How Opinions Confuse the Issues

I’m never quite sure that people always get it but I do understand and admire the willingness of those who want to be a solution for others. I’ve written about how little many opinions really count in the reality of life though. Often, in more recent times than ever before, I’ve found a marked increase in confusion surrounding a genuine request for some kind of solution to a frustrating problem and that then frustrates me the more because amongst the multitude of answers that right answer isn’t based on anything more than, well, someones opinion. And it can be this that the problems mostly occur. It was when I first began teaching and training my apprentices that I saw how generally good information could be misapplied to just about everything and then the things that someone experienced said can be misinterpreted to others. I once said that, in a misapplied and inappropriate function, a block plane was just about useless if people thought that a block plane would achieve the same results as say a bench plane for bench planing tasks; as though it is just a miniaturised version of the larger bench planes. This “dislike” (which I have never had) then became magnified as, “I know Paul Sellers hates block planes!” , which I of course, don’t at all. I love them for their limited functionality and I never never said such an outlandish thing. What I was trying to counter was the fact, and it is a fact, that a block plane cannot do the mass of tasks a basic #4 bevel-down smoothing plane can do in the levelling and truing of wood. Why? Because these two planes are very different animals. I can name a dozen such incidental offerings ranging from saw sharpening and saw choices to the realities of bevel-up and bevel-down plane functionalities. Mostly it is down-to-earth stuff I share on but that down-to-earth information is getting all the more buried in the detritus of internet information. I am always looking to present the prescience we gain from longer-term use and working that only comes through our working rather than an overnight success after which the advice given might just ruin something you are in the middle of making. I could no more imagine planing the outside faces of my recently auctioned oak box with a block plane or indeed any bevel up plane than flying to the moon. Yes, with great skill and much trouble, I could probably do it . . . but it would be a mostly unpleasant experience.

In a recent brief discourse on coping saws people stated that coping saw blades, by “tradition”, are or should be set up with the blade cutting on the pull stroke and not push. This is a source of general misinformation. Half a dozen contributors were stating the tensions were different on pull stroke and push stroke which is true, however, the ‘stretch’ between the two anchor points on the frame of the saw mean you can and should generally install the blade for push-stroke cutting to maximise power in the cuts, have the pencil or knife marks and lines facing you to cut to and minimise the breakout on the show face as you cut. Comparing the coping saw to other frame saws such as the jewellers, piercing and fretsaw is not a practical comparison because, again, generally, these saws will be used on an undercut pull stroke supported by an ‘L’ shaped platform. Now does that mean each should never be alternqted for some tasks? Of course not, but even using the term ‘traditionally’ adds a label like this is traditionally used as a pull-stroke saw which is factually untrue. Other things said, like “if the blade is loaded on the push stroke the saw will tend to wander” sound so authoritative even though there is no factual truth in the statement whatsoever.

In teaching and training over long periods and then being trained that way myself I eventually saw the need for the two books I wrote on woodworking. The first is out of print but is undergoing a thorough review and update as part of my agenda. But it was my Essential Woodworking Hand Tools that pulled everything out of me. Countering so many of the diverse claims and prejudices people have became essential to the book and this proved to be of the greatest value to those who bought and read the book since it came out in 2016. I am grateful to the thousands writing to say, “It’s the very best and most useful tool in the shop and it’s never too far from my workbench.” Teaching thousands of students in hands-on classes and workshops through the decades highlighted the need to counter the kind of legalism that gets passed down as fact for generations through copy-and-paste authors coming from a background of writing rather than making. This five hundred page tome came from my own lived life as a full time maker and user and less the writer in me. No one single item in the book was copied and pasted.

I once took a hacksaw and removed the whole side of a #4 Stanley bench plane to ascertain certain things that could not otherwise be actually seen and then too to prove certain points of view given as facts that were not facts at all. Such issues were being passed off in dozens of book publications giving me (and everyone else) the impression that there was nothing original in what was being published but that authors simply copied and pasted the same erroneous information. What I discovered by my need to know the truth enabled me to show that what was being said was often not the case at all and all the more that those gifted at spin were doing little more than perpetuating the same fallacies. If this was happening decades and even centuries ago, how much more is that happening through today’s internet presentations. Sales personel are well known to say just about anything to make what they ultimately solely aim for and that’s ‘the sale’. I wanted to still the noise and proliferation surrounding everything from retrofits with thick irons to micro-bevels, machine grinding and many more totally unnecessary practices so that YOU could make a more educated adventure into why you were doing what, with what, when what and on what.

I recall how many pieces made through centuries past spoke to me in different blog posts I’ve written. Some of the pieces, more than a handful, were the unwritten works of crafting artisans who rarely if ever wrote a thing in penned works about their craft. I learned more from one such ‘author’ fram the single table he made two centuries ago. I replicated that piece to prepare me to teach the making of it as a course in the making tables. I both learned and adopted many practices from that one piece and couldn’t add one iota to it. Another time, I came across a discarded wardrobe with sliding dovetails and in the making of a large cabinet the whole of the reasoning behind using sliding dovetails came to me in a flash. In the repair of a Gustav Stickley chair when I lived and made in Texas I learned about the rigid proportion and the systematic formula used to determine his version of his design and manufacturing of a simple and now classic dining chair. Such investigations will impact and educate us in the most remarkable ways.

Often it’s the excess of information combined with erroneous and thereby meaninglessnesses opinions leave with us. Whereas I respect the willingness of others to dive in and help, more often the erroneous comes from those who should and do know better. The questioner was looking very much for an answer to a frustration rather than the limited perspectives that might too often come from unmastered ability and naïveté. This person wrote in asking why their plane wasn’t working, stating that the throat of the plane was closed off and the plane sole merely burnished the wood he attempted to plane. This prompted a plethora of half decent reasons for the problem but none of the answers actually fit quite fully. For me the answer was immediate. I knew that he was either loading the whole cutting iron assembly upside down or at least the cutting iron installed onto the back iron (US chip-breaker) the wrong way. A couple of dozen opinions came in that didn’t fit the description the questioner gave. The first thing in my head was the cutting iron must somehow be upside down and that was indeed the case. The owner made the flip, installed it correctly and took off his sought-after onion-skin shavings. But it was the confident answers that troubled me. None of the answers really fit the problems he encountered because the slit-throat opening was the real clue from the outset. I dismissed all of the other possibilities straight off to isolate the real issue. Experience counts the most but my experience I am speaking of comes not from my own daily use of planes for sixty years but from the classes I taught as a special class for new owners and restorers. As part of my hands-on courses I used to dismantle the sixteen class planes taking all the parts out of the plane and placing them on the benchtop. After a demonstration, each student had to reassemble the planes. Fifty percent of the students got the plane iron installation wrong. They either put the whole assembly in upside down or connected the cutting iron to the cap iron the wrong way around so that the hump of the cap iron aligned with the heel of the bevel. This then became one of the most valuable lessons. By the end of that one-hour session everyone got it.

Of course, a missing ingredient in explaining his problem was whether the plane was a bevel-up or bevel-down version. But I knew the issue without that being said with words; the added information was obvious. It had to be a bevel-down plane for the simple reason that the blade of a bevel-up plane on a bed angle of 12º and with the cutting iron bevel of 30º with a cutting iron installed the wrong way up (bevel down) would put the cutting edge about a quarter-inch above the sole face––this alone would have disallowed any shaving being taken off by about a mile.


Over the years of blogging and teaching though, I have seen how things have changed. Ten or twelve years ago there would have been no answers coming forth to such questions. I am glad for this willingness to help. I hope to keep refining others with the help they need to answer the questions but to answer them more critically rather than amidst a the confusing mass of possibilities. The goal of any father will be to work himself out of a job so the children emerge as responsible adults. In this age of excess we can expect an excess of answers minus thoughtfulness. Giving out a dozen possibilities might seem helpful but most often we usually need just one or possibly two to hit the spot. Freedom to others comes not with plurality of answers but carefully considered thought-out versions. Had the recipient followed each answer it might have taken a week of remedial work but a correct answer solved the issue in a few seconds. Remember my using a screw to seat and secure a dovetail joint under a tabletop that would never be be removed in the next 200 years if ever? There came a hundred reasons that this was an extremely bad practice and should never be done because of the problems it ‘would‘ most definitely cause. With every one of comments so stated I realised how much had been passed down through recent generations to establish utterly erroneous and misleading beliefs. I do this so that I can simply keep working while the glue dries. It was a perfect solution that kept me able to work continuously on my project rather than have to wait a day for the glue to cure. For anyone reading those highly erroneous opinions it would take some disseminating of every single wrong opinion to gain the ground they needed.

A man I think was called Henry `Simmonds, a professor at the time, was commissioned by a body of businessmen to help them get more information to their customers. After some research he discovered what the real problem was. “It’s not that you don’t have enough information and you therefore need more. It’s that your customers don’t have enough attention time to disseminate what you already give them. The more information you give causes a dearth of attention, you see.” This was back in the pre-internet era of life. How much more is this the case today?


  1. there no substitute for experienc Paul uv seen and done it all , how many times do u serve you time as carpenter in a life time , alot I’ would say , thanks for helping

    1. I am careful not to think I already know this or that and cannot add to my knowledge by listening or watching others. I am just fortunate to know that almost everything I know came from a gang of men who kept nothing back nor left anything out over a five-year time span. They rarely if ever took credit for what they told me they just showed me and sought nothing more than enjoying the light-bulb moments as I grew. I have felt the same way through the decades, along with a gratitude for their humility to make sure what they knew didn’t die with them.

      1. I wish you could witness all the “light bulb” moments you have given me and so many others. God bless you, Paul Sellers.

      2. Shoshin (“a beginner’s mind”) and Shu-Ha-Ri (“experience before experimenting”) at its best.
        Thank you Paul, your APPROACH to woodworking and teaching has resonated with and thought me even more than your actual answers to specific questions.
        So glad you decided to share it with us 🙂

      3. Your comments regarding outside opinions is spot on. The same is present in my field, medicine. Amazing how Dr. Google as surpassed medical school training and detailed clinical data. I give.

      4. Hi Paul

        In your experience of your life’s work would you say hands on experience is the best way to refine your skill over time?

        Are you familiar of the learning concept of experiential learning?. Do you believe that craftsmanship is best developed by having hands on experience then reflecting on our actions afterwards and making the necessary corrections and repeating the process. If you’re unfamiliar with experiential learning and kolbs i would briefly search it up as I’m not sure i done it justice with my explaination.

        Or would you say obtaining conceptual knowledge through books and videos are necessary for improvement, which to a degree i suppose they are. But surely the conceptual theoretical knowledge cannot be in my estimations past 25 percent of mastery?

        Would love to hear your thoughts, great work as always.

        1. In all of the hands-on workshops I taught, around 6,500 students, along with my many apprentices through the years, and then my own apprenticeship too, We had one practice joint of the three main types and then made the project pertinent to the joint type. Planing came after reassembling an dismantled plane just once and then using the plane to plane a section of wood. From there in the students engaged fully in creating each project designed according to the joints; they made a box with dovetails with a hinged lid, a wall shelf with six housing dadoes and two tenons and a small chairside table. For this I allowed six days to completion of all three. The projects became the training. In my apprenticeship I learned to use the plane on pieces in progress from the minute of handling a plane…no practice time anywhere. This is how it’s been done for centuries. It works.

        2. I’ll weigh in with a bit of my own experience. Today, I know a LOT about woodworking. I have watched countless hours of videos, read thousands of articles and blog posts, I have listened to podcasts and I have done a lot of woodworking myself.
          There are techniques I have never tried myself, but I know “everything” about how to do them, so when I DO try them I know what I am attempting.
          The last example is half blind dovetails. So far in my life, I have made two joints with half blinds. I have done through dovetails a number of times, and can achieve very decent results – mostly straight off the saw.
          When I attempted half blinds, I followed the methods I have learned by watching videos and reading articles. The result was almost perfect, but with decent room for improvement. The next time I am going to try half blinds, I know what to do to improve. I expect the next set to be almost perfect, and well in the range of “good enough”. My first two half blinds was certainly “good enough” for the saw till I am building for my shop.

          If one does not have access to classes by skilled persons like Mr. Sellers, I think a combination of watching videos and reading articles is a very good foundation when one attempts to “teach oneself” something new (with a nod to a very good article about the subject of self teaching by Mr. Sellers!). For me it has certainly opened up a world of possibilities, and I have aquired skills I would never have learned had it not been for all those videos and articles.

          I think that often the obstacle is the fear of not being able to pull something off. We are afraid to try something, because we risk ruining the project we are working on. Wood can be expensive, so we hesitate. Perhaps we are suffering from a hint of Atelophobia*? This is the reason why I always discuss my failures in my own blog posts; I think seeing other people struggle a bit is a good thing. A comment I got after a recent concert with the band I play in, after we had to restart a song because we messed up a bit, was that “it is good to see that such talented people can make mistakes – it gives hope to the rest of us!”.

          I found that comment really comforting and assuring.

          *Atelophobia is an obsessive fear of imperfection. Someone with this condition is terrified of making mistakes. They tend to avoid any situation where they feel they won’t succeed.

          1. I re-read my post, and I may come off a bit arrogant – when I say “perfect”, I mean a good, strong joint with no visible gaps. I will have to make many, many dovetail joints before my efforts comes close to the quality experienced woodworkers achieve, but I am already at a level where the quality of my work is very good.

            I would not be the woodworker I am today, was it not for Paul Sellers and a select few others. Mainly Paul, but then again his body of work is matched by no one.

            Having the theoretical knowledge enables me to make educated attempts, and when something fails I (usually) know what to look for and what to do differently.
            I compare this to when I tried welding aluminium for the first time with my MIG welder. Not an easy task given the low melting point, but when I blew out the weld and made a big hole, I knew _what_ I did wrong. I fixed it, and the grinder made me the welder i was not – nor is today. 🙂

  2. I worked for several years during breaks at school who taught me lessons I now pass to my grandchildren. One was, “Well, I’ve never thought of it that way.” Another was, “if we make a mistake we can always just get another piece of timber and learn so the next one is better.”
    Now 50 years later I still miss Mr Amos, a kind man and a good friend.

  3. Hi a Paul,

    Great write up. Interesting reading.

    How are you doing, I don’t have to imagine what you went through. I was bashed in a side street when I was about 13 or so. Going to get a thickshake from a milk bar in Kings Cross, Sydney, Australia. This drunk guy with friends grabbed me and dragged me down an alley way and demanded all my money and watch. This was around 57 yrs ago. He kept trying to knee me in the goolies but I instinctively lowered my body so copped it in my stomach.

    He then took me back to the main Rd and his drunk mate and girls. Not satisfied he did it again. But not beforehand neighbours eldest daughter saw me with her boyfriend in tow. I obviously wasn’t but didn’t want them getting hurt. The neighbours brother I was originally with came back to find me but that must have been during the first bashing. I tried to indicate to the daughter somehow to get help but she missed my signals and they left.

    I went back home which wasn’t very far. To this day it’s something I will always remember as it could have been worse. I was badly bruised and bloody my parents could do nothing. I’m not a violent person on the contrary, I go out of my way to help people. Mightvbe why I became a general hospital trained Nurse. It’s a job I dearly miss.

    Hope you are doing OK considering?

    Did you read m6 post advising about grabbing a soft pillow and wrapping the sides around your ribcage and pulling in gently when you cough or sneeze. It does help.

    You are only 6 yrs older than me, so please do take care, have a rest and much needed rime spent with you family. All the best wishes for you and quiet enjoyable recovery.

    Oh yeah for got to mention, he got all of 50 cents and a few hits back from me. Plus and inexpensive watch, which I sawley missed.

    Best Regards and prays to you.

    1. You are a good man Peter. :). Your post made me think of the start of the film “Kiss-Ass”, which I partially watched last night. Unpleasant and sad – but I recall it turned out ok :D. You turned lemons into lemonade as our American friends sometimes say. 😉

  4. My personal perspective is that a good faith discussion means entering with a mind open to the possibility one might be wrong, and therefore capable of change. It also means listening or reading what a person is actually saying rather than what you might think they are saying.

    Quality discourse is framed by reference to verifiable facts, that is to say, premises that are true, and which are properly framed to lead logically to the conclusion one is trying to make.

    I don’t like to see arguments that start with ‘in my experience’ even if that person is someone I respect. Because that’s a sample size of one. And as tempting as it often is, one cannot generalise from the particular. You can’t reliably generalise even from a large sample. This is the white swan fallacy. For thousands of years it seemed all swans were white until Europeans arrived in Australia and found… black swans. Of course indigenous Australians knew all the time that the proposition that all swans are white was wrong. So it is perfectly possible to believe something ones entire life and be wrong about it.

    And ftr, I never made any claim about there being a ‘wrong’ way a blade should be oriented in a coping saw. I said only that having the teeth pointing towards the handle has a long tradition and its own reasoning, and to label people who advise it as ‘misinformed’ or ‘unqualified’ is itself wrong. It’s also not the right way to speak to or about people. And it is only that last consideration that lead me to comment on the matter at all, because in all other regards I consider the question trivial and of no meaningful consequence whatever.

  5. Hi Paul, I hope my unusually terse response to the coping saw/fret saw question yesterday did not prompt this article. I had the same question myself a few years ago, when I acquired some old coping and fret saws at a car boot sale and needed to cut several holes in my new homemade workbench to fit around some big and little pipes from upstairs. It took me a bit of research (probably including articles by that wonderful Paul Sellers fellow 😉 ). I bought some new blades for the saws and needed to work out which way to fit them normally (my conclusion from that research, and after a few broken blades 😀 , was that coping saw blades normally cut on the push but thinner fret saw blades are normally pulled back to cut, and when used “properly” (i.e. unlike me), are usually used vertically with an L-shaped support with a bird’s beak opening.

    I can see using them differently sometimes, as you suggest though.

    As best I can recall I ended up using a vintage turning saw for most of the cutting :D, and probably a coping saw for some of it.

    Great to hear you are updating your first book :). I have been given a book token again, and that’s exactly what I want!! Your Essential tools book is my favorite, along with the English translation of the late, great Wille Sundqvist’s excellent Swedish Carving Techniques book.[Fortunately my wife is willing to trade my book token for cash! :D]

  6. Thank you, Paul,

    It’s a good reminder to all of us to be a little more thoughtful about what, how, and when we share something. And in the age of “way too much information”, it is also a reminder to use our interpersonal filters effectively.

    Sometimes received wisdom is exactly that…Wisdom. And other times we should be a little questioning of anything that smacks of authority.

    I suppose the art is to know the difference!

  7. I tend to the mystical and have been so throughout the 80 years of my life , I have old tools and when I use them I think of the previous users , all of them much better workers than I am .( I am a guitar player by trade ) . I have a 3 ppi ripsaw that was used by an artisan who did bridge and wharf work , I am not strong enough to use it . I have the same man’s mortice chisels , chisels that look like pigstickers/tyre levers , they work so well and are designed to exactly do that one mortice job . The thing that rings in my head when my brain gets into its woodworking space is how small variations on the basic design of the tool make such a difference to the usage ( a number 4 work horse plane , a block plane , a number 78 , a router plane all variations on the one design) , these variations were instigated by working chippies , a long , productive , magical tradition that I am part of .

  8. Personally, I think the issue isn’t so much about too many opinions, but too many “absolute” answers; folks seem to want to give — and receive — absolute answers, as if an unconditional single answer to most questions.

    There’s an otherwise only mildly annoying you-tuber that ruins his videos by suffixing “the correct way” to the titles.

  9. For me when I was first learning how to set up a plane, the makers mark always faced up. Back 60 some years ago there wasn’t much available to use as a teaching aid. Few books and no Paul Sellers. Today we are flooded with information and yes some of the Utubers are rank amateurs who just want to be on your computer screen. Paul you are my hero, mentor, a person I had known for a lifetime. Thanks for what you do.

  10. The “conflict” over coping saw blades amuses me. In any frame saw, a thin blade under tension is always cutting by being pulled through the work by the frame. It doesn’t matter whether the frame is a coping saw, hack saw, German carpenter’s saw or Ruobo saw.

    Then there’s plane techniques. I agree that each plane has strengths and limits. I’d be at quite a loss fitting exterior trim for building restoration if without my bevel up block plane for large radius curves. The trick to that is to open the adjustable throat, extend the iron, and push the plane with the iron diagonal to the board. It solves a lot of problems for me up on the scaffolds.

    1. Aah but that is the contention, should a coping saw be pushed or pulled?! 😀 It can be used either way, as can a turning saw. But I tend to use those 2 saws cutting on the push stroke, usually, now
      But a finer blade fret saw (or jewellers’ saw) usually on the pull stroke, normally! 😀

      1. (I think) that the point being made here is that the actual blade always cuts on the pull regardless of if the saw itself is being pushed or pulled. A blade oriented away from the person is pulled through the wood by the far end of the saw when the saw is pushed. A blade oriented towards the person is pulled through the wood by the near end of the saw when it is pulled. Which way is better? My general experience leads me to believe that the expertise of the person far outweighs the limitations or benefits of particular techniques.

        1. Good point, I am Paul’s age and for years have been told the only way to use a coping saw was teeth pointed to handle, then I watched one of Paul’s videos and read Essential Woodworking book and tried it the other way. At first it was no way am I going to get this, but kept at it, now if cutting out dovetails or any work in the vise it is teeth away from handle, far superior. And I have another saw on hand to use in a stand table but the blade is the teeth to handle, and to me that’s perfect in that case. Just my own personnel experience, but glad I listened to someone with enough credibility to learn another way. And that is why we are all here.

        2. Surely every saw could be argued to be a push saw as the teeth that do the cutting are pushing into the wood, and push the waste wood out of the kerf. But in reality push or pull refers to what the user is doing with their hand when the saw is cutting.

  11. Wonderful and much needed piece. I am roughly the same age as you and well remember the ‘BI’ (before internet) era. I see the same things happening in two other areas; film photography and trombone playing, both of which I do. Too many uninformed opinions masquerading as authoritative answers. While I have been a ‘home handyman’ type of woodworker for decades I am not a trained or particularly skilled hand woodworker and as I have been a ‘full time amateur’ ie; retired, for ten years I am always looking to learn. I am much more skilled at photography and trombone playing (I majored in it) than woodworking, but considering my own frustration at the rash of uninformed stuff on the net regarding those subjects I can well understand yours.
    So I continue to learn about the mysteries of hand planes, chisels and joinery in general and I have been looking to sources like you to learn. Yes, at 72 I know I can continue to learn. Besides, I’m tired of the noise of power tools!

  12. Thankyou for shining a light on what must be frustrating and intimidating for those with an answerable question. There are far too many trolls, karens, and self-aggrandizing poobahs out there with nothing worthwhile to offer that insist on inflicting their ignorance on the rest of the world.
    On ahappier note, I am glad to hear you are recovering well. Godspeed.

  13. Paul
    I think when I am asked, that I do not know everything. It is not just age but I do have Seniority.
    So if what I talk about is an issue, to be used or tried. It is not the end of things but can be different than what the ask is.

  14. Opinions , sadly, there are more of them than people, by a large factor.
    Often offered out of a genuine desire to help , but they are rarely vetted against experience…. They are merely repeated.

    My Dad once told me “ when people tell you the ‘right way’ to do things, ask to see their work”

  15. Paul, I hope you are feeling better. It takes us young guys, I’m about a year and a half your junior, to mend and get back going than it used to. Even if we are active. I really enjoy your blogs, especially your teaching about woodworking techniques. Also your outlook on life as you sometimes share. In this blog was one of them: “The goal of any father will be to work himself out of a job so the children emerge as responsible adults.” It has been wonderful to see my children grow and become responsible adult, mostly better then myself, and to see the lightbulb come on.
    Thanks for all you do.

  16. I have always looked at the picture of that sliced plane of yours with wonderment. I learned to use a hand plane back in the 60’s in school but I never quite got it until later in life when I took up more hand tool woodworking (as a compliment to all my electric machines). What your sliced plane revealed to me was the important positions of the blade, the rear edge of the mouth and the frog. It seems all well and good that the frog can be adjusted to open or close the mouth but, as I came to realize from your picture—if the frog is set back enough so that it sits rearward to the back edge of the mouth then all the force to the back of the blade is not from the flat face of the frog but only given by the back edge of the mouth. I’ve found that the plane works better if the frog and the mouth rear edge are coplanar to the blade, so that each contributes to the support of the blade. This is one of the many things I’ve learned from you. I hope you are doing better. Too bad there are some not so nice people in the world. I continue to feel that most people are not like that.

  17. “… that then frustrates me the more because amongst the multitude of answers that right answer isn’t based on anything more than, well, someones opinion. ”

    Immunologists, virologists, biochemists, vaccinologists: “Tell us about it!”

  18. Hi Paul,
    Not related to this post per se, but a good place to mention it. Just saw an article in Nature in which archeologists found a wood item 500,000 years old that had what appeared to be woodworking marks on it. Predates homo sapiens (not sure what the predominate hominoid species was at the time). Thought you might find it interested. “Humanity” has been woodworking for a really long time.

  19. I really avoid talking about politics or beliefs, what seems simple is never simple.
    The thing is I’m just as guilty as the next guy in thinking my way is the correct way.
    After all I’ve lived long enough to have some experience in how things work!
    Sometimes I interject an opinion despite my knowing better and I pay for it.
    I give you a lot of credit for teaching your methods the way you do.
    Hope you are feeling better and on the mend.

  20. Sometimes in life, particularly if you’re young and poor, you don’t have any choice and a block plane is all you have. You’re right, a block plane won’t do what a number four or indeed a number seven will do but if it’s all you have it won’t stop you trying. In the days before YouTube, getting a tool to work a certain way wasn’t available, so you had to go and learn from your mistakes. Hard, and probably not the best way to learn, but the only way if that’s all that’s available. These days, I suffer the opposite problem, trying to reduce my workshop down to its minimum in order to move house and downsize it too, but just unable to let go of the larger tools such as my lovely old cabinet saw and good size bandsaw – even though I could now do these tasks by hand more slowly. As long as my health, allows anyway.

    1. Looking back at what my dad did in my youth with very basic tools now astounds me. His woodworking kit was a 1″ and 1/4″ firmer chisel, a coping saw, saw handle with interchangable blades, a good panel saw, a surform and a large but very basic block plane. Plus his head and hands.

  21. Love this > “It’s not that you don’t have enough information and you therefore need more. It’s that your customers don’t have enough attention time to disseminate what you already give them. The more information you give causes a dearth of attention, you see.”

    So true, and reminds me why my website no longer works after all these years, people still contact me asking the same old questions over and over, I’ve answered them all on my website pages but there’s now way too much information on there and no body wants to read through it all so they just contact me using my contact form instead. I spend a lot of time trying to make my job easier and I’ve achieved the opposite. I better get back to my emails! Never ending….

  22. “There’s an otherwise only mildly annoying you-tuber that ruins his videos by suffixing “the correct way” to the titles.”

    Yes, Bruce, to be in my 20s and so sure of myself. I hope he makes 70, then he will get it.

  23. Thanks Paul for all that you’ve done. What clicked for me 8ish years ago when I discovered you was that you have 50+ years working at the bench. Your knowledge wasn’t theoretical. As such, I just listed to you and ignored all others for about the first four years. Then, I started to see what others were saying (professional and amateur alike). Sure, there are different options but no easy way to understand vette the quality of the info. As such, I’ve gone back to mostly ignoring others and just paying attention to you. Sure, there are likely other valid ways and part of the fun is being at the bench and figuring something out when there is a unique situation that I need to find a different way.. I don’t think you’ve ever led me astray. There is much value in that.

  24. Nobody’s going to be able to accuse you of ever being short for words.

    I would have left it at “dag nam internet know it alls don’t know squat”.

  25. “I used to dismantle the sixteen class planes taking all the parts out of the plane and placing them on the benchtop. After a demonstration, each student had to reassemble the planes. Fifty percent of the students got the plane iron installation wrong. They either put the whole assembly in upside down or connected the cutting iron to the cap iron the wrong way around so that the hump of the cap iron aligned with the heel of the bevel. This then became one of the most valuable lessons. By the end of that one-hour session everyone got it.”

    When somebody spoke about his plane just burnishing the wood, I could not imagine his plane was not correctly assembled. That is why I suspected the absence of a relief angle (which I have experienced). I know, from one of your posts, a very small relief angle is enough but nevertheless indispensable.
    Now taking the time and making the little effort to search your blog and your videos would have prevented this incorrect assembly.

    Your teaching experience is invaluable.

    1. I had the same problem, having first dismantled, sharpened, and reassembled a bench plane at 11, 60 years ago, it never occurred to me that anyone would assemble one the wrong way around. But as an ex teacher, not woodwork, it perhaps should have. One very true saying was if you really want to understand a subject, teach it to others.

  26. Your first two sentences brought to my mind issues not limited to just woodworking. There is a desire for a simple solution to all problems in life. Most problems in life are not limited to one “surface”, and all “surfaces” need to be considered. In hand planing wood a simple “solution” would be to plane only one direction. But wood is complicated. Long grain is different than end grain, and the grain direction on a long edge can change.

  27. On balance, internet sources have been a huge benefit to me as I’ve climbed the learning curve. Eventually you sort out the craftsmen from the posers.
    A recent post from a beginner on a woodworking forum I visit asked, “where can I find some basic project designs to get started?”
    The first 4 responses from the resident experts on the site told him he should start by creating his own designs, beginning with learning to use Sketchup or some similar CAD software.
    Unfortunately, wading through this type of self serving nonsense is just part of the process. Still no free lunches, I guess, not even in the Information Age.

    1. And there you have it! Learn sketchup to take on woodworking projects when you want details of a project that you can develop your skills on trough making them. Hmm!
      You can see where their hearts are and also where the questioner’s is. The four “resident experts” had no clue nor any heart to be a solution. They didn’t listen because they couldn’t. Unfortunately, the questioner might just believe them and waste the next months learning what will be no solution at this stage in his searching at all.

  28. I do appreciate your opinion. I think many do, since you have such a large following.
    I was almost embarrassed when you mentioned burnishing the wood with the hand plane. I’m the one you were referring to. My father was an expert carpenter. But he never bothered to teach me how the various parts of a plane functioned, what they were for, and he never taught me by instruction and supervision how to use one correctly. But my first reaction was that you actually read my e-mail and responded to it. I feel appreciation that you took the time to do that.

    I’m slowly improving in wood working. My furniture projects and trinket boxes will never display the prowess and skill that you and your students have acquired. A friend tells me that all the flaws in my work give it character. I suppose woodworking is a lot like everything we do in life. It takes perseverance, encouragement, the ability to learn and follow direction and the ability to avoid perfectionism.

    I saw your video on tips to improve making dado joints with the simple tools at hand. Are these tips included in your book on woodworking? If they are it would be worth the money to buy it. I wondered where I could find the tiny plane that cuts both ways against the side wall of the joint. Thank you for all you do. And get well soon.

  29. As with my other passion of cycling, we always teach our junior riders, “souplesse” (french)
    defn, suppleness, agility, grace of movement.
    i.e., Let the tools dictate the amount of “brute force and ignorance” you impart.
    Eventually you will as Paul describes, “feel” the fibres of the material and the progress of the cutting edges.
    There are multiple levels of “knowing”, this comes from many years as has Paul and many missteps recognised, learned and corrected for the next attempt at a skill, generically called “experience”.
    I watch what Paul does, as intently as I listen and read, what he does.

Privacy Notice

You must enter certain information to submit the form on this page. We take the handling of personal information seriously and appreciate your trust in us. Our Privacy Policy sets out important information about us and how we use and protect your personal data and it also explains your legal rights in respect of it. Please click here to read it before you provide any information on this form.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *