A Boston Bombeâ€™ - One every 220 years
So the featured craftsman Thursday evening, January 15th 2009 at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum was head Rough Cutter, Thomas J MacDonald. Along with Tommy came Steve Brown, who heads the Cabinet and Furniture Making Department at the North Bennet Street School. and Christine Thomson, the finisher.
Justin, Eli, and the best dressed of all, Mike from Medford MA attended. With suite and polished shoes, if the museum asked for a representative of the Forum, Mike was our choice to stand and give the audience of 25 to 30 sitting and 5 to 10 standing a Rough Cutterâ€™s nod. Of course Tommyâ€™s Rachel made us all look a bit dishevelled.
It was a pretty exciting 2 days, I got beat-up over my plane irons and Tommy's wet stones. Last time it was my chisels and his shooting board, a ritual Iâ€™ve come to cherish in Chizzâ€™s shop, it emphasizes learning. I can always count on Justin to let me know how deep Iâ€™m in when he just quietly shakes his head and when Tommyâ€™s not looking, gives me his patented razzâ€¦â€¦..a big ole grin and a thumbs up.
Our stay continued with a nice seafood dinner then the next day while Tommy got ready for RISD, Justin and I headed into Boston to meet Eli, go over some construction engineering with Steve, then the 3 of us, drove to the Rhode Island School of Design where we proceeded to first get lost then get ready for the continuing epic drama of â€œBig-Tâ€™s Big Bombeâ€™ Adventureâ€. Tommy met us at the door, then immediately showed us the original Bombeâ€™, you only have to look at the original briefly to see, Tommy has created something very special.
The evening started out with an intro of Tommy, Steve and Christine, then Hope Alswang the instigator behind the Bombeâ€™ and Museum Official, proceeded to talk about furniture and the greatness of American craftsmanship during the 18th century. She emphasized that at this time we were interpreting the furniture from the â€œcontinentâ€. The geographic areas known today as, Italy, France Germany, the Netherlands, and England were mentioned.
Steve went over the approach to finding the proportioned swell in the end panels, the drawer dividers, how the brow was found and the idea of deconstructing the geometry used to find the Boston Bombeâ€™s line. He had overheads that aided in explaining the use of locating centerpoints on the same line using trammel points and striking arcs.
Christine went into the finish and expressed a reverence for the scope of the project she had been a part of.
Tommy was â€¦â€¦.well Tommy. Good background of the piece, he made sure the audience knew how important Steve is to his building, he let the audience know the undertaking was more than he expected and going into the build he knew it would be extremely difficult. He let everybody know in the audience that he built that piece and whether you were a woodworker or not, challenged each individual sitting in that room to take it upon themselves to do something big.
2 things hit home with me and Iâ€™m hard to impress.
The first was that here was this american woodworker Thomas J MacDonald, building an 18th century piece in a Museum right next to a mix of the greatest furniture designers. MacDonald was in the company of Townsend, and Eames and Panton, and Wegner, and Goddard, and Saarinen, and Bertoia, and Nakashima, and Aalto, and the list goes on.
The second and more importantly was when Hope Alswang made the comment that â€œin all my travels, and Iâ€™ve been around the worldâ€ there has not been a quality interpretative reproduction of the Boston Bombeâ€™ in over 200 years until now.
And that Rough Cutters, is proof we are in very, very special company here.