Chairmaking Tools that Feel and Work Right
I caught up yesterday with Tim Manney, a designer and producer of chairmaking tools in Portland, Maine. Here’s our conversation, the first installment in a new series of Q&A posts with experts and professionals in the woodworking community. And there’s a twist to this series – each interviewee will tell me who I should talk to next. Enjoy!
Dan: What are the tools and machines you use to make your specialty chairmaking tools?
Tim: I make a reamer that is used to make the tapered leg to seat joint of a Windsor chair, and an adze designed to hollow out chair seats. Making the reamer is a highly precise process, because each one has to be an exact six-degree taper. Ninety percent of my time making reamers is spent at the lathe and I use a duplicator for repeatability. I make the adze blades at the forge and I shave the handles with a drawknife. Other than the lathe, my band saw and drill press help out, but otherwise, I work with planes, knives, chisels and scrapers. My workshop is tiny and hand tools accomplish a lot and require a minimum of space.
Dan: What is the philosophy behind your business?
Tim: I try to design and make tools that work exceptionally well. When someone picks up a tool that I have made and uses it for the first time I want them to think, “THIS is what an adze is supposed to feel like.” That feeling gets people excited and that excitement is one of the things that I am going for.
Dan: Where do you find inspiration and new ideas?
Tim: My aesthetic inspirations come primarily from Swedish-style carved wooden spoons, a la Wille Sundqvist. They are a model of simplicity and elegance, a true marriage of form and function. I try to make objects that have that kind of visual simplicity. Spoon carving is a great way to develop a sense of the subtlety of shape, learn how to cut wood cleanly in three dimensions – and it’s fun.
Tool ideas come from using tools that don’t work as well as I want them to. The adze is a perfect example of that. There was not an adze that was commercially available that either Pete Galbert or I liked. So we collaborated and designed this tool to cut the way that we wanted an adze to cut, and be fairly intuitive for new users to learn how to use.
Dan: Who should I talk to next?
Tim: On that note, I think you should talk to a spoon carver like Jarrod StoneDahl. He is incredibly skillful.
Thanks, Tim! Very impressive stuff.
Note to readers: We are releasing our latest value pack on Friday, a chairmaking bundle. Stay tuned for the release. Click here to snap it up!