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From apprentice to craftsman to positive toolmaker, he’s all the time had a ardour for woodworking.
Torben Helshoj’s ardour for woodworking began when he was a boy watching the expert craftsmen within the boatyards of Denmark. But his path to changing into a talented craftsman, device designer and cofounder of Laguna Tools included a variety of detours.
After graduating from highschool, Torben began faculty as a mechanical engineering main. But at age 19, he took a break to perform a little touring, and hitchhiked from Denmark to India. Upon returning, he determined to pursue a conventional woodworking apprenticeship.
The first store proprietor Torben approached was within the strategy of closing down, however Torben’s sincerity impressed him, so the store proprietor really helpful Torben to a good friend who ran among the finest customized furnishings retailers in Denmark. Torben was accepted as an apprentice; changing into a journeyman took 4 years of exhausting work.
As Torben remembers, “The solely instruments I used for the primary 12 months and half have been sandpaper and a brush. When my fingers acquired sore I put masking tape on the guidelines and stored sanding. But I realized loads as an appretice and the man I labored was nice.
“Every 12 months they despatched me out for six weeks of specialised coaching. Eventually I used to be hand chopping dovetails, however even that was an apprentice’s job, as a result of it was so time consuming: They have been paying me 70 cents an hour, whereas the journeymen have been making at the very least ten occasions that quantity. But they handled me very properly and I had the possibility to work on some wonderful furnishings.
“We worked closely with several prominent architects and built mostly modern Scandinavian-style furniture for wealthy Danes, oil sheiks and royalty. We’d bandsaw as much as possible and then hand-sculpt the rest with rasps and files. We worked with all kinds of fine hardwoods, including Cuban mahogany. The shop had a large inventory of this fantastic wood up in the attic. Dark red in color, very dense and stable, it’s one of my favorite woods. We also used Oregon pine. This wood is called Douglas fir in the U.S., where it’s commonly used to build houses; we used it to build fine furniture.”
To full his apprenticeship, Torben was required to construct a ultimate challenge and have it judged by the leaders of the woodworking commerce union. As Torben places it, “It was an enormous deal, and passed off on the heart of Copenhagen. The Queen of Denmark attends and personally congratulates the winners.
Torben’s finely crafted Brazilian mahagany desk earned a silver steel. This was a prestigious honor, contemplating gold metals weren’t awarded (as a result of “nothing is perfect”) and it had been twenty years because the final silver steel was awarded within the woodworking class.
After Torben accomplished his apprenticeship, the journey bug bit once more and he determined to make a journey to America. “My big dream was to sail to America,” Torben says, “as a result of going by boat is the one correct technique to get to there. I went to Portugal and made preparations with the proprietor of a schooner for passage to America the next 12 months. But their schedule modified and I missed the boat. So I flew to America and landed at JFK International as a substitute.
“After spending a pair weeks on the east coast, I drove to California: I had a enterprise card for a woodworker in Laguna Beach. He provided me a job and earlier than I knew it, a 12 months had handed. I got here as a vacationer however ended up staying!
The woodworking enterprise was good, however the store was modestly outfitted, so we borrowed cash and imported a container of woodworking gear from an organization in Denmark. We have been solely seeking to improve our store, however the firm was enthusiastic about establishing a distributorship within the US, so fairly quickly we have been constructing furnishings and promoting woodworking gear. Both companies flourished.
“But in the early 90s, the dollar went soft. That made it tough to profitably import equipment, and my partner decided to move on to other pursuits. I didn’t set out to become a woodworking machine importer, but I wanted to give it one last shot. If it didn’t work, I’d go back to being a woodworker, as southern California isc a great market for custom woodworking. By this time I’d met Catherine, my future wife and business partner. She helped me get the machine business rolling. But after six months, not much was happening, so I decided to make a video of our combination machine, because most American woodworkers were not familiar with how these European machines worked. We distributed the video by mail and business started to pick up. Laguna Tools has continued to grow ever since.”
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