One aspect of woodworking that is difficult to explain to non-woodworkers are the physical and mental effects the tools have on us.
Sometimes I wonder if I should bring my Lie-Nielsen No. 3 in bronze to the doctor’s office with me. I can promise you that my blood pressure and pulse are lower when my right hand is gently curved around its tote.
When we set out to design our large Center Square in brass, I knew exactly how it should function. But we were also chasing something else that is much more difficult to achieve – an almost totemistic way that the tool looks and feels in your hand.
The size and heft of the tool were carefully considered to make it something that feels at home in your hands. Overall it’s 5-1/2” long and 2-3/8” wide, so it sits nicely in most palms. The Center Square is machined from solid brass and weighs a pleasant 5.6 ounces. All its edges have been eased after machining, so there are no sharp and unpleasant corners.
But the real stunning part of this tool is the machine-engraved pattern on its blade. I wanted woodworkers who might not be able to afford an engraved tool to be able to own something that is (almost) as perfect and beautiful.
So I reached out to Jenny Bower, an engraver and maker in Michigan, to see if she would lend her hands and eyes to this project. You might remember her from our small run of engraved lump hammers. There’s no way we could ask Jenny to engrave hundreds of these Center Squares. They would be too expensive and it might burn her out.
But I was willing to bet that our machinist, Craig Jackson, would be willing to try to translate Jenny’s designs into something that one of his mills could engrave. Jenny drew up about a dozen designs for us. Then Craig selected the one best suited for his mill. It took many hours of work, but Craig managed to translate Jenny’s fluid and floral lines into something his machines could cut.
The result is not something intended to fool an engraver. The lines are clearly incised by a machine. But they also retain the fluidity and life that Jenny put into them.
The Crucible Center Square is now in production and the first big batch is in our store. These tools are made in Kentucky with a little help from Michigan thrown in. Right now the price of metals such as brass is volatile. The price of this Center Square is $120 (domestic shipping is free). That might change as the price of brass fluctuates.
All thanks to Jenny and Craig for making a tool that exceeded my high expectations for it.
— Christopher Schwarz