Sunday, March 14, 2021

Remembering Phil Lowe

Quintessential Phil: a welcoming smile and the ever-present pencil tucked behind his ear at the December, 2011 Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event at FIM in Beverly, MA.

I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing in January of Philip C. Lowe. Phil was an icon and a master of the woodworking craft.

I never took an actual class from him, but I consider him one of my primary teachers. I had read his articles and reprints in books and magazines for years before I got the chance to meet him.

That came at the May, 2011 meeting of the Society of American Period Furniture Makers (SAPFM), of which Phil was a member and Cartouche Award recipient. The meeting was held at his Furniture Institute of Massachusetts (FIM).

I was very nervous and shy about meeting one of my heroes, but he was instantly friendly and disarming. That's what comes through in everyone's description of Phil. Not only did he love the craft, he loved sharing it with others and passing it on.

Over the next 8 years I had the privilege of attending several SAPFM meetings and demonstrations at FIM, as well as participating in a number of the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Events held there.

Phil was what I call a "shut up and watch" guy, as in, shut up and watch what he's doing, because every move is a lesson in skill and efficiency. He was amazingly fast at handwork, the evidence of 50 years of experience. I learned a great deal that way.

He was incredibly generous with his time and knowledge. Nothing illustrates that more than the time I showed him one of the video clips from the then-Popular Woodworking University "Intro To Hand Tools" online course I was putting together.

Phil was obviously in business to earn a living teaching woodworking, and here I was a mere hobbyist showing him the online class I was offering.

It didn't bother him a bit. He watched with an appraising eye, then said, "That's good. You should also show this, and that," as we discussed some additional things to present. The consummate teacher and mentor.

That's the Phil Lowe I will always remember. Nothing but supportive. I continue to feel privileged to be one of the custodians of the knowledge he passed on to us, which I will continue pass on to others.

One of my treasured lessons from Phil.

There are some wonderful remembrances of Phil at the North Bennett St. School, where he was a student, then instructor, then department head, before heading off on his own to found FIM; and at Fine Woodworking and here, where he was a contributor for over 30 years.

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