Tom Moser’s American Flag
As humans, creation and the capacity to create is in our DNA. These creations spark joy within oneself and have the ability to unify the human spirit. For Tom Moser, the spark that led him to craft his artistic rendition of the American Flag came from a photograph of a wooden flag and a gentle nudge from a retired lawyer friend in North Carolina. He knew his flag would be crafted using North American hardwoods- specifically cherry, maple, and walnut- and would be crafted with the same attention to detail as his furniture. Tom Moser, himself a veteran of the United States Air Force, decided to tackle an interpretation of the American flag.
History of the First Flag
In early May of 1776, Betsy Ross met with George Washington, George Ross, and Robert Morris. And from that meeting, with a sketch of the flag from Washington, came the creation and sewing of the first American flag. From there on, she began sewing our unique symbol of home, hope, and perseverance.
“On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress, seeking to promote national pride and unity, adopted the national flag. Resolved: that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation in a circle where no state is higher than the rest. Although many early American flags featured stars with various numbers of points, the five-pointed star is a defining feature of the Betsy Ross flag.”-PBS
The Flag has evoked numerous feelings and memories over the years. When speaking of the Flag, Tom says, “There are times when I haven’t liked it, and there are other moments when it all but broke my heart. However, above all, there are times when this symbol soothes and unifies the human spirit.”
As a young airman in 1953 in Greenland, one of his jobs was to lower the base flag every evening. Every morning it was to be raised briskly and every evening lowered ceremoniously. Tom recalls, “Lowering a frozen flag in 40 mph winds in 20-below-zero weather while being slapped in the face by the flag was an incredibly unpleasant and rather painful memory. We needed to bring the flag inside the hanger and wait for it to thaw out before it could be folded every night- a less than pleasant memory.”
While stationed in Tennessee as an air policeman, it was his responsibility to attend the funerals of American soldiers who were killed in the Korean war. At the interment, he presented the flag to the mourning widow or mother- a painful memory for him even now.
STARS and stripes
Representing vigilance, perseverance, and justice, the stars on the flag have taken many forms and display permutations over time. From the original design, which included six-pointed stars in a circular shape, to the 5-pointed version we see now, both Betsy Ross and Tom Moser have adapted the way they have created their versions of our American Flag.
Tom’s first stars were created on a ten-inch table saw. Each point took a thousand saw passes to create the sixty-four pieces that constitute the wooden base relief iteration of an American flag. As time moved on, the stars came to be fashioned on a numerically controlled router.
Putting it all together
But how does one make a red, white, and blue object out of materials that, by their nature, are inherently brown? It is through the selection of the material and the keen eye that an artist who crafts within their medium. For Tom Moser, those materials are a curation of the finest cherry from the Allegheny plateau, maple from Maine, and walnut from river-bottom land in Missouri that creates a truly American piece of art.
To begin the assembly of the flag, Tom first joins strips of cherry and maple that will make up the upper and lower portion of the flag separately. These pieces are then allowed to cure overnight.
Once each individual section has dried, the upper seven stripes are joined to the rectangular walnut section or “union of the flag” with a series of half oval-shaped cuts on the biscuit joiner.
The mating cut is made in the walnut background and each cut receives epoxy and a compacted football-shaped biscuit which will expand once exposed to epoxy, creating a secure bond.
After the cherry and maple stripes have dried to their adjoining field of walnut, the entire piece receives a thorough scraping and sanding. Once the wood is buttery-soft to the touch, the final steps of attaching the stars begin.
As the joined walnut field and cherry and maple stripes dry in the clamp, the stars are assembled in their own unique jig.
Placed on a drill press, the backs of the star receive a small hole to securely hold them in place atop small brads that are driven into the walnut field
An individual “brad jig” has been created for each of the three different sizes of Tom’s flag. Every mark denotes where these small wire nails will be driven into place.
Each star is placed on its own brad equidistant from the next.
As a bas relief, the sculpted stars rise 3/16″ on the small, 5/16″ for the medium, and 1/2″ for the large flag above the walnut background they rest upon.
As Tom places the final star on his flag, the edges receive a final sanding and wipe down. The entire piece is then given a coat of linseed oil and allowed to dry overnight before it receives a conversion varnish. This finish allows for easy cleaning and dusting of the piece. On the back of his large and medium-sized flags are French cleats while on the small flag, a wire hanger allows for an easy and secure way to attach the flag to walls and mantles.
As Tom finishes each individual flag, he proudly signs each one in indelible ink and marks the date.
“I could not, and cannot to this day, imagine a life in which I am not creating objects in three-dimension. This urge runs deep in my bones, and for better or worse, I define myself by my output. The unexamined life may or may not be worth living, but for me, life without a project is a shallow experience.”
What started as a special edition has become a time-honored classic available from Thos. Moser. Through careful selection of the raw materials and expert technique, Tom’s flags tell the story of a life well-crafted. These days, one can find Tom pulling into the parking lot of our Auburn shop to work with his son Andy on his signature interpretation of the American Flag. His same gentle touch, keen eye, and a firecracker of a spirit remain the lifeblood of this American-made business.