The woodworking neighborhood has misplaced one in all its giants with the passing of Philip C. Lowe. He was a consummate craftsman and former teacher and head of the furnishings making program at North Bennet Street School in Boston, and later at his personal faculty, The Furniture Institute of Massachusetts. But when you have been to ask any of the quantity of people that have identified and labored with Phil, the very first thing you’d hear about is what a tremendously sort and beneficiant particular person he was.

In the handful of instances I’ve had the pleasure to work with Phil, I used to be at all times greeted by his smile, fast wit, and nice humorousness. Of course, when he’d get to work, all my consideration turned to his great ability and the seeming ease with which approached his work. For these of us not lucky sufficient to have studied below Phil, the excellent news is that he has been a constant contributor to the journal for greater than 30 years. The articles that he has written over the years stand as a testomony to his ability and the generosity with which he shared his insights, although sadly they solely skim the floor of his data and expertise.

—Michael Pekovich, FWW editor and inventive director

As a woodworker, Phil Lowe was second to none. He was a grasp of his craft, having constructed a lifetime of furnishings worthy of inclusion in any museum. He was a person of character and a passionate instructor who impressed numerous woodworking college students.

I first met Phil in 2004 once I took a weeklong hand-instrument class with him on the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Maine. I used to be a bit nervous. After all, I used to be about to take a category with a legend. Turns out this masterful woodworker was merely Phil—no pretenses, no airs, simply an approachable, educated, and interesting teacher. He was a tricky instructor, although. I recall the sharpening part of the category, once we have been flattening the again of a aircraft blade. Phil wouldn’t let a scholar transfer on to the subsequent sharpening grit till he was happy that every one the scratches from the earlier grit have been gone. That was a sweaty workday for us college students, however by sundown all of us realized the satisfaction of a job properly performed.

Since then, I’ve labored with Phil on many Fine Woodworking articles and tasks, together with Fine Woodworking Live. Every room in his store in Beverly, Mass., was stuffed with historical past. There have been desk legs strung up throughout, a whole bunch of hand instruments organized on cabinets all sharp and able to work, chair and carving patterns galore, and tasks completed and underway. Phil’s head was filled with woodworking ideas and strategies, and each photograph shoot with him additionally served as a woodworking class.

More than the woodworking classes, nevertheless, I’ll keep in mind the conversations I used to have with Phil. His life was filled with tales, and he may at all times pull a story from his days within the Navy. He was keen about furnishings making, however he additionally had a love of crusing, of being on the water at sundown and experiencing the fullness of East Coast shoreline dwelling. Phil was a devoted household man, who spoke lovingly and proudly of his spouse Sandra and their household. Conversations by no means fully revolved round him, nevertheless. Phil was taken with folks. He wished to listen to about you, wished to know your inspirations and aspirations, your successes and your failures.

I reached out to Phil within the spring once I realized of his sickness. He was upbeat, telling me, “We’ll fight this thing like we build furniture: One board at a time.” Simple, direct, decided. Just like Phil.

The world has misplaced a grasp woodworker, however woodworkers have misplaced a pal.

—Tom McKenna, Group Editorial Director

Phil’s data of American interval furnishings was encyclopedic. His eye for element and carving capability was wonderful. I stood in awe of his creations, each one. He was such a high-quality instructor, prepared to share and information. And a beautiful human being.

—C. H. Becksvoort

Phil Lowe sitting down petting a dog
Phil with Gary Rogowski’s store canine, Buck

Phil Lowe lived in a world I by no means inhabited. He lived within the 18th century with the furnishings makers John and Thomas Seymour. Phil’s expertise have been so divergent from our final century and its seek for the fast and ephemeral that it’s onerous to think about him snug dwelling with us in any respect. He instructed me as soon as that he signed all his building drawings for the sake of “provenance.” He understood his place on this planet of vintage restoration and furnishings making. He instructed me that he had as soon as put his title on a clock alongside different makers and the silversmith’s, Paul Revere. His technical expertise at woodworking have been beautiful, huge. He was a woodworking savant from his highschool and Navy days and ahead. If there was an 18th-century method, he had mastered it. He was merely the best and most expert furnishings maker I’ve ever identified.

After one night at a presentation he and I gave, I instructed my host afterward, “Never do a slide show with Phil Lowe.” His work was not unique within the unusual sense. It was beautiful, although, in its grasp of method and expertise lengthy thought previous however reborn in his arms. What Phil may do with a chisel or lathe or veneer hammer he did with such ease, such ability, such velocity, all I may do was sit again and marvel at it.

Phil as soon as took me to see the Seymour & Sons exhibit on the Peabody Essex Museum once I visited him. The museum guard adopted us round so he may hear what Phil was saying concerning the work. I don’t know what number of instances we set off the alarms on our arms and knees whereas Phil identified some distinctive function or curious little bit of veneer work. With his impish allure and disarming wit, I may solely marvel at his expertise. There are few of us born with a chisel of their arms. Phil was a type of. A marvel, my pal.

—Gary Rogowski

Phil Lowe smiling
Phil on the Center For Furniture Craftsmanship

Phil Lowe’s passing leaves an irreparable gap in our neighborhood. He was a peerless craftsman, excellent teacher, and as high-quality an individual as you could possibly hope to fulfill. Over the previous 20 years, Phil kindly took time away from his personal excellent faculty to show at ours on a number of events. At Monday evening slide exhibits, we have been humbled and uplifted by the breadth and depth of his work. The final time I noticed Phil, he was beaming, in his personal beneficiant and understated means, to see one in all his college students take Best of Show on the 2019 Fresh Wood competitors on the AWFS Fair in Las Vegas. Walking his personal path by means of life, Phil left a outstanding legacy within the hearts of these of us whom he touched as a instructor, mentor, and pal.

—Peter Korn, Executive Director, Center for Furniture Craftsmanship

Knowing and dealing with Phil Lowe by means of the years has been a particular honor. When I spoke to him at varied woodworking exhibits or dropped by his faculty for a go to, he had a means of creating me really feel genuinely valued. I by no means had the slightest sense that my many questions have been a nuisance or that he didn’t have the time for me. In 2019 I had the privilege of educating a weeklong carving class at his faculty. Just spending time at his faculty, attending to know Phil extra, and seeing him freely and naturally share golden nuggets of information with the scholars was very particular. His huge data will dwell on by means of the numerous college students he has touched and the generosity he has proven to each pals and strangers.

—Mary May

Like many younger FWW editors, I got here to the journal to broaden my data of the craft, intimidated however excited to fulfill the luminaries who have been featured frequently. I can safely say I realized extra from Phil Lowe than another craftsman I labored with, and I labored with all of the greats.

I realized that when you realize one thing deeply, you don’t need to bang the drum loudly. Phil would by no means say a nasty phrase about different woodworkers or their work, regardless of how doubtful their strategies. He would simply say, in impact, “I do it this way, and it seems to work well.”

Phil had been a woodworking genius since he left the army as a younger man and entered North Bennet Street School, the place he accomplished extra reproductions than anybody else within the historical past of this system. He was a legend on this planet of interval furnishings making, and he didn’t have any factors to show.

I additionally realized that once you perceive one thing deeply, you’ll be able to make clear it merely. Like all the finest technicians, Phil didn’t see wooden as mysterious or magical, however lovely and predictable. If you perceive wooden and instruments the way in which Phil did, world-class work turns into a matter-of-truth, learnable ability.

I realized from Phil that it’s the work that issues, not the instruments or the speak. The means Phil made his instruments work was what made them lovely, not their pedigree or price ticket. And his store was only one extra instrument, no fancier than it wanted to be. The work that went out the door, nevertheless, was jaw-dropping.

What I’m lacking most about Phil on this very unhappy day are his humility, generosity, and kindness. He by no means regarded down his nostril at my dumb questions, and at all times embraced my function as a photographer and collaborator, working to switch his genius onto the printed web page. (My favourite that I shot and edited is “Surface Prep: Why Sanding Isn’t Enough,” in FWW #152, as a result of it epitomizes Phil’s sensible genius.)

After each shoot, we at all times had a steak and a beer close to his store in Beverly, Mass., and simply talked about life. It has been a profound honor to know and work with Phil Lowe, and his legacy will dwell on in my coronary heart and arms.

—Asa Christiana, former editor of FWW

Like many people, my earliest acquaintance with Phil was by means of is articles. I used to be constructing my first Queen Anne piece and turned to his article from subject #42, “Cabriole Legs: Hand-shaped, without a lathe,” an article I’ve given my college students many instances since. I used to be a novice to the commerce and he was already sharing his data. Bottom line, in my early twenties, he was the craftsman that I wished to be once I grew up!

Because we taught workshops at most of the similar colleges, our paths crossed on a number of events. As a former convention planner for The Society of American Period Furniture Makers, I turned to Phil quite a lot of instances to display and converse at our summer season occasions. He was one in all our hottest presenters and it was not unusual for attendees to skip different demonstrations simply to observe Phil twice. He knew his stuff, was a grasp of it, and knew find out how to share it.

Over many meals and quite a lot of beers, I got here to know Phil as beneficiant man who favored to chuckle and have interaction in vigorous conversations. He was totally devoted to his household and keen about his craft. He invested his coronary heart into his faculty and we’re blessed for the variety of artisans who studied below his gifted arms at The Furniture Institute of Massachusetts, The North Bennet Street School, and the numerous guilds and personal colleges throughout the nation.

One day, I had the privilege of seeing Phil completely out of context, not within the store or close to the wooden. I used to be visiting him in Beverly and he took me out crusing for the day. I’ve a imprecise reminiscence of the boat or the place we particularly sailed however I’ve a vivid recollection of the pilot. He beamed a deep satisfaction from simply crusing alongside. He was in a sanctuary that gave him nice peace. I’ll always remember the smile on his face.  I really feel blessed to have identified him and 35-plus years later, I nonetheless need to develop up and be like Phil.

—Steve Latta

Philip C. Lowe had a knack. He knew find out how to make folks snug round him, find out how to encourage nice work, find out how to convey tough ideas. He knew find out how to lead a scholar to the brink of discovery, then step again and see the sunshine go on. He knew that educating on this subject has to incorporate doing; and sufficient of that doing results in the deep understanding that comes wrapped within the satisfaction of creating nice furnishings.

Phil made lovely objects and drew great, clear plans of furnishings, interval and past. He ran packages, wrote always, consulted for museums, traveled nationwide educating and lecturing, raised a beautiful household, and based a nationally acclaimed faculty that he nurtured to the top.

Phil Lowe on the North Bennet Street School circa 1968–from Lance Patterson,

I taught at The Furniture Institute of Massachusetts for nearly 10 years, principally evening and weekend programs. Phil was at all times there to greet my college students, verify on their work, present us one thing a full-time scholar (or he himself) was engaged on, and simply typically share his total enthusiasm for the craft and work performed properly. Often, he’d keep for many of a 3-hour evening class after educating and dealing all day—simply because he beloved what he did.

Phil had a dry, Yankee humorousness and the inherent frugality that went with it, imploring college students to return all disguise glue drippings to the new bucket. He additionally had an open thoughts—I come from a special woodworking background (not interval furnishings in any respect) but he employed me to show, introducing me as somebody who had “drunk the Kool-Aid” out on the West Coast (one in all his final tasks was a cupboard on a stand…hmmm….).

Most of all, Phil had a knack for making neighborhood—for bringing folks collectively, making them really feel welcome and part of the particular place(s) he created. What a present! I’m grateful to have performed an element and have problem expressing the depths of my sorrow at his passing and the lack of the varsity.

Thank you, Phil.,

—John Cameron

Phil Lowe has been an icon to me from the beginning of my woodworking profession. I knew of him earlier than I went to the North Bennet Street School Cabinet and Furniture Making program. I keep in mind making my household watch the VHS tape of him “Carving the Ball and Claw Foot.” I began educating workshops after graduating from NBSS and shortly after, Phil Lowe requested if I might be prepared to return and educate at his Furniture Institute in Beverly, Mass. I used to be fairly honored to have the ability to work with him and educate at his faculty. He was a sort and affected person instructor capable of attain out to all who had an curiosity in studying what he knew. This made him a superb instructor not solely to his college students however for me as properly. Working with Phil made me a greater instructor and I’m eternally grateful for the time I used to be capable of spend with him.

—Janet Collins

Phil Lowe with one other scholar and George Fullerton c 1973–from Lance Patterson

Phil Lowe and George Fullerton have been the instructors for the Cabinet and Furniture Making course on the North Bennet Street School in 1977 once I began as a scholar. It wasn’t very far into the course when Phil gathered me and two different college students for machine upkeep for the jointer.

I used to be a bit shocked when Phil directed us to fully disassemble the jointer (much less the electrical motor), clear all of the elements, and re-assemble it with correct lubrication and alignment. This was Phil’s common machine upkeep for many of the machines, tablesaws, planer, shaper, hole-chisel mortiser, drill press, lathes, scrollsaw, and compressor (we didn’t disassemble the big Fay& Egan Bandsaw fully). We attributed this diploma of upkeep to Phil’s time within the Navy. Phil was on a service ship that offered upkeep for different deployed ships. It had woodworking and metalworking equipment on board that have been certainly maintained. With this job Phil confirmed us that “doing it” is a significant tenet in understanding and that it improves our expertise and offers us confidence in our personal skills.

Shortly after I graduated from the CFM course in 1979, Phil requested me to change into an element-time teacher. My duties have been to maintain the store and machine room open for further hours for college kids, and to show Machine Maintenance. It was a possibility for me to proceed studying from Phil.

He is a superb instructor! He lived his life doing it. He enriched the lives of so many.

—Lance Patterson, Instructor of Cabinet & Furniture Making, North Bennet Street School

Phil was a furnishings maker’s furnishings maker. He knew the traditional kinds of the 18th century and accrued an enormous equipment of the tips and strategies and the hows and whys of conventional design. Need to breed a singular Seymour banding or Goddard carved shell? Ever humble, Phil would present you the way.

—Garrett Hack

Phil and Freddy Roman smiling together
Phil and Freddy Roman

As you’ll be able to think about, selecting only one reminiscence to mark my time with Phil is extraordinarily tough. One reminiscence, an instance of his unimaginable generosity, stands out:

My final semester on the Furniture Institute of Massachusetts (FIM) was in 2006. Unfortunately, I reached a spot the place I spotted I used to be not capable of pay for my final semester of college, regardless of working full time whereas additionally going to high school. I used to be confronted with making what felt like an not possible determination: pack up and return dwelling, which means I might not graduate; or, change into homeless, so I may use my lease cash in direction of FIM. I approached Phil, hoping we may provide you with a fee plan so I may stay his scholar. I consider that Phil noticed the stress in my eyes and my ardour for remaining at FIM. Shortly thereafter, he known as me into his workplace and he instructed me that he wished me to complete. He made me a proposal I may by no means refuse, and for which I’ll at all times be grateful. Phil requested me to work for him, generously placing 50% of each job on which I labored towards my stability for the semester. Phil made a private sacrifice in not having my tuition up entrance, to be able to proceed fostering my love for woodworking. Phil Lowe was a grasp of his craft, an excellent instructor, and above all, a really beneficiant man.

—Freddy Roman

I met Phil about 20 years in the past on the Providence Fine Furnishings present. I knew his popularity and invited him to show at my faculty. During his top quality just a few months later, each single particular person within the class got here as much as me and stated, “Make sure you get this guy back here again!” And that’s what I did. Phil turned a daily teacher at Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking for years. His data and ability have been phenomenal however, as a instructor myself, what actually impressed me was Phil’s pure capability to show. He would pull up on the again door to the varsity, are available in, after which ask, “so what are we doing this weekend?” And then proceed to have at it.

I believe the factor that struck me probably the most was his capability to not get flustered by something that occurred at school. We have been doing a Queen Anne tea desk class and he was demonstrating mortising the within of one of many aprons when the depth cease on the mortiser let go and the bit got here proper by means of the face. I used to be mortified! Here was top-of-the-line craftsmen within the nation and the least I may do was provide him a instrument that truly labored! He didn’t even blink an eye fixed when it occurred, though I can solely think about what was going by means of his thoughts! Instead he simply stated, “So here is what you do when that happens” and proceeded to run a dado the entire size of the apron—proper over the opening. Then he discovered a scrap that matched the apron and proceeded to suit it into the dado, glued it in, planed it flush, and it was gone. That scene has caught with me for 15 years now and it’s in all probability one of many largest issues I realized from Phil: Anything could be mounted; and don’t make a giant deal of it—particularly in entrance of the category!

Phil was an amazing craftsman and an amazing pal. He might be missed.

—Bob Van Dyke

On coming into Phil Lowe’s store/faculty there was a small plaque that learn, “If you can make a piece of wood consistently flat, square and smooth, you are on your way.”

The deepest ideas of Phil weren’t identified to anybody. Phil had a plan from the beginning and it stored evolving as time went on. From his deep respect for our teacher and mentor Mr. Fullerton there at North Bennet Street School to his closing time at his personal store and college, his plan took form.

In some ways, he felt blessed to be surrounded by folks taken with furnishings. Besides the numerous college students who would observe his lead in making furnishings, there have been many individuals who benefited from his data of how high-quality furnishings is constructed.

Phil Lowe standing with George Fullerton
Phil Lowe and George Fullerton on the North Bennet Street School circa 1980–from Lance Patterson

The individuals who took programs at his faculty have been at all times escorted to the museum in Salem, Mass., and adopted him round as he would describe intimately how most of the vintage furnishings items have been constructed. There have been at all times many guests to the museum who would bend an ear to take heed to Phil describe to us the way in which a sure piece was made. After the tour, we have been all handled to a pleasant meal on the museum and our speak then turned to how Phil had nonchalantly defined his love for furnishings.

First to his spouse, Sandra, and his daughters, Sonia and Vivian, we go alongside our deepest sympathy. Also, to the scholars who have been at the moment enrolled in his faculty, who by no means acquired to expertise the whole course with Phil.

There are so a lot of my very own reminiscences of Phil and me once we first met on the North Bennet Street School. We had each simply accomplished our excursions of responsibility with the lively army service. Phil was simply one other scholar and his work was of a really prime quality from the beginning. His plan was taking form.

I’ve so many great reminiscences of the person who I at all times thought of to be my brother. We simply thought alike and that was unusual in itself. We didn’t at all times agree on the totally different features of the furnishings commerce or on many different points, however we at all times agreed to disagree after which continued to speak about it. An amazing side of Phil.

In life, we now have many acquaintances however we now have only a few people who find themselves a real, honest pal. Thank you, Phil, for being that true pal. You might be deeply missed.

—John Potter

Whenever I spoke to Phil we’d inevitably discover that we got here to related low-tech options to frequent woodworking issues. Such an amazing man! I’m going to overlook simply understanding he’s on the market.

—Al Breed

Phil Lowe at the bandsaw with people watching on
Phil at all times drew a crowd at woodworking occasions–from Mary May

I’ve described Phil many instances as one of many best dwelling furnishings makers. He has recreated loads of probably the most intricate and exquisite furnishings types that we all know of, and has repaired and refurbished priceless artifacts that different makers wouldn’t even think about touching for concern of messing one thing up. A mutual pal as soon as stated Phil was the one man that wouldn’t freak out when taking a handsaw to a 200-year-outdated heirloom value thousands and thousands of {dollars}. Another pal nicknamed him “Gandalf” as a result of “he has a gray beard and does magic.”

Phil’s faculty was one in all few colleges within the nation the place you could possibly study the chops to sort out the “high styles” of interval furnishings with the identical strategies and construct high quality utilized by the outdated masters. For all that, you’ll suppose his store to be an enormous fashionable woodworkers paradise—the type you’d design if you got a clean slate and an open checkbook. Well, it wasn’t. In truth Phil’s store, at first look, is startlingly spare. All Phil wanted was a small room that manages to accommodate a handful of primary workhorse machines, a drafting room, and a small workbench in entrance of a wall of hand instruments. That was the primary lesson: It’s not concerning the stuff you’ve gotten.

When Phil traveled to woodworking occasions he would frequently convey scholar tasks to indicate off. In a means, the scholar tasks have been Phil’s work, and the satisfaction he took of their progress and achievements was apparent. People who had accomplished his program years in the past frequently stopped by to say hello and assist out across the store. Phil constructed a neighborhood with out actually attempting, based mostly on his selfless devotion to passing on his data and expertise in order that others may additionally do what they love for a dwelling. Lessons 2-10 are in there someplace.

I don’t suppose I do know of one other one who possesses the identical ratio of “top of the food chain in their field” to “humble, polite, and authentic.” Here was one of many greats, plain and easy. There was no person he didn’t have time for. If you have been carrying one thing heavy he’d seize an finish. If you didn’t have the best instrument for a job he’d lend it to you. If you wanted to work one thing out for funds he was beneficiant and understanding. He’d maintain the store open late or get in an hour early if somebody wanted further time.

I’m going to overlook him. Many others who knew him higher will miss him rather more. It was an absolute privilege to get to know him and name him a pal. I’m hoping to have the ability to cling on to the teachings Phil taught me by instance for so long as doable. My condolences to the Lowe household and his tight neighborhood of makers. We misplaced an absolute legend.

—Roger Benton

The passing of my brother, Phil, gave me pause to recollect him in some ways. I’ve furnishings that he made for us that we regularly joked can be “the original Phil Lowe originals.” But, lengthy earlier than he made our treasured items, he constructed a desk for our dad and mom whereas in highschool. Our dad died in 2005 and the connected poem is the eulogy our son, Phil’s nephew, gave proving that Phil didn’t simply construct furnishings, he constructed reminiscences. In gentle of all of the unhappiness on this planet right this moment, it’s becoming that Phil impressed the sentiment that it expresses.

—Madeline Lowe Osiecki

There is a desk
In my grandfather’s home,
Not a lot smaller than
The kitchen it occupies.
It is a straightforward,
Yet, inventive design,
Strong and proud
With a little bit of shine on prime.
It’s somewhat thicker
Than it must be
And not very straightforward to maneuver.
There are just a few scratches
Here and there,
With a dent or two
From falling fists
That tried to make some extent
Or silence the screeching
Monkeys at dinner.
Somehow its imperfections
Are all completely positioned.

There is a desk
In my grandfather’s home
With 4 chairs, two stools
And 100 locations to take a seat.
A spot for a loyal
And Loving spouse,
A daughter and three sons.
A dozen grand children and
Even just a few nice ones.
There is a spot to eat,
A spot to learn,
A spot to nap.
There is a spot for
Yankee Fans Red Sox Fans
Republicans and Democrats.
A spot to argue, tease,
Talk, Laugh and share.
A spot to develop up and
Grow outdated collectively.
It has been our assembly place
For so long as I can keep in mind.

I realized many issues
At that desk.
The most necessary is
How to Listen
To these you Love
Even when
They are fully fallacious.

There is a desk
In my grandfather’s home.
I’ve by no means identified
Another one prefer it.

—Daniel A. Osiecki


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