After working for the better part of the last two months on my own case for sharp tools, I have a completely different view of Studley's chest. The man was an animal. I don't mean a lion, or a tiger, or even a Tasmanian devil of woodworking. He was a mythological woodworking beast. If Studley was Greek, and ancient, he would be Daedalus, or a Cockatrice. Or both. A god of skillful craftsmanship that can kill you with a look.
I saw Studley's chest and bench. And I lived.
As I worked the lid of my case for sharp tools, I tasted, albeit briefly, of Studley's obsession with perfection, both in design and execution. Although not built in the same style, or using the same materials, I constantly was called back to the gothic arches, the flawlessly inlaid pearl, the crisp fair chamfers, the silver retaining levers, the subtle fluting of ebony spheres. And I realized that no one, to my knowledge, has reached the level of Studley's tool chest in over a century since Studley's passing. If you're out there, and have somehow completely squashed your ego, let us know. Both about your work, and your incredible self-control.
I've made difficult projects before. Three-dimensional stuff with inlay, incredibly fine fretwork in bone and ivory, geometric parquetry, chicken ala king. But something about this chest lid gave me a new found respect and admiration for Studley. His chest isn't simply an incredible piece of woodworking. Its a look into the human mind. A glimpse of the creative energy that has its origins in something beyond this world, beyond science, beyond a lump of fat between our ears, beyond our capacity for explanation.
I realized that the Studley chest isn't about woodworking. It isn't about Henry Studley. It's not even about the tools. It's about us. People. About the incredible capabilities that lie deep within us, that we're only just slightly aware of. Studley's chest is a germ of creativity that sprouted into something that we can all participate in.
If you want to harvest a seed from Studley's garden, I suggest you do everything humanly possible to get yourself to Cedar Rapids on the weekend of May 16, where the Studley tool chest and workbench will be on display, likely for the last time in all our lives.