Torben Helshoj (2008) with the desk he built in 1981 for his final project as a woodworking apprentice in Denmark. The desk earned him the prestigious Queen of Denmark’s silver metal for woodworking.

From apprentice to craftsman to fine toolmaker, he’s always had a passion for woodworking.

Torben Helshoj’s passion for woodworking started when he was a boy watching the skilled craftsmen in the boatyards of Denmark. But his path to becoming a skilled craftsman, tool designer and cofounder of Laguna Tools included a number of detours.

After graduating from high school, Torben started college as a mechanical engineering major. But at age 19, he took a break to do a little traveling, and hitchhiked from Denmark to India. Upon returning, he decided to pursue a traditional woodworking apprenticeship.

The first shop owner Torben approached was in the process of closing down, but Torben’s sincerity impressed him, so the shop owner recommended Torben to a friend who ran one of the best custom furniture shops in Denmark. Torben was accepted as an apprentice; becoming a journeyman took four years of hard work.

As Torben recalls, “The only tools I used for the first year and half were sandpaper and a broom. When my fingers got sore I put masking tape on the tips and kept sanding. But I learned a lot as an appretice and the guy I worked was great.

“Every year they sent me out for six weeks of specialized training. Eventually I was hand cutting dovetails, but even that was an apprentice’s job, because it was so time consuming: They were paying me 70 cents an hour, whereas the journeymen were making at least ten times that amount. But they treated me very well and I had the chance to work on some amazing furniture.

The inscription on the front of the medal reads “Woodworking Trade Graduation Test Committee” The inscription on the back reads…

 

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