One-on-One with Tage Frid
A talk with the old master
Synopsis: Fine Woodworking’s John Kelsey interviewed Tage Frid as he was nearing retirement from the Rhode Island School of Design. Frid explains how he keeps teaching the same techniques fresh by solving students’ new problems.. He talks about his formula for setting prices and how he avoids being snobbish and why having a big shop, with eight people working for him, gave him an ulcer. A side article provides a biography of this well-known woodworker and teacher.
I crane to see over the crowd as this short, ruddy and cylindrical man explains, in charmingly fractured English, what he is about to do. He will saw and chisel a dovetailed corner, four copies of which could make a box or drawer. The people seem to find the handcut dovetail a wondrous thing, and this man’s method is as intriguing as his results: to saw down a measly inch of wood, he hefts a bowsaw the size of your car door. He doesn’t hurry, though this won’t take long, talking and joking the whole time. The bits of wood will slither together right off the saw, all please applaud. And if not, he’ll segue onto track B: how to repair mistakes using your old claw hammer.
This showman is Tage Frid, Danish for 69 years, cabinetmaker for 50 and teacher for 35. He’s done the dovetail act a hundred times, he knows that this crowd of amateur woodworkers loves it, can’t get enough. He’s what they traveled here this weekend to see and what they hope to carry home again. What they get what Frid delivers, is a direct line to ancient times, when craftsmen really-by-golly were craftsmen Those old guys—and there’s no doubting Frid is one such—those old guys knew what they were doing, because still…