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Thread: Paul Sellars

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2004

    Default Paul Sellars

    I read in a thread somewhere in this forum that Paul Sellars underestimates the value of his 50 years experience. I don't know who It was or where it was they said it but I agree. I have heard Mr Sellars say that anybody can do what he does if they can just spend a few hours a day practicing. Probably so, but I know that many men would love to be able to find these magical few hours every day to cut and plane and chisel and shape.

    I like Sellars work and especially I like his championing of the old tools. But his level of skill is based on time that many men simply do not have. I am currently engaged in a radical reorganisation of my life to pull a few more hours out of each day, selling my home, buying something more modest and changing jobs included. But I am older now, my family have children of their own. When I was younger none of these things would have been possible.
    My age is still less than my number of posts

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2012


    Hi Chook,

    I think you mean this post:

    It's an interesting point you raise. According to the author Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers, it takes around 10,000 hours (or 10 years full time) to achieve mastery in a field.
    I'm sure that Paul Sellers is easily a master.
    It would be pretty disheartening for the vast majority of forumites who are amateurs and hobby woodworkers if that is the capability required to reach a level of satisfaction.
    However, woodworking is made up of a bunch of different skills from which we can pick and choose. We don't need to know it all.
    Fortunately, other research indicates that it takes around 20 hours to learn a new skill (like sharpening). See here for example:

    So a little practise each week is Ll you need.

    From what I observe on the internet, the vast majority of blogs and video on woodwork are from amateurs. The professionals are too busy working to make a living. So someone like Paul Sellers sharing his knowledge is a good thing. It's good to have something to aim for.

    This is something that I've found relevant for sharpening because while the first question will be "How do I sharpen?", a more relevant one is "How do I know if it is sharp yet?"
    Having access to an already sharp tool to know what sharp is really like is a big advantage.
    Even being "shaving sharp" doesn't meant that it is good enough. A blade can still have chips in the edge and a burr and still shave hair.
    So along with a little practise, finding out what is possible is also good.
    So join a forum (tick), visit a show and try out some sharp tools, read some books and articles and maybe even watch some Paul Sellers!

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    McBride BC Canada


    Time. Possibly time you can't squeeze out of a day.
    Take advantage of what time you do have.
    In retirement, the long nights and short days of our snowy winters are my prime time for carving.
    1. When I look at the exquisite art of the Pacific Northwest native carvers, such as the Haida and Tlingit, I have to remind myself that they apprenticed with master carvers when they were children. After school stuff and weekends.
    2. I agree completely with the notion that it takes some 20 hours to learn a new skill. Application, practice, over the next year brings competence. I am clealy reminded of the time that it took me to make sharpening crooked knives so easy and fast. My "carving sharp" edges display no burrs. If they do, I know that I am not done yet.
    3. Off and on, I'm exploring the use of a PacNW style carving elbow adze. Anything and everything that I can see a possible application, I use it. I'm not even close after who knows how many hours. Even sharpening an inside bevel with a sweep was a puzzle with a solution.
    4. You're in it because you want to be. Things that don't go right are just puzzles which have solutions. Do the experiments. As long as you get any sort of result, that's progress.
    5. Last, I believe that there is great tranferrence of knowledge and muscle memory when starting a new learning process. It takes a little less time.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Brisbane (western suburbs)


    Don't forget that there is great variation in human abilities. Whether it be hitting golf balls, shaping wood, playing a musical instrument, or neurosurgery, some folk will just do it well in a fraction of the time your average person will. By the same token there are less fortunate folk who seem to be born with too many thumbs, and find it difficult to master the simplest of tasks. In between, scattered along the whole spectrum, are the rest of us.

    For those of us around the middle, we can usually get things to work ok, but 'mastering' them may take some time or elude us altogether. However, I do believe that most of us can get reasonably adept if we have the time & doggedness to keep at it, & the earlier in life you begin, the better you usually become. If you have a job that demands a fair bit of your time & attention, plus family commitments, and still want to put in good stretches in your workshop, it becomes a real juggling act. It helps if you are the type that doesn't need lots of sleep!

    Does it matter if you never truly master a tool or procedure, as long as you can get it to do what you want to a sufficient level of accuracy and neatness? If getting things made well in a reasonable time is your main goal, think about the speed & precision machines & jigs offer, & use hand tools sparingly. I certainly took advantage of machinery a lot more when my life was far busier & more complex, and things had to get made on schedule. But when pottering along & enjoying the journey is more important, getting the tools to do your bidding can be the main game, who cares how long it takes? Retirement has brought me that luxury, but I can empathise with you younger blokes still running madly on the spot to keep up!


  6. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    McBride BC Canada


    Thank you, IanW, that helps very much.
    Lost time ain't worth worrying about - life is too short.
    The older I get the more honest that becomes.
    Putz around, get things to turn out OK, what else is there?
    I do some experiments to see if I like the result.
    Maybe yes? Maybe No.

    Many, many nights, I went to bed, puzzled about why sharpening crooked
    knives could be so awkward. Dull edges and no idea why.
    Yeah, well, I solved the puzzle.
    Some day here, I will spill all I know that works (and what did not.)

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2012


    For an alternate view on woodwork as a craft, it is hard to go past Jögge Sundqvist.

    Here he is talking at TED:

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Albury Well Just Outside


    Quote Originally Posted by hiroller View Post
    So join a forum (tick), visit a show and try out some sharp tools, .....

    The Sydney Working With Wood Show is happening on the 27th to 29th June. Take a look at the top of the page.

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