While I was researching materials for the new Henry Eckert Marking Gauge system a while back, I dropped in to see Gray Hawk for some advice on wood suitability and availability.
I met Gray quite a few years ago after a Hand Tool Event we had in Adelaide. Gray came to the event and invited Chris Vesper (Vesper Tools), Christian Timbs (Japanese Tools Aust) and me to visit his studio after the event concluded that day. What an experience, his furniture was simply breathtaking. The choice of timbers, design, complex angled joinery and use of non-wood trim was something I had never seen before. And, he was on my doorstep… an inspiration for my own woodwork.
Gray, (Gray Hawk Design) has been fulfilling major commissions and bespoke furniture orders for 40 years. Federal Courtrooms, Australian Embassy Mexico, St Francis Liturgical Furniture and many, many individuals have all benefited from his work. His chair & table combinations are amazing, he told me he averages a month to complete a smallish two seater table.
His new studio in the southern suburbs of Adelaide is a woodworkers haven. Spacious, well lit, wonderful machinery, benches, tools, sanding booth, spray booth, showroom and a life long collection of timber – it has absolutely everything. Gray sublets space in his studio to a couple of quality (and lucky) woodworkers. An inspiring environment. (BTW, Gray is looking for one more suitable artisan to join him.)
Keeping up with Gray as he explains different timbers in his massive stash is hard work, well, for me anyway. So much information on history, milling, figure, sawing, radials, trunks, branches, colour, performance from years of experience is challenging. I feel like asking him to slow down so I can soak it all in but this guy is a doer, he is on the job and I sense he dislikes distractions from his current project.
Gray replied to this question in a recent ‘Junkies’ magazine – “Are you concerned that age-old crafts are being lost in the 21st century?”
Gray said – ‘I think there are many here among us who value and enjoy practising the traditional artisans’ crafts, both professionally and as hobbyists. For instance, I spent time with a team of blacksmiths and coach builders and learnt the skills of a wheelwright. While preserving the knowledge and art form, this experience now informs my current design and construction methodology.’
So it was with some trepidation that I took Gray our new HE Marking Gauge for his personal use. He looked at it, paused, grinned, held it, grinned again, and then asked where I got the box it came in made!
I think it passed the test.