Kestrel Tool History

In the fall of 1996 I had the extraordinary good fortune to work with my good friend Loren White in the carving of a 21-foot pole for the front of the Kestrel shop. The cedar log came off the beach about 1980 and had been in storage since. For a few days the project brought together Bill Holm, Joe David, Steve Brown, and Loren. In the past these men spent a lot of time with one another, but it had been years since they had last all carved together. What an honor to have their help and blessings.

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This time was a fantasy world for me, the realization of a long dream.  Working for more than six weeks, I learned a lot about pole layout and carving; but for myself what was significant was that I found myself using carving tools day after day for weeks.  This was a time of both affirmation and inspiration for me as a tool maker.  There are offerings in this catalog that directly reflect this experience.

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In the U.S. wood is commonly carved using tools in the European tradition. The work is held in a vice, a chisel or gouge is held in one hand and the tool is struck with a mallet. More recently, tools from Japan have become available. Japanese saws are among the wonders of hand tools. The little-know American Tool Tradition contains tools as revolutionary to popular knowledge as the pullstroke Japanese saw.

Various incarnations of the Kestrel crooked knife through the years.

Various incarnations of the Kestrel crooked knife through the years.

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Kestrel's contribution to the American Tool Tradition is the refining of these designs. Our tools are not designed for a universal audience. We have no desire to replace Stanley Tool Company. The best tools in any time are made by those who participate in the art or craft for which those tools are intended. Copyists rarely get it right. Edge geometry is unnoticed or thought to be insignificant as compared to looks or strength. Hardness of temper (the tool's ability to hold an edge) has to be softer to allow the poor design to be beaten into the wood.

Nothing quite matches the pleasure of working with a beautiful, well-designed, perfectly balanced tool. Our tools work! They have what almost no other commercially available hand tools have today: correct geometry and perfect heat treat. The difference is obvious and immediate. 

We are serious about making the finest tools available. If you are serious about your art, give us a try. You will be pleased.

Wolf Dancer frontlet class, one of many classes taught in the past at the Kestrel Tool shop.  Gregg is on the far right.  Bill Holm instructed the class, is on the far left.  

Wolf Dancer frontlet class, one of many classes taught in the past at the Kestrel Tool shop.  Gregg is on the far right.  Bill Holm instructed the class, is on the far left.  

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Kestrel Tool