BRIDGEWATER — From Colonial times to today, woodworkers have been supported and celebrated throughout the Northeast, notably in Vermont. The evolution of hand tools has been gradual through the generations of artisans.
Friday, Oct. 7, kicked off a two-day Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event hosted by ShackletonThomas in Bridgewater.
On Oct. 7 and 8, Lie-Nielsen Toolworks, Inc., a premier manufacturer of heirloom-quality woodworking tools, held their second hand-tool event hosted by ShackletonThomas, located in the historic 180-year-old Mill Mall building in Bridgewater.
The event brought the artistry and exquisite handwork of woodworking to life through hands-on demonstrations and the collaboration of the two companies.
“There were people here the moment we arrived this morning and it has been steady all day,” Kirsten Lie-Nielsen of Lie-Nielsen Toolworks said at the event on Oct. 7 in Bridgewater. “We have had a lot of beginners here today, which is great and we’ve seen a lot of familiar faces – people that have attended our open house that we hold every July,” she added.
Work stations were set up throughout the second floor of the ShackletonThomas showroom. Each station was accompanied by a furniture maker providing hands-on demonstrations for both viewing and participating, all using Lie-Nielsen hand tools. There were furniture makers who work for ShackletonThomas, some who work for Lie-Nielsen, some who work with other companies and some who had their own businesses. However, what they all shared is their passion for woodworking.
“I usually attend the Hand Tool Event held near my home in Pennsylvania. However, they weren’t holding it this year and I just happened to be visiting Vermont this weekend, so here I am. It’s so nice to be here,” event-goer Warren Mickley said. “I’m a professional woodworker myself; it’s very stimulating to attend an event like this, watching the different techniques. It makes me look at everything in a new light. I think to myself while watching, now would that work? And, I evaluate my own processes and then wonder if it would turn out by using a different process and how would it look.”
The demonstrators at each station were all working on something unique and different: a Juliet rectangle mirror frame with hand carved flowers, a rolling pin, a cabinet, a tool-sharpening station and more.
“A lot of people have been showing interest in the carving that I’m doing and the chisels I’m using. I am showing them the method behind the madness. It has been such a great event so far,” said furniture maker Clara Florin of ShackletonThomas said.
Through the wood chip-blanketed floor at the back of the event space one could view Ryan Blanchard’s work. Blanchard, 18, is still in his first year as a furniture maker at ShackletonThomas.
“My father is a furniture maker here as well; he’s teaching me the trade. Here, I am making a rolling pin out of maple. This is my favorite thing to do in this shop,” Blanchard said.
Furniture makers and event-goers of all ages and all stages of woodworking expertise attended the Bridgewater event, which was open to the public.
Lie-Nielsen’s international woodworking show is designed to encourage woodworkers of all ages and skill levels to participate in first-hand demonstrations, either one-on-one or in a group setting, with one of the toolmakers. The demonstrations provide education on the benefits of traditional hand tools.
“The event last year was a fantastic success. Lie-Nielsen Toolworks are the primary and finest makers of traditional hand tools in the world for the past 35 years, and we [ShackletonThomas] are unique in our size within the U.S., still making traditional handmade furniture. We have eight furniture makers, four potters and a total of 20 in our crew,” said Charles Shackleton, CEO of ShackletonThomas.
Since 1986, ShackletonThomas — Charles Shackleton Furniture and Miranda Thomas Pottery — has specialized in and has been dedicated to traditionally handmade furniture, pottery and accessories. Charles Shackleton Furniture is one of the few companies in the U.S. today that has remained true to its roots through extensive handwork, creating piece-by-piece, with quality in mind rather than quantity.
“We consider ourselves to be the finest furniture makers in the Northeast; to be associated with the best tool makers in the Northeast is a very good association for us, as we are both leaders in our field,” Shackleton said.
Last year, the Hand Tool Event attracted 300 to 400 people during the two-day event.
“The event is to demonstrate the use of their tools, which is the most convincing way you can be drawn into these tools. It is an attractive event for the area — Vermont is a state known for its wood and craftsmanship,” Shackleton said.
Lie-Nielsen Toolworks, Inc. is a small family-owned company consisting of approximately 80 employees, located in Warren, Maine. The company was established in 1981 by Thomas Lie-Nielsen, making hand tools for woodworking. The planes, chisels, saws, benches and other tools made from steel, iron, bronze, brass, cherry, maple and hornbeam are all sourced in the U.S., with all castings poured by a local foundry. The company manufactures over 350 individual tools, holding 30 to 40 events each year, as well as weekend workshops in the facility’s classroom in Maine.
Kirsten Lie-Nielsen, Thomas Lie-Nielsen’s daughter, has spent most of her life around, and working with, hand tools. She has been a part of her father’s company full-time for seven years and will be at the event this weekend in Bridgewater. She said the demonstrations will not have a set schedule — this will allow those attending to get the most out of their visit, and steer the demonstrations in the direction of their questions.
“This will be my first year attending the tool event at ShackletonThomas,” Kirsten Lie-Nielsen said before this year’s demonstration in Bridgewater. “We will be providing ongoing demonstrations at the event. There will be different demonstrators at the event than last year.”
She was one of three demonstrators from Lie-Nielsen, along with Danielle Byrd from Bar Harbor, Maine, and Roger Benton from New York City. There were also two guest demonstrators, Steve Branam from “Close Grain: Woodworking in the Digital Age,” and Isaac Smith from Blackburn Tools.
She added, “ShackletonThomas provided a great venue and they were a great host … with their connection to woodworking that is inspired to educate people in hand tools.”
ShackletonThomas has stayed true to their roots in creating traditional handmade pieces within their workshops.
“In the age of computer technology, the aspects that set us aside are: design, material, craftsmanship and what we call ‘The Fourth Dimension’ — the personality and soul of human-made furniture and pottery that enhances people’s home lives, in a world veering away from human touch. All this use of handwork — the traces of the human hand can been seen and felt in each piece,” Shackleton said.
ShackletonThomas opened their second location in May of this year in Brooklyn, New York. In the near future, the Brooklyn location will carry Lie-Nielsen tools for purchase.
“Lie-Nielsen’s tools are useful and beautiful. They make wonderful gifts; they can be placed on a mantel, they are so beautiful, but they are even more beautiful when used,” Shackleton said.
ShackletonThomas will be holding their annual open house from 3 to 6 p.m. on Dec. 3 at their Bridgewater location. This year’s open house will include a small celebration for the company’s 30th anniversary.
ShackletonThomas is located at 102 Mill Road in Bridgewater. The showroom can be contacted at 672-5172 or www.shackletonthomas.com. Lie-Nielsen Toolworks, Inc. can be contacted at 800-327-2520, or visit the business online at www.lie-nielsen.com.