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The English Woodworker’s Bag of Tricks

a couple of years ago

englishwoodworkerlogoEvery woodworker, I don’t care whether you have 50 years of experience or 2 weeks, has a bag of tricks.

These are the little “a ha” moments you have at the bench that help you through a task and make it easier. Over the weeks and months and years you stash these away and use them when in a bind. This is why it is always so fascinating to talk to other woodworkers when I meet them. I like to peek inside their bag of tricks and see what I can pick up.

Richard Maguire, The English Woodworker, immediately struck me as someone who would have a lot of interesting stuff stashed away. Richard literally grew up woodworking and is a 3rd or 4th generation Joiner who has made a name for himself building workbenches and furniture in England. He showed up on YouTube one day and I immediately started getting emails from people telling me that I had to check this guy out.

Perhaps it is his lovely Lincolnshire vernacular (I think, sorry if I messed up the geography Richard) that draws me to his videos. I do pick up some colorful bit of British slang every time I watch.

I now describe small distances as “a gnat’s nadger”.

But I think the real draw is the stuff he doesn’t talk about. Little actions and movements honed and forgotten about from hours and hours of work at the bench. Watching Richard work is an education in itself.

Then Richard decides to venture into the premium video universe which is something that I’m always excited to see. Put bluntly, competition grows a marketplace and woodworking is no exception. In fact we are pretty far behind many other markets when it comes to the premium thing. I signed up quickly and was not disappointed. His first project, The Spoon Rack, is underway now and I have to say his $40 asking price is a steal. This innocuous little wall rack has an entire hand tool course bundled up inside it.

The premium option allows teachers like Richard to get really detailed. Its the kind of detail that doesn’t play well in a 5 minute video and with this format change Richard has opened his bag of tricks and started sharing working methods and rhythms that are quite profound.

Maybe “profound” is a bit hyperbolic, but I find that it is the silly little things that have the biggest impact. The forehead slapping, “why didn’t I think of that” techniques that truly transform your understanding of a tool or a technique. In just a few videos in Richard’s Spoon Rack series, I have picked up 5 or 6 of these little tricks. If I can borrow a bit of British, I’d say the whole series is simply brilliant. Check out any of his “Richard’s Rants” videos and you will get a peek at what I’m talking about. His “real world hand prepping” rant is a great one.

Check out this highlight:

Behind the paywall, there is even more to this video. This is a way of looking at milling boards by hand that isn’t terribly profound, but I haven’t found anyone who has stated “treat each board differently” so clearly and plainly. You’ll also find excellent plane set up techniques, work holding gems, and a great method for cutting half blind dovetails that is so obvious that I’m mad at myself for not thinking of it.

Richard is the real deal…

english woodworker blog

Helen at work setting a wooden plane. I love the lighting in this shot!!

As if the high quality content Richard is putting wasn’t enough, his video and production quality is outstanding. I envy anybody that has a cameraman (or woman in Richard’s case) as it changes your entire mode of presentation allowing you to focus on the work and not the camera angle and exposure. Helen, Richard’s wife, is the creative genius behind the lens and working magic on the post production process. Her chalkboard animations and creative use of depth of field really up the ante on these videos and transform them from informative to truly entertaining. The sound is top notch and the lighting excellent. It is evident that thought went into lighting each shot and there is just enough shadow to highlight Richard’s work and make you forget that you are watching a screen and not sitting in Richard’s shop.

Helen, if you’re reading this, my hat is off to you for your creative decisions. Oh and I’m stealing some of your methods!

If nothing else, go visit The English Woodworker and read the blog, watch some videos, have a laugh. If you like his style then please help him out and purchase his first video series. It is money well spent and an investment into furthering your own skill level.

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