Studio Visit: Gramercy Tools

One way to understand what separates Gramercy Tools, the in-house brand of Tools for Working Wood, from other tool manufacturers, is to simply talk to Tim Corbett and Ben Seltzer who design and test their products. You quickly realize that they obsess over tool design. You hear terms like gullet depth, float, fleam, slope and rake, all used to describe various aspects of a saw. And that conversation will go on for a long time, getting deeper and deeper into specifics.

 Ben Seltzer inspects a saw. 

Ben Seltzer inspects a saw. 

Corbett and Seltzer are tool fanatics. The amount of passion and intensity they bring to designing tools is really impressive. 

I got to visit the Gramercy Tools shop recently to learn a little more about the process and check out how they go about designing some of the world’s most sought after hand tools. 

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Gramercy Tools is based in Industry City where they have been located for the last seven years. The company was started by Joel Moskowitz when he noticed a lack of really high quality tools, specifically holdfasts, a simple metal tool shaped like a crowbar that is designed to hold a piece of wood securely to a workbench when hammered on from above with a wooden mallet. So he designed one and started selling them. Tools for Working Wood is essentially built on the success of their holdfasts. 

 A Holdfast in action.

A Holdfast in action.

From there, they went on to design a number of tools including hammers, saws, a saw vise, veneer saws, rasps and more, all built with an intense focus on quality and performance. 

Tools for Working Wood has a small storefront in their Industry Shop that attracts tool-obsessed visitors from all over. There, Corbett told me that a group from Japan had recently made a pilgrimage to see where their tools came from. I can’t blame them. 

 Tim Corbett in the Tools for Working Wood Industry City store. 

Tim Corbett in the Tools for Working Wood Industry City store. 

There’s something really cool about seeing the people, and the tools, that design and craft Gramercy Tools. Of course some of those tools are kept secret. Gramercy relies on more than a few proprietary tool systems of their own invention to ensure that their saws perform phenomenally well. And when they don’t, or a customer sends one back, they study it like a flight inspector studies a piece of metal from a crash site. 

When I was there, the team was in the middle of assembling a massive tool archive where a perfect version of each tool sold would be stored for comparison later. And each tool, saws when I was there, is tested before it goes out. They were also of course in the process of designing new tools, the details of which I can’t share, other than to say hopefully by Christmas we’ll see something added to the Gramercy lineup. 

Tools for Working Wood is just about seven people. And the team that designs and builds Gramercy Tools is just about half that. But the respect and notoriety that Gramercy garners around the globe is immeasurable, which is just testament to the fact that you don’t need a big team to build great things, you just need smart people with the right tools.  

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