It Must Be Me

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    I have been reading with Interest some of the many articles on woodworking, and come to the conclusion I must be lacking in something.

    Paul Sellers, Rob Cosman, David Charlesworth, all have the very same gifted students.
    Students with no background in hand tool woodworking and never having used hand tools before all making first class pieces of furniture, students that have never picked up a saw in their life cutting dovetails, that Rob Cosman cant tell from his own. This is class after class, well I struggle with some things, and reading some of the posts on here, I’m not alone.

    Ok I know some of the answers are going to say, that it shows just how good the teachers are, sorry I’m not buying that one.

    Some of the guys on here are making some amazing projects, but they all have done a little woodworking before, and they tell you they struggle with some parts of the build.

    Bottom line I’m asking my self do I have what it takes to be a woodworker, not a master craftsman, I just want to make things to a constantly good standard.

    Ok sorry if I have board you once again πŸ˜‰

    Charles Cleland


    I wouldn’t be discouraged. Without hands on/in front of the instructor instruction, it will take longer.

    I would like to talk a little bit about my own progress through this world of woodworking, perhaps it applies to you as well. For a long time I spent more time reading and researching woodworking techniques and tools than actually working wood. After that came more time rehabbing old tools than working wood, so I would be able to use those tools for the specialized operations needed in advanced woodworking. The time spent flattening that #80 cabinet scraper when I haven’t made a project out of a scrape-able wood could probably be better prioritized (I mostly use pine and red alder, while both can be scraped they are not optimal for it, especially if you aren’t very good at sharpening the scraper blade).

    I think the tendancy is to put off those inevitable failures in the workshop by trying to overprepare by researching/reading about woodworking. I’m certainly guilty of it. My solution (unproven at this point in time, but I’m hopefull) was to buy 60 board feet of inexpensive local red alder, and make a commitment to spend more time ruining it that I do sitting in front of my computer thinking about woodworking. As you can see, it’s only partially working, as I’m obviously sitting here writing a novel πŸ™‚ In my defense, it’s pretty late here and I don’t think my neighbors would appreciate me chopping out the mortises in the bookcase frame currently covering my workbench.

    In short, I think the secret to both of us improving our skills is less time watching cool videos that @Ken Haygarth posted on WWMC πŸ™‚

    Washington State, USA
    My own humble blog:


    HaHa well said Andy.In my defense, its pretty early here and I don’t think my neighbors would appreciate me finishing my DVD case. πŸ™‚

    Me watch videos, never buddy. πŸ˜‰


    My grandma used to say, “believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see.” And, that was before the internet. I think the stories of the individuals cutting dovetails perfectly for the first time are rare cases.

    I often wonder the same thing, is it me? But when I look at pictures if my progress over the last year and I’ve come along way. Watching the videos and practicing only 3-4 hours a week is not very conducive of learning how to cut dovetails and chop mortise. But for me this is my only option, so it has to work. In order to get really good I would need to work at it 8 hours a day/40 hours per week .

    Also, I have a book on shaker furniture by Thos Moser and the dovetailed drawer on the front cover shoes a gap. Even master craftsmen aren’t perfect..

    Keep working at it!

    Mark Armstrong

    Ken you not alone.
    In some ways it may be harder for me especially when cutting something square and along boards. I’ve trained my self to undercut reason for this if you did have to take a bit off it would be quicker. Mitres on skirting, fascia boards always undercut walls are not very often square in corners. Believe it or not Rafter cuts are pretty difficult and have to be pretty spot on ,with angles and to get the length within an 1/8″ over 18ft no mean feat.
    Ken start off with thinner stock when practising dovetails say 3/8″ thick you will have less to worry about as will be easier to keep square and plum on cuts and if a little out will hardly notice practise until got perfect then progress to thicker stock.
    I am just as bad at making fire wood as any one else so I’m with you Ken.
    Time and tiredness my biggest enemy πŸ™

    Dagenham, Essex, England


    Not to accuse any of these great teachers of gilding the lily, but I think, naturally, there would be a tendency to put forth the best and brightest examples of student development.

    I also think Andy made a very good point about the difference in hands-on vs. remote instruction. While the videos and articles are invaluable, there is something to be had in one-on-one tutelage that cannot be gained any other way.

    And it is certainly *not* just you. I must have made five different top rails for the front of my wall clock and spent hours and hours on the mouldings before I thought they were good enough. And that was still far from *perfect*.

    I would also hazard to guess that even guys like Paul, Rob Cosman and others would readily tell you that when they first started their journey in woodworking that they certainly did not just pick up a saw or chisel and turn into a virtuoso in wood.

    While I have had many reasons and occasions to be discouraged and/or frustrated in the short term, I never let it linger and just resolve to practice and learn to do it better. Sometimes it even works πŸ™‚

    I also know that for me at least, my own eye is far more critical of my own work than others’. This is true for me in my professional life as well; someone may tell me the lasagna I served them was the best they’d ever had and all I can see is that the layers of noodles are uneven. πŸ™‚

    Don’t give up, my friend. You’ve shown us all some things to be proud of.


    Thanks guys, Chris great post buddy, well said. πŸ˜‰

    David Gill

    Ken I am sure like lots of others on this site you have come a long way along the Hand Wood Working road since joining the Paul club.
    Prior to joining I used to think that Screw it and Glue was fine woodwork I now think what joint could I use. How long ago would you not have considered it possible to make a DVD cabinet just using hand tools.

    I can confirm that the results achieved by most on the courses run by Paul in Wales are truly surprising, it certainty not a case of Paul doing much hands on work on your project, you will gather round his bench he will demonstrate the next stage and away you go and get on with it.

    It must have something to do with peer pressure, Paul’s teaching methods and his positive attitude that does not consider you can fail. Every body is on the doorstep each morning waiting for the doors to open , there is very little chatter going on , we would have to be told to take our lunch and get told to pack up as the castle closes at 5.0pm.At this time it was a three day course to make the wall unit and the candle box and a further 3 days to make the Oak table. Paul has now increased this to a 9 day total course albeit that the wall unit is now a bigger unit.

    One of the guys who I was on the Oak table course with said that the only wood working tool he had was a bow saw used for cutting trimming branches, he managed to complete his table on the course, I still struggle to think how Paul thought he was going to be able to do that.

    Wigan, Lancs. England :

    David Perrott

    As it has been stated, there would be a big difference if the teacher was in front of the student. When things get off, then with their help, you could get back on track. I know he can’t envision all the problems that could come up, but I do wish the videos would address common mistakes one may encounter and how to fix them. As an educator, I have noticed many people take classes that they have a strong skill set for. Yea, they may say they are a beginner but in reality have a background. When I used to take French classes, there was always a few in there that should have taken a more advanced class. Some people cant handle being bad in the class or out of their comfort zone. I have thought about this before. I would like to take a class in NY, but I have built some of the projects before working through the books. If I took the beginner class would I be the one showing off?!


    Sorry, I’ve been offline for a while. I just noticed this thread.

    Don’t feel bad Ken, I often feel the same way. I believe Paul stated that his WW success did not come that easy, which is another way of saying that success is found during the journey.

    I know if I could dedicate 40+ hours per week to woodworking (instead of just 6-8 hours per week in one or two hour intervals), my progress would be more appreciable. Taking a live WW class is a great opportunity, but not a luxury that I have the time to afford.

    I agree with Andy that the internet is both a blessing and a curse. Too many approaches/methods/recommendations. There is often too much thinking and discussing and not enough doing. When I over-think, which is too often, I tend to lose confidence and procrastinate.


    I have pretty much curtailed my WW internet access to the WWMC site so I do not continue to immerse myself in distractions. Now if I could just stop playing Bejeweled I could double my shop time. πŸ˜‰

    To climb out of my rut and continue my journey, I am building a small wall cabinet out of pine while I wait for some cherry boards to acclimate for Paul’s Tool Chest. Does not need to be perfect, but will allow me to try out a raised panel, use hide glue, practice M&Ts, and do a ship lapped back before getting on with the chest. Fun Fun.



    -Scott Los Angeles

    John Purser

    Ken, if you’re worried about the competition then I’m here to put your mind at ease. I have a hammer scar. On the same hand I have a washing machine scar. Both are self inflicted as are my multiple bite scars. I once shot myself in the head with a bow and arrow. By accident. I also have knife (multiple), axe (multiple), and machete (just the one so far) scars.

    My goal for my first project, building the Paul Sellers Work Bench, is to keep blood off of it until I can get a protective coat of finish on it.

    It may not be my goal in life to make you look good by comparison but still, it couldn’t hurt to stand next to me. Not too close you understand, but in the same shot.

    And I think the REAL question is why are all the guys in those “first project” shots prettier than me? I think Paul and the rest are bringing in magazine models for the publicity shots!

    John Purser
    Hubert, NC


    HaHa great post John.

    I have no competition buddy, I just do my own thing as best I can. πŸ˜‰

    Timothy Corcoran

    After reading this, I feel terribly bad I couldn’t help intervene and offer some words of encouragement on this Ken. Better late than never. I’ve been very focused on building a tool cabinet. As a non-paying member I can say that there is a good mix of people on here with varying skill levels. As a professional carpenter for over 25 years I can assure you that not everything is how it seems to you. Meaning, we all possess a certain skill set where we lack in some skill, we make up in others. The same can be applied by studying the materials that we work with. Every piece of wood is different and has its own characteristics. Complete knowledge of how wood reacts to the working process can only be achieved by practical means. Through practice and experience (and I pray that you havn’t given up) there are ways you can draw someone’s eye from slight visible blemishes,asymmetry etc. that an untrained eye would never depict. Learning this process is part of the experience. Never give up. Nothing made by human hands is ever perfect.

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