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Maker of the Year Kelsey Watson

Maker of the Year Kelsey Watson

Maker of the Year Kelsey Watson

Watching Garrett Wade Maker of the Year Kelsey Watson’s youtube channel it is hard to believe that he has achieved such a high level of skill in so little time. The attention to detail, the precision of the work and his dedication to craft is apparent in every project from start to finish. Seeing him transform raw materials into finished pieces is captivating and the results are inspiring.

His diverse selection of creative projects range from a tool caddy finished in rich leather and stamped with his eponymous logo to a new stand for his table saw to whimsical items such as a foam prop anvil and a “quarantine crossbow” made of pallet wood. He has even fashioned bespoke tools for the caddy including a brass hammer and a carved handle screwdriver.

Kelsey lights, shoots, and edits the footage filmed in his workshop surrounded by the tools of his trade. He has built a following as an active participant in the robust and welcoming community of youtube makers that inspired him to start his first project, a cigar box guitar from a kit.

Prior to his brief foray into lutherie (the ancient art of making string instruments), Kelsey had no experience with woodworking. He had always been interested in wood crafts but did not have the opportunity in school to take a shop class and had no one to teach him. The only tools he had were those left to him by his grandfather, but since he didn’t know how to use them they languished in a utility space in the family home.

While studying at Fordham he discovered hobbyists using Youtube and social media to share their passion for woodworking through detailed how-to videos. He observed that they were turning out amazing work with limited tools in small spaces on a budget and decided to give it a try. He used what few tools he had including a bench and supplemented them with simple hand saws and chisels from local dollar stores. His new tools were inexpensive, easy to obtain, and got the job accomplished. While his tool collection has grown since then he stresses that he is not a tool collector and that you can get by with the basics. Handsaws, chisels, vices, and clamps quickly stood out as essential tools but a good vice is also an important piece because it changes the level of detail of what you can do by hand. He also recommends having files on hand to help crafters “sneak up on a lines” that aren’t achievable with any other piece of equipment. Traditional woodworkers kept it simple in terms of equipment and so can beginners.

Working with unfamiliar materials and equipment can be intimidating so Kelsey suggests that novice makers start small. Model kits are perfect for first projects as they come with everything needed to complete them. They are accompanied by clear written or video instruction providing both guidance and clear expectations to complete the build. Many can be assembled with a few inexpensive tools and if makers run into trouble they can find and interact with others on social media who are working on similar projects.

Woodworking was where Kelsey started his journey as a maker but he has enlarged his skill-set to include metal and leatherwork and was happy to find that he could use his woodworking tools with other materials. Motivated by fond childhood memories of watching blacksmiths in historic Mystic Seaport he has begun educating himself about the craft while looking for the chance to access a working forge-- a tall order in the metropolitan area but not impossible. The internet has helped rejuvenate and spread interest in traditional crafts skills and made it simple for would-be makers to find communities to develop, nurture, and share their interests. He credits his online maker community with helping him achieve his level of craft proficiency and keeping him inspired.

Kelsey discovered Garrett Wade tools while he was shopping on the site for a gift for his dad, an avid gardener. The tools purchased in the workshop section have become his favorites because of their quality but also because of the strong design principles that make Garrett Wade tools works of art. He particularly enjoys working with Garrett Wade layout tools, gauges, and the solid brass calipers and you can see the results in his creations. This makers’ interests are expanding rapidly to include horology and woodturning but Kelsey reports that his next project is a wrench restoration involving nickel plating. We wish him the best of luck and are look forward to seeing more great work from from this versatile maker.

Written by Garrett Wade

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