Shop Tour: Andrew Hunter
It would be easy to think that Andrew's shop is lavishly appointed and just as impressive as the work that comes out of it. Well, in some cases less actually does make more.
I’ve been in awe of Andrew Hunter’s work for years, but I’m not sure I was totally prepared to see Andrew’s work in person. Every surface of every single piece I saw was meticulously executed–as close to perfection as one could hope to achieve. It would be easy to think that Andrew’s shop is lavishly appointed and just as impressive as the work that comes out of it. Well, in some cases less actually does make more.
As a woodworker, it’s easy to get wrapped up in buying tools, and that’s fine, as long as you know it isn’t going to make you a better woodworker. I have been guilty of thinking that I was one tool away from nirvana. On the other hand, I’ve been in enough shops and watched enough masters to know that no matter what tool I buy next, the most important tool that I need to hone is my mind. Unfortunately, as Morpheus would say, “There is a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path.”
Andrew works out of a space barely big enough to hold a workbench with room to walk around it. A collection of Japanese handsaws hangs from the wall above a shelf that holds a modest collection of Japanese planes. In most shops, this collection would be little more than eye candy–a functional collage. In Andrew’s shop, it’s all he needs to produce some of the world’s finest pieces of furniture.
Andrew’s minimalist approach extends beyond his bench room. If you head outside–past the old Bronco with a plywood door–to Andrew’s garage, you’ll find his collection of corded apprentices. An old contractor’s tablesaw, router, drill press, and planer, none of which one would normally associate with the high-end work Andrew produces, but obviously, they all get the job done.
I can’t help but wonder if the sparseness of Andrew’s tool collection contributes to his ability to produce such exquisite pieces. By focusing on the technique instead of focusing on the tool, does Andrew get more out of a single handplane than I can a drawer full? I’m sure Andrew would produce jaw-dropping work whether he had a room full of tools or a warehouse full, but it might just be time I look inward and concentrate not just on the tools, but how I use them.