The Tools of ‘By Hand & Eye’

Following is a post by George Walker, author (along with Jim Tolpin) of “By Hand & Eye,” By Hound & Eye” and “From Truths to Tools.” If you are able to come to our open house Saturday, August 7, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (details here), you will be lucky enough to meet George – and the beautiful tools shown above – in person.

I’m looking forward to the upcoming open house at Lost Art Press on August 7th. It’s a chance to share a project Jim Tolpin and I have been working on. Yes, we are at it again – exploring the world of design and artisan geometry. This latest adventure began after looking at a number of historic tool chests and tools used by pre-industrial woodworkers. Most of the tools like hand planes, saws and chisels were typically acquired from specialty toolmakers. Yet there was a group of tools that were often user made, including straight edges, try squares and miter squares. This grouping of tools had a few things in common. Generally, they are used for design and layout and they all embody the geometry that lies beneath everything. They provide that physical link between our designer’s eye and the work at hand.

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After Jim and I made some of these tools and began using them, we both came to realize there is something deeper going on. Yes they are highly functional and a pleasure to use. More than that, these tools are teachers. Turns out that building a set of traditional layout tools is a class in advanced hand-tool techniques as well as a master class in artisan geometry. All these tool builds use geometry to generate the tool, but also utilize geometry to dial in each tool to a high level of perfection.

A simple tool exploration on our part blossomed as we looked at historic examples and built one tool after another. To our delight we learned that each build and each tool contains insights that deepens the connection between hand and eye. Jim won’t be able to attend the open house, but  I’ll be there with a pile of these “Tools of By Hand & Eye” for you to handle and see for yourself. I look forward to hearing from you and perhaps gaining insights from your questions and perspective. These tools have a way of sparking the imagination.

P.S. I also will be bringing along a special surprise for anyone interested in the nautical history of the Ohio River Valley.

George Walker


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