Gods Of Creation — Five Of The Best Craftsmen Show Us The Tools They Need To Weave Their Magic

Without master craftsmen and their artistry, we really couldn’t have nice things. To celebrate their work, THE RAKE asked five of the best to show us the tools they need to weave their magic.

Gods Of Creation — Five Of The Best Craftsmen Show Us The Tools They Need To Weave Their Magic



Michael Browne has a particular sense of mission. His love of shape and precision has made him famous across the world. His training began in 2008 at Paul Smith Bespoke, and continued in 2010 with the masters of statuesque tailoring, Joe Morgan and Roy Chittleborough. Since setting up his eponymous home in London’s Berkeley Square, his focus has been on honing his craft to become a modern-day Charles Worth for men. (Breaking news: Michael may soon move premises to acquire more space.) 

His ambition, realised with the tools you see here, “is about creating something precise, specific, accurate, beautiful, timeless and striking, and can be considered art”. What is unusual about Michael is that it is close to impossible to define his style. He is zealous in his consideration of the client, and has no fear about adjusting the amount of shoulder padding, canvassing or proportional length. His skillset allows him to start from scratch each time and redefine what his house can provide. This meticulous approach to tailoring is why we were particularly interested in understanding the tools he uses to achieve his exacting standard.


Michael Browne, The Tailor.
These snips punch above their weight. Michael is known for his more complete fittings, so when he needs to unpick, it is more arduous and delicate than the ripping off you’ll see by other tailors.
A large, ornate plate that Michael uses for weighing down fabric and paper when he cuts. It has great sentimental value, as it was passed down to him by Roy Chittleborough.
This is the thimble Michael started with on his first day as a tailor, and he has held onto it ever since.
While he does not eschew squares when making paper patterns, he finds that smaller rulers are more practical. This was a gift from a friend in the trade, and is his favoured ruler.
If the shears are the artist’s paintbrush, the tape measure is the canvas. The tape measure works in tandem with the tailor’s eye.
As much as chalk may often be credited to tailors, the pencil is more common where couture is concerned. This pencil sharpener makes sure Michael’s marks are always fine, sharp and ambiguity-free.



As a gunsmith at Purdey, Jerry can automatically be considered one of the world’s leading artisans. Gunsmiths are an endangered species: there used to be more than 50 in London at one time, with Dover Street alone accounting for seven. Jerry has been working at Purdey for the past two years, following a 22-year career at Boss & Co., which included a five-year apprenticeship. Specifically, he is an actioner: his job is to file and chisel the action into shape, which has about 150 moving parts. This is a delicate and fiddly job that requires a level of precision that very few people can accomplish. This practice will have a moment of truth when the action is fitted to the barrels and other parts of the gun (whether a ‘best’ side-by-side, trigger plate or sidelock), and all the parts will have to come together; the fractions of a millimetre will have to align; and the gun will need to fire as it should. From a gunmaking perspective, this is the fulcrum: from here, the production process moves to the engraving and testing stages, so should the gun have issues here, it is the responsibility of Jerry to spot and remedy. When all is well, the real flair of Purdey comes to life at the hands of the engravers and finishers — obscuring the craftsmanship underneath, of course, but not overshadowing its importance.


Jerry Riley, The Gunsmith.
An engraver’s vice: this vice is used to hold the action while it’s being engraved. As you can see, in contrast to the other vice, cork is used to make contact with the action, as by the time it reaches the engraver, an awful lot of delicacy is required.
Old-school yet refined and delicate, this hammer and chisel is used for removing and chasing metal. It demands a steady hand and a comprehensive understanding of angles, pressure points, and how the rest of the gun will accommodate it all.
A vice used to hold different parts of the gun, to make it easier to work on.



Nick Templeman is something of an enigma. While shoemakers often specialise in a specific aspect of the trade — for instance, last making, paper patterning, clicking or upper works, and so on — Nick does it all. His studio in Muswell Hill in north London is a neat, quiet nook where he can dedicate his talent and artistry to the ancient art of handmade shoes. He started in the trade in 2007. Having studied fine art he decided he wanted to understand shoes, so he moved to London and began an apprenticeship with John Lobb by accident: he went in to get a feel for the business, but John Hunter Lobb asked for his C.V., and Nick was confused as to why. Turns out there was a job vacancy for an apprentice, and Lobb assumed that was why Nick had come to the shop. He spent seven years learning the craft there before striking out on his own. 

Last making is the most important part of his métier. “It’s unfakeable, it’s a signature and house style,” he explains. His lasts, and the resulting shoes, are what he calls “traditional West End. No one knows what that means any more: it means robust construction, thicker threads, more durable. The craft of it is looking elegant but still strong.” 


Nicholas Templeman, The Shoemaker.
These rasps, made by Liogier, are exactly what they look like: large nail files.They are used to finish the shaping of the last.
These sewing awls made by Phil Norsworthy are used for adding stitching to the shoe. The larger one on the left is for sewing welts, and the smaller one is a stitching awl for stitching the soles.
A medieval-looking apparatus — but then again, shoemaking is a medieval art. This is a last-making knife. A set of levers control the long blade to chop and shave chunks of wood into what you need to shape a last.



Nick has an advantage that none of the other men here has. He is able to project his own artistry onto his canvas, which, in this instance, is a hat. He can also combine an aesthetic dexterity with solid knowledge of his market and the power of storytelling to attract clients. For more than a decade Nick has produced endless original, captivating, inventive and sometimes downright audacious designs that have made his hats collectable and coveted. Crucially, while the designs may sometimes overshadow it, there is an authentic and dedicated level of craft in each of his hats. I once watched Nick make a hat, and can attest that he is not just a handsome face fronting machine-made items: he loves the process of making, whether it is moulding the shape on a block or setting it on fire for a patina effect. 


Nick Fouquet, The Hatter.
It is a quick way of working out how big a ready- to-wear hat is when a client comes into the shop. You put it on the inside of the hat and cinch together to find the circumference of the hat.
Bandblocks: these rudimentary and graffitied wooden blocks are the equivalent of a last.



Mayfair-based goldsmith Lewis started his journey in the jewellery trade 26 years ago, at the age of 18, when his love and passion for the trade took off. He enrolled in a five-year goldsmith apprenticeship through the Goldsmiths’ Hall Livery Company, where he completed his classical training and gained his freedom of The Goldsmiths’ Company by service in 2004 in the City of London. 

Since then he has worked at the bench of many fine jewellery houses in London’s West End, and five years ago he started his own business, making one-off commissions and bespoke pieces for private individuals and selected jewellery designers. 

Lewis Flexer, The Goldsmith.
These are a few examples of draw plates, and the shapes they come in. The jewel heats the metal and pulls it through the holes to the desired size using the draw tongs.
The doming block and punches is another forming tool. In this case it allows the craftsman to create domed shapes, whether oval or circular.
A miter jig vice allows the craftsman to create perfect components for jointing and hinges, and the set square is for making a perfectly flat edge and corners.
The goldsmith’s saw frame is used for all cutting and piercing work. It allows the jeweller to select which blades might be needed, with blades ranging in size from 0.3mm to 1mm.

Photography: Kim Lang and Robert Spangle