Archive for December, 2009

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Learn From the Best

December 28, 2009

How many times have you heard someone sheepishly say, “I’m just self-taught?” Being self-taught can be a kind of by-word for the homespun and amateurish. And that’s too bad. History is packed with distinguished figures who were largely self-taught. Inventors, artists, scientists, philosophers, . . . . The ability to teach oneself is an extremely powerful tool. If you can truly teach yourself, there’s really nothing you can’t learn to do.

The ability to refine skill is tantamount to acquiring new skill. Refining your thoughts can move you forward in large leaps, so that you seem to have improved during periods away from the bench. The ability to teach oneself and to watch one’s own thoughts is probably the most important skill I’ve never seen taught in school. Most skills ultimately come down to the particular way that your thoughts wriggle out through your fingertips. Calibrate your eye. Refine your thoughts. Improve your skill.

So as 2010 draws near if I had one wish for everyone it would simply be that if you have something you want to learn, that you start learning it in this coming year. And if it’s something you think might be out of reach for you, all the better–learn it anyway. If you aren’t already good at it, learn to really teach yourself. Once you do that, there’s no telling what might come next. Best of luck and happy new year!

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Interview and Article

December 11, 2009

Woodworking blogger Tom Iovino interviewed me about my saws and wrote a very nice article on his blog, Tom’s Workbench. He graciously offered to the share article, so I am reprinting it here with his permission. Thanks Tom.

WOODWORKING SPOTLIGHT: ANDREW LUNN

With care… always.

When people talk about the good old days of hand tools, they often cite the attention paid to the small details. Plane mouths that are machined to tight tolerances. Comfortable handles on chisels. The look and feel of a solid performing work of art.

That’s why you might be surprised that one of the true artisans making new hand saws started out doing rough work.

Andrew Lunn, the owner of Eccentric Toolworks, got what some folks might call a late start in woodworking. “I did have a shop class in junior high school when I was 14 years old. But that wasn’t what really got me going. In fact I didn’t make anything after that until I was 27 years old! I was working in an office and started to get the feeling that I wanted to work more with my hands.” According to Andrew, this career change came totally out of the blue. “I got myself a job working on a construction crew, doing restoration work to fire damaged buildings. It was all really unfocused at first–I knew I felt drawn to working with wood, and that I felt drawn to working with my hands. But I didn’t know if that would mean carpentry, or furniture, or what. So I put together a modest hand tool shop in my garage and began making things by hand. That’s what really got me going.”

Over time Andrew realized he was attracted to the smaller, more skilled tasks that focused his attention. “Several years ago, I got the idea that I wanted to make myself a whole set of hand tools, and that I would in turn use that set of tools to make things. The prospect of making a saw felt particularly interesting so I thought I would start there–and basically I started and just never stopped!”

Today, Andrew makes some of the most comfortable, true cutting – and beautiful – hand saws available for sale. His saws are not mass-produced. Instead, just as a tailor would fit a suit to a customer, each saw is fitted to the individual client placing the order.

“Basically I start with a measurement or two from the customer then send them a poplar prototype of their handle that incorporates those measurements. I get feedback from them and incorporate their input into the actual handle. I also tune the saw for the particular woods the customer will be using.” Andrew ships the saw with the final handles made of beautiful curly maple, cherry, quartersawn beech, or walnut.

Yes, you are reading this correctly. Each saw is truly made by hand in his shop. The handles are shaped entirely by hand. Most of the metalwork is done by hand with files and other hand tools as well. “The saws are tuned and fussed over until I am totally happy with them.”

While Andrew could certainly just build some functional plain-Jane looking saws and call it a day, his signature on these tools makes his work truly stand out. Decorative cut outs at the front of the saw make what would normally be a shop workhorse a thing of beauty. “Saws to me represent a creative outlet, so the way they look reflects various openings or possibilities that I thought could be explored. I enjoy the entire design process, both with function and appearance, so as much as possible I try to meld the two into a single fabric.”

When I asked Andrew about his favorite aspect of building these beautiful tools, he had some difficulty identifying it. “I don’t know if I really have one. I like each part of it and get really absorbed while doing it. The metalwork is so important, and has a subtle art to it. The handles, those are a really big deal too. Saws are just very lean tools–there’s nothing there that isn’t important. It takes a lot of concentration and care. That’s why on some of the saws I etch the words, ‘With Care … Always.”

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Ordering Has Been Closed

December 3, 2009

I am sometimes asked how I ever started making saws in the first place. Initially I wanted to make myself a set of tools that I would in turn use to make other things. I started with the saws and simply kept making them. They are very interesting tools to make. Back then I was also interested in developing other facets of my work, items other than tools. Well actually I still am. I keep telling myself that when I get caught up with my saws I will start making other things too. However, the backlog grows much faster than I can work it down. Right now it is around 18 months or more. I truly enjoy making saws but need to explore other avenues as well. That, combined with the overwhelming nature of the backlog, has led me to the decision to stop taking orders for awhile. It will give me a chance to work the backlog down and to ultimately organize my work in a way that permits other pursuits. All orders already placed will be filled, each one with the utmost care and diligence–but I won’t be able to let those orders be expanded. And ultimately when orders do reopen the prices will need to be higher. Various expedients have been suggested at times to make my work more streamlined and efficient, and I have carefully considered all of them. I am extremely careful and conservative about adopting measures like that. I always come back to the sort of work I want to do, and the sort of work that my customers expect when they buy a saw from me–saws that are made by hand at the bench and that function in a very particular way. These are the kinds of saws that got me interested in making saws in the first place. They are different, and unique, and to my mind are worth the extra time and work to make.

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