View Full Version : Neander interview: Mark Singer

Zahid Naqvi
02-20-2006, 3:10 PM
1. Name (and nick names)
Mark Singer

2. Age/DOB

3. Location (present and previous):
Laguna Beach , California

4. Tell us about your family
Married for 35 years...son: Ryan is an Architect, Daughter: Jessica is a fashion designer...Java is a Labrador he is the senior member of the Family at 14 1/2, Dexter is a Chihuahua...7 years old and 7 pounds

5. How do you earn a living, woodworking or other, any interesting previous occupations.
I am an Architect....Mark Singer Architects, Inc,...A General Partner in a restaurant Group....All "Opah" locations ..."Agave"..."230 Forest Ave". When I finished my degree I became a general contractor building homes and commercial buildings and I did all my finish work, stair building, door hanging and other trades.

6. Equipment overview (hand tools and other)
PM 66 table saw, Aggazani 20" band saw, Delta DJ20 jointer, Jet 15" Planer, General 24" drum sander, Delta drill press, Jet mortiser, jet combination sander, Jet spindle sander, Oneida cyclone, Jet 14" band saw, older and newer hand tools, Deifenbach Ultimate workbench.

7. Describe your shop
800 sf 12 ft ceiling 2 large overhead doors, skylights, Concrete floor. My table saw outfeed table is a 4x 8 bench...this is where most of my glue ups, assembly, sanding and finishing take place. My large workbench is where most of the joinery, planning, and shaping are done

8. Tell us about the hand planes you own, and your favorite one(s) to use
I have several older and newer planes, some were my fathers old Stanleys...newer ECE Primus, Lie Nielsen, Clifton, Knight, Veritas low angle trio, Veritas, Clifton, and Lie Neilsen shoulder planes....the ECE, Veritas and Knight planes are all favorites

9. You favorite chisels
I have many older ones that I like ...the Lie Neilsens are very good as well...the Nootigoten have excellent balance

10. Your favorite handsaw(s)
I seem to prefer the older ones. Distons, Taylor and sons, Tyzack and Turner...newer ones include Lie Nielsen Dovetail and a Sephar

11. Do you use western tools or Japanese, why do you prefer the ones you use
I have both Japanese and Western saws...I have used western saws most of my life and have only started with Japanese saws in the last 10 years...I do like them both depending on the wood and the joinery required The Japanese saws are mostly Tashiro Zeta saws, which have fine blades and very easy to use.

12. Do you have a woodworking home page
Just my architectural one: http://marksingerarchitects.com/

13. Do you have any influences in your work? Certain styles or designers you follow/prefer
I am influenced by many designers, Arne Jacobsen, Hans Wegner, Finn Jhule, Krenov, Maloof, DiNovi, Charles Eames, Breuer, Corbusier, and Mies van der Rohe. Antonio Gaudi. I like clean modern designs but they must have soul...design is a subtlety and it should not be over done.
I started drawing at a very young age and when paired with woodworking I learned from my father...architecture and design were a natural course. I learned woodworking to be able to build what I designed ...I guess the same is true of my buildings ...I build to see my ideas become reality. I have won many awards for architecture, and several for furniture design including chairs, seating and tables

14. Do you have any ancestors who were woodworkers that served as inspiration?
My Father was a true craftsman and had a small custom repair business in New York, My Grandfather was a European Craftsman, came to America from Russia and fixed up residential buildings in Brooklyn and sold them...

15. What is your favorite neander project, or part of a project, you have ever done and why
I have really enjoyed building chairs, and other shaped organic feeling pieces... like my lamps and stacked lamination tables, they are challenging and require a high degree of thought and sensitivity. I have been designing chairs and seating for many years ... building prototypes for manufacturers has been a great lesson in ergonomics and the anatomy.

16. Do you believe there is any spiritual dimension to woodworking with hand tools
I believe our minds and hands should not be idle. We should use our abilities to create ...to design is to explore what is within each of us...given one, life it is a journey worth taking... From creating comes an inner peace....you feel satisfied to know you have taken the sum total of what you were given and used it in a creative way. You become lost in the work and yet so aware of this place and this moment. Hand tools create such a dialog between the craftsman and the wood....the tool, whether its a plane or a rasp, becomes an extension of the body...almost as if it were part of you...and you develop a true sense of the nature and character of wood

17. How much of your work is done by hand tools. Do you use whatever is best for the job or do you use hand tools even when they are less efficient
I always chose a direct course to make a piece and use the easiest means for each task...but I must say without compromise...it only takes a minute to hand plane an edge that comes off a jointer...to refine it and remove the machine scallops...make the pieces feel like they grew together...I learned with hand tools , but I really appreciate machines and power tools, they make work easier and often better

18. What is your single most favorite tool, and why
The shaping tools are the ones that most connect the woodworker to the piece....hand planes, spokeshaves, rasps, scrapers....from these you understand the wood...the wood speaks as it takes shape and tells you what to do....what to curve and what to leave straight, what is to be soft and what should be an edge to contrast.....which direction to chose to work the wood...

Mark Singer

Jim Becker
02-20-2006, 8:59 PM
Excellent interview!!

David Fried
02-20-2006, 9:05 PM
18 straight answers in a row from Mark - that's a record!
Nice to learn a little more about another SMC legend.

Dave Fried

Ken Fitzgerald
02-20-2006, 9:09 PM
Great interview from one of the inspirations at SMC! Great to know some details about you Mark!

Roy Wall
02-20-2006, 11:16 PM
Talented and gracious - a good man that Mr. Singer!! A good teacher!!

Steve Wargo
02-20-2006, 11:28 PM
Wonderful Interview. Suprisingly, I actually recognized many of the designers named on your list.

Rob Blaustein
02-20-2006, 11:54 PM
"My Father was a true craftsman and had a small custom repair business in New York, My Grandfather was a European Craftsman, came to America from Russia and fixed up residential buildings in Brooklyn and sold them..."

No doubt they would be (are?) quite proud of how their skills have lived on in you. Very nice thread/interview of an inspiring creator of objets d'arts. And a generous teacher to boot.

Hank Knight
02-21-2006, 10:06 AM
Mark, thank you for your comments and insight. I really enjoy learning more about the people I admire in this board.
Thank you, Zahid, for your idea and initiative to do these interviews.


Zahid Naqvi
02-21-2006, 11:43 AM
Mark has always been a great help for me, specially in design. His input and unique perspective on woodworking is an asset to this community.

Tyler Howell
02-21-2006, 11:54 AM
Another fine Job. Good to know you.

Glenn Clabo
02-21-2006, 12:39 PM
It's always interesting to know more about someone who loves what he does AND does what he loves so well. Nice to know you Mark...

p.s.- I can also tell you...Mark is also excellant at picking great not so expensive wine.

John Miliunas
02-21-2006, 1:16 PM
I am, at the same time envious and grateful. Envious that you are able to truly live your dream and grateful that you are so very willing to share it! :) Mark, as always, you are inspirational, my friend! Thanks for the additional insight. :) :cool:

Mark Singer
02-21-2006, 1:43 PM
Thank you and thank all of you for your wonderful comments.

Most things we do in life can be thought of as falling into two areas....wisdom or knowledge and the the other is intelligence or skill......SMC is a wonderful place to gain wisdom and knowledge....how to do someting?....what should the design be like?....how is it held together? ..What is the best way to do it?...There are so many experienced woodworkers here that are very willing to share their knowledge...

The skill and intelligence is somewhat inherent....it can improve with time as well....if we set higher standards we can reach new levels and with each new project...there is a new understanding of what "excellent" really means...

I am amazed at the body of very high end crafstman that are SMC members and these interviews are very inspirational....they let woodworkers at every level know the path that has worked for others....
there is not one answer...for each of us it is different...I have learned a great deal from others here at SMC and I am very happy to share my experiences...again I must say..."This is a great place"

Louis Bois
02-21-2006, 2:04 PM

Thanks for being so generous with your time and advice...I know many of us are benefitting from your experience.


John Bailey
02-21-2006, 2:19 PM
Thanks Mark,

As always, nice words.


Todd Davidson
02-21-2006, 7:36 PM

Thank you kindly for taking the time to share a little more of yourself with us. You, your work, and your perspective are all inspirational.

In peace, Todd

Dave Ray
02-22-2006, 11:38 AM
Thank you Mark, it's a good thing to get to know a person whose work and wisdom we all admire. You truly come across as a man who loves to share his life, work, experience in order that we all might learn. :)

Bruce Shiverdecker
02-22-2006, 2:03 PM
Sorry for being so late reading your insiteful interview. It is a pleasure to get to know you a little better.


Andy Hoyt
02-22-2006, 5:47 PM
18 straight answers in a row from Mark - that's a record!.....Dave Fried

Nor any reference to schlamaca. Must have been snoozing poolside too long.

Thanks, Mark. A true gentleman.

Mark Singer
02-22-2006, 6:51 PM
Nor any reference to schlamaca. Must have been snoozing poolside too long.

Thanks, Mark. A true gentleman.
I was going to mention Shlamaca, but then I thought, why get everone excited with a species that has become so rare and hard to find.....only a few of us on SMC even know about it! Of course John H. uses it in his ice cream:rolleyes:

Vaughn McMillan
02-22-2006, 7:01 PM
Great interview Zahid. (Not to imply that any of them have been less than great.) I saw that Mark was on your "to do" list, and was real pleased to see the completed interview posted. Like others here, I've learned a lot from Mark, and been inspired by his work and words. It's great seeing someone who loves what they're doing, and does it so well.

- Vaughn

Don Baer
02-27-2006, 1:20 PM
Great interview and great to hear from a talented teacher. Thanks for the interview. Sorry I didn't read this sooner and comment but I've been out of touch the past week.

Mike Henderson
03-17-2006, 5:46 PM
I visited with Mark Singer today. He has an amazing place - a modern style house that he designed, high up on a hill with a view of the Pacific Ocean. Mark built quite a bit of the furniture in the house and many of the cabinets and closet fixtures. He really does do impressive work.

And, oh yes, his shop. He has a spacious well equipped shop with a complete set of power tools but also has many hand tools, including an impressive set of metal and wood planes and quite a number of back saws. We got so involved in discussing woodworking that I didnít take many pictures. I am including one of Mark resawing, which unfortunately doesnít really show his shop.

A very enjoyable visit. Thanks, Mark!