A New Generation for the Golden Age

One of the great delights of attending the recent LNT event in Covington KY was to witness the overlapping of the generations of contemporary woodworking and woodworking tool makers.  This atmosphere will be replicated to a logarithmic degree at the upcoming Handwork 2017 where there will be several dozen exhibitors in Amana rather than the half dozen in Covington.  The ultimate irony is of course that the generations of modern craftsmanship, and the populations within them, have almost no relationship to the calendar.

There were of course the godfathers of the modern woodworking and toolmaking universe: Lie-Nielsen Toolworks (in truth Thomas Lie-Nielsen could be be considered one of the progenitors of this new world of high-quality tools at an approachable price), Chris Schwarz, Pop Wood, Matt Bickford.  The middle generation was represented by Raney Nelson and Scott Meek, whose creative energies in the direction of tool making are probably now in their second decade.

But what drew my attention was the presence of The New Generation in the persons of Mateo Panzico (top) and Steve Voigt, two brilliant toolmakers whose emergence in the marketplace over the past caouple of years has been noteworthy.

Both makers were at last year’s LNT Covington event (in fact my only picture of Mateo was from last year) and I was this close (thumb and forefinger a fraction apart) to coming home with some of their product but miraculously I resisted the temptation.  The same could not be said for this year.

The two men are working in wildly different styles; Mateo is developing a creative vocabulary in infill planes, and his stylistic beginnings were a bit steampunk-ish but evolving into somewhat smoother, not-quite-organic forms.

Steve is tacking close to the winds of tradition with his double-iron beechwood body English designs.  Notwithstanding my inventory of toothing planes, I am considering commissioning him to try his hand at the form.

Both makers are producing exquisite tools that are at the very highest levels of performance.

This year I came home with two smoothing planes, one from each fellow.  In truth part of the reason I made the decision was my desire to get their tools before these makers become so well known and in such demand that I could no longer afford their tools.  As a free-market absolutist myself, I will not object to their growing success in the least, in fact I will celebrate it, but I was simply making a rational decision to buy before they ascended to a point where I could no longer consider obtaining them.

The best part?  Mateo and Steve are but the tip of the iceberg.  There are literally dozens of new and nascent toolmakers seeking to fulfill your desires and demands in the marketplace.

Thanks to Lie-Nielsen Toolworks and Handworks 2017 for nurturing this new generation.