Essential Woodworking Hand Tools-a Review

I have followed Paul Sellers’ blog for quite some time now.  When he announced his online woodworking instruction course, Woodworking Masterclasses, I eagerly joined and have been a member since the first project.  As a result, my skills as a woodworker have and continue to improve.  Along the way Mr Sellers’ graciously agreed to use my drawings to illustrate the projects for his Woodworking Masterclasses.

Mr. Sellers’ methods and philosophy can, on occasion, be controversial and he, at times, directly challenges the mainstream convention, but his results are undeniable.  Often times making a seemingly impossible woodworking task well within the reach of the beginner.  So when he first announced that he was writing a new book, I eagerly awaited its arrival and now it is here.

PS Book-600x600

photo courtesy Rokesmith Limited

I’ll cut to the chase…if you plan to be or already are a hand tool woodworker or even a machine woodworker who uses hand tools here and there…buy this book by Paul Sellers.  Period.

Essential Woodworking Hand Tools

OK, now the long story version.

Mr. Sellers’ new book is the culmination of over fifty years of experience in the implementation and teaching of hand tool woodworking captured in the written word, with photos and, my personal favorite, hand drawings by Mr. Sellers.  All of that information is brought together into an almost five hundred page tome that could and should become a woodworkers reference manual on the use and care of, well, the essential woodworking hand tools.

Using his straight forward, down to earth approach, Mr. Sellers introduces each tool that he considers to be essential to the hand tool woodworker.  He then explains and illustrates their use and care.  If a tool has a cutting edge, he explains and illustrates how to sharpen it.  All of this information is enhanced with detailed color photographs and the aforementioned hand drawings.  The information is so comprehensive that I believe this book could easily be used as a textbook on the subject of woodworking hand tools.

The book is so comprehensive that I’m not even going to attempt to list what all is covered.  Did I mention the book is almost five hundred pages long?  What I will add is that the book is organised into clear, concise chapters as well as having an exhaustive index.  This makes finding a specific tool or technique quick and easy.  Did I mention the book is almost five hundred pages long? 😉

In addition to covering the conventionally produced hand tools, Mr. Sellers also provides alternatives to many of the tools.  These shop-made alternatives can act to supplement and/or bridge the gaps in a persons’ current tool collection and can be quite helpful in mitigating up-front tool costs for those just getting started.

To reinforce and further illustrate the information presented in the book, there is a set of three DVDs in which Mr. Sellers demonstrates the techniques presented in the book.  These DVDs can be purchased as a set or you can purchase the book and DVDs in combination at a reduced cost.

While I have yet to purchase the DVDs, I am confident that they are of top quality both in content and presentation.  Mr. Sellers and crew are quite adept at this type of filming and are able to capture processes in great detail and I am sure that these DVDs will reflect that.

So now I will simply refer you back to my opening statement:

If you plan to be or already are a hand tool woodworker or even a machine woodworker who uses hand tools here and there…buy this book by Paul Sellers.


Am a little biased?  Possibly.

Did Mr. Sellers ask me to write this or any review? No, he did not.  I only mention this due to my previously stated peripheral capacity with Woodworking Masterclasses.

Greg Merritt


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28 Responses to Essential Woodworking Hand Tools-a Review

  1. Derek Long says:

    Waiting for my copy in the mail. Had to wait a bit to recharge the bank account after ordering Anarchist Design Book and the Hayward set in March.

    • Greg Merritt says:

      I had to wait a bit as well for the woodworking budget to catch up. I pre-ordered the ADB and the Hayward set at the beginning of the year. This is shaping up to be a banner year for woodworking literature. Which is good for the flow of information, but hard on the budget. 😉

  2. Deniseg says:

    Greg, is there information not covered in WWMCs? I follow all Paul’s blogs and videos, and like you I’m a subscriber, so I’m wondering if the book adds to what he has already posted for subscribers. Thank you for your review.

    • Greg Merritt says:

      Thanks Denise.
      Yes, I believe there is information in the book that cannot yet be found either on the blog or on Mastercalsses. I doubt that will remain a true statement for long though. The benefit for myself is that the information is all contained in one, easy to search reference. All of Paul’s thoughts and techniques for spokeshaves is in one flowing section, for instance. Much quicker than backtracking blog posts and multiple videos.

  3. Randy Allen says:

    Hear hear, you spot on Greg!

  4. erikhinkston says:

    Waiting on my copy as well, same Lost Arts Press reasons but I should have my copy this week. Mr. Sellers has been the greatest influence and best teacher for me the past 2 years since I discovered him. I watch everything, read everything and try to build most of what he does. I was also wondering about where this would fit in the PS universe, I’m glad to hear that it has value for us who follow him. I bought it as a tribute to him and because it will be easier sometimes to have that information sitting close by forever. Thank you for your insight…
    There are so many great titles being published lately, it’s time to build a bigger bookcase!

  5. Interesting I’ve been reserved in buying this for two reasons, price and information. Price: It would cost me about $150 which is hard to justify without knowing exactly how useful this book would be to me. The other I keep asking myself what could he say in words that he hasn’t already demonstrated in his videos. Every new project even though different is the same, what I mean with this you use the same techniques which is normal. Unless I have the opportunity to flick through the pages or the Aussie dollar becomes on par once again with the US which is highly unlikely I’m in limbo land with this one.

    • Greg Merritt says:

      Salko, I feel for you, I know the Australian dollar is having a tough time currently. The good thing is that the info can be found on Paul’s blog and on Masterclasses. The book is quite a reference manual though. You aren’t missing out on anything by waiting. Hopefully the Australian dollar will strengthen and you can pick up a copy of the book.

      • Ha fat chance of that they purposefully lowered it so they can compete in the world markets, we were stronger than the US dollar and everything was looking up but they thought they knew better and as a result everything has gone out of control spiraling down into the pits of unmanageable and unsustainable debt and cost of everyday living.

  6. Kinderhook88 says:

    I’ve been lagging on my Masterclasses. I guess I have some homework to do. I can’t afford this book right now, but I’ll definitely put it on my wish list.

  7. billlattpa says:

    I just ordered over the weekend. Whether you agree with Sellers or not (I do the vast majority of the time) nobody can deny his results. As a woodworking teacher, IMO he is second to none, and there isn’t a close second. I’ve learned more from his webpage in a matter of 4 months than I have in 5 years.
    I would say that the online classes are about as concise as I could hope for, and though some may say that the book wouldn’t be as necessary for those who subscribe, but I think it will be nice to have, nonetheless.

    • I am very curious as to the contents of the book but what sets Paul apart from the rest of the crowd and what’s attributed to his fame is that he has revealed a lot what others purposefully haven’t. Many well known woodworkers like Rob Cosman who is an absolute legend in his own right haven’t revealed much of anything in great detail besides cutting a dovetail online. There are reasons for this and that’s money. Paul is more like that magician who said I will teach you the secrets without it costing you much. This approach may have hurt many teachers out there I cannot say for sure but he has certainly opened or made the craft available to many people who cannot or simply are just too tight fisted to fork out to learn the craft in a decent woodworking school. On the other hand many of these schools are very expensive, I don’t know what Paul charges but I’m sure it too isn’t cheap either. The problem though with woodworking schools is the unknown quality of the teacher teaching. Paul has advertised himself well so you know what your paying for but for those living abroad and on low wages flying to England for a month’s course isn’t a viable option. So those wanting to learn the craft at home and can afford to do so has to do their homework in finding a good school. Websites are great but they’re not much different to hotel foyers. They all look nice and upper class but when you get to the room there’s nothing fancy about it. I also find that no one person is a master in all aspects of the craft, so if you really want to to become an almost genius in veneering, marquetry, carving, furniture making etc you must seek out those who specialise in each of these fields and spend atleast a number of years in each field which due to age time constraints is impossible. Also hobbyist spending only a few hours every n th week will not and cannot achieve any great deal of skill or even knowledge.

      As for Paul being second to none is one man’s opinion as without a doubt there are many out there who are better than the next, I always believe that and remind myself daily to remain humble and to keep the doors of knowledge open. For when on say’s or believes they are the best then due to arrogance or delusions of grandeur shuts that door to knowledge as there is nothing to learn anymore which couldn’t be further from the truth. There is always something to learn, something new to discover and even a laymen has something of worth to offer. So no one out there is the best of the best only God is perfect, the rest of us a flawed.

      • Greg Merritt says:

        Salko?? I don’t think anyone is claiming that Paul is the “best woodworker in the world”. He is very talented across a broad spectrum of the craft though. That, combined with his teaching ability is what draws in and effects so many people.

        As a hobbyist, I’m happy to increase my limited skill and knowledge from any available source. Paul offers quite a lot of opportunity to increase both and does so in an accessible way.

        • I didn’t mean to sound aggressive it’s not like I have a grudge against the guy I was only responding to the comment made by Billattpa “As a woodworking teacher, IMO he is second to none, and there isn’t a close second.” I don’t believe this to be true, I understand this is how he feels but I feel it’s wrong to attribute such a skill to anyone. Yes Paul is a great teacher I’m not saying otherwise but unless someone has experienced other teachers how can anyone say such a thing. One person on the forum put me on the same level as Paul I was quick to rebuke him for it as I don’t believe that statement is deservant as I have not done the hard yards nor have the years under my belt to be on parr with such a man.

        • I apologise if I was out of line, that wasn’t my intent.

      • billlattpa says:

        When I say “second to none” I should have clarified and added that was only in my experience. There are a lot of fine woodworkers out there offering up their services on the web and in classes like Shannon Rogers, Chuck Bender, and Glen Huey. I was even fortunate enough to have attended several of Chuck Bender’s classes and learned a boat load of information. I would be happy to have any of those guys show me a few things.

        In the world of internet woodworking, I haven’t come across anybody better than Sellers, and that is not a knock to anybody else. I really couldn’t say who the best woodworker in the world is because I really have no clue, but I would have to say that Sellers is the best woodworking teacher I’ve come across, meaning no disrespect to anybody else out there, because they all have a lot to offer.

        • I agree on the internet I too haven’t seen anyone willing to demonstrate in so much detail as Paul does, it’s evidently clear I misunderstood your statement and I hope no ill feelings from anyone is harboured towards me. I sometimes get a little carried away usually sparked by the days events, it’s been a pretty much rough week with lots of set backs and conflicting orders. I’ve promised myself this will be the last custom order I will ever do again, just not worth the bloody hassle.

          As for whose the best woodworker well probably no one as everyone is talented in what they do, if everything looks good, fits snug then you’ve done your job. There are plenty of talented people around the world who can do some amazing works of art that one can only drool over. I know of a few talented old timers myself who’ve never visited a forum, blog or even heard of Paul but they speak about other woodworkers much before my time that I’ve never heard of. I try to learn from as many people as I can and am always researching old techniques or looking for better ways to execute an operation. I have countless books and only a handful I truly call my favourites but I’m so curious as to what’s written in Paul’s book, I would love to flick through the pages but unfortunately the price tag at this time is a little over my budget.

      • billlattpa says:

        No offense taken here. We all have an opinion and everybody should have a right to offer it in a reasonable way.

    • Greg Merritt says:

      I echo your sentiments Bill. Hope to hear your thoughts on the book once you have had a chance to go through it.

  8. Sylvain says:

    “Essential woodworking tools” is what the title says. The idea is to have all you need to start in woodworking without spending too much money. There are other tools which might be great but which you don’t abolutely need; they are not covered in the book.
    Most of the information (but not all) has been published on PS blog. But it is much more easy to retrieve it in the book. The various tools are treated one by one in the book while while on the blog the information is scattered in many post and sometime [;-)] embedded in other considerations.
    IMHO internet and video are great but are no replacement to a well organised book.
    Video are great to show how to use a tool if they don’t just show what happens at the cutting edge, if the teacher/demonstrator explains for instance how to hold the tool and why, etc. Retrieving something in lots of videos is a real pain. Noting numbers/dimensions from a video needs lots of rewind.
    Internet is great, but everey now and then, favourite blogs disapear.
    The 3 DVD are a great addition to the book.

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