Forging a Fireplace Tool Set with Thomas Lefebvre
In a smithy in Québec City’s Lower Town, blacksmith Thomas Lefebvre uses traditional craftsmanship and his creativity to make objects that defy planned obsolescence. In collaboration with BESIDE, he gives us durable fireplace tools with a minimalist design.
Behind an old white door with cracked paint, Thomas Lefebvre wields hammer and tongs out of the public view. The din of metal striking metal contrasts with the calm of the blacksmith in his shop. Thomas feels right at home in this place where manual labour rules. It’s part of his DNA. As a child, he used to watch his father, also a blacksmith, toil over an anvil. Years later, that curious young boy has become an artisan and developed his own style.
Driven by a desire to make his pieces extremely durable, he creates objects that are solidly built, yet have an elegantly simple design.
From bottle opener to carriage gate, Thomas takes the metal into his hands and gives it a new existence. In this spirit, he has created the BESIDE fireplace tool set, a work that harmonizes with its creator’s values.
Thomas, the work of a blacksmith isn’t necessarily what we imagine. Tell us about it!
There is clearly some confusion in people’s minds between forging, smelting, machining, assembling, welding, all these trades. People often think that they’re all the same while these specializations are very different from one another. I, for one, use a forge to sculpt objects from iron bars. Generally, I start with a piece that has one shape and use the forge to give it another shape, which becomes its final one.
What distinguishes your objects from factory-made ones?
Well, in a way, I fight against planned obsolescence. I’m not interested in making objects that will fall apart in the hands of those using them. My goal is always to make something durable. I guarantee most of my objects for life. I haven’t yet had to honour any guarantee!
What’s different about an object that’s handmade?
One thing that mass-produced objects can’t have is some variation in the finish, in the forms, some evidence of a certain freedom in the artisan’s motions. Whatever the artisan’s work may be, you’ll always find their signature style in their pieces.
I want it to be as enjoyable for someone to use the object as it was for me to make it.
Reimagining the Fireplace Tool Set
with BESIDE and Fabrique 1840
This project for BESIDE Cabins and Fabrique 1840 fits perfectly with what Thomas Lefebvre enjoys making. The artisan behind the fireplace tool set prefers dreaming up his creations to drawing them, which suited this project well. After a few quick sketches, Thomas launched right into his experiments and soon presented us with an elegantly simple model.
“I wanted to create something that would blend into its surroundings. I also like to contrast finely worked textures, which clearly show the artisan’s touch, with very clinical, clean textures. The fireplace tool set represents this idea perfectly.”
Optimized for cooking over the fire, the poker, brush, and shovel have ergonomic angles, so they’re easy to handle together. Thomas produced the sets in three stages: the tools themselves are made of steel and then inserted into walnut handles, which he designed and made by hand; lastly, the two pieces are joined by a ring of processed copper that gives each set its unique sheen. This last detail is the creator’s favourite—he loves the way the copper attracts the eye with hues born from the flames. Thomas promises that these tools will keep your fires going for many decades.
“When we heat with wood, it’s important to be able to manipulate the pieces of wood to make them burn optimally. It’s great to have tools that have the right ergonomics. You can find a lot of tools on the market that are of poor quality and made of hollow steel, which will break faster. In the past, things were made to last, and this is what I want to bring back in the objects I make,” Thomas concludes.
Fireplace Tool Set
This elegant four-piece fireplace tool set is handmade in a limited series. With a spare, ergonomic design, the forged steel stand reflects the architecture of the cabins and holds the poker, brush, and shovel, all designed by blacksmith Thomas Lefebvre. The walnut handles and copper rings give the set a unique character.