The Missing Years . . .

. . . shadows of the past.

I’m often surprised by the clarity we have when something we did in the past comes back to us with such clarity yet we might not remember some things that are but minutes old. I recall seeing these shavings offered to the light so that we could see the textures of different wood types side by side along with the direction the plane or the scraper took with crystal-clear detail though it’s now 14 years ago.

Some of you have known, some have noticed and some have no idea. I’ve skirted around it a little with an occasional nod and nudge to a part of my life living as what is called a Resident Alien migrant in the USA––Texas in particular. I arrived for a preliminary first visit in the summer of 1984 and after that lived there until 2009. This then mid-part and most influential period of my working-age life is the most vivid and exciting even if the events were so all-consuming. From day one, starting out in the summer resort of Concan, Texas, I began working as a maker almost as soon as we landed. I needed a workbench and there on the living room floor of my rented house I started chopping mortises and fitting the tenons to them. This temporary home became my introduction to a new culture. The months and years soon to unfold were life-changing in blocks of time. Between my first visit and 2009, I learned what it was to be a Texan. The end result came in my returning to live and work in my native England. Not only did this period change my life, in no small measure it defined me as a person. The power of culture to change and define is seldom spoken of because usually we are so immersed in it, we don’t even see what it is that tells us what to say, what to cook and eat, buy, live by, live with and even live for. The work I took on in changing increments ultimately precipitated what I do today. Without it, I doubt what we do now would even have become possible.

Looking back, it was my craft that equipped and enabled me to do what I do today, and then subsequently thrive as I feel I do now. The 25 years of living and working in Texas left me with just £1,000. Much less than I started with. In order to survive on my return to the UK, I took a job for £10 an hour just to rent a house and pay for food. Any security I had had before 2009 was gone. The friends and associates I had there hardly spoke to me again to this day. These events and steps have shown me that we can give ourselves to an entity we feel to be wholly good only to find that it is nothing more than a cult. Nonetheless, we must all face the outcome of life after failure and heartache by picking up the pieces of self-examination and rebuild what can be reconstructed. My craft for me was the one sure calling on my life. I have always clearly said that we each have a calling and we either acknowledge it as that or we don’t. If and when we don’t, it doesn’t mean that the ‘voca‘, the voice calling, didn’t speak to us, just that we thought we knew better, or we were indeed misdirected or dissuaded by some other. This calling from my mid-youth still speaks to me now in the middle of my eighth decade. I have established a lifestyle as a woodworking master. The crafting of many things with my hands has been my life’s calling and thereby too my support for good health and contentedness.

I started my work back in the UK by establishing what would be my second woodworking school. Unbelievably, it was in the massive Neo-Norman castle in the village of Llandygai where I lived in North Wales.

Today, my work reaches a much larger audience than I thought it merited, but then that audience-in-search was and still is looking for what cannot be gained any other way. Surprisingly, there has been an emerging demand for what is now a specialised way of working. Somewhere around 1.5 million woodworkers every month clock in to my output with a large percentage now making woodwork work for them in their twilight hours of leisure time. These amateur woodworkers follow from different corners of the world. Who could have predicted such a thing? Who would have thought it could work? I recall walking across some remote ranch land in Texas somewhere in the mid ’80s when the man I was walking with said to me, “Paul, have you ever heard of something called ‘The World Wide Web?'” ‘No.’ I said, ‘What’s that?’

“Well, they say that people will be buying and selling on something called ‘online‘.”

‘That’ll never happen.’ I said.

It still took a few years from that date but here we are in its “brave new world” environs.

The Elm Mott, Texas workshop replete with two-person workbenches hosted sixteen students per workshop session.

Though I have often written blogs mentioning my mid-life passage there in Texas, my working full time as a furniture maker, teacher of woodturning and woodworking generally, I have kept much of that part of my work and life private. I did this for good reason. During that history, things unfolded that I now see as questionable. I felt at that time it was better to leave some of that past behind and start afresh here in the UK. Was I treated wrongly? Did I leave without good reason or did I run away? Well, we’ll see.

Developing the UK version for my next school happened in a North Wales Castle. This then became the prelude to our online work
I made ten workbenches midwinter in a rented farmyard as the snow fell. Making these enabled me to continue my important work to teach and train the next generation. Not easy to take your last pennies in the world and believe in your future sometimes.

My account of life there may take a few blog posts, but I think it will be worth it. The undone bits will show the paving stones that perhaps mapped some of my future as one of the so-called ‘gurus’ of woodworking. The undergirding of my current work began back there on that Texas ranchland. I hope to give you a better understanding of what happened through the ensuing years there and what my hopes became in doing what I am doing now. I have many fond memories of my life in Texas, but then along with those fond memories come some of the saddest too. Writing my biography these past few years has been about the foundation of my work, the losses along the way and then the outcome of my calling simply to be an artisan and craftsman. Some of the happenings along the way have made me question some of my own decisions but looking back I see how the challenges were necessary to see what things really were and what they were not. The thing I have learned through this more recent writing endeavour, my biography, is the need for absolute truth. Being brutally honest with yourself and without exaggeration or sensationalism is key to any record. That has been my hope in doing this. It’s on the anvil of adversity that character is formed. The outcome of my 74 years will be mapped out in the completion of my autobiography. In the meantime, I want to fill in the gaps for those who might just wonder what happened in those middle lost years of Texas living and indeed my whole life.


  1. Even if sparse, what little you told us, so far, of your life in the US, has always resonate with me.
    I lived in the US for a shorter time than you, 2013 to 2021, and this few years were, undoubtly, transformative.

    I was one month short of celebrating my 30th birthday when I arrived in Minnesota, and close to my forties went I came back. My “real” adult life began there. This is where I had to get by without any family (except my beloved wife). This is where I became a dad. This is where my life changed.

    This is also were I started woodworking.
    I met a few wood-carvers in MN, and decided I wanted to try my hand at whitling. Something I was curious about since childhood. With a knife in my hand, I realized how easy it was to cut wood with a keen blade. And I started to wonder about cutting dovetails with only a blade. After all, there were no machines in the XVIIIth century !
    I then fell into a rabbit hole, and ended up, as many, watching a british man building a workbench in his backyard. My woodworking journey then began, thanks to you, first and foremost, and also to being in the US in no uncertain manner.
    Tools were aplenty, wood was easy to come by and quite cheap, and I had space and time to practice and learn.

    Living in the US had it’s challenges. And times were often dark along the way. But I’m also quite sure I would never have picked up a chisel, had I stayed in Europe. And my woodworking journey definitely shaped the way I approach life.
    And so my woodworking will always be tied to you and the US (I still use imperial, even now that I crossed back the pond).

    It’s been almost three years since I’ve been back in France. Part of me still lives in the US and I long for the plains, the lakes, the woods and lots of parts of the life I had there (I’ll even dare say the Freedom, even if I had many arguments on that matters with some Americans).

    I think Townes Van Zandt express it better than I ever will on “To live is to fly”:

    Days, up and down they come
    Like rain on a conga drum
    Forget most, remember some
    But don’t turn none away.
    Everything is not enough
    And nothin’ is to much to bear.
    Where you’ve been is good and gone
    All you keep is the getting there.
    To live is to fly
    Low and high,
    So shake the dust off of your wings
    And the sleep out of your eyes.
    Goodbye to all my friends
    It’s time to go again
    Think of all the poetry
    And the pickin’ down the line
    I’ll miss the system here
    The bottom’s low
    And the treble’s clear
    But it don’t pay to think to much
    On things you leave behind.

    1. “ my calling simply to be an artisan and craftsman“

      This Saturday some people knocked on my collective shop door. They came in saying they were afraid to disturb me, but where fashinated by me working… I was pairing a glued border from shelves, by using my donated Stanley 4 plane.

      We chatted, I answered to tehir questions, reassured them that I lock the door just for safety because of running machinery and one of them asked how much my spintops were. He bought one and gave it as a gift to the little girl of the other family.
      We talked and shared moments nobody can buy or plan. Kindness, generosity, the bless of sharing, a slow time to be together.
      In the middle of it I said “I have an artisan heart. I am an artisan and want to live and eventually die as an artisan.”
      While we talked, the little girl had learned how to make the top spin on the floor.

      Dear Paul: you and your team played a key role in making this possible.
      I started and learned through your videos, I persisted because of the joy you showed while working, because of your encouragement.
      In the midst of some of my most sad and tragic years, you have been a master… and a friend.
      One fellow once said that you are “the grandpa of all us digital woodworkers scattered across the web”. Having already lost my grandparents and my mother too, this definition was especially warm and comforting for me.

      If you ever came to Turin, remember my shop is waiting for you.
      Thanks for everything.

      1. What a lovely post you have written Valentina. Thank you.
        Michael, Alabama, USA

  2. In my twilight years I realised that I like woodworking.
    I started a bit of woodworking a couple of years back, but stopped due to my back problems, and now it seems dear Paul has waken me up!
    To live is to fly
    Low and high
    made me think of my late brother who always wanted to be free like a bird.

  3. Paul, I took the introduction to hand planes class and then the foundational woodworking class from you in Waco and they were transformative. I don’t mean life changing like getting married, having children or my Christian faith, but transformative in the sense it has provided a creative outlet that allows me to work with my hands and to escape into the solitude of my shop. I am very thankful for meeting you and having taken these classes. I was always perplexed as to why you left Texas. And although I love England, the English people, and its history (having spent a considerable amount of time there), it was my impression that you were well settled into your adopted Texas home. I am very glad that we get to hear from you weekly but miss having you an hour or so down the road from my home in central Texas.

    1. Mike, except for our different names, your reply to Paul would’ve been mine. I also met Paul in Waco by taking some introduction to hand tool woodworking classes. It was a pleasure and a joy to get to know him and talk with him. And I also have wondered why he left to return to the UK. But spending that time with him gave me the opportunity to experience what it’s like using hand tools in a quiet, small shop in my twilight years, as he puts it. We’re both blessed to have met Paul.

  4. Good morning everyone.
    In half an hour or so I will deliver the pine blanket chest I’ve just made for a lady friend. It took a while because I have used only hand tools and had to learn quite a bit along the way, which means I had to completely remake several bits that I messed up irredeemably.
    None of this would have been possible without Paul’s patience and teaching, and most importantly his inspiration.
    It’s nothing special – a very plain piece in cheap white pine, but I’m pleased with it. I can seldom afford the wood I’d like to work and I have only basic tools, but they are enough and I have trained myself to resist collecting more from the dreaded WWW!
    At 67 years it’s been a surprise to find that, yes – I can do respectable joinery after all.
    (Not to Paul’s standard of course; I ain’t gonna live that long!)
    Apart from the benefit to me of maintaining a work ethic after being rather unwillingly retired, my workshop has become the haven of utter peace and tranquility that no professional job I ever had gave me.
    I had a thought yesterday. That chest (barring accidents) will be pretty much the same as today two or three hundred years after I am dust. Who would want a better memorial?

  5. I haven’t moved more than 60 yards in the past 68 years.
    Not that I haven’t traveled the world but I never found a better place to establish myself.
    At one time in my youth I thought I could leave my past behind and start anew. As I traveled the U.S. I came to realize that I couldn’t run from what I had become and where I was headed if I didn’t change my attitude and build some different skill sets. In the land of steady habits I became steady , disciplined and confident. Yes I made mistakes and I still do but that’s the nature of being human. I marvel at people who pull up stakes and move thousands of miles to live in a new place only to do it again!

    1. It isn’t so easy a decision and something usually precipitates so massive a move. There should be some good reason to do such a thing rather than some smug, “It was there so I did it.” There is a thread woven through my history that always anchored me that I seldom see others as having. I was never a free spirit choosing this way and that according to some whim. My background equipped me to survive be that rough social housing throughout my childhood, the schools I attended where I mainly felt rejection, manipulation, meritocratic acceptance of the more elite and corporal punishment for each slow learner or the disabled. The greatest gifts to me were the physical and mental ability to work with my hands, to write and to draw and to love every single form of art and craft no matter what. These undergirded my passage to and from the USA, the life before and the life since. The USA was a very freeing experience in many ways and my hope is that this will come through the pages of my book. This week we found a freelance editor who has agreed to make my writing more readable. We will see. Life is extremely good, my friends.

      1. More readable?
        Are you kidding? Paul you may be a gold standard woodworker, but please don’t sell yourself short in the writing department. I rarely watch your videos online but I NEVER skip over a written piece that you’ve done. I understand the need for a second set of eyes so as to prevent spelling errors and such, but please don’t allow the individual to change your perfectly fine means of written communication.
        Also best wishes on a speedy recovery from your recent altercation. Sometimes it’s not a nice world out there. I’m glad you’re okay. Love & light my friend.

        1. I agree, Paul really has a way with words. I, too, can’t see how anyone could make him more readable. Like you, I read more that Paul has to say than I hear him say in a video. I think both venues are excellent, but I don’t look forward to a video the way I do to his next blog post.

      2. I’m left handed and suffered quite a lot all through my school years. It was considered back then to be a mental or attitude problem that required “fixing”. My teachers applied that theory with gusto to the four of us who were lefties. Their efforts destroyed my ability to write legibly. Years later in Southeast Asia I taught myself how to write all over again. Getting past those years of persecution took time and effort to come out of it without resentment.

        1. Sad days are hopefully past but often mass educating in the past did not cater to individualistic needs. I am glad you took time to retrain yourself and found peace in it. I watch Hannah work and often see how things work the opposite way to what makes sense to me. I never questioned her left handedness once. She is one of the best woodworkers I know simply because she is who she is and was born to be.

  6. “The friends and associates I had there hardly spoke to me again to this day. These events and steps have shown me that we can give ourselves to an entity we feel to be wholly good only to find that it is nothing more than a cult. “

    You got me interested with these cryptic sentences. Please tell us more about the “cult” you speak of.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing this Paul, and I so look forward additional installments of the story. I would most definitely purchase your autobiography if it’s ever available. I have often wondered about the Texas years, and what attracted you there initially, as well as what prompted your return to England, the “missing years” as you’ve titled it.

    I’m so glad your thriving now, and were able to make “lemonade from the lemon”.

    God bless you for all you contribute to our craft.

  8. Paul,

    I am one of those you spoke of, discovering woodworking with hand tools later in life as I contemplate retirement. I have always worked with my hands and enjoy looking back at the end of the day, seeing what inhave created. You are a large part of my success and passion for this craft.

    I sensed a touch of sadness when you wrote about your “friends” in Texas you seldom hear from. I have found if you loan a friend $100 and then never hear from them again, it was probably worth the investment. Friends are interested in what they can give, acquaintances in what they can get.

    Keep doing what you are doing as long as it gives you pleasure and fulfillment. There are a lot of people who enjoy learning from you and you are passing along knowledge that will be lost without your gift. Many people can Do. Very few can Teach.

    1. That is exactly the reason I watch and read Paul. There are plenty of excellent woodworkers on the web but I’ve found few who can teach. At least teach as well as Paul. Many of them act as if they’re in a race. They try to teach by demonstrating how quickly they can make a joint, for example. Or they have an uppity attitude. Paul takes his time, shows the details and the reason for doing something a certain way. A master woodworker he is but a master teacher is what snagged me.

  9. Paul,
    Ironically for me, your time in Waco gave it credibility in my mind. I’m also in Texas, and have known well of your former community. But for me, I almost dismissed the notion that there was more to it than meets the eye from nothing more than your association. “Paul was there, so it can’t be bad…” That said, we (at least me) often learn the most from our hardships. All the best to you sir.

  10. Paul,
    I moved to Australia, from the UK, to be with a girlfriend, thinking, “How different can it be? They drive on the left and speak English, right?”
    The “English” was different. The height of the curbs was different, I’d trip crossing the road. The texture of foliage was different. North was that way, not this way, I lost my bump of direction. It took a couple of years to settle down.
    Live happened, and I moved to the US. First Alabama, now California. I’ve lived in three countries and Alabama. And a total of thirty-three moves. That’s enough. The move to America was easier, I knew there would be much to get used to. It was the Obama era, so I arrived full of hope. It’s been a daily disappointment ever since. The US is in decline.
    Then the pandemic prompted early retirement, and like so many others, I sank into YouTube, where many, many woodworkers referenced this English guy, Paul Sellers, as the OG hand-tool dude. Indeed.
    I once trained as a cabinet-maker, but it was a romantic pipedream at the time. Now I’m retired, I’m spending time and money regaining, and actually using, my woodworking skills, prompted to act by your videos.
    I’m aware of a whole life behind me, and now, and to come, as I see perfect planed curls reveal a piece I had in mind that was there all along, waiting. It’s very, very satisfying.
    Thank you.

    1. Paul,

      Your writing style mimics you video teaching style. Easy to read and comprehend. There’s nothing that a ghost writer could do to youbwritings that you haven’t already done.

      I watch a few different YouTube channels about woodworking and jewellery making, silver smithing. None can compare to your easy laid back style. It is interesting watching so many others, putting inntheir knife walls and pairing out that little slivercof woodc along the line. Readying it to set the saw in place. And low and behold out comes acknowledgement of you Paul Sellers as the one they were inspired by to adopt this process.

      You affect so many lives around the world with you videos, it’s like being a fl6bon your shoulder. Watching your everybody, compartmentalising sections that you teach for future referencing.

      Your writings have a certain degree of poetry to them. Leaving customers wanting more but knowing what little you have written is just one page ofcmany you havevl8ned up to share in the future. These pages you write are the prelude to a bigger book you have planned that will expand on the pages you have already written.

      I was so happy to know you were ok after what happened tonyou, just like many thousands of others around the globe were. I’m sure we would all have come together to support you in any way we could hadcthe need arose. we were all concerned and angry I would think that something like that could happen to such a gentle soul. Unfortunately it’s the gentle ones that oh so oftenbl are treated in such a way as you were.

      Hoping your recovery is going well. Don’t forget the pillow around the side your broken ribs are, tighten up on that if you need to cough or sneeze. It’s an old Nursing trick, I’m an old retired Hospital Trained General Nurse. Now tinkering with woodworking and jewellery making.

      Wishing you all the best and a speedy recovery, well as quick as bones will let you.

  11. I’m between Austin and College Station Texas. I now think I must have met you sometime in the late 80’s or early 90’s.

    I’m getting back into woodworking as a retired engineer, and recently found your YouTube… So familiar I thought.

    Thanks for the great teaching. I look forward to the woodworking book being available in the future.

  12. Thank you for sharing this part of your life. As a private person I would find it difficult to express myself publicly, especially when the story isn’t perfect and all roses. I am very new to woodworking and hand woodworking as one of the hobbyists now in my 50s. Your book Essential Woodworking Hand Tools and online videos have been a great help in my beginning journey. Trying to get started was confusing with all the opinions online, books, and articles. I have to admit I’ve purchased a few things that weren’t necessary or needed in the beginning while watching other people. I think what sets you apart is a genuine love of your craft. I think this love comes through every time I read or watch as you are inviting us into this wonderful craft. My wife and I have a saying that I rarely share anymore, because people usually have a blank stare or a twisted facial expression. The saying is “we were lucky and didn’t know it”. It usually revolves around things that didn’t work out small or life changing. However, that event or twist put us on a path that we wouldn’t be on or wouldn’t change if we could. This doesn’t apply to everything, but there are moments that give us pause that we are grateful even if odd on the surface. I think you are an amazing person. The courage to leave one’s native country for many years. To start over multiple times with almost no money. To be able to share your experience and love of your craft with the world is extraordinary. I think many students that attended the other schools you mentioned would have crumbled under the pressure. When published I look forward to learning more about your life’s journey. I’m glad to hear you are on the mend with your hands and your recent incident.

  13. Another PS book? Great, l look forward to reading your autobiography Paul. Already it’s not what I expected, it sounds intriguing. Also I’m curious as to how and why you moved to the USA, perhaps the biography will explain. (I moved there a few years later.)

    BTW I was not a good or keen woodworker in my youth. But I have always admired those who could work wood. So thank you Paul for kindling and nurturing my rather late interest. 🙂 And sharing the details that others don’t or can’t.

  14. From the time of our birth, we peer out from our prison of bone at this wondrous world, from those early days, sounds, colours. textures, smells, vibrations all so captivating. Then in very short time we learn to manipulate all of those things, we turn sounds into words and songs and music, colours into paintings, smells into perfumes, textures into clothing, the bones of trees into things of beauty. How magnificent it would be to live long enough to learn all of those crafts, those skills. From my hiding place in my workshop 40 years past , through the window, I watched my two year old son, armed with a tea towel come out onto the veranda, stare in fascination at the movement of the leaves in the trees from the push of the invisible breeze, then hold the tea towel high to capture the movement of the breeze, the unseen but felt power of it. The wonder in his infant eyes a thing of beauty that stays with me still. To watch a craftsman like yourself who understands the simple beauty and texture of things and the moulding and capture of that beauty brings back to me my sons quest to capture that breeze. Love your work.

  15. Hello Paul, I admire just about every project I have seen of yours on uTube. Based on your advice I have assembled a starter toolkit and I am keen to build a workbench but I have retired to France and all my woodworking knowledge in the UK is of little use to me here. Short of going to the UK and buying structural timber I need to understand what I can use from France. The equivalent of Wicks here has Douglas fir stored under cover inside a warehouse but it is a maximum of 1 inch thick PAR and for an 8 inch wide board costs about 5 pounds a foot. Outside under cover (equivalent to air dried I guess) they seem to have thicker planks more like 4 by 2s but presumably less dry than the interior stored thinner stuff (which is anyway all bowed and cupped). Is this a possibility? I know how to source and grade plywood in the UK but again it is more difficult to source than in the UK. If it helps my bench will normally share my laundry room but in fair weather I would like to haul it outside for use under a car port. So I guess my problem is understanding humidity for my use case. Any suggestions would be gratefully received.

    1. I think you could use some advice from someone in woodworking there in France. is it possible to search for a carpenter as in atelier woodworker, what we might consider a studio maker? All woods can be planed and trued but when cupped and bowed, twisted and such, we lose a big percentage and of course the work can be arduous too. Maybe someone in France cane help if they read this?

    2. Hi Mike,

      I’m a woodworker in France, but started my woodworking journey in the US.
      I wish I had some good news but, unfortunately, structural timber offering in France is really poor compared to what I got used to… It’s been three years since I came back here, and I have’t been able to find anything that can compare to a good old 2×4. That’s probably has to do with house building tradition in France (more stonework and concrete).

      Thankfully, I did bring back my workbech with me from the US, and has learned to get by without 2×4 (and black cherry). I think your best bet would be to go and visit a local wood mill. The small family ones, with cheap prices, generally doesn’t have any kind of website. If you live aroud Haute-Vienne (pretty popular among british people it seems), you can find plenty of them in the countryside.

      1. Hi Michael, things are looking up a bit. I found some sawmills on Google and emailed them. Non sold to individuals but one recommended Partedis which is 3km from my house and they have 6×2 Douglas Fir in lengths ranging from 3-5 metres. They seem good enough for building a workbench base and a 3 metre length costs 7 euros and compared to the brico depot offering that is exceptionally good value and unlike the brico depot 6×1 they are not warped or split. They also stock decent oak planks for about 70 euro each so I have a source to get me going. What amazes me is that if I want decent French produced beech planks at a reasonable price then the best option is to order them in the UK and bring them back to France – they cost about twice as much as the Brico dépôt Fir but they are twice as thick and beech. As I will only be making furniture items regular trips to the UK for wood seems to be my way ahead. I can bring back 300 euro of wood or tools without being taxed unlike Pauls router kit that I had posted to me and I got hit with a 20 euro tax bill. But it still represents good value for money.

        1. by the way better quality 6×1 was available at brico depot but it was 28 euro for a 3 metre length which is very expensive if I have to laminate it up to get a decent set of legs and stretchers made.

        2. It seems as though someone might start a business selling lumber by buying in and setting up. We buy French Oak from France for half the price you buy Douglas fir. A two-by-four, eight-footer (2.4M) CLS stud is around £5. It seems strange but it’s a bit like buying pecans in Texas where they cost twice as much from the orchard store than they do in the supermarkets here when they’ve traveled 5,000.

          1. Hi Paul, a quick question if you don’t mind. Firstly I hope you are fine, a friend of mine was attacked on his bike and it left him slightly nervous. The only way I could get kiln dried untreated timber was to buy a 16foot plank of sawn Douglas Fir with a cross section of 9x3inches cost £50 which I thought was fine. I intend using it to make 4 stout legs with stretchers masquerading as trestles just like your design. I cut the timber to length using your recommended Spear and Jackson panel saws but before ripping and laminating I am puzzled. The timber is fine but because it was flat sawn the rings include the centre of the tree which I understand can be a problem. They are sitting in my house while they settle down. My plan is to rip two 4.5x3x36 inch lengths then plane them up and laminate them back to back to end up with a 4.5×6 inch leg which I could resize with a finished cross section of about 5×3.75 inches. Will they be sufficiently massive not to warp or should I cut them and laminate them differently. Once I have built these I will buy another plank and complete the workbench which will be massive and will probably include a great deal of blood, sweat and tears. But as a learning process it will be an ideal and inexpensive project.

  16. Paul,
    I started watching when you were in the castle and have watched as much as possible on YouTube. You have been a wealth of information even though I’ve bee woodworking in my basement for over 50 years. Congratulations and I look forward to continuing watching and reading your work.
    Myron Swenson

  17. Paul,

    After I met you in New Jersey at a woodworking show I decided to Google you. I found you had a web site and were starting a Masterclass on woodworking. I signed up and started to learn hand tools. Soon after I searched for you on YouTube. I saw you chop a mortis and tenon. I think I watched that video 100 times to learn all the details. I was forever hooked. One reason is you have a Way of teaching (I think you gave a hint on your Way). I realized a small spark of understanding. That small spark grew as time went on. Your time in Texas always intrigued me. I look forward to your biography. As for your leaving Texas, well, I travel all over the United States and I meet people from every state. You made the correct decision.

  18. Paul
    I am one of those who have lived a life about what I thought had to be done in the community.
    In Ontario Canada. Now at [86], I’m trying to find the time to start woodworking after spending about 5 years finding woodworking tools.
    I have changed my thinking that I am getting old. I think I just have [when asked] more seniority than those who ask.

  19. Hello Paul, Interesting that you spent time in the US, I too had three years in Norfolk, Virginia as a teenager, ’53 –’56, when my RAF father was posted to the US Navy HQ Eastern Command as RAF Liaison Officer.

    I left Watford Grammar school, a school of about 190 pupils and went first to Granby High School in Norfolk which had over 2000 pupils, quite a change!

    I too had a life changing experience that I have never forgotten and as a result I am always comfortable when back in the US as I have been on several occasions for work, including 6 months in San Diego.

    Lancefield, Victoria, Australia

  20. I look forward to hearing more about your time in Texas!

    I took a class at your Waco school, unfortunately after you left. I received oddly vague replies when I asked the teacher about you.

    I’m grateful to own one of your pieces. I wandered into an antique store in Johnson City,TX one day and picked up a bandsaw box with a fish shaped drawer and to my surprise it had your autograph on the bottom!

    I teach children hand tool woodworking now in NY thanks to all the lessons I learned from watching you. Thanks Paul!

  21. Like you Paul, I moved a long way away, from Santa Fe New Mexico to Nome Alaska. I was 21 at the time, and was going through a hurtful time in my life. I stayed there for 23 years and was very happy and feel fortunate to be accepted by the Inupiaq community. There came a time to move on though, so I moved to Anchorage. For the past 22 years I have immersed myself in a new culture. My life has been incredibly rich because of this and I am truly grateful for every second of it. Lately one of the greatest blessings has been my retirement and making… Thank you Paul!
    PS I have worked with wood since I was a child at my father’s side

  22. Paul:
    Where I attended college 50 years ago it was drilled into us that regardless of what line of work we chose to go into, to be successful, you have to be able to communicate both verbally and in writing. So just about every class, regardless of subject, required a paper and an oral presentation. While no one disputes that you are a master craftsman, Paul I believe your greatest skill is being a master communicator. You have a beautiful, natural way of writing that is very engaging and alive. I understand the need for an editor to clean things up, but please let the writing stay completely you. As for your videos, you have the knack of making us feel like you are doing one on one instruction on some aspect of woodworking that is laid out in such a manner that it becomes doable for us.

  23. Hello Paul,

    I just want to say that, as a retired University Professor (Philosophy) and a nascent hand tool-only woodworker, you have become not merely my role model but my hero. There are several reasons for this that I have neither space nor time to get into sufficiently. But I will mention that, for me, your writing and your teaching—as well as what can be made of your “philosophy of life and work”—are SECOND TO NONE. I truly believe that. And you’ve noticed that I haven’t even mentioned your craft, your art, your workmanship! Well, to me, those things go without saying. Besides, you are a Master of Woodworking. But my point is you’re also a Master of writing, of teaching, and of the philosophy of living and working (and I’m sure of other things as well). Perhaps at some point you can explain (if you haven’t already) how these things (the writing, teaching, and philosophy) either undergird or flow from (or both) your masterful woodworking. The question, at least for me, isn’t as simple and straightforward as it may seem! In closing (apologies for the long message), thank you for who you are and what you do—in all respects. I may never enjoy the opportunity of meeting you, but these thoughts have been burning both in my head and heart.

  24. I have been waiting years to learn the story of the two magnificent Sellers pieces in the White House. On this side of the Atlantic it doesn’t get much better than that.

  25. Looking forward to these posts. I’ve been curious about your time in Texas, and the economics are a relevant point both for the aspiring full-time woodworker and hobbyist alike. Thanks for being willing to share this chapter of your life just as you have shared and continue to share so many invaluable things about woodworking.

  26. Thank you Paul for sharing this bit of your United States work and life history. I will be looking forward to whatever more of it you wish to share. I lived in Texas from 1969-1973 while in the United States Air Force doing my medical residency there. So I understand about the local and different culture there, and what you write of your time in Texas rings bells of interest for me.

  27. Hi Paul,

    This is very interesting reading!
    I hope the times I spent with you are among your happy memories 🙂
    I will certainly never forget the wonderful experiences I had learning
    woodworking in your classes at Elm Mott.
    Those were some of the most peaceful days I can remember.

    Bruce Willman
    Austin, TX

    1. Hi Paul,

      Thanks to Bruce, I also attended your classes in Elm Mott. I thought I knew woodworking, having reading Fine Woodworking for 20 years, 🙂 but soon realized I knew so very little! I was astounded at the precision that is possible with proper hand tool techniques. I’m sorry to hear it was not under good circumstances for you.

      Thank you for sharing your knowledge with me and the world. You are a very generous person.

      Dean Hohman

  28. When you say “The friends and associates I had there hardly spoke to me again to this day”…I take issue and hope that there are some of us still appreciative of the time enjoyed together with you in Elm Mott. We each have our own autobiography which is solely our own. Clearly yours has endured and is still unfolding. Cling to your faith and trust that God has yours and the rest of of our purposes well planned, in spite of our obstinance, impatience, and other human hindrances. Carry on Paul and know that I treasure your time invested here in Texas.

    1. Ah, I understand. And, no. It could be read in what I wrote as being the whole of Texas and that was far from the case so thank you for this, Richard. I am specifically speaking of those I served within the very local and insular community for nigh on 20 years. After I had left, with 24/7 involvement day in day out in the community, I’ve have hardly heard from anyone in any meaningful way since. Beyond that, I do hear from many a Texan with very warm well-wishing and thanks on a regular basis.

  29. OK, I’m curious. I’ve often thought that part of Texas was an odd place for a master woodworker. No offense to Texans, but I imagine you would have made more money elsewhere in the States. But felt you must have your reasons.

    1. Ah, that’s a fairly common mistake for a majority of job seekers. I didn’t do any of what I did for “more money”. In fact I didn’t do what I did and nor do I now do what I do for money though I do earn a living from my work. If that was the case though, I would allow sponsors and advertisers into my work but I like to keep myself and my work focussed on woodworkers who want an alternative knowing that I can pass on my craft more freely and transparently this way. Texas was as good as anywhere to be. If I chose to go to the states this year, and I have, if I can make it, it would likely be to Texas.

  30. I was told or saw a story on local TV (Waco) that at this” Christian community”at the age of 5 boys were given a choice of doing farming or woodworking and given training in these fields. I know I have observed in years past there is a big difference in how the sexes are treated. The older boys all dress in colorful western clothes and boots while the girls all wear extremely long dresses and wear their hair in long ponytails, no bright colors in their clothes. I under stood the families that lived in this community had no TVs. The girls are taught sewing and making quilts to sell in the Quilt store on site . I believe there is also a lot of baking and cooking classes. From the outside everything looks healthy and good but I wonder. Cult?

  31. I was in Concan Monday watching the cloud obscured eclipse totality at center of the path. Small world.

  32. “It’s on the anvil of adversity that character is formed” ain’t that the truth. Never heard that one before, but certainly lived it. Question for you Paul if you have a moment. How hard was it to settle back in to the UK. I’m living out in mainland Europe the last twenty years and often think if I return “home” I’m going to a strange country. Also very sad to hear about you getting set upon by idiots. Hope you’re doing ok and healing. All the best, and take care.

    1. The phrase “It’s on the anvil of adversity that character is formed” I originated. I’ve used it now and again over the years for past writings but often the saying “adversity builds character” is quite often used. I just put my own words for most of what I want to say and in this case it was what I wanted to say with the inclusion of the hammer and the anvil to drive things home. It wasn’t hard to settle back in. The language has changed considerably and you are as likely to hear another language in one conversation on a bus as you are English and then again maybe half a dozen.In Texas you generally heard two, American English or the Texas version of it and then Spanish.

      1. Interestingly there is a book written in 1968 called “Anvil of Adversity” A biography of a furniture pioneer by William Stevens.

        Nothing new under the sun as they say.

  33. Hi Paul,
    Thank you for your sharing about your life’s journey with us . I must confess that it comes across to me as an amazingly honest & transparent testimonial of the person who has been cultivated over the years.
    There has been a “whittling away” process in action the fruit of which is been borne today.
    We are all very grateful I am sure and appreciate very much your experience shared & the encouragement you so readily pass on to each one of us m as you it long continue…
    May the Lord give you a speedy recovery in your health. Keep up the great work..

  34. I’m very much looking forward to reading what I’m sure will be an enlightening tale!

    Thanks for all your input Paul, as a writer I appreciate the careful choice of words to accurately convey one’s thoughts and also the exposure of the heart this entails. Akin to showing one’s latest work to a master’s eye…

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