Make : Fiasco Gelato
Film : Fiasco Gelato
Make : Long Table Distillery
Film : Amanda Zotek
Make : Raw Taste
Film : Sasha Cherovsky
Make : Dreamcatcher Boats
Film : Shayne Kasai
My name is Tom Fidgen and I’m an author/designer/maker in Toronto, Canada. I design and build custom furniture using ‘only hand tools’ in my work space - The Unplugged Woodshop. I also write about it!
What made you want to be a maker?
I’ve been a professional musician for most of my adult life. If you know musicians, you’ll know that most of them do other things besides making music or writing songs. This can be born out of necessity, or simply another avenue of expression.
In my case, it was a bit of both. My ‘other things' has always been working wood and from a very young age, hand craft and wood work came quite naturally and is something I truly love doing.
I used to build traditional style wooden boats in a one-man boat shop, on Cape Breton Island, where I’m originally from, and still spend my summers there. I think it’s a need to be close to the ocean. When the boat building industry slowed down, I started making custom furniture using ‘only hand tools’ - no power at all.
In and around 2004-2006, ‘blogging’ was still a word most people were just getting to know. I started writing about the boats and furniture I was building at that time. Blogging eventually led to two publishing deals with two books on the topic of building furniture using only hand tools.
Made By Hand - Furniture Projects from the Unplugged Woodshop, was released by F&W Media in 2008 and my latest book, The Unplugged Woodshop - Hand Crafted Projects for the Home and Workshop, was released in September 2013 through The Taunton Press.
Why should people support your business/products?
Working with hand tools can be a relaxing and rewarding method of building. There is very little dust or noise and the dangers associated with power tools are greatly reduced in the hand tool only wood shop.
People who enjoy learning these traditional methods and techniques of hand craft would appreciate my books for both the methods of making and hopefully, some inspiration along the way.
On the flip side; people who commission work from me enjoy the creative process and the artisan approach I offer. I’m always eager to work alongside a client, developing ideas and designs, and making something they can truly call their own. Custom made, by hand and by heart, here in my wood shop. No two pieces are ever the same when the hand of the maker is present.
Favorite product that you make?
This is a great question and really difficult to answer. Truth be told, my favorite product is the one I’m working on at any given moment.
Every new design and/or project, quickly becomes a favorite during the creative and making process. When shapes begin to lift off the pages of my sketch books, and the wood shavings begin to fall to the floor, this is absolutely my favorite time, regardless of the individual piece I’m building.
That said, if I had to choose a favorite, it would probably be a folding chair design I call The Funeral Chair. I’ve made four of them so far and everyone of them is a little different than the last.
List five of your favorite tools.
1. Without a doubt, a smoothing plane that was custom made for me by the late, great James Krenov. Arguably the most influential figure in modern woodcraft, James Krenov was an author, teacher, cabinetmaker and founder of the Fine Woodworking School at The College of the Redwoods in Northern California.
2. A vintage, Disston D-18, 26-in. hand saw. It used to belong to my Grand Uncle, Johnny Pier. He passed away when I was 13 years old and I’ve been using the saw ever since to break down rough lumber for furniture parts.
3. Veritas low-angle Jack plane. This is the work horse of my wood shop and I use it to dimension, flatten and prepare wood. It’s made here in Canada and whenever I can, I try to keep it local.
4. Field Notes Brand Note Books. I use them daily/hourly for grabbing those little ideas as they float on by… who knows, it’s those little ideas that may one day become our biggest.
5. MacBook Pro. What can I say, it’s 2013 and I’m using it right now to type this list into. I blog on it, I record music on it, I wrote both of my books on it, it’s an invaluable tool in my workshop.
(photographs from Tom Fidgen)
Make : Wildhagen Hats
Film : This Fair Land