Comparing What, Now?

I looked down at my latest design I just finished for Sellers’ Home. It’s the fourth piece this year, aside from all the other things I have been developing and working on. This one took some working through but how it ended up is exactly what I both wanted and needed.

I calculate that outside of prototyping and filming, additional drawings for PDFs for followers and all of the extra bits and pieces, this TV stand has taken me 60 hours to make by hand. Now, when I say ‘to make by hand‘ I do not mean to say I used my hands to pass every stick and stem through a tablesaw, jointer, thickness planer, power router, chopsaw, radial arm saw, mortising machine, tenoner, and others. This, for me, does not constitute nor does it mean handmade at all. Mostly, it more likely means hand-assembled. Not too unlike making your own flat-pack, without importing it from somewhere else in the global economy. So my 36 different joints comprising through-dovetails, half-lap dovetails, haunched mortise and tenons, stopped housing dadoes and so on all came from tenon saws, dovetail saws, chisels and mallet blows, marking gauges and hand router planes. The 1/4″ and 3/8″ grooves for tambour-type panels and drawer bottoms, etc came from vintage plough planes I bought on eBay for £10-15 aeons ago. The 200 pieces I used throughout were each individually planed from rough-sawn oak, cherry, and poplar using standard Stanley bench planes and this includes 240 bevels to the tambour pieces to emphasise the lines between each upright and give the tambour-effect I wanted. In other words, they were nor routed by a power router, ripped on a tablesaw or belt sanded or drum sanded to get to a finished size and surface treatment. They were all hand planed and scraped. This is what makes this piece handmade in the truest sense of the word and this is what makes the piece stand out against the machine-made.

I have swept up three large bin bags of plane shavings on this project alone. If I owned the machines I spoke of above, I would not change a thing. I would not have used the machines because, after 56 of making, still want the whole immersive experience I get from using hand tools for the majority of the work. Aside from the body workout I get day in and day out it is much more than that. Yesterday, when I took the steel wool and soft wax polish to buff out the final surfaces, I felt this enormous satisfaction that my using the simplest of planes and the most modest of all chisels bought 12 years ago from Aldi for £10 for four and then other such tools too, I crafted something brand new using 98% handwork only.

Now I am careful not to say that machinist woodworkers don’t get enormous satisfaction from making the same thing with machines. I am simply saying that, unless they know handwork as I do, they will never know of what I speak. Also, they will only assume that their methods are faster and more efficient. But efficient in what? The speed of production? I think of this often when tubers using machines even speed up their videos to make the process look even faster. It’s as if they can’t wait for you the viewer to get through it. Unsatisfied with the reality that pushing sticks of wood into tablesaws and power routers is indeed extremely boring, they make the process look all the faster and easier by using time lapses to speed up even the process of watching. Yes, it is mesmerizing. What does mesmerizing mean? The word mesmerize comes from the last name of 18th-century German physician Franz Mesmer, who believed that all people and objects are pulled together by a strong magnetic force, later called mesmerism. Moreso: “to bring into a mesmeric state, to hypnotize!” My methods don’t put people into a hypnotic state or any other such condition but they do wake people up from seeing things only one way to think new possibilities and when you look at this cabinet, knowing it was made with tools that cost a mere £200 or so, and that these tools will indeed make thousands upon thousands of such pieces, (as they have for me) you are wakened from the hypnosis of our modern YT gurus with flashing images and razmataz to think, ‘Surely, I too could do this!’

So the process of making the way I do, and hundreds of thousands of men have done through the centuries of furniture making did before me, is what I actually want. The processes are important to me because they have different values that cannot be had in any other way. Trying to compare machine methods with hand methods simply does not work. Passing wood into a power-fed planer-thicknesser is no workout at all. It needs no strategising and no critical thinking. That work is all done for you. Your job is to just wait at the other side of the conveyor belt to take the wood off and take it to the next machine process. Mine is reaching for the marking gauge and then the tenon saw, the plane, and the chisel and chisel hammer. Mine is adjusting my body height, bracing my legs, pushing, pulling, adjusting flexing my kneck, my shoulders, my arms and hands and pare-cutting the cheek faces of the tenon until it fits the mortise I just chopped.

67 thoughts on “Comparing What, Now?”

  1. Yet another beautiful embodiment of your philosophy of hand-work. You’ve changed my trajectory as a beginning woodworker from acquiring machines to acquiring skills. Already this approach is changing not only my work but me. So, thank you.

    1. I’m glad, Robert. The important thing to see is that, yes, both methods are valid and either or both can meet the individual needs of participants. It’s for those 90% of the would-be woodworking world that could never nor would ever be able to have machines or own them that I write and film. It’s funny, many say that I am too exclusive by my advocacy for hand tool woodworking, yet in reality, machine woodworking is far too exclusive because most will never be able to own machines. But the important thing to grasp is that hand tools are really for everyone and everyone can own the skills it takes to work with them. That’s why I have so heavily invested in producing our commonwoodworking.com channel with totally free content for beginners and machinists. This is where we created the groundwork for those who want hand tool methods to get started.

      1. Thank you, Paul. I’ve bookmarked the site and am sure I will be returning often.

        I am exactly the person you describe–I have a 7’x10′ space, half taken up with bookshelves and a desk, where I keep tools on a wall and a folding Workmate. There is no room for a bandsaw, let alone a table saw. The tools on the wall and the folding workbench protrude about 8″ into the room. A single machine would probably require the whole room!

        Yet following some of your videos I was able to square up some rough off-cuts going spare at the local joinery and turn them into a nice dovetail jewellery box for my wife, complete with a bit of marquetry from scrap veneer. It took a weekend, and my arms were pleasantly sore at the end of it. But it was incredibly rewarding, and now I’m hooked. All thanks to you.

      2. Way too nice to put some crummy TV on. A crystal vase or a Tiffany lamp maybe. This is a work of art. Always enjoy your work and thoughts.

      3. Do you offer the plans for this? I am converting to woodworking with hand tools and I would love to try and build this.

        1. This is a project for sellershome.com where we’re making a whole house full of furniture for families and individuals to learn to make all the furniture they might need for their home. The PDFs will be available to those who are paying members to woodworkingmasterclasses.com. Hope this helps.

          You might also be interested in our commonwoodworking.com where we provide foundational courses and information for those new to hand tool woodworking for free too.

  2. A good friend and better coworker once told me that she loves IKEA furniture because, just for “little money”, she can change those things every 5-10 years and enjoy a new living room set, bedroom set, etc. I don’t get it at all, but sadly that point of view prevails above all others.

    In my opinion the biggest risk of that approach is that people have lost the concept of “handmade value” or “everlasting”. I don’t want them to pay or approve the cost of a handmade furtniture, but I cannot stand those complains like “that’s really expensive, I can have a full set for that amount of money” or “I don’t want it to last forever”. There are so many things in this life I don’t understand, but I try to value the effort that people invest to create/achieve anything…

    I was born in the early 80s and probably part of the last generation in Spain who repaired a broken TV/washing machine before buying another. That change of paradigma brought us here.

    1. You can’t forget that an enormous amount of money is/was spent cementing that attitude in Western (and now Eastern) society. It’s very much the normal. We’ve abstracted and subtracted ourselves from everything from food growing to home design and repairs, furniture making, clothing repairs and making etc. I was taught at school that those things weren’t important, educated that those things were done for you at a central location somewhere and that the service economy is what I should aim for. It was, quite simply, wrong. A good education, with the wrong goals.

    2. Terrence OBrien

      she can change those things every 5-10 years and enjoy a new living room set, bedroom set, etc.

      I suspect she has little choice after five years .

      1. That’s not quite true. I have quite a few pieces of furniture from “the furniture store that delivers in flat packs” that has been with me for 15+ years and have withstood several moves.

        There are some that are worse for wear and some that have been broken, mostly because I was too “lazy” to empty the drawers when moving a chest of drawers or holding on to a less suitable piece, but they are still OK looking and working as intended. Some didn’t last but served me for a time when I didn’t have much choice but to get the “affordable” option.

        I prefer to have long lasting items that are of “hierloom” quality and I do have some of those from early last century but until I can afford that and can decide on things I would like to invest in and know that I would still like them after decades I’m OK with having some furniture from that big blue and yellow store.

  3. Congratulations, it looks impressive. Not for me though, I’ve not had a TV for 25 years at least and i feel such a silly machine does not deserve such a stand. But it shows impressive craftsmanship.

    1. Richard Kornicki

      I haven’t had a TV for 50 years but I know exactly what such a fine stand is for: a display screen to watch Paul’s videos on, of course!

    2. Great news Jorge, No TV. What a refreshing confession. At over 70 years old, I hate tv. It deprives us of ourselves (when we could be doing more fulfilling things than mere entertainment affords); it deprives us of friends and family, as we often “split up” and watch our own things; it deprives us of community where once we met together in an enormous varieties of community activities, we now can manage without each other and loneliness is often the result for many. It deprives us of reason, there is seldom any need for it whilst being merely entertained. It deprives us of reality as so much of it is false. if a person watches tv for 4 hours a day that is 28 hours a week, 60 twenty four hour days a year or 182 eight hour working days a year, exactly one half of a year!!so it is refreshing when someone confesses they don’t have a TV, I don’t feel quite the freak others would have me believe I am.

      1. My TV ‘died’ a couple of years back. At the time I was just starting to follow Paul Sellers and was working through a few of his projects. It wasn’t until 9 months later that I finally bought a new TV. 9 months of coming home from work and staying out in the shed all night, TV-free! 🙂

        1. I believe it was Ernie Kovacs who said “Television is called a medium because it is neither rare nor well done.”

          1. It’s actually worthy of more consideration than that as the word entertain means to more literally “hold” (in the sense of suspend) “to keep (someone) in a certain frame of mind.” Think of it more as ‘to hold or suspend someone between two points’ and you get a better picture. Think tightrope, maybe. Something that more suspends you between the real things of life perhaps.

  4. On the contrary, Paul: watching a whisper-thin shaving coming off a plane or a perfectly squared chopped mortise is quite mesmerizing. Lots of YT channels understand the allure of the sights and sounds of hand tool work, so they spend a lot of time getting the camera angles, microphone placement, even ambient lighting just right to capture that moment. Handcut dovetails might as well be its own sub-genre of woodworking art/instructional video. While you may not strive for it specifically, that same allure is still there in your videos.

    Your point is well-taken, though, that you don’t rely on video editing techniques to increase the appeal of your methods. Building a piece with hand tool methods is the reward, and doesn’t need much garnish.

    1. Yes, but not one of my videos is ever posed. Ask the videographers as they try to preempt me or chase me as I go at ten times faster than the speed of light. A twin dovetail cut filmed as b-roll can still take me under five minutes to complete and therein lies the difference.

  5. I was trying to promote the value of real wood durable furniture but I get the answer from the (50 year old?) lady that she liked to change the look of her house. Sigh.
    Fashionistas are destroying the planet.

  6. I would suggest, in place of “mesmerizing,” you may be experiencing “right-brain shift,” It’s something that happens to artists in various media: writing, drawing, sculpting, woodworking, music and on and on. In shorthand, one gets into a “zone.”
    I first encountered it decades ago in a book by Betty Edwards entitled “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.” Working through it, I actually got pretty good at it. Now I find exactly the same thing happens in woodworking with hand tools.

  7. Thanks Paul. Another wonderful piece. You single handedly saved me from a garage full of machines. I had a sabbatical at work and remodeled the garage in anticipation of filling it full of machine tools as I thought was just how woodworking was done. Fortunately, or unfortunately, after remodeling the garage, I needed to save up the funds to buy the tools. I decided I was going to wait a year to save up and during that year I was going to research what brand machine tools to get. I stumbled across your first dovetail video early on when I was using YouTube as part of the research process. Hand tools absolutely clicked and made sense. It was eerie how much it made sense. I’m not one to make impulse decisions but honestly you changed my mind in a matter of minutes. No regrets six or so years down the road. Though I spent much more than I needed in the garage, it has become my refuge from the world, even more so with Covid-19.

    Also, I don’t understand the pursuit of speed. I’m not a production shop. I’m making one off stuff and it is supposed to be a relaxing hobby. My day job (and most folks day jobs) has me pushing to be as efficient as possible. Who cares how long it takes to do a hobby. I just want to relax. I also agree with you that for one offs, there really is no machine tool advantage once you factor in all of the machine set up and test cuts.

  8. I marvel at your work. Your work is art and as such beyond the reach of “normal” people. I know you can’t put a price on the piece you are showing but at sixty hours of labor plus materials I doubt a “middle” class citizen could afford to purchase that piece.
    You talk of mesmerizing and that is exactly how I feel when I watch you work. You don’t use time lapse photography but there is also a notion that anyone can trot out to the woodshop and accomplish the feats of magic that you perform. I have learned a huge amount of skills just watching your videos but I will never become the artist that you are. Mostly because I don’t have enough time to learn and experience the decades of work that you have behind you. Granted the size of the shop, the availability tools and lumber may be accessible to those of us just starting to try our hand at working with hand tools but a great majority of us will never have the time at the bench to learn all that you have forgotten much less utilize what you have to offer in a teaching manner.
    I enjoy your channel and your incredible expertise and wonder at all the time it took to get to that level of skill.

    1. Hello Bill. I in no way place myself out of the class of “ordinary people” because I and my craft and crafting are very ordinary and everyone can be trained to do what I do with a few months of part-time training at their own bench and following the 100s of videos we have made for exactly that purpose. Most “middle-class” citizens could well afford this piece if I wanted to earn say £800 per week. It would mean my working for £20 an hour to get that and the materials will be £150. Having lived in the US for 23 years, I regularly sold pieces of hand made furniture to support my family and I would actually charge around $3,500 for a piece around this size and of this complexity. I in no way mesmerised people but present everything as it happens without any snake oil or tricks up my sleeve. What you see in me making is what you get. You only need a few short years to achieve the same levels of workmanship I have — not five decades. It takes dedication and intent. I have never been stymied by naysayers, I just get out there and do what they say cannot be done.I do not consider myself an artist but a simple maker. O worked under men who would have laughed me out of the shop if `i had ever suggested such a thing yet they did exactly as I do now.

  9. I really want to see you using the poor man’s tools. Those were the pinnacle of DIY and way cooler than the store bought jobs.

  10. A question here: I can see from my chair a number of “hand assembled” pieces, to use Paul’s accurate phrase. But I also see an IKEA cabinet and hutch, purchased before I got into woodworking at all. I believe I could now hand make or hand assemble something substantially better, even with my present low levels of skill. The IKEA piece does function for the purposes for which we bought it years ago, however, and it would be wasteful to dispose it in a landfill somewhere. In the present state of our planet, waste rises to the level of an ethical question IMO. (There is no obvious person who might need it.) So, do I replace it?

    1. I break down the old Ikea pieces and reuse the wood. It’s not the greatest of woods, but great for prototyping.
      Also try to buy sustainable woods, I think most northern European wood is sustainably farmed.

    2. Hello Stephen. You have choices here. Keep the IKEA stuff until it falls apart which might be decades away, give it away after you have made handmade replacements of pieces you really want and so on.

  11. Paul, I agree with your sentiment when it comes to the definition of “hand made” and agree that there is tremendous satisfaction that comes from the type of woodworking you espouse. Your videos have changed my outlook and have left me with so much inspiration and encouragement. I dare say that they have been life changing for me. For that I am will be forever grateful to you!

    However, with all due respect, I must disagree with your assertion that you could find all the tools required for a mere £200 today (at least not here in the US). For example, I have been looking for a vintage plow plane for aver a year now, and still have not been able to find anything for under $200 (USD). Of course, I could buy a new Veritas, but that would run me at least $260. Prices are even higher for a router plane. Even a vintage Stanley no 4 (without any major defects) is now typically north of $100. And since the Pandemic, prices on hand tools have gone even higher.

    I suppose the good news is that there is renewed interest in vintage hand tools (and hand tools in general) that is driving these higher prices. But I would challenge you to start with only $276 USD (£200) and nothing in your toolbox and purchase all of the tools needed to build this project. I suspect your number would need to be at least quadruple that (but that is still less than the price of a single good quality machine).

    1. I just took your challenge, Al. The one tool I did not buy because of price is a hand router, but this is not an essential tool and if one was needed then my poor-man’s version is more than adequate and costs nothing anyway. I just went to eBay and bought a perfectly good #4 Stanley plane with wooden handles for £15. I bought a chisel hammer for £12, a set of chisels for £40 and a Stanely plough plane still boxed for £28. The combination marking gauge cost £12 in rosewood with all brass components working perfectly, I’m assured. A 10″ tenon saw cast me £1.99 plus £3 shipping and a 14″ tenon saw, a Spear and Jackson cost £25 and a handsaw S&J cost £25 but this was new from Amazon. A Stanley #5 Jack plane came to me free shipping for £28 but this too is non-essential so if I go over the £200, we should deduct this cost. The Stanley folding knife cost £7.50 from Amazon with free shipping via Prime and delivery tomorrow. A card scraper cost £3 but is non-essential. This so far comes £175.49. So the tools can be had for the price said and then shipping will come on top. But your assumptions are indeed skewed. I actually did buy all of these tools for much less than the £200 stated, half that at most. I will give the tools I just bought away at some points after they are restored and sharpened as needed.
      Further; I didn’t say anything about buying vintage. I have found the Stanley 13-030 perfectly adequate and can make any size additional cutter I want for under a £1 in just a few minutes. Oh, and single good quality machine will cost me far more (perhaps quadruple and more) than my £175 in that it will only do one or two operations and definitely will not do the whole. And I did actually buy the tools within 20 minutes of reading your comment.

      1. Thank you for taking on the challenge! Please don’t take this the wrong way (and maybe I can learn something here), but how are you buying the items on eBay in such a short period of time? It’s very rare that you can find that many auctions ending soon. Are there many sellers in the UK with “Buy it now” pricing?

        I certainly am not finding items like this in the US. Maybe I am searching for the wrong thing?

        1. I do know that the US prices are higher. Here in the UK there are many pages listed and most #4s go for £20-35. I think that the UK did not adopt power equipment so readily and every joiner and carpenter up until the 1970s had and used planes on a daily basis. I doubt that we will ever be able to exhaust the supply we have because they just keep cycling through. I just hit the buy-it-now button for these items to see if I could indeed get the tools and I did.

          1. Thank you again for the reply. I might need to come visit the UK and bring a big empty suitcase sometime soon!

        2. Al, the US prices do seem to be much higher. You do save more on timber though I think – so swings and roundabouts 😉
          I recently bought a plough plane for £21. Unfortunately it only had one cutter but fortunately it was a record 43 so chopping up old chisel blades more than suffice.
          I did try to get a Stanley 78 for up to £20 but got sniped while typing this and it went for £26’ish including postage.
          You can make a poor man’s grooving plane for panels, in the style of Paul’s poor man’s router – simply screw a temp fence on…James Wright also has demo’d making grooving planes.

  12. Greetings from central Texas, Paul!
    I read and re-read this article but didn’t find my answer. What wood did you use for this beautiful cabinet? My guess is ash, but I’m not that experienced.
    Best regards,
    Bob

      1. I had read somewhere that poplar is not a good wood for making furniture. After this it seems that it’s not true. It’s hard to find where I live, anyway. Working with poplar is similar to working with pine?

        1. Poplar has always been used as a secondary wood in the furniture industry exactly as I used it, so, for drawer sides, frames inside upholstered pieces, such like that. The grain is unpredictable and can be ultra plain or ultra wild with green to blue, grey and brown streaks that flash across at angles and this is what renders it less like in the industry of mass-making where everything has to be uniform enough so a one-size-fits-all photograph can be used to represent the piece people will get. The wood stains well and finishes super smooth so it can be disguised to look like mahogany and such. It is stable and can be used for a wide range of projects. Poplar is not a scarce wood at all and can be had throughout North America entirely and it is also readily available throughout Europe too. I can see some climes where it will be less available though. The funny thing is that it is a prolific grower and grows both tall and with good girth to it too. Less expensive than most hardwoods, the wood lowers the cost of pieces like the cabinet I just made. The issue is whether you want to invest the same time using a wood considered to be of lesser value. Knotty pine for instance would for me be a nono. Now vintage old-growth vintage longleaf pine would definitely be a plus wood.

          1. Ok, Paul. Thank you for your detailed answer and thank you for doing it so fast, too. I took some decent pieces of poplar at work (they came from a big machine axis packaging and they were destined to end in the landfill) and I was thinking about what use give to them. Now it’s possible I use them in some drawers for my garage shop. Thank you very much again.

          2. “upholstered pieces”
            I once saw a documentary about Louis Vuitton. The luxurious travelling chests were made out of poplar. But of course, the wood is nowhere to be seen.
            The advantage is that poplar is relatively light while being strong enough. It is about 2/3 the resistance of oak for only about 1/2 the oak density.

  13. Stephen McGonigle

    That is a wonderful piece of furniture, and like so many others I love the holistic ethos of your work, which 8s so much more than a simple ‘this is how to make it’. I’m particularly excited to see that you’ve included tambour doors in the design. I recall asking if they could be included when you asked what should be incorporated into the designs for the house furniture. It’s a feature I love from the old roll top desks, but the process is a mystery to me. I look forward to the revelation in the customary Sellers no nonsense approach.

    1. Paul says in a comment hereabove “the tambour effect is cherry.”
      Looking at Paul’s Instagram, the bottom seems to be, in fact, a large drawer. Anyway, the knobs would not allow a full opening of the tambour.
      But, if you want to see how to make tambour doors, look at the project
      “Shoe tidy” from December 2019.

  14. now i have to admit when i was making a living making furniture i did use machines for prep of stock. but apart from that all else was done by hand, which was what my customers wanted. my main reason for commenting is about yt makers. 90% (i am being generous) do not seem to have had any formal training, or any real idea what they are doing on the machines they use. there are so many incorrect videos purporting to show the right way to do something, however, most have simply copied some one else’s video who also has no idea copying from some other person with no idea who copied someone else’s. when i look at videos it is generally looking at design ideas, but it galls me when i see so much misinformation, which is why i follow your videos. straight to the point, no misinformation and i have learnt some tricks from you, that i didn’t when i trained. yt can be a great resource for new wood workers, but sadly you need to know what to do, so as not to be led down the garden path.

  15. Clive Buckingham

    Unfortunately the price of used planes has skyrocketed here in Australia. It is often cheaper to buy a new Veritas, well it would be if there were any available. Out of stock seems to be the norm. However, I was lucky on the weekend and managed to get in quick and buy a Stanley brace, egg beater, no5 and no4 for a total of $50. OK, the planes require quite a bit of work. The seller asked me if I was a collector. I replied no, I would be using them. He seemed surprised that people still use them. That appears to be much of the problem. There are some folk, the collector, who adorn their immaculate workshop walls with rows of planes never to be used again. I must admit they do look impressive, however, it saddens me to know their usefulness is over.

    1. It seems most of the collectors are machine users. I’ve watched many of their videos, and I can count with one hand the number of times they’ve used bench planes. They just use them as backdrop. What a waste.

  16. I belong to the Non-TV club too. I use my TV set only for watching videos on DIY, woodworking and such, or for watching a film from my DVD collection from time to time. I prefer to spend my free time on the workshop, hiking on mountain or reading. We have a TV set at home, but I always says that it belongs to my wife. As time has gone by, I’ve even stopped watching documentals. I’ve lost “discipline” to pass more than an hour in front of a screen almost completely, but anyone can find me at the workbench or in my library, next to my all-my-entire–life 1500 volume collection… 🙂

  17. So I frequently take hikes along the seashore or woods.
    I also take pictures of the wildlife I see, from Monarch Butterflies to Ospreys in action diving for fish. Most people are not interested, they don’t “see” or enjoy what I do. For instance I have a shot of an osprey after diving into the water with a fish clutched in its talons. When I showed the shot to a local they asked “ What kind of bird is that?” They live by the ocean and don’t see what’s around them.
    I feel sorry for people who don’t enjoy what’s in front of them for free.
    It’s what you perceive of the world around you, it takes thought and you have to be immersed using all the senses that were given to you.
    To some that’s to much work, it takes effort and critical thinking.
    My parents always said “what you get out of life is what you put into it”.
    If people haven’t done the work how can they appreciate things?

  18. You told us of all the joints you used to “assemble” this piece
    But I have never seen you use a mitre joint and how to cut one by hand. I like to make boxes and box joints and dovetail joints aren’t always a pretty sight for those not woodwork savvy. Have you ever done this joint on WWM.

  19. Paul, is there a photo anywhere of your modified round bottom spokeshave? This is the one you described in your youtube video with Q&A about spokeshaves. You said you filed a flat ahead of the mouth, maybe 1/4″ wide. I’d like to see a close-up photo or two because I’d like to give it a try. Are they any already posted anywhere? And, yes, this question is completely off topic! Thanks for your patience with it. -Ed

  20. Paul you are once again very timely on this post. It was yesterday that I finished working two reclaimed mahogany boards to be flat and the same thickness with hand planes alone. Even had a chance to use your shooting board on the ends. My jointer and planner sat and watched event in silence. This was a first for me and I could really feel my muscles responding to this activity over the last week. These are going to be made into a box as a warm up to the traveling joiners tool box. Thank you for exposing me to how enjoyable hand tool work can be.

  21. I don’t know why so many people knock IKEA. Its furniture is generally well-designed, with simple, clear forms. Above all it’s affordable.
    Furniture makers from William Morris onwards have found that most people can’t afford to pay for the time and materials involved in craftsman-made furniture.
    Yes, they use cheap, manufactured materials but there probably isn’t enough prime-quality wood on the planet for everybody to have solid wood furniture.
    Their construction methods are designed around self-assembly, which of course saves them money but also helps keep the price low. The stuff doesn’t last for ever but for many people this isn’t a problem. The furniture needs and likes of families do change over time, for example as children grow up.
    In my view, the IKEA stuff is infinitely preferable to poorly-made reproductions of antique designs.

    1. Yes, there are many IKEA advocates out there. I have some in my near family. I’m not sure that anybody has gone overboard for stating accurately what IKEA is though. Yes, it has invested heavily in profiteering but that can often be off the backs of the poorer people who live week to week on their paycheck and so that the people have to keep returning every few years to buy replacements. It doesn’t, as you suggest, save the planet because it takes the same amount of processing of wood to make chipboard and such as it does to make something from solid wood which is actually what conglomerates like IKEA want and rely on. They have to have something that is soulless, like chipboard, pressed fiberboard and other so-called engineered wood so that it doesn’t expand and contract and so that it fits the accurate tolerances their machines and methods of manufacture demand. It’s all about mass making, getting shut of any competition by cheap manufacture and then dominating the market. That’s all it is really about. It’s good business practice to have returning customers through built-in obsolescence, but please don’t tell me it’s affordable. It is going to cost us long term and the false economy is damaging the poor as well as the planet because people often cannot climb out of poverty. I am guessing that you have not really truly looked at what they make. I mean what’s in what they mostly produce and from what. If people buy as a temporary fix for a financial need or reason that is one thing, but when a young family has to keep going back and back and back again through the years, I find this problematic. Oh, and people can afford handmade and made by crafting artisans, it’s just a matter of choices they make. Mostly. I have found, we have cheapened expectations to level that people don’t want to pay for quality. Also, they often choose to buy other stuff as their priority; a car that sits on the drive week in week out, things in the garage they use for a week a year.
      Personally, I think a too large a proportion of people just love consumerism more than they did in decades past. It’s become their go-to entertainment to walk around a megastore like IKEA and others to look for interesting things. A bit like walking around IKEA and having their meatballs in tomato sauce for £2 a plate, fish and chips for a fiver. I love going there to see what I don’t want and to see how much ultra-high-tech engineering it took to make that footstool for £12.

      1. The prior owner of our house installed Ikea bathroom vanities, and I wonder if they meet plumbing code. The drain, in my opinion, does not seem to be pitched adequately and flexible, corrugated tubing is used for the overflow. There are bad odors from the sink drain, especially if water is splashed into the overflow. There is very little you can do about clogs between the drain and any of the user-installed plumbing. The cheap drain plugs get stuck. The finish on some parts is chipping, yet I have not found replacements for any of them. So, this appears to be a disposable vanity that has lasted less than 10 years and which I’ve been patching and working around probably since it was around 5 to 7 yrs old. The whole thing is ridiculous. It looks good at first and is attractive because it has a lot of space for drawers, but my opinion is that it never should have been built. To be clear about the bad odors: I believe they arise from the poorly pitched, built-in drain and overflow, not from the site plumbing / venting / trap.

  22. As an IT project manager (37y) I’ve started doing woodworking as a hobby 2 years ago and as a newcomer I’ve bought a few power tools (even an electric handplane…) just to realize later that the no.4 plane, the chisel, the mallet and the handsaw are my best friends and despite the fancy woodworking channels on youtube I almost always end up watching your videos. I’ve had a few days and an okoume board with just the right dimensions so I gave it a try and it came out brilliantly (for my level of course but according to my friends too). The board was twisted, not square so the dimensioning alone was not easy.
    To see a simple board being transformed into a neat box with a drawer all done by my hands is much more satisfactory than what I felt in my last 10 years working for IT companies.

  23. Hello Paul I have been watching your videos for some time and I can now get a planes and chisels to work properly and am slowly improving my hand working skills. I have power routers and table saws etc. and because I worked milling machines and lathes turning metal and later polyurethane using them for woodworking was for me a natural progression. But I agree there is more satisfaction to be had from making something by hand rather than as you say creating your own flat pack. My son runs his own bicycle repair business and bought a lathe to machine spare parts and so I had to try and pass on 55 years of experience onto to him in a very short time. Which led me to wonder how long had you been working with wood before you were capable of producing the sort of work you do now?

    1. I am working on a blog to this end that will answer your question, David. My experience crosses many boundaries from simple metalworking, making cutting irons, tapping metal, soldering tinplate and such to a variety of woodworking areas ranging from carpentry and joinery at one end of the spectrum to shopfitting, woodturning and of course furniture making (cabinet making UK, but not to be confused with cabinet making USA, which is plywood and MDF or particleboard boxes for kitchens and bathrooms over there). I would say I have never stopped learning and I am still learning because my quest is different to many if not most of the gurus we now see exporting what they might well have learned just the day before for YT. I had to stop reading magazines and never watch YouTube because most, not all, have so often cheapened the art and craft of woodworking even or especially when they do so trying to use hand tools. Dig in a little deeper and you will rarely if ever find a woodworker that actually made their living as an actual maker (though they adopt the title of designer-maker) and actually probably couldn’t because they did not have the opportunity I had or the self-discipline it took to work for £3.50 for 46 hour week (that’s not per hour, BTW) nor the longer-term dedication it takes to become a true crafting artisan.
      I would say this, I think if I were to take my apprenticeship years and compress them down to actually making pieces it took me two years of dedicated woodworking. I learned a lot of other things in my apprenticeship. I learned what I didn’t want so that I could become what I did want. For instance, sexism was rife. It wouldn’t happen so publicly today but it is still there under the surface as is inequality when it comes to elements of women woodworking in a male-dominated workplace. Meanness and jealousy where older apprentices bullied the younger or grown men intimidated the young was also rife. What about slave labour and being held back from advancement by older people in the trade who were frightened that they might lose their position to a younger person too?
      At the end of the day I decided to start teaching but not as it seems for many today as just a means to making money because, well, you can’t make a living from making and selling. In fact, when I began actually teaching my craft to the public beyond my apprenticing and training young people, for the first ten years and more, I never received any pay for teaching. I was earning my living from making furniture mid-week, Monday to Friday, and then teaching adult classes on Saturdays. This was my endeavour to pay back what I had received. The monies received went into funding future endeavours to establish a bona fide, year-round school. In the evenings I taught many a dozen young people from 7-18 years of age woodworking and furniture making, instrument making and then canoes and kayaks too. This was all free, of course. We made everything from garden growing boxes to coracles and included carpentry courses for building sheds and greenhouses. Add into the mix woodturning, from which I also made my living, and you can see the complexities of my journey through five and half decades that led me to include teaching and training others. But here we are, I put together the woodworkingmasterclasses.com to teach woodworking and furniture making and then also commonwoodworking.com for a free resource for beginners in the tradition of hand tools. It has been so successful and many others have copied systems that I established. Take my mortising guide for instance, my poor-man’s range of tools and such. You make a plane or a mallet, post somewhere on it and all of a sudden you’re the expert.
      So now we are working on a whole house to be filled with new designs to furnish a complete home from the ground up. We’ve called this sellershome.com because this will culminate in a dream coming true for any woodworker including myself. Why can’t woodworkers with dreams make their own furniture over a number of years? Well, with a little nudge here and there, they can!
      I think that within a couple of years working 10 hours a week in small stretches of a couple of hours a day, someone following these platforms above you will be perfectly competent to make what I am making on Sellers’ Home. that will vary from person to person, but I believe most people can do it.

    1. No, Steve, great question. I decided to just fit them into the panel grooves and leave them to see what happened. There has been no movement and no gapping so I plan to leave them as they are. If they did start to gap I will put strips of fabric top and bottom about 2″ wide and glue them. This will allow for stretch and result in even spoacing.

  24. Vidar Fagerjord Harboe

    I’ve seen a number of those “content-factory” movies (many is probably ripped from other creators), and often there are comments like “sure, if I had a $100K shop worth of machines, I could do that too”. I want to scream at those comments “yes, you can – but use hand tools in stead!” Or cheap versions of those big chunks of cast iron, followed by a hand plane and a couple of old paint can openers restored to working tools.

    I use machines because I need to economize my time in the shop – hand prepping would mean my projects would take several months to complete. But I could use hand tools all the way.

    Hogging off waste from a tenon using a table saw does not stop to mesmerize me – why do people continue to do that? Especially when those segments are sped up. I know I could make the same tenon by hand in a short amount of time (especially if I use the router plane as a marking gauge – “pre set up” for the smoothing task!). Hogging of 98% of the waste would require nothing but a couple of whacks on the chisel. And the waste produced won’t go into my lungs, and in stead become wonderful material for lighting the fire pan.

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