History London People

Michael White, cabinet maker

Back in September last year, I had the pleasure of visiting a wonderful violin shop and its restoration workshop called Bridgewood & Neitzert.
If you look at the slideshow, you will see the superb cabinet work of Michael White. I asked Gary Bridgewood for more information about Michael and how he came to meet him. His response via email was such a lovely portrait of Michael that I asked if I could reproduce it in full. Gary’s email is below, with some pictures he also kindly forwarded to me.
I started this blog because I wanted to show the work and skill of proper traditional cabinet makers, joiners and woodworkers like Michael and I hope to connect with many more like him.

Michael White 5

Michael White made all of our cabinets, sadly he died nearly three years ago, and he is terribly missed. He worked with us for 18 years. It’s quite an interesting story, an artist friend asked me to help her deliver a painting she had made of a woodworker. She had been commissioned to paint the inside of a lid for Micks tool cabinet. Mick lived in the Goswell Road in a tower block on the 14th floor. His tool cabinet was truly incredible.
Michael White 6
He had started out as an apprentice at Cubitt’s, I think in the Grays Inn Road. He was a sea cadet and involved in D-day but as a skilled woodworker was conscripted to stay repairing London during the blitz. The cabinet was about 8 feet high with another bell shaped cabinet below, which had a pull out section made of exotic woods. He had inlaid the old three penny coins around the edge. He had never finished adding to it and amending details, it was truly a superb piece of work. My artist friend painted Mick planing some wood with his tool cabinet in the background.
Michael White 2
We got on very well and Mick was very interested in violin making, which I was doing a lot more of back then. I invited him to come and visit and said if he ever wanted to use any of our machines in our basement he would be very welcome, as they rarely got used.
I didn’t see Mick for about 6 months when one day he arrived in his best suit at our door. After tea and a good look round he was ready to leave and once again I offered use of our facilities, Mick said he’d think about it. About four months later Mick arrived in his work wear and asked me what I wanted doing first! I was quite taken aback and said why he hadn’t brought his own work; Mick said he’d prefer to help us first. Anyway this conversation was to be repeated for the next 16 years, only towards the end when Mick was not well did he decide to finish his cabinet and the last job was finishing the pull out section with carousel which was full of drawers and hanging sections which had a handle in the top and could be removed when working on site. I supplied Mick with pieces of ebony, rosewood, and quilted ash and of course violin maple for the drawer fronts, it was spectacular when finished.
Michael White 3
Mick kept finding things to do and useful places to make a cabinet or shelf to maximise storage, his last project was our violin/viola/cello case display cabinet which was finally finished and installed by my friend Hugo.
Michael White 8
Mick told of his master whose name I think was Spirro, he trained at the Vatican and Mick said his training was not only woodwork but carving, gilding , drawing/painting and stone work, his apprenticeship lasted 16 years! Mick was lucky enough to train under Spirro at Cubitt’s. He also told many, many stories. One was for one of the old carpenters who worked at Cubits whose tool chest doubled as his coffin and was kept at the end of his bed.

History Moulding planes

‘English Sash Planes’ by David Nelson

Dave Nelson
David Nelson, a reader of the blog from the US has kindly sent me a digital copy an excellent guide he’s produced about English sash planes. You can download a pdf of the guide here (11.37mb).

History London Norris Planes Scraper planes

Norris Scraper Plane??

On eBay right now. Doesn’t seem right and I find no reference anywhere to a scraper plane having been produced. Not for me to say, but if you’re going to invent something, maybe invent something that’s never been seen!

Copley History London Saws

Copley? Anyone?




I’m wondering if I can find out a little more about Copley of London? I have one of his saws in a pile here, but know very little of him. If anyone has more info I’d be delighted to publish it. I now get a lot of hits on the site from people just looking for basic information about English makers, I’m keen to collate as much information as I can for other people to use. Thanks very much.

Hand Tools History Planes

The Small Things

Today, whilst going through a large batch of tools I’ve recently purchased, I was struck by the amount of handmade tools and tools with good repairs. The gentleman who owned these tools lived in the Midlands and was a master carpenter. Three of the smallest tools jumped out at me and I just had to share them, they are exquisite.

Hand scraper1
Hand scraper2
Hand scraper3
I think these small hand scrapers were commercially available, but I’m not 100% sure about that. In any case, this particular one look like it could be craftsman-made. The quality of the wood is superb and looks to be two different types. Can anyone please tell me what the wood might be? It’s very dense and hard, with the tightest grain. The surfaces almost feel french polished. To use it, you would have inserted your scraper blade into the gap and this would have helped take away the aching fingers and the heat generated by the scraping blade.

Tiny square1
A tiny square with a bevelled blade. I haven’t check it yet, but I bet it’s dead on.

Small side rebate 1
Small side rebate 2
The loveliest little side-rebate plane with adjustable fence. Again, made by the craftsman, probably for one particular job. The wedge tightens easily and well, but is obviously sitting very low in these photos as it needs a blade. I’ve hunted through the box to no avail. I’ll try a small plough plane blade and see if that sits well. Other than that, might have to see if someone could make one for me, I’d love to see this in use.