» Len Cullum in Seattle, Wash.
Neatly lined up along the walls of Len Cullum’s
1,500-square-foot north Seattle workshop are
handmade Japanese chisels, saws, and planes.
In a building rumored to have once been
a shark oil processing plant, Cullum, 42,
creates Japanese-style shoji doors and
windows, garden structures, and furniture.
Cullum constructs these pieces using
traditional joinery, a specialty where it’s crucial
to be precise and to understand the temperamental qualities of wood because there aren’t
any metal fasteners to hold together poorly
measured or cut pieces. Port-Orford-cedar is
his favorite wood to work with. “It planes to an
amazing sheen and it smells great,” he says.
His philosophy dovetails with his work.
“I’ve long felt that life is largely about making connections. When connecting two ideas
or people (or pieces of wood), not only is the
fit important, but also the type of connection,” Cullum muses. “Some things benefit
more from a flexible, freer connection, some
from one tighter and more rigid. But none
survive one that is sloppy or poorly fit.”
Although he uses power tools for the larger
cuts, he prefers handmade hand tools for the
finer details. “Things that are made by hand
have a kind of vibration to them,” he says.
“The little inconsistencies, even ones you
can’t consciously see, give it a life.”
1. Antique Japanese rip saw used to cut
planks from a log.
2. Hand saws.
chisels used for lighter work.
4. Bench chisels,
crane-neck chisels, and shoji-specific chisels.
5. Hollow chisel mortiser to drill square
6. Antique Chinese plane that “takes
shavings as thick as cardboard.”
hand planes, which are pulled instead of
8. Japanese hammers used to drive
chisels, adjust planes, and tap joints.
9. Cabinetmaker’s bench.
10. Parks band saw.
186 Make: Volume 16