It’s Really Happening!

If you look at the world map showing outreach in real-time of our teaching and training woodworkers you would see flags dropping by the second onto all the countries of the world as people wake up to hands-on hand tool woodworking on a global level. Ten years ago I had sixteen people in a hands-on class making half a dozen projects ranging from wooden spoons to wall shelves and Shaker candle boxes to end tables. A weeklong chair-making course to build a Craftsman-style rocking chair in six days blasted the doubts it could be done in that time and to a saleable quality into oblivion and another 16 people learned. Today, we have turned the tide and proved that my craft is safely in the hands of hundreds of thousands of woodworkers and that the knowledge won’t die but will get passed on as in times passed but differently. It’s Really Happening!

My teaching in classes all started with a box — a Shaker candle box of pine — and from there the work grew legs to expand to a global output with the work of just a handful of dedicated people in a small spot in Britain. It was an almost nothing beginning but no one despised it.

My work as a teacher, mentor and maker came from the unusual background of an actual maker-designer-teacher with a burden for craft conservation in the lives of those yet to follow. I wanted a kind of rebirth of craftsmanship in the hearts of those who would love to make but had full-time jobs from which they earned their livings. I threw myself into the work at a time when the internet was still getting on its feet from the baby-cot stages.

What college courses universally took years to do we did in a matter of days, no more than a month and that’s because we cut to the chase, got rid of the bumf and taught exactly what anyone and everyone really needed. So glad we provided the nuts and bolts of furniture making and craftwork for what it is. We are into zero excess, no worrisome bums on seats. When it came to skill-building there was really nothing to compare with what we put together but without my having taught in courses over a two-decade period we couldn’t have done what we do today. Today, I see thousands of woodworkers learning very adequately online at their own pace and who are prepared to invest in doing their homework. I might compare what we are doing very successfully with the UK’s Open University courses and for a fraction of the cost if not for free.

Could it be done?” A man asked me in disbelief. “Can someone make this rocking chair in only six days using only hand tools after being in a previous beginner class for only six days?” I answered, “I believe so, yes!” And we did it, ten people and ten rockers left the course. Hundreds came to do the same over 20 years and it didn’t stop. The internet grew legs and all around the world the work continues with a dedicated following.

Mostly it’s about belief and honesty. My background as a working maker gave me a no-frills insight into the hearts of those who watched me as I worked in my workshop. I was making items like this and selling my work to customers who walked into the workshop. Texas was my home but customers came from all corners of the USA. Whereas customers bought, other visitors asked about classes. That is where the seed of teaching gestated. I saw that ingredient that lies in the majority of men. ‘Could I ever make a chair like that?‘ They had always wanted to be a maker of something that stood in front of them, something they could sit at, sit on, write at, open a door on and close it. I knew then that most people wanted to grow something, cook something and make something. It’s intrinsic to who we are as humans.

Another, “Can it be done in just six days, Paul?” I didn’t even hesitate, “I believe it can, yes!” I said. And we did it.

Of course, transitioning from the hands-on workshops through which I trained others and taught myself to teach to online working became the foundation for what we do today as a major resource in woodworking. The amount of work we get through in making and training the new generations of woodworking is quite remarkable. The amount of people learning from us means that we are providing an alternative way for people to become resilient makers working from home that parallels any degree course in furniture making and design of the highest quality for a fraction of the cost (in most cases for free). The combined output through, and mean that we reach millions of woodworkers throughout the year who are training via our courses. It takes a lot of self-discipline but the results are remarkable, astounding in fact.

To show an exhaustive range of the hundreds of pieces we have made to teach others how to work with their hands would take many pages. It would actually make a great coffee table book. I’ll park it there!

13 thoughts on “It’s Really Happening!”

  1. Jean Claude Peeters

    When people visit my workshop for a guitar or mandolin they often ask about the workbench, the tool storage, the hand tools… the clock (!).
    Two words: Paul Sellers.

    1. Paul, you talk about people making that beautiful chair as their fourth project after in person classes.

      Using your online videos, do you still believe this to be true?

      In my head I believe it, but I doubt my skills.

      1. In the classes, the wood was always milled to size and therein is the main difference. We had to make a decision at some point whether to begin every project online with all the wood milled to final size and planed all the way through ready of joinery or start with rough-sawn stock. In the classes it would have been I’m[possible to start with rough-sawn wood. Each student would have been at a different level and so some might have taken a few minutes to prep stock while others could have taken two days. I would never have been able to keep the class together. My courses were high-demand enough. A six-day class comprised a foundation course where the students made a dovetailed box with a hinged lid, a wall shelf and an end table in oak. Outside of that workshop setting with instructors and support meant that online followers all had different means or the skills to do the same ie they either owned machines and the workspace for housing them and live in an environment to use them or, if not, the skill and ability it takes to prep stock using hand tools. I went into the online work assuming people wanted to work primarily with hand tools and I tailored my instruction with that in mind. Whereas occasionally I might str=art with wood prepped and ready to go, most of the time I don’t. This is significantly important. People watch me work through muscling my wood ready for joinery with the only machine I use which is the bandsaw. ~even then I do not automatically use the bandsaw, I often use handsaws for elements in the project and especially when I want to prove that hand tools don’t take too long and are often much faster than machining in such cases as cutting dovetails, eliminating the need for heavy sanding and so on. I do believe that if someone has the skills to sharpen the tools, has taken a little time to prep wood as an exercise and practice that they can indeed make the rocking chair.

  2. Thank you Paul, you are an exemplary man, and the world is a better place because of it! I love your poetry and writing too, that’s a big part of your success. What an amazing accomplishment!

  3. Congratulations Paul. It’s amazing that your skills are flowing to others all over the world. An incredible legacy. Thank you for all your efforts – you’re making a real difference.

  4. Good Morning, Mr. Sellers, what have I learned from your writing and videos? how to sharpen all my various cutting tools is, I would say, the one skill that has elevated my self confidence to a degree where I can set to and make as much as my imagination can envisage. I would still be scouring Trusted Trader for a saw doctor instead of having finished half a dozen projects if I had not discovered your teachings and musings. Thanks does not seem enough but, simple as it is, it is expressed with true gratitude. Long may you continue.

  5. Ronald Veitch

    Hi Paul

    I have watched numerous YouTube videos of you working on various projects and you make it look so easy. As with many of the people who post comments I am in my 60’s and have been involved in hobby woodworking since I was probably about 10, but always as a hobby. I have gone the route of having some machines but not extensive compared to some shops, as the cost usually kept things in the reality zone. I have now shelved most of the powered machines and improved the health of the shop with less dust and noise by taking up the few basic hand tools. Surprisingly my accuracy to detail has improved greatly.
    The best part is now my grandson also joins me with the hand tools and making projects at the workbench, with tools that may be sharp, but are much safer than the power tools that may grab and kick.
    He is much encouraged and proud of the items he is able to do. Viewing your videos has inspired him greatly.
    I keep reminding him that it is not the woodworking that we do together that is important, but it is the time we get to spend together. I call this Wood Therapy, not woodworking.

    Keep up the great work of teaching and reminding us about the important things in life .

  6. I did read your post last night but I dont always have the time. Thank you all the same as they are well written .

  7. Luciano Gonçalves Moreira

    For me, it all started when I needed to fix the saddle in my guitar. I needed to make some clamps for the gluing process and found your videos on cam clamps. I made a pair of pretty crude clamps, but they were functional. And I never stopped. Always following your videos and learning from them. From the clamps, I went to my first dovetails for a box. Gappy, but the box is still solid and in use about 5 years later. A two screw vise and better dovetailed boxes were made afterwards. Then a nightstand, a desk, shelves, a floor lamp, shop made tools and a myriad of small items. Everything from reclaimed wood, made in a small garage area with a foldable “doorbench” (workbench made of an old door) and some hand tools chosen by following your advices.
    Thank you so much, Mr. Sellers. What you are doing for us is amazing. And you are really reaching people all over the word. I am writing from Brazil.

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