Local toolmaker famed for crafting glass-blowing gear

Luke Anderson
Posted 7/21/21

Upon first entering Jim Moore’s metal shop, one’s eye naturally focuses on two imposing metal machines that fill a corner of the building. 

A newcomer might not know what they …

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Local toolmaker famed for crafting glass-blowing gear

Jim Moore pauses work for a portrait in his metal shop.
Jim Moore pauses work for a portrait in his metal shop.
Leader photo by Luke Anderson
Posted

Upon first entering Jim Moore’s metal shop, one’s eye naturally focuses on two imposing metal machines that fill a corner of the building. 

A newcomer might not know what they are, but upon first glance, they see what looks like two metal robots triumphantly holding barbells over their heads. 

While these two machines aren’t actually robots lifting weights, they are capable of doing another kind of press. 

They are metal presses that Moore obtained from an industrial district in South Korea and had shipped all the way to the states when he moved to Port Townsend. 

“Check this out,” he said, going on to place a large nut under the head of one of the presses. 

He released a lever and the head of the press came down, flattening the piece of metal he’d just put under it. 

His gloved hand reached out for the nut.

Gloved, of course, because the piece of metal had just been subjected to 160,000 pounds of pressure and its structure being completely rearranged. 

“Yeah that’s going to be hot,” Moore said with a laugh. 

Moore is from Issaquah, where as a young boy he hiked around the hills and cliffs of the Cascades, finding rocks and minerals, and occasionally going into mines with friends to look for old pieces of metal. 

His father, who worked for Boeing at the time, was given a fossil by one of his coworkers, which he then passed on to Moore. 

“This really got me going with it all,” Moore explained. 

At home, he played with the various things he’d found, often employing an acetylene torch he’d spent years saving for to make things more exciting. 

“You can melt damn near everything with an acetylene torch.” Following a graphic instruction book that detailed how to make different tools, and using his torch, Moore began to make things like fire pokers, screwdrivers, axes and chisels. 

After high school, Moore found himself in Seattle, looking for a job. He got one at a rock shop. There, the owner recognized that Moore needed more work, and helped him to get various odd jobs around town. Moore painted houses, worked for a blacksmith, and completed many other small jobs before landing at a glass studio. 

Here, Moore worked in an area where he fabricated metal for lamps the studio was making and started slowly building up a knowledge of metal working.

Moore also began blowing glass himself while at the studio, and in doing so realized that the tools at his disposal weren’t all that nice. 

A well-made tool from Italy cost Moore $250, two weeks’ wages at the time. 

It was at this point that something clicked. Looking at the tool he’d just bought, Moore recognized that he, too, could make something like it. He decided he was in the wrong business. 

Moore started by finding a workspace, which happened to be in a very unique place. 

It was in a two-story building that had an old car garage in it, a refrigeration company, a hang gliding company, a few blacksmiths, and a Gilbert Sullivan acting society within its walls.

Moore obtained a 10-foot-by-12-foot room in the back for his work space. But in exchange for the room, Moore had to feed the owner’s snakes when he went away. 

Seattle was a great place to be at the time, he said.

Moore could drive and buy materials, then move on to a steel house, and go pick up something else, all at locations relatively close by and be back at his shop before working hours were over. 

One day when he was building exhibitry at the Pacific Science Center building, someone he knew came in with different types of metal, rubber, and plastic, cut into various shapes with a laser cutter, something Moore had not seen before. 

It was all perfectly cut, and Moore realized he could use a laser cutter to make tools. 

The next day he left at lunch to go talk to the company who was doing the laser cutting. 

“That was so instrumental for me, because I was buying steel, and grinding it out myself, but then I could take a piece of steel and have them make a finished part for a buck.”

Introducing a catalog also helped Moore’s business. Done by an expert designer named Jim Redbird, his tools displayed with well-done information and crisp clear type fried the competitors and gave Moore validity. He sold quite a lot of catalogs. 

“When I unloaded these, people were going, ‘Oh, I gotta have one of these. I don’t want your tools but I want your catalog.’”

Now Moore lives in Port Townsend, where he carefully orchestrates trips to Seattle for supplies and often has things shipped. 

Back in January, Moore didn’t sell tools for months, and still waits for some parts to be available, an effect of the pandemic. 

Like the wood industry, where some wood prices have tripled, the metal industry has suffered similar blows. The availability of metal is way down, as steel mills aren’t making nearly as much as they were. 

Though slowed down for quite a while, Moore is hopeful that things are going to take a turn for the better in the next few months. 

Over the years, Moore has built a very successful business that supplies tools to glass blowers all over the world. His tools are highly sought after for their quality and usability. 

Moore said one reason for this is that his tools sell themselves.

Lately, he’s been working on a metal project that does not coincide with his typical business. He’s making heat exchangers that will help lower the temperature of applesauce faster so he can meet health codes when making vast amounts of sauce. 

It’s a project he is doing with some others, donating applesauce to high schools and the elementary school. He hopes that the applesauce will also make its way to the soup kitchen in town, the Chimacum School District and maybe even out to Port Angeles. 

“We made like 5,000 pounds of applesauce in four days! It’s been a lot of fun,” he said.

To learn more about Moore and his work, visit www.toolsforglass.com. 

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