Making the More of Things

In making I find unsurpassed peace. It’s a silencing of excess that gives me encouragement in the simplicity of making with my hands, writing and drawing do the same for me. Stepping off the various conveyor belts we think we control but that usually control us one way or another can be tricky. I’ve experienced the same doubts about losing or leaving something. — big things and then small ones too. Over the holidays I lost my best pocket knife, the same one I’ve relied on and carried everywhere for at least two decades. I was lost! Thinking it to be gone forever I immediately sought to fill the empty space and ordered my identical replacement. It’s nothing fancy. Single-bladed, firmly solid and it works as well for knifewalls as it does for two dozen other needs in my workday.

My old version was identical to the bottom one with all of the textured surfaces and embossed gold lettering but through the years of use the grip-texture smoothed off and the lettering too. With that worn off and the blade an eighth of an inch narrower the knife became more mone than ever. These inexpensive work knives should last anyone for a lifetime of 80 years. At a cost of under £12, they’re hard to beat on price and it’s a rock-solid performer.

Needless to say, as soon as my new one came in, my old one turned up where I had left it when wrapping Christmas gifts in the workshop. I used it for cutting paper and tape, opening boxes, etc.

People don’t seem to carry pocket knives much anymore so the next nearest dependency to compare might be the now highly ubiquitous cell or mobile phone. I’ve grown accustomed to carrying my mobile (cell) phone on me and like everyone I keep it near to hand. At one time I did think of pitching it in the river. That was in the days when people still wrote letters, carried a keyring torch (flashlight) and kept paper information for a wide range of things. It’s no longer easy to bank with bricks and mortar banks disappearing one by one. Even our NHS staff Google concepts of healing via their wifi these days. The fount of all knowledge will soon replace several aspects of personal caring for the elderly with AI (artificial intelligence) apparently.

When I leave my cell phone somewhere even for only an hour I feel unsettled until it’s returned to my pocket. Up until 2000, I happily went through 50 years without one and never felt insecure or unsafe. Would anyone out there ditch their mobile to live without one now? I doubt that most could do it and yet the whole world went without one for centuries. How did we live without this life-sucking, time-consuming codependency that so complicated the simplicity of ordinary life? Go on, try it. Put your mobile down and go into town with nothing connecting you to the internet for a single hour — I don’t mean changing the setting to aeroplane mode.

I often think that the same thing applies to machining wood. It’s an artificial security rooted in doubts in ourselves to be able to develop skills. And I do understand all of the reasonings and arguments. My concern mostly is that we are in reality losing a lot more than we are gaining but that it can never replace the art of how we creatively work with our hands. We cannot imagine doing our woodworking without machines and neither can we imagine that we could own the skills of working hand tools. That seems so strange, but I know of this for myself from my own experience. When we put out a questionnaire asking how many woodworkers used machines it was surprising how many did not and could not because of a variety of circumstances. I’m not talking about so-called professional woodworkers here, those who earn their living from machining wood, but those who sought to learn woodworking as a serious interest in their lives. These were the ones convinced by others that the only way forward was by machining wood: those that could never install machines, buy them because of cost or use them because of noise and close neighbours, apartment dwellers and so on. Imagine how I feel today after about 10 years of doing 98% of all dozens upon dozens, no, hundreds of furniture and woodworking pieces I have made using hand tools and only a single bandsaw. It’s not big, not commercial, my enterprise is and always was simple. I earn a modest living alongside half a dozen staff but what makes it big is the freedom to make all that I make with the moderation hand tools give me.

A bit demoralising seeing images like this where the maker carefully dons gladiator gear for self-protection equipment, even for a single pass. I’ve done it too but one day it just stopped and I never looked back because I found that the much safer bandsaw would get me close enough and two passes with the smoothing plane gave me a superior outcome with the immediacy I needed. I am glad I could make the change but at first, I had my doubts.

Giving up dependency on anything is often rooted in some kind of unbelief. I am sure that I can complete many of the tasks I do in a day more quickly than if I use a machine; I can cut a triple dovetailed corner to a drawer, common or half-lap, faster than it takes to set up a router guide and use a power router. Things change when I have to make a hundred, but I have yet to meet any home woodworker or even a professional version who’s about to make more than one or two all the same size.

Back in the 1950s and 1960s we accessed the double-deckers from the back kerbside corner with no front access nor air-driven or hydraulic, self-closing doors. This back corner was open access and people often hopped on and off buses in motion when they slowed near corners or for crossings and such.

Any change can be likened to something like getting off a moving bus at the tail end of a double-decker back in the 60s, which I did just once. I know! You would never do it! Many years ago I started to peel my fingers of dependency off of my reliance on machines. It wasn’t the easygoing process you might think. Allegorically, the road was spinning fast beneath my feet as I stood on the back corner edge of the bus platform. I probably would not have let go of the vertical post had the bus conductor in charge of tickets and safety not said, “Go on. Get off!” As my foot skimmed the road I felt the roughness of fine pebbles, heard them crunching and I tried to adjust my weight for the unknown. Suddenly the skimming stopped, my feet grabbed and I fell forward, spun a full 360 and fell hard and flat onto my face, just missing the corner of the bus platform with my head. My injuries were serious enough. Face, kneecaps, and elbows all torn up with bleeding cuts and embedded gravel. The conductor rang the bell signalling the driver to stop but then saw me move to get up so he gave the double ring to carry on and left me there, a crumpled heap in the road. That will not happen when you come to a point where you transfer your energies from one dependency to another in your woodworking — doubt your doubts and fear your fears. What you see me do and the efficacy of working using my hand tools is real. I have no hidden machines hovering somewhere in the background to take over off camera. What you see is what you get. I want also to assure you that it does not take decades to achieve what I take for granted in my hand working. My instruction is from a truly lived life as a lifetime, long-term and full-time maker making and selling my work year in and year out. It’s been my lifestyle for 58 years as of this week, since leaving school aged 15 in 1965. I never looked back, but the important thing for you to know is it takes a matter of weeks not decades to make skills yours when you have a prescribed course to follow. That’s why we put together the online training and created common woodworking. Here we provide all of the essential information for anyone starting out as well as exercises; here’s the link for projects and helps in providing clear instruction and support common woodworking.com . We follow up with woodworking masterclasses and Sellers’ Home , to put full flesh on the bones of becoming what I can only call a real woodworker following a significant lifestyle with woodworking and furniture making to lean into. Mostly it’s the hitherto unrecorded information, what you cannot get too well from books or especially watching sales staff and outlets demoing and selling at woodworking shows or magazines. Mostly, it depends on what you want. Once you become used to machines it’s hard to leave them behind, peel your fingers off the grab rail as it were. Primarily, I see clearly that this can be a state of mind. Unbelief in yourself and your abilities in a large percentage of people. Why would you stop using machines that work so well to get you where you need to be when it’s ten times easier and ten times faster to boot? I have many good reasons but they are for me and may not be for you. People want different things from their serious craft work.

I never used a honing guide until I was 30 years into my craft full-time. It wasn’t something any full-time woodworker did. Those that trained me put me to the then oilstones and encouraged me with stern words if it looked too shallow or too steep. In an hour or so I’d got it and have had it for life. That said it is easier to correct biases using a honing guide and it is also best to train yourself for the feel using the guide. The problem is weening yourself off them when the time comes.

I also know that machines are very mesmerising. Once you watch how effectively they mill wood you will indeed find it hard to take your eyes off them. A mortise machine bores into the wood and leaves square corners perfectly aligned along the length of a mortise in under a minute. Chopsaws leave a square end in two seconds and ripping down lengths of oak could not be easier. There is nothing really to learn or master in using them. Set the fences, depth stops and lengths and you’re on your way to anew coffee table. So what’s wrong with having them? Nothing, really. But whereas there is really nothing much to learn in using this equipment, it doesn’t come just like that. I have left much out.

I see machines as being a bit like honing guides, they are useful for starting out if indeed you have the space, money, availability, etc for hosting several cubic meters of shop space. They certainly help if a disability of any kind prevents you from working your wood. Whether they matter as much as we think is a matter of personal assessment. My garage will not take them. I could increase the floor space but I don’t want to because I don’t want them. Also, I want to sit in a relaxing chair and take a break from time to time to write, listen to music, drink tea or coffee and draw, compose and design. A single machine would eliminate such important practicalities in my life and I have a couple or three books yet to put out before my age and abilities stop me.

This is my chosen workshop. It’s devolved by personal choice to what works for me and most likely 95% of other woodworkers too. It’s all I need and there is nothing I would change. When big projects come in it can be a little challenging but nothing `i cannot live with. I can work around most things because few projects require permanent assembly and can be made and assembled on-site for three or four assembled units. I don’t crave the big spaces simply because of my one-machine approach to real woodworking. It has worked for a decade now and as I said, I chose it.

So, if I could have a bigger space, would I have both? I don’t think so, not now, now that I know the peace I get from my making the way I do. And you are right. Those little thickness planers don’t take up much room at all. And look at that, the wood’s guaranteed squareness with two perfectly parallel surfaces dead to size in a matter of minutes with no effort. Why would anyone want to do it my way? Well, of course, it doesn’t end there, does it? Neighbours do not like noisy machines next door and across the road, there’s dust and chip extraction, plastic tubes coiled with springy wire and such to suck the mass away. I actually already have that with my bandsaw and it would mean no more sweeping up shavings from around my feet, but, well, that’s part and parcel of what I do, what I created for my work life. Just one four-square-foot footprint pulse a compact extractor. I like that. That periodic sweepings and gatherings of real shavings inches long goes fast with a broad brush. I’m talking three minutes. And these sweep-ups are the full stops punctuating my days; points and places where I stop and reflect on my work and working, rewrite my life minute by minute, hour by hour; at these basic junctures, I think the immediate steps ahead of me yet to be processed and built upon.

My only woodworking machine comes in most for what even a tablesaw will not do and that is resawing even bulky sections to the sizes I need. It cuts up to about 11″ (28 cm) so wider than most available board widths. When you set up a bandsaw properly and use the best and most appropriate blades, the wood can come out near enough for three of four swipes to a pristine finish with no more than a smoothing or jack plane.

I have consistently shared things like this through the years. I think that the message is worth the repeats. The great thing is that you can phase machines out, wind them down, keep them hovering somewhere in the background and when you are truly ready to pull the plug you can. Do you have to? No, not at all. Doing so will mean more sharpening, more high self-demand. Instead of sharpening the hand plane once a week, you’ll do it ten times in any given workday. The high self-demand bit means crosscutting and smoothing the end of a two-by-four might be a challenge for you and will you ever get just what you get from that chopsaw? I’m not altogether convinced that you will, but most of the time you actually don’t need to. Coming off the saw dead square and smooth is quite the luxury if you think about it. With the right blade on your tablesaw or chopsaw the end grain can look like it was planed. The truth is that such equipment makes the work pretty effortless, but it does come at a cost. Though it is indeed effortless, my preference is challenged and directed effort. I can get the same end cut as a chopsaw using hand tools in not much more time if any at all. When you add up all the links it takes using chopsaws and dust extraction, powder-soaked atmospheres etc, my life is better. Much better. I like things to cost me something both physically and mentally. I guess it’s called challenge, oh, and there are many others just like me, hundreds of thousands of them. Yesterday I added a few shelves in my workshop. The crosscut came from my newest and now best Spear and Jackson panel saw and the cuts were perfect.

The ends and edges were planed with a S&J cutting iron I am testing out in my Stanley #4 bench plane. You see, even today, at 73 . . . it’s my birthweek remember, I am still experimenting, still trialling, still using unknown tools to see what works for everyone. last week I was working with a Japanese smoothing plane. Today I worked with the S&J plane iron some more. The important thing to know with the lesser expensive goods is that they may have cut some costs. For instance, with the S&J cutting iron they most likely skipped a small step the expensive makers take care of. I found the cutting edge fractured too soon after sharpening. That’s because there is some degrade in the hardening process that leaves the first few mils of the cutting-edge too fractious. I ground off 1/8″ of the bevel on the grinder, resharpened and installed the cutting iron and the problem was resolved. About five minutes worth. The other aspects of the cutting iron were really good so for anyone starting out and needing a new plane rather than going for secondhand this is another option.

I bought this plane in October 2019 to test it out. Once it was fettled, maybe an hour or less, it worked as well as any plane I have owned. Since then we have bought their #5 Jack plane and that is well in favour now that it too has been initiated. Both planes can be had for around £55 for the two. I think that they will serve well for decades of use.

So, I cannot always explain too well why my hand working matters so much more to me today than ever before. Perhaps it’s you that drives me. Just what is real woodworking anyway? Isn’t it just a question of evolution? Are we not evolving with better and more diverse energies as we evolve the new generations? Well, no, not always and not really. When evolution displaces hand skills then we are less likely to end up with fine motor skills because, well,

Carpentry was once the generic term for anything wood made. Go to some countries and anyone working wood is a carpenter. To clarify, we generally try to use special terms to categorise the trades in a more descriptive way. It’s not to be snobby, just for clarification and no more. This is carpentry work. I do carpentry work regularly around my house and garden and then the workshop too.

I see how we still tend to compare carpentry to my work when I would never consider what I do with modern-day carpentry. Certainly, carpentry no longer describes my work as others do carpentry. It’s not snobbery. It just doesn’t fit so I don’t ever use the word unless I am putting a garden gate in or building a stud wall. Having passed over two decades living in the US I saw 2,000 square-foot homes go up in a matter of just weeks. I’m talking about a finished home in 10 weeks. Stick-frame walls for whole houses clad with OSB, wrapped with a breathable moisture barrier and then skinned with its final layer is very distant from the skilled carpentry of the 1800s though there is still some skill to it. It’s when skill is substituted for speed and income that things come into question. The speed of raising a building that way translates into profits and profits in some countries is what life is mostly about. In my world it has always been the whole process of making and then, additionally, making my living. Of course, in a commercial age and sphere, I cannot imagine cutting so many two-by-fours by hand. Portable chopsaws pastrami-cut lengths to perfection in the single pull of a handle and the press of a spring-loaded button. Thousands upon thousands of cuts in a week see the stud walls standing and the roof trusses in place ten times faster than a hundred years ago when hand-cutting was the only way. In my world of furniture making, machines could do the same. In fact, I have lived in that way too, but today I am now more sort of mentoring teacher to hundreds of thousands and what I teach is transferrable so anyone learning my methods, patterns of woodworking and so on, can indeed adopt and adapt a machine or two to work with down the road. You don’t need any more than an hour’s instruction covering safety to use any machine type and equipment and therein lies the great divide. What a difference.

There is something very contenting in building timber-framed structures like this garage. A mix of modern-day carpentry with traditional mortise and tenon framery — a mix of machine work with hand-tool joinery.

Throughout my work teaching classes hands-on, I learned from students what troubles them the most. Cutting square, planing square, cutting straight and sharpening a perfect edge, the list could be exhausting were we to go down that road. We could soon convince one another that we should just go the machine route. And yet there is something truly magical every time you develop a very particular skill you never thought you could or would own. And it is this magical moment I want to speak of here. Thinking back through my years as a full-time, lifetime, lifestyle maker, I can recall every step where I earned my ability through my stubborn determination not to give up. Some recollections came when I was one step away from giving up and giving in. In that spilt second a lone voice, barely audible, said just one more try. There it was. The launch was complete and I was flying in euphoria as all resistance left, the cut was made and the two pieces slipped perfectly together for the very first time. My skills were always built by persevering first followed by building on each success that came along. Today I live in a world of knowing what I do will ultimately work, but it wasn’t always successful straight off. That’s why we need perseverance first. Even now I am still surprised when I take twenty plane strokes along the edge of a board to square it and when I offer the square to the edge it’s dead square. How on earth did that happen? Can I really feel it and stop? Then I sight along the edge for straightness and once again I go, “Wow!” The smile wraps around me and I am enveloped with something I can only describe as indescribable joy. We all know more now about brain chemistry influencing our days, something that people now describe as giving and living in something called a state of well-being. Four key chemicals, serotonin, dopamine, endorphins and oxytocin develop through achieving things we developed using our hands and bodies. Each one impacts on our happiness, yes, but they will also give us a contentment we seem less apt to achieve when substitutes are slipped in between our hands and brains. The effects these four chemicals have on our well-being range from boosting pleasure and satisfaction to controlling stress and anxiety. Using a machine to achieve flat wood could well be achieved by using a machine or two. I know that. What the machine cannot do is give us the same skill or levels of skill we get from hand working, muscle goes unused and undeveloped, the interaction with machines and the wood in no way parallels what we get from working with hand tools at the workbench. Think pace, relax, space to think, brain energy, patience and many more verbs and nouns. Don’t ignore the benefits hand tools and hand work alone brings to your life

35 Comments

        1. The Stanley is a marking knife, or rather a knife used for marking, and the CK is a more general purpose pocket knife.

          At least this is my take after reading most of this blog and watching all YT videos by Mr Sellers.

  1. Good morning Paul,

    I do not have a cell phone; I have a landline to make calls.
    Long ago I chose not to be connected nor troubled in that manner.
    I do not regret having made that choice.
    Your approach to life and woodworking seemed obvious to me and is what attracted me to your videos.
    God bless you Paul!

    Tim

  2. Hi Paul,
    Happy birthday again. I’ve been following you for about 7 or 8 years now, and I do find myself now using a machine less and less. And enjoying to do it by hand more. It would be very hard for me even to explain how I’ve improved using a hand plane or to put into words why it has taken me so long to recognize the different grain patterns that require different approaches. Also I found it very hard to learn to sharpen well using your method, to be fair and honest. I tried many different sharpening strategies including some machines but the added time always drove me back to that 3 diamond stone pallette I made following your design. After a lot of conscious trying I can finally do a figure of 8 pattern to sharpen chisels and plane irons without going a) wildly out of square or b) putting an ever steeper bevel on the blade. I am definitely not a master sharpener, but I do at last feel I’ve improved enough to make the effort worth the while. I guess my point is here, I never thought it would take me 8 years to get here. I guess you make it look so easy! I’m sure a lot of other people learn much faster. And I managed to get by and make lots of things while I was still not very good at sharpening or planing, but even now it’s hard to put into words where that hand eye skill comes from and why it takes time to build it up so gradually and not all of a sudden. I think it’s because the hand eye has to connect to a very deep place of knowing what the specific goal is for any operation. But I love it for the very reasons you talk about: it does focus my mind and completely erases all the worry and distraction of the crazy world outside my workshop. For a few hours a day my mind is crystal clear and I have the joy of making and I am very happy doing something challenging and worthwhile that I love.

  3. Thanks Paul. Well written. I was content with the pocket knife section and then I scroll and there is a fair bit more on the cell phone and then much more about machines (see, I’ve learned the word after all).

    At age 7 my dad gave me my first pocket knife. I was expected to carry it every day everywhere I went for it was a handy tool. I carried it for about 25 years and then stopped. Why? It had become too precious a gift from my dad to me. So, I bought a new pocket knife so that if I lost the one I was carrying it wasn’t the one he gave me. Glad I did. After Sep 11th, I had quite a few pocket knives confiscated by TSA and others as I kept forgetting to remove them from my pocket.

    As for a cell phone. Rather recently, my 10 year old iPhone 5 stopped working. The carrier stopped supporting whatever 3G aspect the iPhone 5 was using so I had to buy a new one. I was not happy about this. Cell phones are expensive and I’d rather spend that money on buying nice wood. I decided to go back to an inexpensive flip phone ($75) which had an inexpensive plan as I no longer needed data. It’s been tough to readjust and the texting is maddening slow. I am trying to make it more difficult to spend time on teh internet. I do have a work provided smart phone but I rarely carry it unless I need driving directions. I might go see if I can get comprehensive maps to put into my car for that rare ocassion where I don’t know where I am going.

    1. It wasn’t your carrier that dropped the 3G. The 3G and 4G were turned completely off for everyone. I now use 4GLTE which should be around for a while because it has some popular business applications. My old 3G dumb phone was good, the newer flip phone is difficult to use and not near as user friendly as the old phone. I wish I had a landline with answer machine, but ATT wanted to rid themselves of the landline business, so they upped the price every two months.
      So called ‘smart’ phones are tracking devices and people are using them to their detriment. The 5G is being associated with lots of health problems also. I watch people worship their phones! There is a youtub video from a surveillance camera showing a man running back into a burning building to retrieve his phone just before the ceiling collapsed. Insane!

  4. “I see how we still tend to compare carpentry to my work when I would never consider what I do with modern-day carpentry. ” Is this a division between making furniture and framing structures/buildings or is this another division? Both seem to me to be very similar: ensuring wood is cut to length, square where needed and joined in some manner. Thanks

    1. I think modern carpentry has mostly adopted the US methods of stick-frame structuring of walls and trusses none of which is joined with joinery which is why hurricanes and tornadoes have a field day (leave only a field) when they hit the USA and the prices of two-by’s go through the roof and never come down worldwide I suppose. Nailing is the third component anchoring all components together and replacing joints, something true joiners and furniture makers really use or solely rely on to hold things together. Hence European properties survive for even millennia in some ancient pockets but at least centuries in most. From living in the USA for half my working life I seemed always to see that after about 30-40 years many areas went through a period of deterioration and downgrade. I suppose we are talking built-in obsolescence. In Europe prices have always risen steadily and what I bought as my first four-bedroomed home in 1971 for £3,500 would now sell for almost £500,000 today. In Britain a cabinet maker does not build kitchens and bathrooms as in the USA but is a furniture maker and is unlikely to ever make kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Certainly here in the UK carpenters have followed the USA with all components being stick-framed together where needed and all else air-nailed together for speed and cost. Not much to it, toe-nailing studs in place and covering everything up with plasterboard (sheetrock USA) and a light skim of plaster along joint lines.

      1. Paul, I was intrigued by your mentioning that you’ve been experimenting with a Japanese smoothing plane. I have a blended tool set: many western, some Japanese.

        I was reminded, later in your article, that there is a core tradition of carpentry that relies heavily on joinery rather than exclusively on bolts/screws/nails. There are temples that are made entirely of elaborately joined wood that have stood for centuries. But even in terms of single-family homes, interiors/walls/stairs/roofs often use real joinery for a tight and happy fit. It can be done!

      2. I live in a manufactured home. the walls are like the Japanese paper walls in old movies. when I saw that photo of a timber frame garage I could weep for joy. I own a small woodlot with mature hardwood and I’m tempted to break my old fat self cutting timbers and putting one together but the wife said No! plus I don’t have the brains for it…measuring and designing and so on. and the council building codes are rubbish and restrictive as. that garage is magnificent!!!!

      3. There would have been a lot more of the old European buildings standing if a couple of world wars had not happened.
        Now a lot of commercial buildings are built to last 30 years or so.

        1. Lots of commercial buildings deteriorate from the inside out because people owning and working in them live more utilitarian lives where the only end result is a wage to pay their way through life with. It’s a sad reality that steel-framed structures are mostly soulless entities built to barely comply to codes preset by local councils who are often but not always equally soulless. A friend of mine, a green architect designing commercial buildings was building a series of new offices for a local council. The buildings had levels of ‘green’ to design for so he asked them what level they wanted. The question came back, “What can we get away with?” There was no soul in it. He withdrew from the project.

  5. Paul,
    I recently had the same experience with my Swiss army knife which I carried in my pocket for years. It happened before so I ordered a replacement then, but I found the original and put the replacement in storage. Now I have to use it hoping I find the original.

    Regarding hand tools I love to use them, but typically get inconsistent results meaning thicker shavings with my plane at the end of a cut than the beginning. Often, I wind up making the edge of a board un-square due to the way I apply the plane to it. I’ve not had a lot of success with flattening the face of a board other than to make it flat enough for running it through a bench planer. So, it’s a mixed bag for me and can’t seem to get through a project without using both methods of woodworking with a heavier reliance on machines.

  6. Good comment about the cellphone use, I can easily leave it home but my better half gets upset when I do! Funny thing is I use it more for other purposes other than making a phone call, which is rare. It tracks my exercise and is the best navigation tool I’ve ever owned.
    What bothers me is people talking on the phone while on a nature trail, driving a car or the worst offense while at the park with their family!
    Ironically a lot of the power tools I’d saved for to use in my retirement sit unused. I have three electric routers and haven’t used them in years. A electric sander or two are the same, I gave away my belt sander and haven’t missed it. Yes I have some indispensable power tools and use them often, a table saw, a radial arm saw, a band saw and a thickness planer. I would never get rid of any of them. They all make short work of reducing rough lumber to rough dimensioned stock.
    Then I hand plane or scrape away all the machine marks, I suppose that’s cheating some how.
    It’s not that I couldn’t do these things by hand but I have many other things to do and this saves a lot of time for me.

    1. Some of us need the added exercise and to keep our hand in. There is as you say not much to do if the machines have done all the work for us. I would rather just keep my bandsaw now and not accommodate the risks of machining, the noise, complaints from neighbours and wearing all of the gear needed for self-protection. I love the connectivity to my work more than anything a machine could ever give me.

      1. hello Paul,
        I use a lot of rough stock, not even 4s and sometimes I wish I had a planer or a bandsaw, not for speed but for fatigue. I could buy some but……I like more the journey than the destination.
        Regards from France.

  7. Sadly, the CK lambfoot knife is not available in the USA. The source in the UK says it is available for in store purchase only.
    Maybe they will expand their sales effort. When Paul mentions a tool, lots of people will be interested if purchasing one.

  8. The house builder marks with a crayon, drywall will cover that, mud will cover that, paint will cover that. The furniture maker marks with a knife. I have been following you for six years. The most important thing you have taught me is to keep my tools sharp. This Christmas, my son-in-law made a cutting board for my daughter with hard maple, mahogany, cherry, purpleheart, and walnut. He dimensioned all the pieces on my tablesaw and realized that he would have poor glue joints and surfaces. So, we hand planed the glue joints. When glued up, he hand planed the board. The purpleheart balked. He finished with a card scraper that required sharpening. I was reminded and my son-in-law learned how valuable the hand tools are. Thank you for all you have taught me.

  9. A friend gave me her old mobile so that I can do the two part verification when buying old tools online, otherwise it is switched off and left by computer.

    My grandfather died half a century ago and I still use his gardening pen knife. Hope I have not just put a curse on it

    A lifetime of making do, would have done my DIY house repairs better with your instructions earlier…

  10. Paul,

    Another lovely article. I was given a letter home to my parents from my primary school headmaster after being reported by a member of the public for jumping off trains! Although that was the 80s, it was much the same thing, you could open the door and when you reached the platform just jump. It was probably moderately unsafe for a ten year old in hindsight! I also used to carry a knife a lot, but not to school. Weirdly, that stopped when I went into teenage years, I’m guessing computer games or playing football perhaps changed that requirement for a knife, or maybe that’s when blade carrying became a frowned upon pasttime. I’ve been looking into getting a new knife for carrying around, and I quite enjoy carving/whittling, so perhaps it’s time to look around for something.

    I appreciate your comments about house hand tools and machines. For me, you’ve highlighted the workshop paraphernalia that’s required with machines, but it’s also the production and specialist manufacturing that goes into it too. In a world where we’re expected (need) to use less fossil fuels, is this protracted supply chain of global labour, parts and chips something we can sustain. I can see the lifecycle of a hand plane, I could even replicate its manufacture (possibly!). I couldn’t even comprehend for a jointer or thicknesser. It is highly specialised equipment, and “progress” dictates that it will only become more so. We can already hear the dismayed comments from the machine woodworker with regard to the CNC machine, I don’t understand how anyone can look upon a garage filled with machines and not extrapolate that to a future where they no longer touch the wood before project completion – moving from maker artist to machine conductor.

    We’re progressing to a skilless future. Just as we forgot how to read the stars, smell the weather and feel the plants, we’re going to lose that touch of craft too. Progressing toward, certainly, but progress is subjective.

  11. I knew immediately what had happened to your knife. Our mail opening knife disappeared at Christmas and we didn’t find it until late last week when the decorations started being put away. It had been carried into the family room for the universal scenario of slicing open the sealed boxes as gifts were being unwrapped. It reappeared on a table tucked between two items which reside there permanently. It’s always the interruption of normal routine that swallows up household and edc knives at Christmas.
    Thought provoking and insightful post.

  12. Hello Paul – while I did read your post (like all of them) today, the main reason for my first ever internet comment is to simply say THANK YOU. Long story short, you are a true hero of mine and are an inspiration to live better and more importantly, to try and raise my children in the ‘old’ ways. I simply love your videos, style of teaching, blogs, and more importantly tips on how to live a full and happy life. I was born in the millennial generation so there are plenty of headwinds these days from my peers, but please keep it up as long as you are able – there are many of us out here who still appreciate and crave the advice true masters of their craft have to offer. Happy New Year to you and your family – thank you sir, for all you have taught me.

    PS – if you are ever near St. Louis, Missouri I would be honored to buy you a cup of tea or shake your hand.

  13. I thoroughly enjoy your teaching-both shop and written. I feel a real kinship with you. Time in my grand father’s spartan shop provides fond childhood memories of projects we worked on together.

    Keep the love,

    Chuck in Florida USA.

  14. I’ve carried a Victorinox Swiss Army Knife for about 43 years now, If I don’t have it with me, I feel totally lost, the cell phone not so much. I just figure that nobody can bug me and I can live may life in peace for a few hours.

  15. I appreciate your love of your trade. I have been a carpenter for fifty years. Yes a carpenter. I have built homes, cabinets, furniture, and fine finish woodworking. I love my work. I have a bit of an issue with you saying you can learn to work with machines in a few hours. I spent years perfecting my trade. I know from experience that you don’t learn good craftsmanship in a short time.

    1. Sorry to have painted with so broad a brush, Stan. You sound as though you are of a similar age to me then. Surely you have seen changes you never thought would happen. MDF trim work, OSB skinning of buildings intended for a 30-year lifespan if that. But you are right, there are some really fine carpenters out there so I apologise for generalising too much. I once saw a carpenter take a waffle-head claw hammer face on to some chisels that mushroomed the handles irreparably. The list could be hundreds long I am afraid.

  16. Changing to unplugged, or starting a passion in woodworking directly in the unplugged mode it is all a matter of choice, in my opinion. I learnt all my abilities from Paul Sellers. The attraction to woodworking was there already 25 years ago, but until 10 years ago I never dared to put it in practice. Then a Christmas present arrived. A kitchen knives sharpener from Spiderco recommended to my wife from my father in law. That was the initial spark. Then I hopped online on youtube to dig further on sharpening processes. And I found Paul’s videos. And I got hooked. Still, the problem was workspace… living in an apartment in town, with a common shared garage and no other properties wich could serve as a workspace, there were no options to substanciate the transition from dreams to reality. But the seed was buried in earth and slowly leaves popped out. Therefore, because of Paul, I read the first posts on buying cheap tools from ebay… and off I went from ebay UK (much before BREXIT made taxes+shipping costs prohibitive/ not always worth). And I rented a garage… built the first workbench per Paul’s free YT videos. And thre I started… very slowly, but my time in the garage was (and is) some of the wost rewarding time I have. Then, at one time I had the chance to get employed abroad for 14 months in a place where I could own a proper workshop and I had loads of freetime. Needless to say, I brought from home all my woodworking tools. And I could work wood everyday for many hours. And that’s what I did. With music and pleasant people coming to visit evety now and again. And now, after so many times Inrepeted the procedure, I can plane an edge square in 20 swipes. And mee too, when I present the square to the edge, have a large smile finding that 90% of the time it is 90-ish degrees and perfect to the line… finally. It is only a matter of time, perseverance, passion, and a good encouraging guidance. Time I found, perceverance and passion are my motto, and thank you Paul for the encouraging guidance.

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