Waste Wood Records

It was a sort of pocket

nothing more than a sort of sphere really

but he lived in it

lived for it

was made for it 

and he loved the way he was surrounded by it

Embraced day in and day out 

in the envelopment of his working

less by the shop in bricks and mortar

but by the atmosphere of mixed sights 

the sounds and smells 

and what of the tastes that came in silent waves

to his tongue and lips 

with each different wood picked from the pile 

the racks and stacks 

beyond the tools with which he tackled all things 

in the reshaping and fit 

where the wonder of working wood with his own hands 

seemed to him so never-ending 

but he never waned except for an odd moment

to regain a lost strength in his legs or arms and sometimes both

in his wanting his working to ever stop 

even when his body tired

wearied into the lateness of a day well worn

he’d somehow find the strength in mind and body to kindle contentment

by the working of his hands in an unceasing way

throughout the day

continue on into the late night when all was still and silent 

and he joined another to its brother with a joint well fitted tight and trim 

wood to wood 



hard and firm 

beneath the plane’s smoothing rush 

resisting where it could the saw’s sharp tooth 

severing away the waste wood by a kerf’s thinness 

from the wanted

And in his darkened pocket where the thin 

light spread from its long white strip

and the shavings gathered 

from the strokes of planes and seemed to hurry and scurry 

from his ever-moving feet 

he stops to lift cold tea to his lips and dream of a day-long gone 

when another sought help to lift a beam to the bandsaw’s table 

and then two push by steadying hands and arms 

its mass to the line of taut spiked-steel teeth

The sound whips up with the pushed button

shows gathering speed and in the fuller pitch of the motor’s willing 

steady readiness declares its time to push more the beam into the teeth

The bandsaws have always been a part of my woodworking life.

where each man leans in

this way 

then that

eye to the line 

hands to the push



guiding the mass in its passing through the friction-warmed teeth 

and at the pressing of the red button 

the command comes to cease motion 

and the blade slows for  a minute then another

The bandsaw slices the thinnest kerf through massive sections of
wood in a matter of seconds per feet.

until it no longer moves along its fixed and rigid path 

it rests now instead

its glistening teeth perfectly aligned 

for more cuts on another day in another wood

and so it is for the man that lifts once more the cold tea to his lips 

in the new silence of late evening 

when the darkness falls 

beyond the workshop door 

One of my spheres of sanity.

and the shavings drift 

with each kick of a man’s feet to nest beneath the bench

in the working of his day.

The stacked shorts of off-cut woods 

tell different stories 

where the man’s past workings come to life

in oak and sycamore, beech, cherry and walnut

and what of that deep red wood they call mesquite 

so darkened now by the sun’s sincere brightness 

reminding him of the days past in an early nineties spring 

and an early morning start where the yuccas grew

with the prickly pears and flowers spread 

in full bloom

A million-acre pasture

when he drove, the man,

into ten thousand acres and a million

more beyond of wild Texas ranchland 

to find a single tree in a forest of its kind

driving a forty-five-year-old flat-bed Dodge truck 

carrying two brown Borden milk crates

loaded with a chainsaw 

a gallon of gasoline, ropes, a come-along,

three spare chainsaw chains fresh sharpened the evening before 

in readiness for the day’s cutting

along with his shotgun just in case 

Five thousand miles separate the man maker 

now from this distant source 

his distant past

in realms unknown to most and the ones he knows 

he’ll likely never cut a tree from again

The Lone Star Stae of Texas inlaid in a may a piece I made.

It was the gentle flowing of a Dry Frio river

through a dead-end canyon

and the distant lowing of Texas longhorns 

Longhorns thrived on the mesquite beans when the grass was long gone from a summer’s merciless heat.

in a herd of fifty or so 

he craved to be surrounded by once more

Until you’ve known it you’ll never understand the wildness of remote cutting 

when the Javalena dart from the undergrowth of brush 

in a squealing keening frenzy of mad rushing

then the evening creeps in and the coyotes start

their banter 

in the bursts of unending shatter only they can do

as if they’re right there next to you 

and you drop that last limb

load up before dark settles 

and you can’t quite find your way back to the track 

The Dry Frio River where I washed and swam and fished

across the gravel river bottom of the Dry Frio.

It’s tamed now 

the old man’s life in making

boards of oak from the USA that travel the seas to its UK supply 

along paved roads and life’s

easier than the mesquite-covered lands of south Texas 

in a 1951 Dodge flatbed truck. 

Picking through the history of shorts 

stacked ready to retrieve 

for a new drawer and door framing a panel 

raised to a lambs-tongue mould

will always continue to translate him to past ventures 

in his locating of wood 

I built my cabin in the Frio Canyon on the banks
of the Dry Frio river itself
and delievered my middle son behind the bottom right window .

whether it be to cut and harvest or buy from the hardwood supply place

it’s not like a leaflet of swimming in a swimming pool in Turkey 

or sitting on a beach somewhere in Greece 

sipping cocktails from pristine glasses 

wearing flip-flops and bare-legged in Bermuda shorts

this man never knew such things 

from a life spent raising the means 

to clothe and feed a family 

loved his piece of wood

that box made

the sold pieces 

mark the pages of his memory 

when the mesquite beans hung and swung from thorned branches

in a certain swaying 

facing the glint of a Texas setting of a summer evening’s sun 

and there he is sitting on the tailgate as the Whitetails gather in around him

dipping their heads to graze and raising them to check

he’s still there where they knew he’d sat leaning back on his mesquite log

and the branches that he took from the wild the Whitetails thrived in.

Mesquite can never be described as pretty until the pieces made reflect the Jewel in the Crown of Texas woods.

As an older man 

an old man 

saying of things seen 

that younger ones can’t altogether say because they haven’t 

yet arrived to see and understand of what’s said

speaks in rhythmic meter 

Pulsing words that disturb

an atmosphere of silences

The pieces placed



line walls and lay out on shelves

enclosed under benches wait to be lifted

from layers of dust

that waft in clouds at the man’s speedy passing

Wood seldom finds a neat place of settledness until you settle your mind that it doesn’t truly exist.

The trace of its presence settles

unceremoniously as a fallen curtain

and the mouse leaves a trail from 

its limp tail in the same dust with tiny

footprints that scurried in a hurrying away

from a workman’s boots

The wood placed

gets turned from face to face and the man

casts his eye along the length to look for twist

a bend and rough lines left by the sawyer

who in laziness failed to correct a recalcitrant  tooth

with a lone twist from pliers held there in his right leg pocket

The wood stack settles the more 

in the well there

at the end of the bench

as if waiting for a hand to lift it the more to the vise

In the leaning pieces lie the mixed species side by side and ready for retrieval.

and then the squeezing starts 

locks on

in a single twist

and the threaded rod in its spiralled steel 


passing through the jaws holds

firm the wood 

levelled in place and steady

for the plane’s swiping

the shavings spill once more

in quick succession distanced

by the length of an arm

and soft settle to the workshop floor 

by the outspread outstretched feet

of the man who offers the plane

more and more

until the wood now levelled and untwisted

takes its mark from the pencil point

gets placed apart from the rest

and the man snatches another 

and another 

and another

and another

to work into true straightness

a squared edge alongside

and then the work settles the man

replacing the plane where the stacked

wood was

The shavings reflect the glory of a man’s working and the sharpness of his tools in the cutting edges.

It was the pencil lifted between finger and thumb

A poised tool point made to mark first his wood with

before permanent cuts were made to sever

and the unwanted yet to fall to his feet

where the bench legs held steady the squat-square

long rectangular workbench 

It was the readiness for new work 

unfolding thus that took each move and linked

everything together in slow deliberate motion

by the smoothing

of his wood

which lay in sticks as stems each alongside the other 

by its brother

in squared pieces now tried, trued and straightened 

that took the marks well

on each smoothed surface and though thinly made

the fine graphite lines in silvered grey-black

gave all the man needed to guide him 

A thin line set forth the intent of a manmaker and the tools follow to determine his outcome.

in the cutting of his wood

and there the tenon lay alongside the uncut

Mortise lined out in the oak 

both ready to be sawn and chopped and fitted


      1. Holly, That was so very graciously answered, I couldn’t have said it better. The man never sat on the tailgate of his truck in the middle of Texas with a truckload of mesquite watching the sun setting in a bright orange ball as the day closed and didn’t really want to leave because of the peace in his soul. Seeing the river flow through the truck’s floorboards, from in one door and out to the other and climbing the bank the other side is both worrying and magical. You’re on your own. When it’s dark it’s black, the weight is full-on but there is just something about being there, smelling the sweetness of the mesquite that makes life all the more worth living. Thank you.

        1. For a guy starting out in woodworking , it was a read that I needed. the joy of wood forever as a craft. Great rea

        2. Paul Thank you for that extended and heartfelt poem.
          Poetry does go with woodworking, for what is a handmade piece constructed to the best of one’s abilities, other than lovely poetry in wood. For some that have replied in a negative way, they should go read another blog as this is beyond their scope.
          This brings back memories from when I lived in Bexar County, Texas ( San Antonio ) from 1969-1973 while in the Air Force. I was familiar with the ubiquitous Mesquite growing in gnarly fashion all over the countryside, but I was not much of a woodworker then and had no clue as to the wonders of this unique tree that I now know of thanks to you.
          . Thank you for bringing back those very old memories of the Hill Country in Texas.
          Cheers, Michael

        3. After the read, I felt as though we had been in the shop together! My health is improving and my shop beckons. I have been organizing it this week. One more heart cath friday and then, Lord willing, by the following weekend, the shavings will be flying!

        4. There is joy and satisfaction in creating something from what nature has provided. Most of us can feel it, but only some can paint a word picture to describe the feeling. Thank you, Paul, for sharing not only your knowledge but your joy! Well done!

    1. HT, an insult from you is you trying to elicit an emotional response and/or an escalation. You may be better off taking a deep breath, reminding yourself that your choice to be insulting reflects your issues. I for one started to learn woodworking and tool restoration as a hobby during Covid in the evenings from Paul Sellers and from Thomas Johnson’s you tube videos. Although I just do it as a hobby and have made only a few pieces of “useful” furniture, I have restored several tools and pieces of furniture. One of the greatest things about it is the smell/sight/feeling I get after work and stressful day and go down into my little basement shop. I get some of the same when I read this post. Maybe you should re-read it.

    2. I’m truly sorry that you feel this way. I’m personally glad that woodworking, to me, is a way of life and not merely a task to be accomplished.

    3. Some people just have no music in their soul.
      I thought it was a lovely way to tell of your life here in Texas.

    4. This, is the wisdom of years, from a lifetime of creating and birthing dreams, with nothing but one’s hands…

  1. Paul,
    That was a poem. I felf as if I was there, a long the way for a glimpse in time with you. the wood foraging, fishing, riding in the old truck with a load of wood……Makes me wish I lived in Texas to be able to get my hands on some of that Mesquite not to mention the BBQ….lol

    The cabin you built is amazing just from what I see in picture. I can only imagine what it’s like in person. I am very fond of log cabins as we live in one. I was kind of surprised when I read saw you built and lived in one, only because I didn’t know……that about you. But it seems SO fitting that you did.

    I always enjoy reading your writings.

    All the best


  2. Paul,
    That was quite the poem. I felt as if I was there, along the way for a glimpse in time with you…..

  3. While reading this, I kept glancing at the scroll bar. I didn’t want it to end.
    -Thanks from Oklahoma

  4. Perfectly written piece! It reached me in a way that make me envious in a good way. Your columns have inspired my meager attempts at wood working and plane restoring. This just turned up the heat.

    Thank you so much.

  5. Well Sir,
    You’ve left me with a strong desire to go down on the bank of The Mexia Creek where it cuts through my place here in Callahan County Texas , hew you out some Mesquite planks and ship them to you !!
    You Sir have taught me much in a short time since I found you.
    You’ve taught me how to begin working the wood, yes…
    But you’ve taught me how to work on my Soul even more.
    Hollar, I’ll brave the Feral Hogs to get some Mesquite your way Sir !

  6. That poetry and woodworking go together is probably not obvious to most. But for those of us who are makers in the most expansive sense, getting the right words to fit perfectly is not so different than extracting beauty from a log. I imagine that makers of musical instruments enjoy yet another level of creative synergy from their art.

  7. thank you Mr sellers. Your poetic verses are exactly what I needed today.
    A greatly needed lifting of the spirit.

  8. It’s difficult when you’re young to appreciate the beauty that is all around you. Too busy, practicality won’t allow it. As you age, or put another way, grow older you recognize the scenes of your life and how, if you let them, wonder filled life is. Thanks Paul.

  9. Thank you Paul.
    This verse came at exactly the right time, just as I was questioning everything I do in the workshop…
    Your wisdom and peace grounded me and let me throw off the shackles of expectation and return to that place of just doing and being at peace with that freedom.

  10. Thank you. It has always interested me that most art forms and craft are solitary endeavors. intimacy between the animate and inanimate. Your prose captures that quite well. I enjoy the tick of a clock as the music to accompany me while working in the shop.

  11. As a poet for more than fifty years, and a woodworker of a mere five, this is pure bliss. Structured in this manner, with the B/W photos, it is called an ekphrasis, the combining of written and visual art, each supporting, contrasting, and driving the other. This specific example is worthy of far broader distribution, perhaps in a writing or other art journal. I was hooked by the third line and lost to its power by the tenth.

    Paul, I only wish I was younger and just beginning an apprenticeship under your tutelage. Thank you for all of this.

  12. Reminds me of my years in Oz , cutting and working blue gum , turpentine and coachwood .

  13. Dear Paul, you have always been a gift to those who understand. Your words and your works, unfolding one page and post at a time, are a sterling treasure.

    From another old man, to a wise one…thank you. You lift us up!

  14. Much thanks for sharing this with us (your students). Very powerful imagery, lovely.
    While there I didn’t have the presence of mind to appreciate the mesquite – too busy working the day to day grind.
    But I am blessed to know you now, and grateful for your generous teaching. Both in wood and otherwise.

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