Curved elements are common in the art of furniture-making, from the apron of a table, the frame of a bed, or the crest of a chair. When it comes to creating curved pieces in wood, there are three essential ways it can be achieved— cut, steam-bent, or lamination.Read More
The Woodworker’s Notebook
For Jim Boisvert, life as a craftsman began at age ten. While other children his age tuned into Saturday morning cartoons, Jim watched the Woodwright’s Shop. Jim’s intrigue grew as he joined his mother at a tool show at the local mall. He recalls, “A man was demonstrating the Shopsmith 5-in-1 table saw, and I said, wow, that’s for me.”
Craftsman Jim Boisvert and his prototype of a “well-pump” lamp base he built in seventh grade.
“I began collecting books, pamphlets, and articles on woodworking projects. You can learn so much from books,” says Jim. “The first thing I ever made was a picnic table from plans I picked up at a local hardware store.” In seventh grade, he built a well-pump lamp base. The rough-sawn wood and brad nails gave way to a functional “pump.” Throughout high school, he participated in woodshop and building trades courses, giving Jim a strong foundation and familiarity with power tools. However, he still craved the personal touches created by working with hand tools.
In the fall of 1982, knowing he was interested in furniture making and hand tools, his mother showed him an advertisement for Saturday classes offered by the craftsmen at Thos. Moser. He immediately signed up. In 1983, Jim met Tom Moser. The students included woodworking enthusiasts, retirees, and working professionals. Jim was the youngest in the class. In addition to learning how to cut dovetails, create cabriole legs by hand, and finishing techniques, the students enjoyed trips to the Thos. Moser workshop. Each student was given a piece of wood from the trip, which Jim has on his shelf today.
” One day my a father brought home a cross-section of a tree and the growth rings were in the shape of a heart. As a child, that taught me to look at the wood, notice the growth rings and the grain.”
Left: Jim works on fitting drawer fronts. Right: The library at Catholic University.
In 1993, Thos. Moser held an open house hiring woodworkers for a new contract job for the Catholic University Library. Jim’s older brother worked with the company then and showed him around the shop. Jim fell in love with the place. He met up with Tom again, and Tom said, “Well, kid, what do you think?” Jim said, “It looks pretty good to me.” Tom turned to his brother and said, “Alright, let’s sign him up.” That was on a Thursday afternoon; by Monday morning, Jim was knee-deep in chairs for the project. “My first job at Moser was to sand all the parts that were going into these custom chairs; boy, that was something different than my previous occupation.”
From the moment he started, Jim took notes on the shop drawings he received. His notes included how he put things together, modifications, and tips for the next time he worked on a similar project. In 2004, a fellow craftsman said, “Why don’t you write down what you build?” From then on, he began writing everything down on a 4x6 notepad. “It started out just as the furniture I built, but as the time when on, it began to include special events, funerals, the COVID shutdown, custom furniture, and weeks when I worked with our Customers In Residence. I’ve also kept a box of special mementos like cards, photographs, and gifts I’ve received over the years.”
Left: A handwritten note Jim received from a customer. Center: Jim and his first Customer In Residence participant. Right: A hand-carved dolphin Jim received from his Customer In Residence participant as a thank you.
“I’ve used the same pad of paper since 2004, and I do it just for me. When I retire, I want to have something to look back on and say, wow, that’s what I did while I was at Thos. Moser. I can pick this up and see the first entry written down was a Crescent Hutch Buffet, then a writing desk. In 2014, I worked on furniture for the George Bush Presidential Library, and to think that I signed a piece of furniture that will be there forever, that it’s a part of history, that’s amazing. I probably wouldn’t have gotten that experience if I had worked anywhere else. I’ve also had the privilege of doing several Customer In Residence Programs. My first one was a father and daughter who built an Aria Desk. During our time together, he mentioned he was a woodcarver. We chatted about different hand tools and techniques. At the end of the session, he asked me if he could have a small piece of wood. I looked in the cutoff bins and pulled out a piece of cherry. In a few weeks, I received a package in the mail. I opened the box, and inside was a beautiful carving of a dolphin he had made from that scrap of wood. I like looking back at those things and remembering those individuals.”
Jim working on a walnut Bijou LIft Desk.
In the nearly twenty years since Jim began documenting his work, he’s crafted over 1500 pieces of furniture. The pages of Jim’s notebook represent a cross-section of his life as a maker. Each graphite-marked line represents a branch of his craft. The folded and tattered edges recall the years, countless hours, and memories he has dedicated to creating furniture that will live on for years.
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The Thos. Moser workshop is a playground to the makers who call it home. Every piece of our furniture starts its journey in this 80,000 square foot facility in Auburn, Maine. Join us for a peek inside.Read More