Artist Statement

“One of the things I realized about my own body memory and my own interaction with tools in the workshop is that we have a kind of choreography with our tools.”

“In the saw, I see character or presence.”

“I bought a saw and decided to evolve it into something that would have different sets of things it could do.”

David Gates   |   London, England

From the outset, I was interested in the “at hand” in The Tool at Hand. I went into the studios and I looked in the tool cupboard and I consciously decided to try and avoid the last few hundred years of cabinetmaking history, when cabinetmakers evolved very, very specialist tools to do one thing particularly well, specialization to the point where most studio furniture makers would probably have a couple different types of planes, different types of chisels and half a dozen saws. For me, the tool at hand might just be down the hardware store at the end of our street, the tool under the sink, in our cupboards for fixing things up or for the average person who just wants to go out and fix something at home.

I bought a saw and decided to evolve it into something that would have different sets of things it could do. I reground several edges onto the saw so it would carry out the set of alliterated processes of slotting, scraping, shearing and sawing. It’s kind of a linguistic play that all of these words to do with slicing begin with ‘s’. I made this one tool that can be reground to offer a number of affordances. In the video, you can see it being used something like a crappy draw knife, a bad cabinet scraper and an even worse chisel. And quite the saw.

In the saw, I see character or presence. This tool developed this quite aggressive character that comes through in some of the surfaces of the piece. I had to fight with the tool. It wasn’t difficult, but there was a much more kind of active, aggressive thing going on between me, the tool, and the wood than normal. And I think some of this process comes out in the surface and structure.

One of the things I realized about my own body memory and my own interaction with tools in the workshop is that we have a kind of choreography with our tools. We have a way that we put them down or pick them up or set them aside when we go make a cup of tea. And I forever found myself mishandling this tool. I kept letting it run through my hands. Holding it by the wrong ends… there was one particular day in the workshop where my hands were cut to ribbons because I had been picking up the saw wrong. I’d been picking it up as if it was a shape I was used to, a panel saw, but it wasn’t. It was this new thing with sharp and dangling edges, and so it made me very aware of how I handle a tool when I am not using it, when I am setting it aside or putting it down somewhere.