Behind Every Great Women is a Great Man. Behind Every Great Craftsman is a Great Tool. As a customer, we always praise how skilful the artisans are, but forget to recognise the contribution of their tools. Undoubtedly, their experience, creativity, and expertise have a huge influence on their works. However, no matter how capable they are, making high-quality pieces is nearly impossible without the right implements. In the book THE STORY OF TOOLS, it puts the focus back on the ‘assistants’, and provides a different viewpoint for readers to appreciate and understand makers’ works.
New tools are being introduced rapidly these days. The word ‘NEW’ often means something improve and make our lives easier. Yet, this is not completely applicable to craftsmen’s case. ‘Traditional tools have this strange affinity with the human body where modern tools don’t.’ says Christopher Howe, the furniture maker. The comfort while using hand tools is extremely important, otherwise, makers’ action will be restricted and their final products might end up having flaws.
The imperfection in design might be caused by designers’ insufficient observation. Take the plane, which is used for producing a smooth surface on the wood, for example. ‘The old planes have enough room for you to tuck three fingers around it and your top finger runs along the edge of the plane, whereas the modern shape is much more based on holding it with four fingers – which would indicate the fact that you didn’t know you’re supposed to point your top finger.’ says David Linley, the owner of LINLEY.
When it comes to where the makers met their beloved tools, some received from their family members, some brought them at antique markets, some even made them from scratch.
Robin Wood, the woodturner and founding chairman of the Heritage Crafts Association, made his own turning hook. Woodturning is a technique developed by Egyptians in around 1300 BC. Since there are only a few practitioners remain, and more efficient techniques are introduced to produce wooden objects, it is difficult to find stores that sell woodturning tools. ‘You can’t buy them off the shelf, so realistically, if you want to be a traditional bowlturner, you have to learn how to forge these things yourself.’ says Wood.
Even you found what you are looking for, it does not necessarily mean it is the right one for you. For instance, a pair of scissor. It might be too heavy, or the blade could be too long to cut fabrics. Thus, making your own tool could be a better alternative when you have specific requirements.
Some artisans have a huge set of tools, with both multifunction and single function tools. The number of them slowly grows as the owners do various kinds of work and need more particular tools. ‘All glassmakers are pretty crazy about tools. They collect them, and you’ll always find them rifling through these enormous toolboxes for the right tool for a specific task.’ says Peter Layton, the founder of the London Glassblowing gallery. I painted oil paintings during high school. I remember how my paint brushes increased from one to more than ten brushes within a year. Every single of them was made from different types of hair, and with unalike thickness and softness. Using them enabled me to paint a lot easier and quicker, thus I could enjoy the process and focus on making my painting better.
This book gives every tool a close-up shot, so that we can see the marks left by the craftsmen. Such as scratches on the wooden handle, and tapes for sticking the broken parts. These little things show us how often the makers use them and how much they trust their tools. Through reading the stories of tools and looking at their photos, I can feel craftsmen’s passion with their work and their appreciation of tools. If you love crafts, or interested in knowing how they were made, this is certainly a book for you.
Title: THE STORY OF TOOLS
Author: Hole & Corner
Publisher: Pavilion Books Company Ltd
Publication year: 2019