Wednesday, April 02, 2014
Imagine traveling almost 5,000 miles from Finland to Eureka Springs on four different occasions and never visiting the Crescent Hotel, Beaver Lake or world renowned Thorncrown Chapel.
Tuomo Rinne, 33, didn’t come here from his home in Raasepori, Finland to sightsee or vacation. He’s here because of Old Street Tool, founded by Eureka Springs’ residents Larry Williams and Don McConnell. Rinne manages a carpentry and home restoration business in Fiskars. In 2008, while studying for a degree in preservation carpentry at Turku University of Applied Sciences, he decided to make unique wood planes for his capstone project.
Rinne’s tool making research led him to Old Street Tool. OST is one of the only companies in the US specializing in building 18th-Century British wooden planes and other fine carpentry tools. Superior performance and high quality of OST tools has led to a two-year backlog of orders.
“Most people think these tools are primitive, but they are more sophisticated than anything available at Home Depot. They are truly mathematical machines that do things no power tool can,” Williams said.
In the quest to complete his final college project, Rinne ordered an OST tool building instruction DVD which inspired him to attend classes at the Franklin, Ind., Marc Adams School of Woodworking in 2012, where he first met Larry Williams. Rinne was so inspired by Williams and his products that he obtained small business loans from the Finnish government and private grants for a series of training sessions at OST.
Rinne recently completed his fourth two-week training visit at OST and plans to return for two final sessions before the end of the year. When asked about Eureka Springs, the thoughtful Finn hesitated, saying, “I think it’s a nice town, but I have not seen much of it.” His lack of local knowledge is due to his extreme dedication to learning his craft.
“Tuomo works twelve hours a day, seven days a week when he is here. We can’t get him out of the shop,” said Don McConnell, co-founder of OST. “You have to really want to do this. It’s hard work that won’t make you rich. We are so impressed by Tuomo’s skills and commitment we are considering passing him the torch when Larry and I retire or die at our workbench,” quipped McConnell.
A Finnish carpentry student working with two veteran American woodworkers has led to some comical situations. “It’s a big adjustment going from metric measurements to feet and inches. I’m totally lost with Fahrenheit, so I never know the temperature here,” Rinne joked.
“I work from memory, but Tuomo keeps detailed notes. He keeps me on my toes,” added Williams.
Fine Tool Journal once wrote, “ … Old Street Tool is more than a tool making company. It’s also a research facility for early woodworking technology.” Tuomo Rinne would be quick to add that it’s also a university for serious craftsmen and
Williams and McConnell are his two favorite professors. “We are looking forward to Tuomo’s next visit. Hopefully we can pry him out of the shop to see the beauty of the Ozarks,” said Williams.
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