§ by Joel Hess on December 24th, 2007
I like to attend woodworking schools. From my very first hands-on classes at the Woodcraft store in Bloomington, Mn., I’ve been hooked on learning from the “masters.”
Paul Sellers is one of those masters. You might remember, he taught a hand tools foundational course that I took a few years ago. And so I was excited to hear that he has founded a new woodworking school in his native England. The New Legacy School of Woodworking is much like the school I attended near Waco, TX at the Homestead Heritage Craft Village. But with a twist. It’s housed in a castle — Penrhyn Castle in North Wales. Penrhyn is one of the many castles being preserved and maintained by the National Trust, with whom Paul has been working for the last year or so.
Paul says that the availability of some really good furniture from Asia has continued to make it difficult to earn a living as a woodworker. But he hopes that schools like his will fill the void left by the decline of apprenticeship programs like the one that helped start his career over 40 years ago in his native England. During his apprenticeship, Paul learned about the proper use of hand tools, still an important part of the trade in England even in the ’60s. That’s the focus of New Legacy and I wish him well.
§ by Joel Hess on August 16th, 2006
Whether you learn from the “experts,” or you learn from personal experience, there is almost always two sides to every story.
For example, several weeks ago, I posted a link to an article about Western Back Saws that was originally published in Woodsmith. The two back saws that were profiled are top-of-the-line saws designed for those seeking a hand tool that will last a lifetime. Several good points were made for why these types of saws may be worth the extra expense.
But then, a few days after that post, I got an email from Paul Sellers, who started his professional woodworking career in 1965. Paul is now the director of woodworking at the Homestead Heritage School of Woodworking in Waco, Texas. He’s also written several woodworking articles for Woodwork magazine, among others. Read the rest of this article »
§ by Joel Hess on July 3rd, 2006
Last week, Paul Sellers commented on whether or not there is still a demand for highly-crafted furniture items. He explained why he thinks there will always be a market for quality, custom-built furniture. According to Paul, people want furniture made with “… real wood and a quality that bespeaks the integrity of the men (who) make it.”
For some reason, a lot of woodworkers are only interested in completing a project as quickly as they possibly can. I know I was that way at one time. Then I’d jump right into the next project without taking any time to enjoy what I was doing. Read the rest of this article »
§ by Joel Hess on June 27th, 2006
Last week, I began a discussion with Paul Sellers, director of the School of Woodworking at Homestead Heritage Craft Village near Waco, Texas. The Foundational course, in which Paul teaches hand tool usage at the school, is growing in popularity and his answer to last weeks question touches on how we need to get young people involved again in woodworking.
This week, I asked his opinions about craftsmanship.
Joel: Inexpensive, mass-produced furniture is everywhere these days. Is there still a need for the kind of craftsmanship your school promotes?
Paul: What you say is true. Today, most furniture is mass-produced in factories. All too often a mass-produced piece sells for a price similar to what most individuals might pay for the wood alone. Read the rest of this article »
§ by Joel Hess on June 22nd, 2006
A few years ago I wanted to take a woodworking class on using hand tools. The Des Moines Woodworkers Association had just hosted a weekend seminar by Marc Adams at the Woodsmith Store in Des Moines and he got me really psyched up about taking a class at his school. Unfortunately, his hand tool classes were already filled up. So I did a seach online and found out about a woodworking school in Texas. It turned out to be a great experience and I’ve become good friends with Paul Sellers, the director of the School of Woodworking at the Homestead Heritage Craft Village, near Waco.
Paul is also a published woodworking author and is working on a book about hand tools and how to use them. He builds custom furniture for sale and some of his most distinctive pieces, like the Rocking Chair, sell for thousands of dollars.
Paul trained as an apprentice in England as a young man. He gained valuable experience using a combination of hand tools and power machinery, that he feels is sorely lacking today. In fact, Paul feels so strongly about the lack of educational opportunities for young people, especially in the woodworking field, that he thinks it has had an adverse effect on our lives. As he says, “… we’ve reached a crisis point in woodworking for children that sometimes I think it is irreversible.”
I used hand tools exclusively during my class at the John C. Campbell Folk School, and firmly believe that without the week-long hand tool foundational class that I took a few years ago at Homestead Heritage, I would not have gotten nearly as much from the chairmaking class as I did.
Paul and I were trading emails recently and got to talking about how most woodworking schools are all about power tools. I asked him why he felt that laying a foundation for learning to use hand tools was so important? He has strong feelings about hand tools that go beyond his desire to teach their usage, or his ability to attract students to his woodworking school. The following is his thoughtful response to my question: Read the rest of this article »