the crazy englishman..

crap, two months in and i already have to play catch-up with my blog.  here goes..

my wife lived up to her 'coolest.wife.on.the.planet.' reputation this christmas and bought me paul sellers' working wood dvd and book series.  i watched all 7 dvds in two days and i've watched several for a second time since then.

i love this guy.

each dvd follows paul as he builds a project.  the projects begin with a simple cooking spoon which covers paul's ideas on shaping wood and progress through boxes (dovetails), bookshelves (dadoes), tables (mortise/tenon), etc..  each project builds on the lessons that came before while focusing on the current project's relevant techniques.  

the technical lessons are masterfully demonstrated, thoroughly explained and amazingly well shot.  in most of the technical instruction video i've seen, you don't see the same level of detail that the narrator sees.  'see how i'm splitting that knife line in half?  uh no, actually..  not usually.  this dvd set is different.  nearly every time i leaned into the monitor to get a closer look, the camera would switch to an amazingly relevant angle and focal point.  it happened so often that i started laughing.  bravo..

none of this however, is why you want to own this dvd set.  sure, you'll pick up some tips.  paul's been a master woodworker for over 40 years.  you're going to learn something.  there will be a few 'aha!' moments.  for me it was his mortising technique.  i have frank klausz and bob lang's videos (which i also highly recommend) on cutting mortise and tenons.  i've read everything i can find on the joint.  but paul's tip about keeping the bevel vertical on the trip back up the ramp was pure gold for me.  i spent a whole afternoon playing with it.

the reason you want to buy this dvd set though, isn't the techniques, it's paul.  specifically, paul's attitudes on working wood.  he prefers peace and quiet to the scream of a router and the snick of his beloved #4's blade to feeding a dust collector.  he uses machines (as i've come to) to dimension rough lumber to size and uses hand tools for joinery and finish prep.  he believes we're a generation of hobbyists and professionals who, in absense of a proper guild system, have been educated (and ultimately misled) by magazines and tv shows that exist to sell us tools we don't need.  this dvd series covers exactly what paul thinks we DO need.

i have only two gripes about the dvds.  first, paul spends almost no time discussing finishing except to let us know that a finishing dvd is in the works.  second, the editing really started to get on my nerves after a while.  the woodworking action is constantly interrupted by computer animation that is sometimes a helpful rendering of a cut or display of a technique but is often just an unwelcome interruption.  i appreciate what he's trying to do here but i wasted enough time playing quake II and unreal tournament, thank you.  the shots of penrhyn castle and the furniture within are easily an even trade however.  what an awesome place to have a workshop.  in all, these are minor, minor complaints in light of everything that's presented and i'm sure he'd have a few choice words for my refusal to properly capitalize, so a grain of salt if you will..

i'm working through the book which is proving to be much more than just a reiteration of the dvds.  there's quite a bit of good content that i'm sure they wouldn't have had time to film.  i was happily surprised to find that it wasn't just the 'workbook' i was expecting.

the wife comes through, as always..


  1. Great review. I'm saving up my pennies to buy the same series. I'll have to repeat it again because Paul is coming out with #3. Like you, I really like the attitude presented by Paul. I read his blog every day. By the way my bride didn't buy this for me for xmas but I did get a bunch of books and videos.

  2. #3? i can't wait. i'll have to make sure the wife knows ALL about it ;)..

  3. It is a excellent set of dvd's (and book). I bought both from Paul at the Baltimore Woodworking show.

    I do agree with you on the animated bits of fluff. Rather dated looking and unnecessary imho.