really takes to become a hand toolist to a skilled level. The ingredient you need to do anything is a made-up mind.

If you have got machines then no one is saying get rid of them. All I am saying is that they can stop you from becoming skilled and that many if not most operations are indeed faster if not better by hand – cutting dovetails for instance, or making a housing or dado joint. This being a reality, that once you start with machines, you might well postpone developing the skills you might well have been searching for at the beginning and/or put it off forever. Also, the cost of hand tool woodworking is a small percentage of buying machines and then there is the space you will need to house the machines, the dust extraction, support equipment, etc. Mostly, it is about finding a balance and what suits you the most and it can be hard to find that needle in the haystack of YouTube if you are new to a craft like mine. I am here to short circuit the learning curve without compromising the quality. Our commonwoodworking.com site has helped hundreds of thousands to better understand the basics of woodworking and so too our subscription to woodworkingmasterclasses.com. Both are free. Give it a shot and join us. It’s not all about making money, nor is it about exclusivity. Mostly it’s about making wood work for you!

51 thoughts on “Who Would Have Thought?”

  1. I’ve experienced the tug-of-war between wanting to do a project with all hand tools and the need to ‘get the job done’ more than once.

    I’m not at Paul’s level, where I can chop 36 1+” deep mortises in a short time. I can do it, but it takes a bit. Also, I’m in the US and I use construction lumber for a lot of projects. The annoying thing here is the rounded edges on those pieces of wood. I can plane them down, but that takes a lot of time. These are the moments when I feel the attraction of power tools. A table saw would slice off the rounded edges in a moment. A plunge router would be time-consuming to set up, but once it is done, I could knock off all the mortises in a few minutes.

    Sometimes I have the time to enjoy the feel of the scrub plane hogging off the wood from those studs, followed by the swoosh of the smoothing plane as the shimmering finish is made apparent. I really love this!

    Other times, I am time-constrained and get to yearning for something to speed the process up (not to mention my long-suffering wife waiting for the project to be done).

    With all that said, power tools are not in my future. I enjoy the process of making more than I need the finished product. Your videos, Paul, and those of other makers, make me realize that competence is not unattainable. I keep working at it, and I enjoy every moment of it. Thanks!

    1. Very recognizable, Yohann. My girlfriend is always waiting impatiently for a project to finish. We agreed now I will work on projects in my own pace, and she is allowed to buy stuff once in a while. It pains me a little to see her buy a piece of furniture that I could have made myself for a fraction of the cost, but it’s all about compromize.

  2. In one of your recent videos I saw you crosscut a piece of cherry with the bandsaw. I don’t know if you did it just for illustrative purposes, just to show how it can be done in this way or is this how you woke in the main now. I certainly find the bandsaw to be very useful (especially when I’ve forgotten to sharpen my rip saw!)

  3. Neil Barnwell

    I have a bunch of powertools in my tiny 8’x8’x8′ (half a single-car garage) workshop. For most things I have to spread it all out onto the driveway in front to make space (I built a Paulk workbench to help with this). But I still wanted a “proper” woodworking bench, built with handtools, so I did. It’s taken me two years, but with the exception of preparing the reclaimed timber legs with a bandsaw, every mote of sawdust has been made with handtools. so I could say I did. I think for those able to have a few power tools, the sweet spot is likely to be in that preparation phase – to take the “legwork” out of the massive amounts of planing etc that might be needed, so one can move onto the more fun, relaxing aspects of joinery and assembly with hand tools. If I built another bench, I wouldn’t force myself to do it ALL by hand tools, because I’ve done that now (and learned so much in the process), but lots of it would be. I won’t feel embarrassed or guilty for those jobs where the “angry pixies” helped me out. 🙂

  4. Had the American Workshop for many years. Now after multiple moves across the Country I’m enjoying hand tool woodworking. Maybe I’ll get another bandsaw some day. Maybe … working with my hands and without hearing and lung protection is just too much fun! Thanks Paul, for opening my eyes to this new world.

  5. Always a joy when I get to come here and read the wisdom that you share, Paul. I’m pursuing this venture into woodworking full-force and hopefully I’ll be able to have what you have described as a “lifestyle”. I don’t need a lot of money or fancy things, just a place to call my own and raise my girls.

      1. Thank you, Paul. I agree, it stands to reason that this is a path for me, albeit, not entirely for the faint-hearted. I think many people (in most businesses) have the wool over their eyes in that they think it won’t come with obstacles. I’ve borrowed your “life is like wood, it comes with knots” more than a few times and I advocate that for any lifestyle that is the case.

  6. Thomas Locatell

    Learning how to work wood by hand makes one a better machinist. I’ve come full circle and I don’t discount another go round once my body can’t handle the demands of using only hand tools. I came into woodworking just as the move to everything power accelerated. I’ll go out with my dead fingers gripping a nice, warm piece of something or other.

  7. I agree that using machines in woodworking doesn’t help build hand skills.
    What it does do is allow me to get projects done as I build skills.
    For instance I will use power tools to prepare stock but I will cut dovetails by hand to build a skill. I don’t like the noise and the dust created by machines and I have to schedule a time when no one is home so I can run them to keep peace in the household.

  8. Excellent article Paul, thank you. I think you have left out one item of importance, at least to my thinking. The use of power equipment is also a health situation. In my shop, a fully equipped commercial operation, even the air purifiers and dust/chip collectors do not get everything out of the environment. I can run a finger over almost anything in my shop and come away with fine dust on it. I will not go to my wearing of hearing aids.

  9. RODNEY MAGEE

    I have and will continue to use a tables, bandsaw, compound mitresaw and jointer. I have 3 routers with my routerplane seeing most of the action. I am a fan of Norm Abrams and New Yankee Workshop he got me into woodworking and I still watch the occasional episode. I took 2 courses taught by a gentleman that had worked for Wendal Castle, only trouble being, he taught all power tools. I took about 18 or so years away from woodworking because of a wet basement and family obligations, at 76 I’m getting back into it. I will continue to use power tools, at least for “donkey” work but am enjoying learning how to use the handbooks. I found paul and became addicted, I like his philosophy and enjoy his teaching. Do to arthritis I have 3 new joints, have had another 4 surgeries and require periodic injections in my lower lumbar, some days it hurts just to turn on the lights, I enjoy making sawdust, one of these days it’ll become something useful, I’ll be enrolled in the Masterclass and will learn as much as I can.
    Keep up the good work Paull!

  10. I am such a dummy, so I suppose the appeal to your “lifestyle” and your sell on it is geared to being a hobbyist right? No way no how can a majority of people could make a living doing woodworking with hand tools alone, I worked 12-14hrs a day 6-7 days a week for at least 12 yrs making custom furniture barely making it, suppose it could be done if you are writing articles, teaching have a YouTube channel ect… Now I agree it is important to master hand tools as machines only do what the machine will do faster but to say it requires no skill to use a machine is silly. I went to a furniture school and our first 6ish months no machines were allowed, we first learned how to tune/maintain our tools, use them properly and design, our first piece we had design and included a minimum number of joinery techniques we were allowed the wood we estimated and if we messed up we had to adjust the design. Rough lumber was hand sawn, hand planed, ect and checked by the instructor during each step. Anyways with the internet, IG, YouTube ect every one seems to think they are a woodworker after watching a video and buying a bunch of routers (which I hate btw, the noise!) or even hand tools so for them I am thankful that you keep the dream alive, and even though I do not subscribe to you philosophy 100% I do still like to poke around your content because you are passionate about the craft and i pick up a few small things here and there…

    1. Personally, I think your analysis is typical and typically wrong. I have never been a hobbyist (not that there is anything wrong with that) and I have never used a machine to cut a dovetail, most of my joinery is always hand cut. I don’t sell what I feel about lifestyle because that implies that somehow I make money from telling people to do it. I stopped working for money three decades ago and made more money when I did. I worked because I wanted to work for the art of making and not for making money. I never got rich financially working long days but I did get rich in the ways you have not mentioned in your critique here. It’s not silly to say that working wood by machine is skilless. Switch on the chopsaw and tell anyone to pull it down over a two by four and they will cut it skillessly in a single stroke. Give them two or three handtools and tell them to match the same cut with the same quality and then we will see which one is skilled. So I contend that what I say is simply truth. Going to college for 6ish months would not convince me that you would have developed the skills I am talking about judging by what I have seen of college instructors and colleges to date. Not all of them, just the majority, I think. I have yet to meet a college teacher that actually made a true living from the craft. They ended up as teachers because they couldn’t make it in the field. Oh, and YT IG FB are only but 14 years old (I used them only for about nine), teaching classes for a long time was not part of my annual income and yes, it is true, I did raise a good-sized family from mostly handwork in woodworking. That means for 45 of my 56 years as a furniture maker I did make a living and a good one from working with my hands and I still could. The rocking chairs I make sold regularly for between £3,000 to £6,000 and a coffee table £2,000. I know, that’s me selling it, but others can establish themselves in the same way I did by sheer hard and diligent graft. I think sometimes that people never actually mastered the craft even with machines hovering in the background. As for your “poking around my content”! Try to remember that there are many amateurs and amateurs that work professionally at woodworking and furniture making that I really write my content for to encourage them. Usually, they don’t just “poke around” but take steps and strides to establish any aspect of woodworking I express to them as part of their lifestyle.

      Oh, and by the way, where did I say anyone should make a living from making furniture by hand now?
      You said, “No way no how can a majority of people could make a living doing woodworking with hand tools alone, I worked 12-14hrs a day 6-7 days a week for at least 12 yrs making custom furniture barely making it, suppose it could be done if you are writing articles, teaching have a YouTube channel ect…”. Why say this except to infer something without proof? This just throws things right off track.

      1. Paul, I mostly agree with your sentiment, but I do think that someone just starting out today, particularly in the U.S., faces some steep obstacles to making a living as a hand tool only woodworker while raising a family. The costs of daycare, healthcare, education , food, rent/mortgage, auto insurance (and business insurance if you are self employed) have skyrocketed leading to income and lifestyle inequalities that have not been seen since the days of the “robber barons”. Oh and don’t forget to put money into your retirement savings all along, because retiring on Social Security alone means you are likely eating cat food for dinner at least one night per week (and no, I do not think I am exaggerating).

        Once someone is established, like yourself, selling a hand made piece for £3,000 to £6,000 ($4,200 – $8,400 USD) may be possible, but not for someone just starting out. But that person starting up still has all the bills. So there is sort of a great chasm that has to be crossed between the startup and the established entrepreneur. And for most people, the biggest challenge is time (as you pointed out in your blog). So anything that allow you to be more efficient with your time and helps you to feed your family and cross that chasm is going to have tremendous appeal (and in most cases be the only way open to you).

        Don’t get me wrong, the lifestyle you espouse is a beautiful one and I appreciate you keeping that beautiful vision alive. But I also believe that it may not always be directly attainable, and you may need to make certain compromises, particularly as you start out. Please keep the dream alive, but please respect (as I know you do) that all may not be so blessed as to live that dream quite yet.

        1. Ah, you didn’t get it yet. I was just countering what one or two individuals misconstrued and directly said to me and not the whole world of woodworkers. Why would anyone want to give up their $100,000 a year job (that they may well really enjoy) that pays for all you have said to become a $30,000 a year or less woodworker? Why not just do as I said and enjoy woodworking for a few hours a week and have that as an insisted upon part of your life? I have not said anyone should give up one thing to become another. Someone said that that wasn’t possible and I might agree and speak out on it if my audience were intent on all doing that, which they are not at all. I think that perhaps the numbers would be less than 1% that might consider it.

  11. I have resigned myself to becoming a “hybrid” woodworker. I got the hand tool bug a few years back when I discovered Paul’s videos on YouTube. They opened my eyes and made me realize that I could do that too!

    I tried a few hand tool only projects, but as Paul points out, power tools can save you a lot of time, and time is often the most precious of commodities, so I resign myself to using power tools, especially for initial stock prep.

    I will use a set of winding sticks and a scrub plane to take the twist out of a board, but then pass it through my power planer to get close to final thickness before finishing with a smoothing plane. Likewise, I will use a bandsaw to resaw stock or table saw to rip a long board before finishing off with hand tools. This allows me to spend more time on joinery which is far more interesting and appealing to me anyway.

    Finally, I have also been doing a bit more with both a dedicated scroll saw and scroll cutting on the bandsaw (making toys and puzzles for my grandson). While technically power tools, I dare say that this can be very intricate work and a lot more skill is involved than in typical the “push the stock up against a fence” machine cuts.

  12. I don’t think machine woodworking is entirely skilless. I think it’s a different skill set and one much easier to master if you have the space and the money. But the noise takes the fun out of it for me. The smell of the wood is contaminated with grease and metal. It’s not nearly as therapeutic in my opinion.

    1. I think you somewhat hit the nail on the head there, Jon, in that some see ease and confuse it with skill. You say that you “think it’s a different skillset and one much easier to master…” Does ease then correlate with making a task done by or with a machine skillful? I think not at all and in any way. I mean, does that imply that sliding the power router through the slalom guides of a dovetailing jig to cut a dovetail effortlessly is as skillful as cutting the same joint by hand using half a dozen hand tools, or chopping a two by four with a chopsaw as skillful as crosscutting with a handsaw and planing it to the same level as the chopsaw? I think not at all. Easier does not compute as skilled work, Jon. Please rethink this just for a minute. I am trying to think of a single task in machining that is anything more than totally controlling the outcome by running wood along a fence or a guide of some type. I didn’t use the word skilless carelessly nor to be offensive but thought very much before I used it. I see nothing wrong with machining wood as long as we see it for what it is and don’t confuse the whole by saying it is skillful working when it is nit. That’s all. The essence of every machine I know has been to minimise and even eradicate the need for skilled workers because, well, you have zero personality issues to contend switch between workers and workers and bosses and you have a guaranteed monetising of everything that is made and much of that without paying many if any wages. It is to me the comparison but something soulfully manmade and then the quite soulless output of a machine.
      And of course, this does not mean that there are no skilled machinists, just the expectation of skill levels is lessened greatly. Perhaps I might suggest that the skills of a woodworking machinist might be around 5% of that of a skilled hand toolist. I think that that is generous! Of course, there is nothing at all wrong with making anything by machine only anyway. That’s a matter of choice, but when choice is actually taken away by removing the skilled workers from the scene one by one, then no choice will eventually remain to choose from and, well, we have no choice.

      1. When I was in my 20’s, I had a full-basement wood shop with many different machines. I had friends who did the same.
        We made so many things in our shops:
        An outfeed table for the tablesaw
        Stands for my miter saw and drill press
        A router table
        Stands and tables for just about every tool that I had.
        Endless jigs for making different types of joints, etc…
        We spent 80% of our time making things to sustain and improve our shops full of machines. It was addicting, because we never attained the ideal shop. There was always something else to buy or upgrade, to reach our goal of making a shop that could make tools that made the shop better.

        1. Matison, this is exactly the scenario I found myself in when getting “more serious” about woodworking as a hobby. You hit the nail right on the head, re: tool stands, jigs, etc. I look back on the time I spent building a jig to rout mortises and a corresponding jig for the table saw to cut tenons, and I spent more time on the jigs then than I do now cutting and chopping them by hand! And those myriad jigs take up a lot more storage space than a tenon saw and a couple chisels.

  13. Stephen Farris

    Please forgive a somewhat personal detail with respect to a health issue connected to power tools: The choice of power over hand tools may not be entirely one-sided. As it happens, the medical people recently decided that I needed a “power tool” of sorts, a pacemaker, to keep the ticker tocking away regularly. It’s safely installed now, and beating time nicely. So far, so good. There is, however, a host of things which I must keep at a distance from the newly installed mechanism. That cell phone cannot be carried in the chest pocket any longer, for example. And, more relevant to your discussion, power tools, which generate magnetic fields that could affect the mechanism, must remain at least 12”/25cm from the pacemaker. That does not rule out the use of power tools though it does demand another layer of attention to their safe use. No leaning into an electric drill, for example. But that attention to the tool and its distance from the heart is also attention taken from the wood and from the act of making. This represents another advantage, for a person with my condition, of the simplicity of hand tools, in my view.

  14. I like the tone of your voice in this essay. Describing your approach and leaving things at that works better than arguing for one side or the other of this issue.

    There is of course the issue of furniture availability. In the the purpose of woodworking is to fill our houses with furniture and other items made of wood. It would be nice if everyone espoused hand tools so that we can all have hand made furniture. However the retail purchase price would be too great for most people.

    The tools may be inexpensive compared to machines, the work may be healthier for the worker, and the outcome may be more enjoyable for the user, however it remains that only the 1% can afford handmade furniture. After all this is the same for any luxury product, but it is definitely not the solution the majority need to furnish their houses.

    Handmade furniture is a luxury. Not everyone can drive luxury cars and not everyone can afford luxury furniture. No matter how we look at it buying handmade furniture is expensive and making it is time consuming. Because in our society time is money, you have to have more money to own hand made furniture, whether you buy it or make it.

    I like luxury products myself, so I am not arguing against them. I just know that when I was poor I could not afford them. I had to become wealthy to do so.

    1. Thanks for your input, Alain. My advocacy is not for people to become furniture-making businesses to sell what they make though. My advocacy is for people to simply make their own individual furniture one piece at a time even if one piece takes them a few days, weeks or months. I believe the skills I have can be gained in a matter of a little time spent making just a few projects to establish them. Doing this, most everyone can, as you say, make handmade furniture of fine quality for their own homes and family, in the same way I am spending my remaining years teaching them to do so by making the pieces in front of them.
      Actually, the rocking chair materials cost me £200. Were I to buy this chair it would cost me £3,000. I could not afford that, but I could afford the wood and make the time. Why do you say people cannot afford the wood to make their beautiful heirlooms.

      1. Thank you Paul. I like your approach. I did not say people cannot afford the wood. I said most people cannot afford hand made furniture. I wrote my previous post quickly and when I re-read it I realized there were several typos and grammatical errors. Unfortunately the blog comments system does not allow for corrections.

        In any case affording the wood is not an issue, even if someone has limited means. As you demonstrate regularly you can find free wood in many places so unless one desires rare or exotic woods, one can find free or low-priced wood easily.

        It is time that is the issue. My belief is that in today’s society true luxury has become time. Of course luxury objects continue to retain a luxury status, but the ultimate luxury has become time. It used to be that one had money or time but not both. Either one was poor but had lots of free time or one was rich but had no time. Today it turns out that regardless of income most people have less and less free time. Distractions, obligations and the ever-increasing complexity of modern lie is taking a toll on our time. Of course making wise choices in regards to spending our time is a determining factor. The same amount of free time can be spent engaging in time-wasting activities or doing activities that are meaningful to us, such as woodworking.

        This means that learning to use our free time wisely is one of the most important skills today. I think one of the things you do in your blog is teach this, through your drive to follow your passion doing woodworking no matter what. You also show this through the lifestyle choices you make, choices that are conscious and driven by reflection and analysis.

        If one can manage their free time wisely then yes creating handmade furniture for personal use with hand tools at an affordable cost is possible.

        1. I find the “time is a luxury” claim very curious.

          I’m full-time employed by a rather prestigious company, with my share of responsibilities, meetings until 8pm a few times a week.
          I have 3 small children (oldest is 10) and I do take my time to care for them, as much as my wife.
          I spend as much time as my wife doing chores in the house (cooking, shopping, cleaning etc).

          Yet, I still manage to find 5 to 20 hours per week for my hobbies.

          What do you do so that you cannot find a few hours here and there for yourself?

          1. Not the person you replied to, but I think they hit the nail on the head when the said, “manage their free time wisely.”

            Using myself as an example, I probably have about 26h of personal leisure time a week available to me. Couple hours at night on the weekdays and we’ll just say 16h on the weekends. The rest is work, chores, and family time (which is also leisure, and I wouldn’t give it up to play with my toys, but isn’t what I would call personal time).

            But those hours are not continuous and have to be managed wisely. They are a luxury to me and I won’t get them back. If I spend them reading a book or watching a movie I have understand that I’m not making something then. If I go out with the family for a weekend trip then I’m not building that table that weekend.

            Where I think people get in trouble, and I’m guilty of this myself at times, is reading those books and watching those movies and having those day trips with the kids, which are all wonderful and important things to do, but not internalizing that those were prioritized over the hobby (and worth it in my case) so wonder, “where did the time go?”

            Once one gets in the habit of telling themselves, “going to the park or watching the game with my friends is more important to me than a dovetail box,” then I think the mental conflict fades away.

            I find it a similar issue to wondering where all the discretionary funds went at the end of the month because while people are good at tracking the big costs, the small ones like a coffee every day are easy to not think about.

  15. Long ago, I built a mission desk using plans. I mass cut all the pieces using machines. I put it together. I didn’t square up anything. Luckily it came together. My dad had a barn with all the machines to build it. It came out so so, it fit together. After that someone said how can you do this. You need to learn hand skills. How can you cut a mortise with a machine and can’t do it by hand. Since then I branched into handtools. I now can cut mortise and tenon, dovetails, and dadoes better by hand then any machine. Today I ask myself, how in the world did that desk come together. Pure luck is my only guess

  16. Zhinka Carter

    Where I have my wood working shop on the farm, there is no electric power in that area, I do have a generator in case of emergencies.
    But, woodworking is never an emergency and I love my hand tools. I could not cheat and use a bandsaw ,but sometimes I wish I could lol
    I love the quiet, the pure quiet that one never can get in a city area. There is never EVER quiet there. I find I work faster and can think more clearly on the ranch. I built my woodshop a quarter mile from the house on purpose. I also do not own a cellphone so I know I will not be disturbed. I am not important enough to own a cellphone, the vast majority of people are actually not important enough to own one,but, modern people are sheep who get them because they are told to lol
    it is far enough for my husband to not want to come just to ask me things and my only company is my mastiff, so aka perfection lol

  17. I’d like to point out that some aeronautical (among other types of) machinists hold automotive machinists’ skill sets in utter contempt. By that mindset woodworking machinists probably rank even below that. Pretty safe to say that machining “skill” is a function both of how easy a particular material lends itself to electric motor driven spinning teeth and blades, and the precision of tolerances required of the final product. The fact that hand tools can’t carve metal and a torch can’t weld wood are constraints with implications for optimal methods of working them. Probably also safe to say, that applying optimal metal working methods to wood is easier than vice versa. It is fascinating that the origin of both is so deep in us that they precede written history. Thanks Paul for all your contributions to and celebration of, our heritage.

    1. “how easy a particular material lends itself to electric motor driven spinning teeth and blades,”
      That is a reason why MDF has been invented; but it is not wood but in fact some kind of thick paper.
      Photocopy paper: 700kg/m³
      MDF: 750 kg/m³
      light MDF: 600kg/m³
      One reason medicine is still some kind of art is that there are no two identical person (until someone replace us by robots.)

  18. Warren Clendenning

    I find the arguments about machines vs hand tools interesting.
    When I became interested in woodworking as a hobby, I experienced machines only. Over time I thought there must be a better way to produce projects due to the fact about noise, pollution and health issues. I am now convinced that hand tools are the answer for me. I have started to gain experience with tools and since “discovering “ Paul Sellers great website and videos I am inspired by his extensive experience
    and passion to help people the world over of which money can’t buy.
    Keep up the good work Paul and the team from WWMC.

  19. I don’t have a shop full of machines, and for the most part I do not miss having them.
    But,
    Sometimes I wish that I had a bandsaw.

    I am working on a few outdoor end tables that require many 1” thick boards. What I have to work with are 2”x 4’” and 2” x 8” dimensional boards. Buying 1x wood is not an option for me at this time.

    Without a bandsaw, I have to re-saw by hand the 2” wood to reach 1” (nominal) thickness.
    Even with practice, I make a mess out of too many boards, as my not-so-good, but all that I have Craftsman western style, combination hand saw (with tiny needle teeth) keeps tracking off the pencil lines that I have drawn on the wood.

    1. The tiny needle teeth issue sounds like you need a rip saw. Ripping 2x stock with a crosscut saw will tax anyone’s skills and patience.

  20. Andrew Churchley

    There are machinists who are highly skilled, satisfied and accomplished. I don’t think you are talking about them, but about machine minders, who are less so.

  21. Rick Johnson

    I use a table periodically to cut down to rough blanks but from there everything is hand tools. I love hand planes and chisels and I am big time into hand cut dovetailing. I just love the smell of freshly cut shavings and the whisping and zipping sound as I plane.
    Because of you Paul I have come to greatly enjoy woodworking and realize it’s the journey that is sweet and the joy along the way. Thank you Paul!

  22. James Maeding

    Its so interesting to see how the internet is changing woodworking. It took a while for youtube to become more popular than TV, and I have not had cable for many years now, just Netflix and other type stuff. This whole return to hand tools movement is great, as it adds to the choices of making methods. I’m 49 now, and just learned plane sharpening a couple years ago. I sold my small size jointer, don’t need it anymore. I do like my table saw, band saw, and small lathe a lot though. The biggest thing is a hand planed finish shows the wood in its best looking state – pores cut, not sanded. Its amazing to look at, not dull. I can’t go back now, and use the power stuff for basic dimension cutting. I’m still not good at dovetails, but one step at a time.

  23. In Australia back in 1978 when I did my apprenticeship the woodworking trade (not carpentry) was divided into three separate trades:
    1) Wood Machinist
    2) French Polisher
    3) Cabinet Maker (Furniture Craftsman)

    I did Cabinet Making: to be a Cabinet Maker you had to study all three trades.

    A Wood Machinist is NOT a Cabinet Maker, the job of the Wood Machinist is to dimension the stock for the Cabinet Maker to make the product.

    The Cabinet Maker then passes his finished works on to the French Polisher to complete the job.

    Now days, especially with the advent of YT, it seems that anyone can pick up a few machines, learn how to set them up and how to use them and then set up a YT channel as an expert, especially it seems in the US.

    Some un qualified YT’ers are now even instructing people how to DIY electrical (AW).

    I put my hand tools away for over 30 years, now I’m dusting them off and have to relearn my skill and develop my muscle memory.
    It would be convenient to go for the machine, but I’m disciplining myself to relearn my skills.

    The skill in wood machining is measurement, maintenance and attention.
    The machine does the actual woodwork for you.

    Any person who ignorantly ignores what Paul is trying to convey in my opinion
    1) simply does not have the skill to work with their hands (in Australia we refer to that as having a blockage at the elbows).
    2) too bloody lazy to spend the time to develop the required skills.

    If a person is paying their hard earned money for something you are making and selling, then that person should expect that you are correctly trained and qualified to make it and sell it, not a hobbyist who bought a few cheap machines, watched a few unqualified you tubers then go out and sell your wares to the unsuspecting public.

  24. Skills can be fulfilling. Some though are not safe, for instance the skills of a champion race driver are really dangerous. A generals skills on a battlefield are deadly and cruel. It seems true that skills with machines can produce results that are unique, yet in time, when a person has to stand by a machine for hours just watching the output of a machine, life can become depressing. Many of us have done that for years on end.

    It never really dawned on me, until I read some of the comments here, that the majority of the people in the world use hand tools. It is so refreshing to hear that. In this age, when our Home is being taken from us because of the profits of a very small minority, after thousands of years of human use of this planet’s resources, most people still are using beneficial expertise and talent to help them succeed in life.

    On the other hand, unfortunately, a growing number of of these valuable persons are on the road to the refugee status, because of insidious types of upheavals that increasingly take place everywhere. Have you ever felt that those of us who are either beginning to experience the pleasures of learning new skills with hand tools, or are already skilled are living in an artificial bubble; created by our area’s affluence? Will the bubble eventually burst. Probably, no, yes it will. I read a passage in a book that described a similar situation where the greed and selfishness of governments, big business and religion were responsible, and held accountable. In that narrative things suddenly got straightened out. All of us have some hope that our situation will change.

    Nevertheless, I look forward to benefiting from the help of skilful individuals like Paul Sellers and all those who send in their comments for as long as I can. Thanks everyone.

  25. I feel compelled to comment.
    In my home town in SE Europe, I had a nicely equipped workshop with quite a lot of machines, but I enjoyed most unplugged woodworking. When it came to the point that I wanted to develop further in my profession, I felt the need to leave my country. However, I’d invested so much time in woodworking and my workshop (as a hobby), and I wasn’t sure I could continue with it wherever I went. Still, I decided to accept the offer and move to Brussels.
    My last project back home was to build a small version of the Paul Sellers workbench (1.2×0.6m). I packed it in the truck with other belongings and headed to Belgium. Renting here is pretty expensive and I was prepared to forget about woodworking for a while. However, I managed to find an apartment, with a cave. What I didn’t know at the time, is that it had a cave was 1.7×1.5m. I transformed that space into a unplugged mini-workshop. The nearest socket is 40-50m away. I bought a battery powered light fixture. And I’m happy as hell…
    I have no cell phone coverage, so no one is bothering me. If my wife needs me, she can use the radio to get me, and that’s it.
    I recently made two of Paul’s project in there, a dovetailed box and the wall clock. Thanks Paul. I still remember watching your video 4 years ago, and buying my first plane after it. It was the first tool I got!

  26. What do people mean by skill?
    Looking at the translations in French language by Larousse, I find various concepts:
    – ability (compétence, aptitude);
    – dexterity (habileté, adresse);
    – expertise (savoir faire);
    – learned technique (aptitude, technique);
    – knowledge (connaissances).
    Obviously dexterity is essential for hand tool woodworking.
    But of course not solely if one wishes to evolve from apprentice to master.
    Hand tool woodworking gives a better knowledge of the wood properties.
    I can see that to be skilled in all of the acceptances of the word, one need to (also) practice hand tool woodworking.

  27. Rhododendron Walker

    I truly would love nothing more than focus 100% (or even 75%) on hand tools as a I develop skills. I am enchanted by your blog and approach to life and the craft, and have jumped all over your videos as I wind down before bed. I have bought your book and DVD. But while I was going further down the YouTube rabbit hole, I have recently acquired a modest space (12×20 shed) to take up wood working as a hobby. And it has quickly dawned on me that time is not on my side. Not to sound fatalistic about my life, but I’m 54, only getting into wood working now. My experience up to now has basically been: I can build utility shelves out of 2×4’s and OSB. I started a notebook/journal, I realized that my “TODO” list is very long and ambitious. It is quite a wish list (or a list of requirements, if you ask my wife), and I’m afraid that if I am to have any chance to making a dent in it, I need to a crash course in power tool usage to get up to speed and start crossing off some of these projects. I don’t want to make it sound like these are chores, I’m excited to get started on them, I’m just prioritizing here. Ultimately, I just want to make nice things. First, for what we want/need around the house, then maybe gifts for friends and family. That said, if I can get my head above water, I would love nothing more than to learn hand plane and chisel skills and approach wood working as more of a relaxing zen hobby.
    (Although in all fairness, I have been feeding many boards of pallet wood through my new Dewalt thickness planer to surface my interior shed walls, and it’s been extremely therapeutic! 😀 )

    1. It always saddens me to try to find answers to comments like this because it does seem defeatist when in my view it is just better to lower expectations to find exactly what you are looking for and then the resultant contentment. Usually, not always, it is more a matter of choices that people must face rather than their priorities. I might ask what is the basis for lining the shed walls with planed pallet wood in the first place and couldn’t it be done later and more gradually so that I could get on with woodworking? Well, it’s a choice. You chose to do that over sharpening a hand plane and fixing up saws and other tools. You chose the shed walls over making that nice coffee table and boning up your woodworking skills. If lining the shed walls was a pleasant half-day then that replaces making the things you speak of. You must simply face the reality that you have a third of your life left for working wood or not working wood or partly doing this and that in other fields. We have all had to face such things. Some of us do it at 20 years old and others look back at 70 and say what have I done and not done? The priority in most people’s lives should be to realistically look at what they might achieve between their allotted three score and ten and customise this reality to achieve what they best can to improve the lives of those they come to know. Just my two-pence worth really.

      1. Rhododendron Walker

        That can be the biggest challenge, could it be? Setting priorities and time management. I’ve always envied people who are passionate about one thing, and are satisfied and content spending most of their life on that one thing. Myself, I’ve always suffered from the curse of “wanting to try everything”, and subsequently become jack of all trades, master of none.

    2. Arthur Schueler

      I started woodworking at 35 when I realized I needed to make a rough workbench for a garage we just moved into. I remembered 2 things when I was making this 2×4 bench from online plans and a hand held circular saw and electric drill: How bad I was at making straight cuts (I didn’t know about fences, lines, practice, never considered the 1/8th inch kerf of the saw blade etc….I have learned a lot) — and I was sure I was going to be frustrated. The other thing was how much I enjoyed shaping wood when I was in junior high school for a project, the quiet cutting by hand, sanding by hand, gluing, and learning by experience how end grain works and staining. Not to belabor the point, but the workbench came together wobbly, which frustrated me but when I banged it somehow it all went square. I still have this 15 yrs later.

      I have been chipping away at the skills that Paul teaches. I have a busy day job and little free time, but the woodworking recharges me and anchors me back to reality. I really focused on his sharpening first, and I got some old planes from ebay that were a joy to restore.

      I am mostly enjoying the process here, not the completed projects. I have gone from 3-4 months to complete something like a bookshelf or table to about 1 month now; and many projects become something else. The joy comes in the doing, not the making for me.

      I am wrapped up in other things but what I really would like to do is make Paul’s workbench. I have a good one so I can’t jsutify that time but:

      “Its the not the Destination, It’s the journey.”
      ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

      Don’t focus on the end result.

  28. Jeffrey E. Bosley

    “The priority in most people’s lives should be to realistically look at what they might achieve between their allotted three score and ten and customise this reality to achieve what they best can to improve the lives of those they come to know.”

    I love it! Well said Mr. Sellers!

  29. I have to say that being able to add a 10” bandsaw to my mostly hand tool set up has been a huge boost. Having the ability to re-saw accurately and quickly is allowing me to pursue my interest in box making and other smallish projects. Still,, cleaning up bandsawn boards with a sharp hand plane is one of a woodworker’s great pleasures.
    A 10” saw is too small for many but perfect for some of us.

    1. I think for most people, a 10″ bandsaw will alleviate much of the harder labour adequately. Two issues should be considered here, one, the size of the motor and, two, the size of the blade the smaller machines can operate with. I trialed one about two years ago and found no problem ripping some 6″ thick oak as long as I took my time and used sharp blades. For these smaller machines, the blades suggested for use with them should be made from thinner gauged steel. The length of the blade, of course, is not an option but you do get fewer teeth per band and the thinner steel will suffer metal fatigue earlier. None of this is really an issue as the blades are relatively inexpensive.

  30. We are some time faced with a ” I want this for the day before yesterday” request.
    Recently my wife wanted a new pic-nick bench.
    I saw the opportunity: I have bought a new one and upcycled the old one (at least the non rotten parts) in making a workbench for the son.
    He has no permanent place for a workbench, so I used my Paul Sellers workbench to make a Moravian one. It can be knocked down in one minute and practically doesn’t use more than about 1/4 m² when not in use.
    The son can also use it as a buffet when doing a garden party 😉 …
    or work outside weather permitting.
    That was an opportunity to make large, deep and angled mortises and tenons.
    I am confident the son and the grand kids will love woodworking.

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