The world is as sharp as the edge of a knife –Haida saying
Kestrel Tool is an artisan-owned and operated tool smith shop on Lopez Island in the Northwest corner of Washington state. Kestrel Tool consists of Gregg Blomberg, master toolmaker, and as of the beginning of this year, me Charlie Prince, the apprentice.
You can help make sure that Kestrel Tools are available for future generations of artists and craftspeople.
We specialize in making handcrafted, top-of-the-line, artisan wood carving and sculpting tools. Our mainstays, the Crooked Knife and the Elbow Adze, are the traditional woodworking tools of Northwest Coast carvers.
Kestrel finish adze, on a cedar box top.
The crooked knife may have begun from the first curved wood cutting tool on the planet, the Beaver’s tooth. I can imagine people were inspired by the Beaver’s love of alder and the inherent efficiency of its design.
Kestrel Tool continues the North American woodworking tradition native to the Pacific Northwest Coast. These tools are inherently different from the woodworking tools of European or Japanese heritage, and are used in a unique way, resulting in a unique art form. We are continually inspired by the Artists and Craftspeople who use our tools, and hope to help carry their art and culture into the future.
When I began learning to carve in the Northwest Coast styles, I couldn’t help but wonder, as the chips peeled off and fell around my feet, whether the shape of the tools evolved from the need to make the forms expressed in the artwork, or if the artwork evolved as it did from the shape of the tools. The two separate pieces, the art and the tools, are inseparable, and could hardly exist without each other. The result is magic. The pleasure of creating a well made object is at least equal to the pleasure of using a well made tool to do so.
The Northwest Coast of North America is home to one of the world's greatest sculpting and woodworking traditions. We owe a debt of gratitude to the generations of artists of coast for their inspiration.
Why this project?
Gregg has been looking for the right person to carry on this tradition and business since 2006. After decades of producing the finest carving tools, he wants to spend more time with his family and work on his own art and all the tool ideas he has not had the time to develop.
Gregg had always hoped to find someone to carry on the business he had built, but had been unable to find an artisan who was interested in taking that on. The business was almost sold to an Alaskan Native tribe, but the tribal corporation was unable to find someone within their membership to do it. Gregg couldn't find anyone else and after what was to be a final run of tools, was ready to wrap it up, but at the same time felt reluctant to tell people that they could no longer get the tools they needed to make their artwork. People kept ordering them, so he kept making them.
A few years ago I started carving with Gregg, and became interested in the business by way of using the tools. My appreciation for the art form and love of carving evolved into a curiosity to know more about making the tools, why they are the way they are, and where they came from.
Joe David, Tla-o-qui-aht, one of the Northwest's top native artisans, using a Kestrel crooked knife to carve a mask.
These tools are used not just by creators of Northwest Coast art, but by people all over that make beautiful objects by hand. If I don't take over the business of making these tools, they will cease being made. I don't want that to happen. I want future generations of artists to be able to experience the pleasure of using these unique and particularly well made tools. These tools are awesome. I want them to live on forever.
Charlie carving the feast tray that is one of the rewards listed below.
Who am I?
I am Charlie Prince. I was born and raised in Seattle Washington. I have always had a love for the unique place in the world I’ve grown up in, as well as the art of the Native Peoples from this area. Since I was a small child I have been in awe of the Northwest Coast art that was all around me, from trips to the Burke museum to the beautiful totem poles downtown to staring at art while sitting on the ferries. All the while I was doing this, Gregg was busy crafting adzes and crooked knives to supply the very carvers whose work I marveled at.
What is my project?
For over a year now I have worked alongside Gregg, as his apprentice, learning the different aspects of toolmaking and all the processes that go into creating Kestrel Tools. As of the beginning of this year we formed an LLC and became partners in the company.
We have agreed to work together as partners for two years, after which Gregg will hopefully get to go into semi-"retirement", though he has promised to be there to consult with me and help me if I need it (not to mention probably give me a hard time).
The first step is to buy into the inventory that is at Gregg's shop. So far I've made a down payment of $6500.
Through Indiegogo, I'm asking for help in raising the rest of the inventory money, as well as the money I need to purchase many of the basic tools needed for this venture, $22,000.
My project is to set up a new Kestrel shop space with equipment and materials. That includes everything from steel, copper and wood to grinding belts, buffing compounds, leather, twine, and all the other essentials that go into making these tools. I will also buy the key pieces of machinery needed with this money. We have agreed to work together at his shop until I can reach this goal.
I can't buy Gregg's shop itself (I wish!), its not for sale. Since the beginning Gregg has worked out of his shop on his property, but that shop is also used for other projects that don’t involve Kestrel tool. It is the shop he and Irene use to keep their homestead up and running, and once he "retires" he will use it to make art and play around with projects.
This money is not the end all be all of what I need. I know that I am going to work like crazy to get the rest. I appreciate all and any help you can give me in this, the first part of my journey as a toolmaker.
What this money will buy
Tools I need (these are the basics as far as power tools go. Other tooling will be acquired over time, and some will continue to be used at Gregg's shop. Other tools, mainly smaller hand tools, I already own)-
- Metal/wood bandsaw - $2000
- Dust collection - $920
- Disk/belt sander - $784
- Drum/flap sander - $302
- Burr King grinder - $3085
- Baldor low rpm buffers(2) - $1845
- Foredom rotary grinder - $540
- Drill press - $426
Total - $9902
Inventory of raw materials and supplies - $12,000
Grand total - $ 22,000
What do you get for helping out?
For over 30 years Kestrel Tool has been inspired by, and in turn has contributed to the art and culture of the Northwest Coast. Gregg, who has been the driving force behind Kestrel for its entire existence, is getting on in age and shouldn’t have to spend all day with his nose to the grindstone (quite literally!). By taking on the toolmaking, I aim to free up more time for Gregg to create and innovate in his art, which will benefit all of us who use his tools.
By giving through this campaign, you can help secure a future for Kestrel Tools. We have come up with a selection of gifts to thank you for your contribution to this cause.
First off is a 8x10 print of the picture above, taken during the Kestrel pole raising. A gift to symbolize the passing of the torch from one generation to the next, signed by Charlie and Gregg and worthy of framing. We'll also send a thank you postcard, with a special surprise picture, to all contributors over $5. Who doesn't like to get a postcard in the mail?
Our friend, artist Barry Herem was kind enough to let us use a design of his, which we have emblazoned on an organic cotton T shirt, and on an etched glass coffee mug. Kestrel has used this image in the past in its Wolf Dancer art classes, an appropriate sentiment, since my larger dreams include reviving the NWC art classes in the future.
To us, continuing to use this design symbolizes that we are committed to carrying on the tradition of sharing knowledge and art.
In addition to these gifts we’ve made up a limited run of “carvers’ calipers”, which are hand crafted out of aluminum by yours truly. They are an amazing tool to have when making bowls and masks and things to gauge the thickness of the piece. We’re teaming this up with a nice maple and leather honing strop with the Kestrel logo burned onto the handle. This is a great reward if you (or someone you love) is a carver and cares about Kestrel Tool!
And if you're not a carver yet, our "Get Carving"-reward might just get you started on becoming one. Get your hands on our C-bend, the most versatile of our knives and our Sitka gutter adze and we'll even throw in a sharpening stone and some literature to get you going.
That’s not all, either. I’ll be carving a series of ladles out of alder and cherry, for a nice piece of functional artwork in the style of the Northwest Coast. Hand carved by me using, you guessed it, Kestrel Tools!
As a special thank you for someone, I’m working on a Tlingit Style feast tray, of alder, which am detailing with a formline hawk design on each end. I hope someone will be happy to set their table with it.
And To top it all off, we’re offering a weekend carving class for up to 12 people, right here at the Kestrel shop. It’ll be like the Wolf Dancer classes of the past. This will be a NWC canoe-form bowl carving class, but advanced carvers should feel free to bring the project of their choice. We're really excited about this one!
We've chosen the weekend of September 19, 20, 21 for the three day weekend of carving. Potluck first night, we make dinner on Saturday night, and we provide the alder for you to carve. Camping if you like, or you could find yourself a B&B or something like that. We'll even provide the dog! This is gonna be a lot of fun!
We'd like to thank all of the artists that have made this all possible.
Please share this with anyone and everyone you think might be interested!
Thank you so Much!!! - Charlie and Milla