The Slightly Confused Woodworker

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Do yourself a favor.


***CORRECTION*** There are only 8 parts and not 9 to the Paul Sellers wall clock project video. As I said, I watched the videos in succession overnight, so I easily made the mistake. Sorry if this caused any confusion***

Saturday night into Sunday morning I wasn’t feeling all that hot (yeah, even Captain America isn’t always on top of his game). It’s not so fun feeling not so hot on a nice morning late in spring, but I think I made the most of my time.

We have a “smart TV”, which I suppose is pretty much commonplace in today’s day and age. Whenever I get a free moment, I will watch a YouTube woodworking video from the comfort of my living room sofa. Late Saturday evening, just around midnight, I had a lot of free moments. I felt a bit like I had a hangover, but not the hangover you normally get from a fun-filled night of Jell-O shots, just the awful feeling of a pounding head coupled with the desire of not wanting to move or even blink. So I watched an episode of Band of Brothers, and then decided to check out some Paul Sellers videos. Most woodworkers know who Paul Sellers is, so I won’t get into any biography here. Most woodworker who follow the forums are also aware of the “controversy” surrounding Sellers a few years ago, which I also won’t get in to because it was ridiculous in the only way a “woodworking controversy” can be. More importantly, most woodworkers know that Sellers is a highly talented.

Saturday night was hardly the first time I’ve watched a Paul Sellers video, but it was the first time I watched him make a furniture project from start to finish. I noticed there was a 8-part series on making a wall clock, which seemed as good a way to kill the time as any. My plan was to put the videos on and hopefully drift off to sleep. I watched all 8 parts, and I can say without a doubt that it was by far the best woodworking project video I’ve ever watched. To put it in context, I started watching just after midnight; the videos ended just before 5 am. The sun had already risen, but I didn’t even notice, because the time went by that quickly. I’ve watched woodworking videos before that literally put me to sleep, these videos kept me awake and wanting to watch more even though the very reason I put them on was to have some background noise as I tried to relax. They were that good.

Watching a talented craftsman work is always enjoyable, at least to me, but the part of the series that really and truly sold me was the 8th and final episode, in which Sellers finishes the clock with shellac and wax. In fifteen minutes I learned more about finishing than I had in years of reading woodworking books and magazine articles on the subject. For instance, Sellers applied the wax with steel wool, which is fairly common, but he buffed it out with a soft-bristled shoe brush. While this may sound like common sense, I would never have thought of doing it that way. I was so impressed that yesterday morning I ran out and purchased a new shoe brush for that very purpose (like most people I have a shoe brush, but I purchased it when I was stationed in Oklahoma more than 20 years ago and it is infused with the grime of thousands of shoe polishings).

Of course there were dozens of little moments similar to the finishing techniques throughout the entire project that all stand out, from Sellers beading the frame to his making the bull nose profile with a #4 plane. Sellers works nearly exclusively with hand tools in his videos, but even if you don’t use hand tools, most of his methods will still apply to just about any shop. I work almost exclusively with hand tools for reasons that I’ve explained before. After watching this project series I am honestly considering going full hand tool! Why? Because I want to woodwork just like Paul Sellers. Like a cult leader, he just makes it sound so perfect. All kidding aside, I thought these videos were simply outstanding. And if you enjoy woodworking, and you are looking to improve, and you’ve never checked out a Paul Sellers video before, do yourself a favor and give it a look. You will be happy that you did.

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21 Comments

  1. Kinderhook88 says:

    I love his videos also. I’ve had that wall clock series on my back burner for too long. You’ve just made me want to put it at the top of my watch list.

  2. Greg Merritt says:

    Couldn’t agree more!

    • billlattpa says:

      Sellers is the first guy I’ve seen who could replace Norm in the sense that he is watchable/likeable and “fast enough” to keep interest. Obviously his woodworking skills are second to none.
      The big knock on Roy Underhill is that his show is somewhat disjointed and he never finishes anything. That doesn’t bother me in the least, but I can see how it could affect an overall viewership.
      Sellers, if he wanted to, could easily carry a weekly or even daily television show. I’m not saying that he needs to or even should, but he sure as hell has the talent and personality to do that. There are few people on Earth who can make that claim.
      Thanks
      Bill

  3. bloksav says:

    I just finished watching the “Alone in the Wilderness”, and if the Paul Sellers video is as good as the Richard Proeneke video, I am going to check it out.
    The wilderness movie was nothing short of spectacular, nice steady camera shots, a down to earth narrator and a very pleasant pace of progress.
    Thanks for suggesting that film.
    Brgds
    Jonas

    • billlattpa says:

      I first saw that video in 2003 and immediately purchased it. I watch it every year right before Christmas (I’m not sure why I watch it at Christmas, but it has become a tradition). There are actually other videos of his that show more of his woodworking skills. But there is something about watching him make that cabin which is mesmerizing. I said before that he is the real “Anarchist” woodworker.
      Another thing, I’m not sure if your children watched the video with you, but my daughter loved it the first time she saw it, though she doesn’t watch it every year the way I do.
      If you get a chance to check out the Sellers video I don’t think you will be disappointed. I thought it was excellent.
      Thanks.
      Bill

  4. I’ve been following Paul Sellers since he started his video woodworking classes. He does so many things with hands tools so easily that he makes it look almost magical. Like you, books and magazines dont’ come close to what I’ve learned from watching him. I made 18 of his clocks to get the dadoes and other joinery down pat.
    For Jonas- Dick was a seabee in the Navy during WWII.

    • billlattpa says:

      I’m fairly new to Sellers. I’ve only been following him for less than a year. I’ve been considering joining his site as a full member, just as with the Hand Tool School. But like a lot of things, it’s not the money as both sites are very inexpensive, it’s just finding the time to really put into it. As of right now it’s easy for me to watch one of Sellers videos for 30 minutes here or there, but to then put it into practice is another matter, particularly in the summer.
      At the same time, I can honestly say that just watching his stuff has made me a better woodworker. I’m all for reading, I love books and I always have, and I believe you can learn just about anything from a book. But Sellers videos are among the best woodworking teaching tools I’ve ever seen in any form of media. As you said, he makes it look easy in a good way. The man is an unbelievable woodworker, and is the rare talent who is also good in front of a camera. Sure, he’s a little bit of a hippie, but I can easily live with it.
      Thanks.
      Bill

    • billlattpa says:

      Also, the park service has put out Proenneke’s unedited journals from 1967-1980. I’ve read both and once again I was mesmerized. It’s amazing to me that some of the mundane tasks of everyday life can be made interesting because of the way he lived.

  5. David Frey says:

    It’s so funny. A couple months ago I bought a Disston carcass back saw for $12 to practice sharpening on. When I got it, the only thing really wrecked on it was the sharpness but it was still usable, but I was a little nervous about getting my big mittens on this. So Sunday (while you were riveted to the clock vids), after watching Paul’s video on resharpening a back saw for rip, I ran out to the garage and got to work. In about 15 minutes, I had a saw that was tearing through wood like a beaver!

    Paul Sellers didn’t really share anything different than anyone else did but for me, it was his approachable, easy manner that helped stir the confidence that it really isn’t that hard. And it wasn’t.

    oh yeah, and the fact that I only had a $12 invested in the saw didn’t hurt either 😉

    • billlattpa says:

      Sellers has that rare ability to make things look easy and at the same time be able to explain how he does it, as he’s actually doing it, in a way that is clear and concise. No other woodworker or woodworking videos I’ve ever come across are as clear and easy to follow as his instructions. The man is gifted. I cannot say enough good things about him. Also, great find on the saw! A customer of mine gave me an old Disston but I haven’t really had the chance to mess around with it yet.
      Thanks.
      Bill

  6. Jeremy says:

    I will agree about his videos being top notch, though I’ve only seen a couple. Is it just me or does his video presence seem completely different than his writing style?

    • billlattpa says:

      I’ll say this, as much as I like his videos and his drawings, I do not care for his blog all that much. I’ve tried to keep an open mind, but it is not for me. Still, his videos are generally the best woodworking videos I’ve ever seen (and by far the least boring). He is talented not only as a woodworker and a teacher, but on camera as well. There aren’t too many woodworkers out there who can make that claim.
      Thanks.
      Bill

      • Jeremy says:

        Good to know I wasn’t the only one. I followed his blog for a while then quit, then found one of his excellent videos on saw sharpening and started following his blog again, then quit again. I guess I’ll look at his videos again, and not write him off as too dissimilar for my tastes just yet.

  7. Randall says:

    Agreed. He’s a great teacher. Even if you don’t like his blog, the search window is a great feature with a wealth of information

  8. Kees says:

    Thanks for mentioning this series. i just watched it and otherwise probably wouldn’t, because the project itself doesn’t really speak to me. But mr. Sellers is indeed great on video, much more then in writing I think. And it’s always a pleasure to watch a real craftsman and learning some small things along the way.

    • billlattpa says:

      I liked the clock, though I may or may not ever build something along those lines. More important to me was the methods used, and the very clear/concise way they were both explained and demonstrated. Sellers did not overlook a single detail, which is very rare it seems when it comes to woodworking videos. It was honestly the best woodworking project video I’ve ever watched.
      Thanks.
      Bill

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