Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Here's a great essay about Larry Hagberg, a blacksmith employed by the New York City Parks Department.

In general, what he says about making by hand is obviously backed up by his many years of direct experience and thinking. It confirms much of what I think about the inevitability of woodworking's (and blacksmithing's, and other crafts') survival: the crafts will survive because making stuff is a huge portion of what makes us human.

But there are two great quotes, from his answers to the last two questions in the interview, that I want to highlight here:

 In the old days, when we got tired and couldn't hold the hammer anymore, we would duct tape it to our hand and just keep working.

I remember a few moments like that from when I was younger, and learning a new woodworking skill created such an ecstatic buzz that my surroundings faded away, time ceased to exist, and gradually even my body felt peripheral to what the hand, eye, tool, and wood were doing.

At the other end of a working life, Hagberg has this to say about retirement:

I heard about so many guys who retire, especially when you do a hard job, you can't just move to Florida and live on a golf course. You're a working guy, that stuff'll kill you. All of a sudden you stop doing what you're doing and it all veers to the right and downhill.

Amen, brother. I'm nearly 20 years behind you, but already I feel the truth of what you're saying in my own body, and see it happening (both ways) with my older friends and teachers.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

To the Victor Go the Bench Doges

A few people have asked me "What happened with your Shop Stool Build-Off entry?" I wrote about building it in this recent post, but never followed up to let you know how it fared in competition.

Reader, I won! . . . not best of show or anything, but "best concept," I guess because I noticed that a shaving horse and a shop stool have many of the same features. You can read about (and see photos of) the REAL winners at this blog entry by Chris Wong of Flair Woodworks, the organizer of #SSBO. Some of the other entries are very, very well-designed and -executed pieces of genuine furniture. It was humbling to be put in their company.

Turns out, there were real-world prizes! About a week ago, I got an envelope in the mail from Canada:

It contained a set of wooden bench dogs from Time Warp Tool Works, a company known mainly for wooden molding planes. My bench already has 3/4" holes for round metal bench dogs, so I was able to compare them side by side right away.