Seth Gould: Explorer in Metal

Meet this expert metalworker, toolmaker and locksmith.

by George Walker
pages 22-24

Nothing could be simpler than a hammer. That is until you hold one of Seth Gould’s cross-peen hammers and discover the balance and heft of a tool that instantly becomes a part of your arm. Suddenly you have a new category for the word “hammer,” something with life and spring in your hand, and all those other things you once called hammers are now downgraded to a clumsy dead weight on the end of a stick. This feeling applies across all of his other tools, as well.

Gould is a metalsmith. He forges exquisite hand tools that woodworkers covet both for their function and the way they please the eye. Each design is the culmination of a long process of chasing the ideal form. Yet beyond his obvious mastery of his craft, there is something Gould can teach us all about design and unlocking creative potential.

Arguments about the boundary lines between art and craft have resulted in gallons of ink spilled and tempers flared with not much to show for it. Some separate the two, with art pushed up into the stratosphere and craft tossed down in the ditch. Others use a broad brush to meld both together, but in doing so strip both down to the mundane, by touting the art of folding a shirt or the craft of weeding a garden. Yet craft and art are best seen as partners that elevate one another. Art blossoms from the crucible of craft, and craft reflects art in a never-ending dance. Art is almost always the result of exploration, and that exploration often springs from the mastery of craft.

Blog: Read Seth Gould’s article on the “charred finish” he uses for his tool handles. (to come)
Blog: Read more from George R. Walker on his By Hand & Eye blog with Jim Tolpin.
To Buy: George R. Walker’s DVDs.

From the December 2017 issue, #236