WoodCentral's first toolmaking contest is now history and the judging is over. Figuring out how to judge any contest is tricky, because every contest theme -- whether it's a furniture form or a design challenge -- has its own unique set of relevant judging criteria. It is critically important to give appropriate weight to the things that matter most. Furniture, for example, can be judged largely on the basis of appearance, unless there are obvious functional flaws. In the case of tools, however, function comes first. If a tool doesn't do its job well, aesthetics and craftsmanship are beside the point.
Because of the importance of function in toolmaking, we departed from our usual contest judging format, which is based on submitted photos and descriptions. Instead, we requested that contestants mail their entries to us at Lee Valley's headquarters in Ottawa for hands-on judging. This was the only way we could be sure that the tools lived up to the promise of their photos and descriptions.
Our judges, Chris Schwarz of Popular Woodworking magazine, Clarence Blanchard of Fine Tool Journal, and Brian Ebbinghaus, Lee Valley's R&D director, began the judging process by first surveying all the entries to get a feel for the relative merits of each. Our fourth judge, WoodCentral Hand Tools moderator Wiley Horne, e-mailed his preferences from his home in California.
Each judge selected his favorite contenders in each of the three judging categories - aesthetics, craftsmanship and function - and these were grouped for a final determination. To be eligible for an award in the aesthetics and craftsmanship categories, tools had to also perform acceptably; so each entry was put through the paces at our test bench.
At the end of a long day of testing and horse-trading, the judges finally reached agreement on the winners and runners-up, and also singled out three other contenders for honorable mention. Congratulations to the winners and finalists, and thanks to Lee Valley Tools, our eminent judges and everyone who entered for making this contest possible. Please enjoy browsing this remarkable field of entries.
. . . Ellis Walentine, Host