What do Bill and Frank have in common? From these photos a good guess might be they both carry an AARP card in their wallet. Maybe, but that is not what this article is about. You might guess that they both grew up together. Nope. Frank and his wife immigrated from Hungary in 1967. Bill was born and raised in Pittsfield MA. Ahhhhhh! They are both woodworkers you say. Well……. sort of.
Frank Klausz is a master cabinetmaker, schooled in the Old European apprenticeship system. He began his apprenticeship when he was 14 years old. Frank has cut as many dovetails as there are stars in the sky. Christopher Schwarz says Frank is one of two living dovetail savants.
Bill Guidi, well Bill cut his first dovetail about six months ago, and that is where this story begins. Bill has always loved woodworking, but it is the kind of woodworking that houses are made of. He built his first home himself. He has spent countless hours in the woods hand hewing beams for post and beam structures, including hand mortise and tenoning. Give Bill a few pine boards and he will return you a crafted bookcase with carvings of trees. But Bill has never attempted hand dovetails until he picked up Issue #156 of Popular Woodworking.
There on the front cover was Fank Klausz standing behind a tool box. Frank authored the article and described the many tools a cabinetmaker needed for his craft. He talked about how, in his youth, he collected hand tools and how they needed to be protected by a useful and portable tool chest. The tool chest was stuffed with all sorts of hand tools. Most of them Bill never acquired because they were not useful in hewing a tree. But he was smitten by Frank’s earthy chest and its practicality. Bill decided he had to build it.
But wait! No tools. Being an internet junky, a story for another day, Bill set about quickly ordering new tools, very much like those Frank had in his box. Lie-Nielsen, Lee Valley and Woodcraft saw their revenues soar – as did UPS and FedEx. Soon he had everything he needed. Time to make the chest.
The chest didn’t come quickly. Bill never practiced a single dovetail. He went right at it; but very painstakingly and very, very slowly. I would stop in from time to time to check on the chest’s progress. That was akin to watching paint dry – in slow motion. But eventually the chest was completed – the shell at least. Still there was the internal nooks and crannies to craft. This is exactly what Bill loves, and what drew him to this box in the first place. He has never told me that, but I am sure of it.
Each tool was gently placed, re-placed, re-placed, re-placed ….. You get the idea. Each time he placed a tool and made a holster for it he had to make modifications. I continued to check in on progress. More drying paint – very slowly. But eventually it was completed – uhhhh, except for the finish. What to use for a finish?
Well this story is beginning to drag on like the tool chest. So I’ll tell you the short version. Shellac! Bill fell in love with shellac. Everything he has done since has been shellacked. I guard my shop very carefully; I expect to arrive one day and find it shellacked.
Well, I have roasted Bill enough. I think it is time to say – "This is a tool chest Frank Klausz would be proud of." – don’t you?