Economy of Scale

Economy of Scale

For craftsman Marco Terenzi, tiny tools are a big obsession.
Marco Terenzi Square

Square, 2014, pattern-welded steel, rosewood, brass, 1.75 x 1.25 x .15 in.

Marco Terenzi

In a culture where bigger is widely considered better, Marco Terenzi stands out as a champion of small.

The 28-year-old makes exquisitely detailed woodworking tools, many one-quarter scale – “the perfect scale for me to incorporate every detail, to make a tool fully functional and still be challenged in the process,” he says. He’s been intrigued by miniatures for as long as he can remember. “As a kid, I loved model cars, miniature skateboards, doll houses, anything that resembled a full-size object that I could fit in my pocket.” The more detailed the pieces were, the more he treasured them. “I always wished the miniatures were real – every material, construction, and function the same as the full-size version.”

Terenzi turned that wish into reality after graduating in 2012 with a BFA in art furniture from Detroit’s College for Creative Studies. He has been producing miniature tools ever since – saws, dividers, squares, planes, and hammers, each made to function as well as its full-scale counterpart. His pieces stand out both for their detailed craftsmanship and because they’re modeled on contemporary counterparts rather than antiques. “The common tools,” he says, “like Lie-Nielsen No. 62 planes. A lot of people have them.”

His work is more technically sophisticated than the word “miniatures” might suggest, however. Consider how he crafts a hammer, one of the simplest tools. We’re just talking about a handle and a head, right?

Not so fast. Because Terenzi makes his miniatures as realistic as possible, he can’t use just any wood; the grain must be tight enough to avoid revealing the tool’s scale in a close-up image. He shapes the handles with a pantograph (an instrument for copying an outline on a different scale), finesses the forms with files and sandpaper, then finishes them with gunstock oil.

The heads are even more involved. After shaping the metal, Terenzi blasts it with glass beads (think sandblasting) to create an even texture. After hardening and tempering the heads with heat, he cleans and polishes them, then applies a gun-blue pigment that turns them jet black. Next (you thought he was done?), he brushes them with steel wool before applying a wax finish. Only after this sequence of painstaking steps is he ready to attach the head to the handle.

The craftsman works in limited editions, a choice he says is as much about self-awareness as it is about marketing. By the time he’s fabricated a batch of 20 or 100, “my mind is so over it that I don’t know if I could get back into it.” Based in the Detroit area, he primarily sells his work online, where he has cultivated a market of passionate tool collectors and woodworkers – buyers with close relationships to the full-size versions of his miniatures. Intrigued by Terenzi’s fine craftsmanship, many will buy every new piece he produces.

Terenzi shares their fascination. “I’ve always had this thing in my head: Do I just like the tools, or do I like using them? I’ve found a middle ground where I can use all the tools to build even more tools. I’m just obsessed with extremely fine craftsmanship,” he says. “It’s a disease, really. I never know when to call it done; there’s always that thing you could fix.”