My Hands Need Work

It’s pouring with rain this morning but I rode my bike anyway. The forecast seems to me to be rarely very accurate and I am glad that this is something the scientists can only confirm what is mostly taking place and cannot influence future weather more than they think they can predict it. My cycling is not to prove anything but follows my pattern for DIY and not just in my craft work but health care too. The weather apps micro-adjust to changes according to the reality outside, even when they predict something that doesn’t happen. That way they can always appear to get it right. Imagine a world where science governs the weather. What a catastrophic thought. That would be like growing trees knot-free and always straight-grained. Imagine! They’d give us MDF trees with pressed fibre or OSB leaves. Industry needs would control it all in the name of research grants and such and we would have no hand tool work in our lives. Nah! But we do need science for a wide range of needs and Ilike the reality that I can take care of much of my medical health via DIY and in tandem with the science of medical health care in a more up to date way than say in my childhood. Back then doctors were seen perhaps as being more god-like whereas today that might be a little less so.

I have always ridden a bike to work as much as I can. I have no plans to stop. I rely on cycling for reducing my planet foot print but all the more for my better health.

My bike takes care of the needs my at-the-bench work doesn’t handle. Legs locked standing need regular rotary movement along with stretches and compression. My bike still amazes me for the relief I feel mentally and physically when I cycle for a period. Mostly I leave before six and cycle for half an hour first. I look to extend my route to a half hour first and then I DIY my hearty breakfast somewhere between six and seven. I love choosing my vegetables according to my mood and my diet. Everything from fresh mushrooms to courgettes and tomatoes to onion and spinach. Over the two hours from seven til nine I write and keep up with that side of things. This morning the rain was refreshing and my waterproofs kept me mostly dry. It was 6º C and I feel in good shape. Handling my well-being by exercise and diet and working with my hands all day along with mentally designing my work gives me mental and physical acuity I rely on for agility.

My last class was here. Now my classes go worldwide to millions of hand tool enthusiasts. Still my version of DIY teaching.

Just when I was arriving at my retirement years ten years ago I did wonder what I would do with my remaining life. My life had been so full and yet haere I was at almost 65 feeling as though I was still just 45. Retirement seemed absurd. Things became new when my work revolved around video filming and presenting to include worlwide teaching and training. It’s been different. On my own, I do work differently and there are times when were I to work normally no one would see anything as I drop to my knees on my side of the bench to drive a mallet or plane an end. It’s abnormal to work back to front sometimes but clever videography bridges the gap to look quite natural. but recently I have realised that gaining in years does not necessarily mean you are indeed growing old. I wanted more DIY in taking care of myself now that my family had grown away. Retiring isn’t a period prefacing the inevitable but hands-on working of your body maintenance.

As I cycled to the workshop and the rain poured down I felt a gratitude for everything I had encountered throughout my life and then too all that I would be likely to encounter today. The roads were quiet at 5.30 and the new speed limits of 20mph throughout the UK’s towns and villages, cities and such meant that my 18 miles an hour average made me feel much safer with the 2mph difference. Of course, until lots of speeding fines are dished out there will always be the rebels rejecting any kind of constraint on their lives. 20mph works for me whether I’m cycling, walking or driving. This slowing down of gears is there for the common good of the whole of society. It is yet another form of DIY health care even though there are arrogant who depsise it. A man roaring his engine caused me to turn my head today as I was about to mount my bike.. He rolled his electric window down of his souped up machine and said to me, “Want some bovver, mate?” I walked over to his car and asked him what he said even though I heard quite clearly what he offered. “I’m not sure what you mean.” I said. “Want some bovver? he repeated. I said it wouldn’t look too good if a twenty-four-year old took on an innocent 74 year old and beat him to a pulp but this 74 year old isn’t running away. So, the brave and extreme petrol head left me bewildered in the rain with my bike wondering where that came from and I rode away into the sunset (actually heavy early rain) and the man didn’t bovver me further. Just some more DIY.

The ridge of ‘rope’is a sleeve of fibrous material that needs thinning in order to straighten the finger.

Where am I going with this? In a couple of weeks, I will be having some hand surgery on both of my hands. They don’t hurt in any way and my work is not suffering at all but they both have what’s called a Dupytren’s contraction. One contraction is on my left hand ring finger while the other is on my right hand middle finger. The procedure uses a needle to reduce the fibrous sleeve that is preventing my hand from lying flat on a surface and not straightening with the others to open for a grip and such. It will worsen if it goes unchecked and mine began back in 2,000 or thereabouts so I am looking forward to a good and hopeful outcome. Now this is not something DIY even though through my years I have taken care of some critical DIY needs for cures the doctors could not give me. The surgeon taking care of the procedures in my hands has lots of experience dealing with such issues and came highly recommended. It’s a two-and-a-half-hour journey by train to Derby and I will enjoy the non-DIY train ride provided the strikes we are all dogged by here in the UK these days don’t stop things going that way. I cannot do my own hand surgery even though I have taken out a splinter most days for almost sixty years. No! This is not DIY but leaning on the arm of another to take me to better hand health. I am sure some of you out there will realise just how attached I am to these two hands. They have always given me the greatest of pleasure in my treasury of woodworking.

My right hand is nowhere near as extreme as my right. I hasten to add though, I am in no pain at all at any time.

The surgeon said that I will be out of commission for a couple of weeks as I will not be able to grip as I usually do in the day to day. I am ready for the work to be done and I will keep you posted on my progress.


  1. Hello Paul,
    That was very interesting topic regarding the storing of wood. Thank you for some of the hints and tips. It’s something I have some issues with as I have an unheated brick workshop built in 1949, with a steel roof made from Anderson shelter panels. It’s damp in Stockport, as you well know! so in effect, I’m unable to reliably construct anything from October to March, and other interests take over.
    I hope your upcoming surgery is successful, and long may you continue with your teaching.

    I like your bike, is it a Maloof?

    1. Hello, the name of bike is Vanmoof non Maloof. I don’t know if it’s a joke or a lapsus but, you maked me laugh.

    2. It’s a Van Moof, Dutch made but disappointed with it in the end as customer aftercare wasn’t there for me in the end. Now they are bankrupt and no longer exist. I still own the bike but without the electrics it came with.

      1. Hope the surgery goes well and recovery is short. My right hand is similar, but not severe. I find if I make fist and squeeze, then unroll my fingers, that works. May have to get the surgery eventually. Enjoy your posts alot. Cheers

        1. I ride a superb Raleigh bike every day (actually three times a day) and have done for three years now. Actually I ride two Raleigh bikes and like both of them. I wish I had not bought the Van Moof now. It was an expensive mistake,

          1. The hotel I stayed at in Amsterdam had Van Moof non electric bikes, in a delightful colour scheme, and impressed with some sensible design ideas for commuter bikes. I tried ordering one of the early electric ones for doing loaded shopping trips, only choices were white or grey! They could not deliver a correct model to save their lives and when it did arrive it was only reasonable on the flat, hopeless on any rise and of course assist cuts out at 15 mph when you would like it up to 20. My classic steel framed bikes are still more fun to ride, I am so glad I got my money back.

            Van moof abandoned their standard bicycle production and thought they could make a fortune with heavy electric bikes, may be fine in flat Amsterdam but clearly have not worked round the world…

      2. This post is -again- very inspiring. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m getting more and more involved in woodworking with hand tools (I’m working with computers for a living, and quiet manual work helps a lot keeping sane).

        If I’m not misinformed, Van Moof has been “acquired” (or whatever) by another brand and I read somewhere they would provide the aftercare and the “cloud” thing that’s needed for these bikes. (Cloud is already an annoyance, but cloud for bikes… that’s awful)

        1. I have taken all the excesses off my bike and it is now manual. The physical bike is well made but the electronics are in no way very good. batteries lasted two years and at £600 a pop this made the bike rides prohibitive. I changed to a Raleigh and find the two `i have really good.

          1. I’m very sorry to hear the electric systems on your bike did not work out longer term Paul. I’m in the US and Van Moof continued operations here so I’m still OK with my Electric S1 purchased in 2018. It only has about 1,500 miles on it although I have amortized it’s cost through avoidance of commuting and other car costs fully by now. I’m able to perform all basic maintenance myself, but I expect when it’s batteries go that will be the end of it for me too.

            Interestingly enough the company that purchased the European Van Moof entities – out of bankruptcy proceedings – is McLaren Applied. They are based in Woking and make among other things the ECU and Data Loggers for all Formula 1 cars, but are unrelated to the racing team sharing the same name. They’ve done nothing public with Van Moof that I can see so far.

            Hope the hand recovery is going well, -nick

          2. Minor update: the subsidiary brand under which McLaren Applied will house future Van Moof operations is actually Lavoie, currently making one electric scooter (something I’ve also used for commuting prior to my bike).

            And now back to the wood 🙂

    3. Good afternoon. I enjoyed reading your process of drying lumber, especially the weighing of lumber. I live in the states, Louisiana to be exact, approximately 40 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico, so moisture content is just another part of the woodworking process. My wife is nice enough to let me store my new wood, usually oak or pine, in our house. After three or four weeks most wood is ready to use.

      Like you my hands are an issue. Psoriatic arthritis in both, but, that doesn’t stop me. All just a part of the aging process. In any event, thank you for sharing your experience with us.

    4. Next project – a wooden bicycle? Good luck with the surgery – you are inspirational in so many ways

  2. Good luck with the surgery Paul. Even without pain it must be an anxious moment for you given how essential your hand are to your wat of life. I hope it all passes smoothly and you are back behind a bench before too long.

    1. Dear M. Sellers,
      I am a french canadien living in Belgium. I do not understand all you say/write but my understanding of the english accent/vocabulary improves with you but that’s not all. I love the passion you have working with wood. How to be precise. I love your tips for the “poor man”. Watching your vidéos really inspires me. You exude (I hope it’s the good word- I used Google translate) a beautiful serenity and wisdom. Your experience with that man today is sad. Human nature is often disapointing. Regarding your surgeries, I hope the best for you. Mostly, I hope for myself and all your fans that you will soon send us more tips about selfcare and woodworking. You transmit good energy on internet. Please continue to start your videos with “sometimes” and use “beautiful” “perfect” etc. 🙂 Take care! Annie

  3. Good lick with the surgery, hope you recover soon, and back at the bench in short novice.

    best wishes,

  4. While it is your own life style which is at stake; all of your trainees hope it will be a success.

  5. Best wishes for a quick recovery Paul. I do hope that one day you might design and build a chair for us with arm rests. Preferably a round back chair that might go with your recent office desk? You have a few chairs offered in wwmc, but more suited to a dining room table. Any plans for something like this?

  6. courgettes, we would call that zucchini in the states, is that correct?
    Another word for Retirement ought to be invented, you haven’t retired from anything as far as I can see. I am also retired from corporate work but I’m doing more meaningful work and I’m working more than I ever did now I’m my own boss. ( He’s a great guy to work for but pretty demanding)
    20 MPH! I can’t ride my bike on the road by my house because people regularly do 60mph and more in a 35mph zone, it’s just not safe. I live out in the country away from the congestion it’s just how people drive nowadays.
    Good luck with the surgery, I was given some advice from a hand doctor to stop hitting my chisels with the heel of my palm. He said repeated use like that would damage my hand over time.

  7. Paul
    I had that same surgery several years ago and it really helps. I am certain you will recover nicely. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

  8. Paul, I truly hope the hand surgery is a success!

    Regarding retirement, I retired after 40 years in the computer industry (I HATE computers!), and I now work 6 days each week in the marine industry – I sell fishing boats. Trying to find time for woodworking is a challenge, but I manage to find a few minutes here and there. Luckily, my wife has decided that true retirement is not in the cards for me. Thanks to her for that. And, thanks to you for keeping me interested in woodworking. It is absolutely the most therapeutic activity I have ever enjoyed. It is made even better by you and your educational efforts. Thank you. Again, good luck with the hands… Mike in the USA…

  9. I am a retired woodworker (mainly boxes with dovetails) Like you I cycle regularly but also jog/run. I also have had Dupuytren’s in both hands for several years but so far untreated as it doesn’t seem to restrict me much yet. Thus I would be very interested in how your treatment goes. Take care.

  10. Prayers from Newfoundland Paul. My Dad in Kentucky had this surgery many years ago when it was a new thing and had to go to Florida to get the surgery. I believe a French surgeon trained the doctor in Florida. Anyway he also made it a fishing trip as well and came home relaxed and with new hands-the surgery worked great and he was a woodworker and carpenter/joiner part time his entire life and was very active until age 90 when he fell asleep in the Lord.

    We will all be watching your quick progress to “repaired” hands;)

  11. Good luck with the surgery old fella. I have the same issues on both hands that so far are not causing me any significant issues. Of course I am a lot younger, only 69 😂
    Thanks for all you do, and retirement should be the figment of every bodies imagination…

  12. Recently here in the US, they have been advertising a non-surgical treatment for Dupytren’s Contraction. You may want to look into that.

  13. Paul
    Yes, Having had both hands done will be a new test. but do not rush the healing, you can catch up when you are ready.

  14. Hello Paul. If that guy ever wants any bovver again, perhaps you could direct him to your 100,000 friends who could show him with a nicely dovetailed six-foot box. Your approach was better though – no bovver to you.

  15. Best wishes on the surgery. I wonderful man at church had this same issue. He plays the piano professionally. A series of shots have proven success for his situation.
    Understanding all situations are individual, wishing you the best.

  16. Paul, I’m reminded of another woodworker whose hands were nailed to a cross, but became the healing for all mankind. Your kindness and teachings have blessed us all. We are praying for your quick healing and recovery.

  17. Best wishes Paul!

    I’m sure you’ll be back in action very soon. You are such an inspiration to me, and many others. I retired four years ago from the computer industry and take a great deal of joy doing woodworking with hand tools. I did a good bit using machines for years, but no longer have the space required for all that equipment. When I discovered your YouTube channel I instantly knew what I wanted to do in my remaining years!
    Thank You so much for your lessons and the inspiration you provide!

    It is a true pleasure seeing your skills and your teaching ability!!


  18. I hope the surgery goes well, Paul. I have less faith in the medical community these days than in past years. Money governs, not the desire to get people healthy. Pharma wants permanent customers and offers “incentives” to doctors to use their products. A thought, you might consider using the dreaded power tools to do preliminary processing of the wood. It would give some relief to your hands. Do it off camera, we care little. You can still show complete hand tool wood processing for the educational aspect. It’s not an affront to ease the work with power tools, only to one’s pride maybe.

  19. Living in the same town as you Paul I’m truly shocked that someone, who must I guess be a local, would confront you in such a way. I too cycle as much as I can in the area but thankfully have never encountered anything of that nature.

    Best wishes to you for your upcoming surgery and hope you’ll be back at the bench soon.

  20. Glad to see you will be able to take advantage of the most recent methods in Dupetryn’s. 25 years ago all they did was cut a 4″ zigzag in my hands )separately and cut the offending growth out. I had one hand, the right, done twice and the left once. Your recovery will be a quarter of mine and that is a good thing!!!! Happy you will be continuing your work so we all can learn. Thanks

  21. At the risk of seeming insensitive after such an open article, your characterisation of weather forecasting is not borne out by the facts. A good example of this is how track prediction of hurricanes is much more accurate now than it was even a few decades ago, allowing for better forewarning for those unfortunate enough to face that destructive power. They also may take a different view on the risks and benefits of potential weather alteration, compared to the relatively benign UK climate.

    That to the side, I wish you the very best of luck with the surgery, and a rapid recovery.

  22. Good luck on the surgery. How do you plan to fill the time while you hands heal? I can’t imagine you just sitting around.

  23. I read the other day that this is a Viking thing.
    So you have Viking blood in you.
    I wish you well.

  24. Hi Paul, I am 73 going on 74 soon. I am sorry to hear about your hands. I was an engineer by trade and I had these knots in my hands. Matter of fact I could not even pick up a glass of water without the fear of dropping it. I told my doctor and he asked my nationality . I was Hungarian. He said it is common for me. Yes, my dad had it bad in his hands but made it to 92 with twisted fingers. So sad.
    My wife told me about something she read regarding hands and knees. She said I am taking you off all Deadly Night Shade vegetables. This was potatoes, (sweet potatoes are ok to eat and not in this group) tomatoes, eggplant, peppers. So no hot peppers or tomato sauce for me. I was desperate so I agreed for a short time. Within the first 4 weeks I was able to pick up my glass of water with no problem. 6 months I had new hands. Seriously my friend. I am not joking. I am not saying it will work for everyone but for me I gained all my strength back in my hands and all the knots melted away. No surgery! I wish I could have shared this with you sooner. My knees started also feeling better as well.. Now here 3 years later I will never eat deadly night shade vegetables again. I tried but the discomfort started to come back. So I am off them forever.
    I wish you the best. You are loved by many!

    1. Thank you for that bit of knowledge! If I had that problem I would most certainly try your suggestion!
      Doctors only want to prescribe a pill or surgery. I will give other methods an honest chance before ever letting anyone cut and slash on me. Pills and surgery are highly profitable; changing diet no so much.

      1. Assuming you are not in Europe and Britain in particular with an NHS we pay ahead for our healthcare by paying a national insurance paid by everyone of working age. It’s a very small percentage because everyone pays into it that earns an income. It is deducted at source so no one cannot pay. It’s work since 1948 so if you are fortunate enough to barely use it those that don’t pay alongside those that do. The doctors are not looking for work nor are they working for a money-making entity so it’s not anything like the USA systems. Pills and surgery are fairly priced and paid for well ahead by this small contribution we pay through the years. Doctors, dental care and such can of course be private if someone chooses that path in addition to national health payment. So, I am saying? You cannot measure the rest of the world by the USA model, if indeed that is what you are saying. It is not necessarily as you say in the bigger world of the world as whole.

        1. Did you say you are going to Derby for surgery? If so I’m surprised you could not find someone good to do it in Oxford. A family member had ground-breaking surgery at John Radcliffe, Oxford hospital, twice, probably saved their life, for which I will be for ever grateful
          The original, most spectacular, surgeon was Greek. I think he may have moved to Reading Hospital (?). But the whole team(s) is still special :). ENT not hands though.

          Re. Not feeling your age. I was hospitalised a couple of years ago, when I came round confused they asked me my age. I answered what I felt was my age but it was almost 20 years younger than my actual age!! 😀

          All the best Paul ;). You’re an inspiration to us all. 🙂

  25. Paul,

    I think of you always. You are one of the best teachers I have ever had and I have had many. You have a Way of teaching that is rare.

    Best of wishes on a speedy recovery.

  26. Dear Paul, sorry to hear about your up coming surgery. I’ve had multiple head surgeries. but lucky that I was able to have them done. best of luck an a very speedy recovery

  27. Good luck with your surgery! I look forward to your speedy recovery and return to the work you love. I enjoy your perspective on life in general and woodworking especially.

  28. MDF trees, oh no! Not to worry, as they wouldn’t survive the first rain. I was hiking yesterday, looking at the barren fall trees and wondered, maybe we have it upside down? Growth sprouts back from many stumps and fallen trees. Maybe trees are really subterranean organisms? Maybe the stuff we see just collects light and carbon, but the real business is underground. Above ground, we see individual trees, but below ground, it is a huge entanglement of roots. All one big organism, an interconnected mycorrhyzome. I was going to say those hands of yours look like roots and are the roots of your craft, but that’s not true, is it? Your craft comes from hands and heart, plus eye and brain. Rest well, sir! Get better and look forward to more craft. There is only one thing that concerns me. How will you drink tea while healing? Solve that, and you’re ready to go!

  29. Paul,
    Our best to you from central Indiana. I regular read your comments and learning to love woodworking!
    Steve Wertz

  30. Paul,

    You are not alone with DC in your hands. I was diagnosed last year, though I’m a few decades younger than you. Of course I wish you weren’t dealing with its inconveniences, though it is quite comforting to hear you also have it and it is not holding you back. You were the one that got me started on this woodworking journey and I’m very grateful for you. I hope you have an easy and pain free recovery.

  31. HI Paul, I wish you the best results and a successful recovery for your hand surgery. As an 81 year old myself and a retired physician, I have always followed my own physicians’ advice ( unlike most physicians) , to the letter, following my surgeries/ procedures and have had the expected results. Please do not rush your recovery, as any extra time spent recovering will be much less than if the procedure has to be repeated. I will be thinking about you and please share your post-op updates if you care to do that.
    Michael O’Brien, USA

  32. I hope your hand surgery goes well and you have complete dexterity once fully recovered.
    Riding a bike never gets old. It was liberating as a child and just as much so at 70. In terms of weather forecasting it’s the only job I know of that if you’re right only half the time you’re a genius.

  33. Like you I ride and can think of nothing better to blow away the cobwebs of life.
    Good luck with the procedure.

  34. Paul, my grandfather, father, and one of my aunts had problems with the tendons in the hand known as Dupuytren’s Contracture. My grandfather’s right hand was so curled he put his hammer into it with his left hand, which did not have anywhere near as severe a problem. My dad and my aunt both had surgery for it. It runs families, but I was lucky and have no problems, even at 72. My grandfather continued making fine furniture even with that contracture.

    1. The consultant did mention that this was more linked to manual work and I am not altogether sure how manual work fits today except I suppose they are making a distinction between people predominantly gripping hard with their hands throughout continual lifelong working be that with a pickaxe or a chisel and mallet and not working keyboards or less heavy work. I am more inclined to go along this line of thinking than any other so far as I have physically worked manually as amanual worker for 60 years and this contraction began two decades ago and has been exceptionally slow in my thinking.

  35. I do hope the operation goes well, I have now reached my retirement age, however I am still working assessing electrical apprentices towards their NVQ. As I look back I remember the 5 years of my woodworking classes and my CSE Grade 1 that I achieved and I still have some of my pieces that I made including a table which is now 50 years old and still going strong. I now look at the modern generation where they have to be taught at work on how to use hand tools. Modern education has forgotten about the arts and crafts and what a pair of hands and some tools, pencils, paint and a brush can create. I used to cycle however the roads and traffic are so dangerous that I no longer cycle.

  36. Hello Mr. Sellers,
    always a pleasure to read your words. I’m actually reading your book in the way to fead my passion for woodworking and also english training.
    I never take the time to comment your blog articles but this time, I recognise me moreover i’m riding my bike every day going to work, and all other activities as beekeeping, music and sports. Your story about the car driver is my daylife so that i couldn’t avoid laughing when reading it. I usually feel like an UFO in my country as it is the craddle of Peugeot brand so proud of prducing cars (but unfortunately forgotting billions of bicycles where produced here until 90’s).

    Not only as a bad joke, I cross the fingers for your easy and prompt recovering.

    I take the occaison to thank you for sharing your experience, mind, thoughts and passion and everything that goes around your stories.

  37. Regarding the statement “Imagine a world where science governs the weather”. But Paul it already IS doing so through the manner in which humanity had so thoughtlessly exploited the innovations that science brought to us!

    1. This is not really a political forum. While there is some evidence that your view may have some merit, correlation does not prove causation.

  38. Paul,

    Thank you for all you do for us. I wish you all the best and hope you have a speedy recovery.

  39. The father of a friend of mine is a well known hand/wrist surgeon. He’s in Perth and you have doctors closer, but on his web site he has a link to a video of Dupuytren’s fibrosis and the various treatments including surgery.
    I’ll post a link for anyone interested, though perhaps by now you’ve already had the surgery.
    Best wishes – I’m sure it’ll go well.

  40. This should be an edit on my comment which hasn’t posted yet, but I see from your You Tube that you are having one of the treatments with a needle rather than surgery. They can actually dissolve the fibrosis in many cases with just the needle. Doing this before you need more extensive surgery is a good idea.
    Oh, and it’s hereditary. It can skip generations so your parents may not have had it, but it’s in the family DNA.

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