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Bedford Craftsman Engrains Heart and Soul into Wooden Knives

June 15, 2018
        Finished wooden knives by Tom Scarlett.
Photo: Tom Scarlett

Tom Scarlett vividly remembers learning from his father how to work with his hands. The two, along with Tom’s brother, would spend days working construction on their house, which his dad built from the ground up with his own brothers.

When not working on their home, Tom’s father used much of his free time working with metal, although Tom says he was a woodworker “when he needed to be.” He would fashion metal files into blades resembling Bowie knives to give away to family and friends.

“He made something out of nothing, and he made something very beautiful out of it,” Scarlett said.

Tom Scarlett holding one of his knives. Scarlett holds up one of his finished products in his shop. Photo: Tom Scarlett

Tom’s father gave him his very first knife, a Case brand. It’s something that Tom still holds onto today, just like his love of woodworking.

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Scarlett’s latest venture is a business he runs out of his own woodshop in Bedford: Tom Scarlett Custom Knives. Scarlett uses a variety of wood to craft pocket knives by hand.

While Tom launched the business earlier this year, it isn’t his first go at this kind of art. About 10 years ago, a friend brought him a busted Barlow knife for his collection. Tom started examining the broken pieces and he wondered if he could translate the construction to his woodworking.

“It wasn’t great, but it was neat and it worked,” Scarlett said. That knife sat in a drawer for several years until he brought it back out and took another shot at it. He soon started selling his works to people online. “Now I can’t seem to keep up with the orders.”

Each knife starts out with Scarlett designing the pattern. He then picks out which types of wood he’ll use. He started out building from scraps, but now Scarlett likes to challenge himself with more exotic woods, like the sweet-smelling cumaru.

Wooden knife work-in-progress. The very early stages of one of Tom's knives. Photo: Tom Scarlett

He’ll then carve out the individual pieces and sandwich them together into the pocket knife structure. More recently, Scarlett has been trying his hand at finishing touches like inlaying and engraving.

“I’m trying to push my limits a little bit and see what I can do to find something more beautiful, and also something that satisfies my creative bone as well…just see where this whole thing will take me,” Scarlett said.

A look at customizing!

Posted by Tom Scarlett Custom Knives on Sunday, June 3, 2018

Many of the tools Scarlett uses are from when he dabbled with guitar making, or lutherie. But that practice didn’t pan out as well.

“I can’t make a guitar to save my life – I’m not any good at it,” Scarlett laughed. “Thank goodness you don’t have to tune a pocket knife. I’d be at a loss.”

Apart from crafting knives, Scarlett stays intensely busy. He works with Tri Star Engineering, a firm in Bedford that contracts for the US Navy; he owns an LLC with one of his friends (they’re currently working on flipping a house); he’s an ordained deacon at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic church; and above all that, he’s raising two teenagers.

“Free time is something of a commodity these days,” he joked.

But regardless of how thin he’s spread, Scarlett puts his full effort into each of his projects, something his father taught him from an early age.

“If this is something that you are making for someone else,” Scarlett said, “then it should reflect the absolute best that you have to show them. [My father] instilled that in me, not just in woodworking but everything else.”

For more information on Scarlett and his knives, you can head to his Facebook page.