Editor’s note: One of the other books we have in the works is tentatively titled: “Go, Go, Go: The Life, Influence and Woodworking of Tage Frid” by Bill Rainford. In this post, Bill introduces himself and explains a little bit about the book. Were thrilled to work with Bill on this book about Frid (1915-2004), one of the most influential woodworkers of the 20th century.
— Christopher Schwarz
I’m driven by a lifelong desire to learn, build, experiment and share. I love examining furniture to see how it was made and read the tool marks. I enjoy digging through period sources to learn a new technique or build something that has not been seen for generations. I also search out designs that take form and function into account. These inclinations can often take me down some deep rabbit holes or on crazy adventures. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
As I progressed in my woodworking I got tired of building predominantly power tool projects from magazines. I wanted to design my own pieces and get into more traditional tools and techniques. Around that time I was referred to the three-volume set of books “Tage Frid Teaches Woodworking” by the Taunton Press. This iconic set of books was eye opening. Tage’s no-nonsense approach, acerbic humor and amusing anecdotes made for a memorable read.
Many of the tenets of Frid’s teaching resonated with me and still guide my work. A core principle of Frid’s mentoring was to teach several different techniques to accomplish a given task so a student had a deeper well of technical knowledge to draw upon when the time came to use it. Long before “hybrid woodworking” was a coined phrase, Frid espoused the use of power and hand tools to help a craftsmen compete and make a living. In addition to a respect for traditional techniques and wood itself, I also appreciated his efforts to show how a craftsman should strive to make something that is functional, comfortable, tailored to the room or audience and also affordable.
I grew up on Long Island, N.Y. I’ve been a lifelong woodworker and maker. I’m at my happiest when I am out in my workshop. I started out helping my father and grandfather around the house as a child – finishing the basement, building a deck etc. I grew up watching “This Old House” and “New Yankee Workshop” and building power tool oriented projects. Once I got a place of my own I got into building things such as a custom mantel, a loft, staircase, bookcases etc. but I didn’t feel fulfilled. I wanted to get into more intricate hand work. That’s when I learned about the North Bennet Street School (NBSS), which is the oldest trade school in the United States. After taking some hand tool fundamentals and carving workshops at the school I went on to become a graduate of the two-year Preservation Carpentry program. I now develop and teach traditional woodworking workshops at NBSS, the Boston Architectural College, Historic Eastfield Village and other regional schools, conferences and events.
I consider myself to primarily be a traditional joiner, building and restoring traditional windows, doors, trim and casework though though I’ve also built a fair amount of furniture, restored timber frames and worked on historic buildings such as the Old State House in Boston, the Harvard Shaker Meeting House in Harvard, Mass., and similar properties.
I’ve written for Fine Homebuilding, Popular Woodworking, Early American Industries Association, Fix.com and my blog RainfordRestorations.com
I live in southern New Hampshire with my a wife, Alyssa, and two sons, Bradley and Henry. I’m thankful to my wife for being supportive of all my woodworking activities and for my two sons who love watching me work around the house.
Genesis for the Book
A couple of years ago I wrote up a blog post which shared my thoughts about Tage Frid and his work and wondered what ever happened to his tools and furniture. You can read that post here. In response to that post I received a comment from Tage’s grandson Oliver Frid and had the opportunity to visit Tage’s son Peter’s home.
It was an inspirational visit and they were gracious hosts to put up with me being excited to see many of Tage’s tools and furniture pieces in person. You can read more about that visit in this post. As I learned more about Tage’s life and work I realized there were a lot of interesting stories to be shared with a wider audience.
What will the Book be About?
The book will be a mixture of biography, woodworking projects with plans, interviews and an exploration of the impact of Frid’s work. From Frid’s time working for the Royal Danish Cabinetmakers (at the time Kaare Klint was running the department), to his time at the School for American Craftsmen and the studio art movement through his time at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and Penland, the goal is to share projects based on Frid’s work in those periods and some by those whom he taught and inspired. It will be an eclectic mix of chairs, tables, casework, built-ins and workshop projects that explore the various forms Danish modern designs can take on in a flavor reminiscent of Frid’s aesthetic.
After working on colonial and Shaker styles of furniture and buildings for such a long time, I’ve found that Danish modern designs really appealing. I’ve been intrigued by how well Danish modern pieces can fit into a traditional home in large part due to their expressed construction, use of traditional joinery and respect for and re-interpretation of traditional forms.
One of Frid’s most-remembered projects is his traditional Scandinavian workbench with a shoulder vise, square dogs and a tail vise. It was similar to the bench I was trained on. Inspired by Frid’s design and my own preferences I built my own interpretation of this bench and made a series of modifications to address many of the criticisms folks have had with Frid’s earlier workbench. The bench I built was about 2′ longer, a few inches deeper, built up in some areas to add weight and makes use of some newer construction techniques and new easier-to-install hardware that was not available to Frid in the 1980s. If you’d like to learn more about this workbench and whet your appetite for the forthcoming book, I encourage you to check out my article in the February 2017 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine, which is due out next month.
If you’d like to learn more about me and my explorations in woodworking, please check out my blog or follow me via my other social media accounts below.
— Bill Rainford
Facebook: Bill Rainford Woodworking
15 thoughts on “‘Go, Go, Go’ – a New Book on Tage Frid”
Wow, there’s about to be an avalanche of great new material from LAP. Congrats Bill!
I refer to Frid’s trio of books on a regular basis and I most treasure volume number one with his signature in it. I was fortunate to meet the man and take a couple of his workshops way back in the day at Highland Hardware. I still apply his no nonsense approach to getting things done. The guy sharpened his chisels on a Porter Cable portable belt sander. In fact he loved the belt sander. He got stuff done.
I was living and working out in Seattle around the time I discovered Frid’s work and he passed away while I was out there. I wish I got to meet him in person, but it has been an interesting journey to learn about him from his work, hist students and those around him.
I see Lost Art Press has improved on the conveyor belt apparatus that takes money from my wallet. Sounds like another good book to add to the reading list. Thanks to Bill for writing it.
Yet another countryman I’ve never heard about… Sometimes I feel so ignorant reading this blog – and that much richer and more curious once I finish.
But there it was again. That term. Hybrid wood worker. Wtf? They drive a Prius and run on both tofu and bacon or what? There is nothing special for a wood worker in being able to handle both hand tools as well as power tools. Power tools make work easier when used correctly in the right context, and the use of hand tools – and I will make sure to be careful not to make this an absolute point – is for most people required to understand the material properly, as well as being the by far easiest way of making minor corrections to not quite satisfying results from the power tool. Or being the choice for minor operations, where one would already be done by using hand tools, as opposed to not even being done setting up the power tools. Common sense.
Hand tool wood working is a movement. It is about honing skills, mind and health. It is yet a bit different from most common practice and has a vision of a better future for humanity. Anarchism. Entrepreneurship. Freedom. Preserving and/or promoting work of the hand and mind. Working with ones surroundings in stead of against them. There is a reason to the madness in trying to stick out from the crowd, however much success and following it is gaining.
I myself work both ways, and since ’94 always have, so you will have to excuse me if I don’t feel the need to have another label other than joiner/carpenter pinned on me. Hybrid schmybrid. Don’t get me wrong. It is for anyone to call themselves what they want, but to explain what it is that I do, It’s nothing but hot air.
Yep that whole hybrid woodworker term is something a few online woodworkers have really latched onto in recent years. NBSS has been teaching that blend of hand and power since the 1880s and through much of that time it was just considered the way to do things, still be standing at the end of the day and not lose your shirt in the process.
Ditto on Frid’s 3 volume set of books. I was actually looking for a guided course on hand tool woodworking to work through from home and recalled those books,I need to dig them out of storage to confirm, but I think working through them front to back is exactly what I need. Looking forward to the new book. I do have one question, was you photo staged to show absolutely nothing interesting about your bench ? All the goodies appear to be on the back side or otherwise obscured.
The photographer made the composition on that one. That was one of the few photos showing the back side/rear skirt of the bench which is also dovetailed and of course me. The shots of me behind the bench probably looked like I was as storekeeper behind a counter. You’ll have to check out the article for all the goodies. 🙂 The magazine cover photo etc. show the bench from the front with nice views of the vises etc.
Nice to read about you Bill. I think you have a great idea for a book, and I like your blog as well, spent some time this afternoon getting acquainted with your work. All the best to you and your forthcoming efforts.
Thank you for the kind note. 😀
Just a quick one to follow up on a post made a few weeks ago about how LAP chooses which authors to publish…
The gist of that post was essentially how you only publish people with whom you are friends, would eat dinner with, etc. So how did LAP get to know Bill Rainford? What’s the prior connection there?
I met Bill (and his wife) through our membership in the Early American Industries Association. And I had been following his blog for some time.
You have a great imagination and do great work thanks Bill
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