The Birth of a Tool, Part 1
The maker movement and craftsmanship is back in full swing, and it’s refreshing to see tools and products made by hand. The first part of a documentary created by John Neeman Tools, called The Birth of a Tool, showcases the process of building an axe. John Neeman Tools is a Latvia-based company that creates hand-forged tools and knives intended for woodworking.
Their website reads:
We use our hands to produce tools that will live on, telling their story in the hands of the craftsmen after us. Each tool we make is born with energy and personality–a love and care that will be felt daily by each craftsman; a resonance from the heart of the tool.
Towering factories and belching chimneys are not our game. All of our tools are made in our small traditional workshops, using equally traditional methods and techniques. Our focus is on uniqueness and quality, not quantity. We want to help people to remember how to use their hands, to relate their own human energy to their tools–to achieve the true joy of creating something from humble beginnings, as we did.
The video begins with footage of a snowy cabin, a sight that speaks to most outdoorsmen and women. Wood is gathered and taken inside the beautiful building, where a workshop is set up. Next, a fire is kindled, creating a perfect environment for some winter tool-making. (Anyone else looking forward to winter weather now? I definitely am.) The craftsman begins by donning an apron to protect his clothes and skin, and he starts to form an axe head out of a block of metal from the forge. He hammers and shapes the metal, placing it back into the forge when necessary. He then makes the handle from a piece of wood, cutting, sanding, and shaping until it’s perfect. After a while, the axe begins to take shape, and the result is a beautiful hand-crafted tool ready to be used.
John Neeman Tools says this about their process:
We work as a close team. When the blacksmith finishes his labour the carpenter starts his. It is like a conversation between craftsmen who know each other well. For a perfect fit each handle is made individually and is therefore unique. It is like a footstep in sand. Each man’s footstep is unique so the sand forms to match to each footstep. Our tools are the same with the variation in chisel socket or axe eye, making it completely unique and personal.
When the tool is made we must clothe it, and so the third stage of the process is leather work to create a hand-crafted blade guard. Finally the tool is packed for shipping and sent to its new home.
Although this video is more artistic than informative, I’m always interested to peek into people’s workspaces. The best items are made in a comfortable environment attuned to the needs of the craftsman, and I think this video shows a romanticized version of that process.
Check out the full video below. We’ll share other John Neeman Tools process videos, including one about knife making and another on chisel making, throughout the week.