This smith’s hand-forged tools and hardware combine art and function.
By Megan Fitzpatrick
Today, we aim for too much perfection; period work wasn’t like that,” says blacksmith/whitesmith Peter Ross. Handwork, he says, is a culmination of learning to do things quickly with few tools and little fussing, whether that’s working with iron or working with wood. With a sufficient level of skill, “you end up with pieces that have a spontaneity…but in a fairly controlled way because of the person doing it.” That ephemeral quality of controlled irregularity is what draws Peter to historical work.
Peter has been interested in period tools, hardware and techniques since his introduction to blacksmithing during high school, at what is now called the Long Island Museums at Stony Brook, in Stony Brook, N.Y. He then volunteered and was later employed at Old Bethpage Village Restoration, an 1860s living history museum on Long Island. After two years at the Rhode Island School of Design, Peter left college to work with Dick Everett, a smith who specialized in historic reproductions of house hardware, in East Haddam, Conn., before opening his own smithy on Deer Isle, Maine, in 1976. Three years later, he became a journeyman blacksmith at Colonial Williamsburg as the living history museum was transitioning the smithy from creating souvenir pieces to making authentic reproductions of historical metal artifacts. Peter soon became the shop’s master, and until 2006 worked at Colonial Williamsburg where he investigated historical methods of work and produced metal work for the museum.
Video: Watch as Peter Ross makes a pair of forged dividers.
Blog: Read more about the Roubo holdfast Ross made for Christopher Schwarz.
Web site: Discover the Tools and Trades History Society, publisher of “The Tool Chest of Benjamin Seaton.”
To Buy: “The Tool Chest of Benjamin Seaton, 2nd Edition” Read more
This Iowa-born toolmaker, woodworker and luthier strives for perfection.
By Steve Shanesy
Family has clearly played an important role in the development of Iowa-born woodworker and toolmaker Jameel Abraham. In 2006, Jameel, along with his brother, Father John Abraham (an Orthodox priest), and their father founded Benchcrafted – makers of a handful of high-quality, primarily workbench-related products including leg and tail vises and a Moxon-style benchtop vise.
But family influences run much deeper than the relatively recent origins of Benchcrafted. Jameel traces his woodworking interests to both of his grandfathers, who he describes as “serious hobbyists.” He fondly remembers spending time in the shop with both, and watching many an episode of Norm Abram’s “The New Yankee Workshop” and Roy Underhill’s “The Woodwright’s Shop” with his maternal grandfather. Who knows – this may partially account for Jameel’s mastery of both hand and power tools.
There is also a strong tradition of operating a family business. His father started a beeswax candle making business that Fr. John continues to oversee while also helping out with the Benchcrafted business. And until Benchcrafted began to consume all his time, Jameel worked in that business, too. Family influences and obligations aside, the accomplishments of this 38-year-old craftsman are keenly driven by a native sense of engineering and a self-imposed drive for excellence.
Web site: Check out the Benchcrafted site and blog. You’ll also find a link there to Jameel Abraham’s extensive blog about the oud.
Article: Go online to read our review of Benchcrafted’s Glide Leg Vise.
Video: See the oud being played and discover the beautiful sound of this ancient instrument.
Video: See a clip of the new Benchcrafted Crisscross vise mechanism in action.
To Buy: Popular Woodworking Magazine April 2011 (#189) with Jameel’s article ”Precision Inlay, Simple Tools.”
In Our Store: Find books and videos by Christopher Schwarz on bench design and construction. Read more
Can America’s most recognizable woodworking personality actually retire?
By Jefferson Kolle
Norm Abram first stepped in front of a television camera in 1979 as the lead carpenter on “This Old House,” a show on which he still appears. A decade later, Norm began “The New Yankee Workshop,” and for 21 seasons he taught a glued-to-the-screen audience how to make furniture. Norm never skipped the hard parts, and while he didn’t make them look easy, he did show you that they were doable. As such, his gentle smile and reassuring manner coaxed countless people to take up the craft of working wood.
He has appeared on lots of other shows as well as in countless magazines, including two articles in the August 2005 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine (#149). “The New Yankee Workshop” may be over, but Norm is hardly retired. He just bought a new old house that he’s renovating and he’s mulling over ideas for a new shop, so he can keep building and building.
In a recent discussion, Norm talked about TV, the Internet, woodworking and safety.
Video: In 2007, Norm Abram was interviewed by Popular Woodworking Magazine senior editor (then editor and publisher) Steve Shanesy.
Blog: Read this blog post about Norm’s decision to stop production of “The New Yankee Workshop.”
Web site: Visit the official “New Yankee” web site to watch selected episodes of the show, or purchase project plans and DVDs.
Articles: Our August 2005 issue (#149) featured a visit to ”The New Yankee Workshop” and a build-along of Norm Abram’s Adirondack chair. Read more