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pittsboro woodworking school

Tool Store in Pittsboro

Remember about a year ago I took a woodworking class? Above the school is an antique tool shop and I stop in from time to time. Ed, the owner, occasionally comes across non-woodworking items and my love has found a few machinist tools there that he uses in his shop.

We visited Ed during the annual Pittsboro Fall Street Fair and he told us that a film production contacted him over the summer to supply tools for a movie that takes place in the 1800s. The film was released last month and has since been nominated for twelve Academy Awards. Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant is a story based on true events about a fur trapper (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) who is mauled by a grizzly and then left in the wilderness by his hunting team.

Someone from a Hollywood film contacted someone in our little town of Pittsboro to help dress the set? That sounds like an interesting article. Check out my article published today in Indy Week about how the tools were sourced from the Pittsboro shop and used in the film. For some tidbits not included in the article, read on!

north carolina filmmakingLast week I interviewed Hamish Purdy, set decorator for The Revenant. He was nominated for an Oscar for his work on the film the day after we spoke. Hamish didn’t know much about antique hand tools or woodworking before joining the film crew. He generally “takes a crash course” in whatever is required for the production. (He’s now immersed in a very different film genre and time period; he’s currently working on the production for the Power Rangers re-boot!) For The Revenant, he needed to learn about fort designs of American settlers, blacksmithing, woodworking, and what was regionally appropriate for the setting. Paintings and drawings of the era revealed that all forts had a saw pit, bunkhouse, mess hall, trading room, blacksmith, stable, and the fur trading captain would have his own house within the fort walls. Although forts had chickens, pigs, and a garden – those were common in warmer seasons and not in winter when the film occurs. A complete fort was constructed for the film based on these details.


Ed surrounded by his tools.

Hamish came across Ed’s tool shop through his research and they worked together to find the right tools for the movie. Ed has been working with wood tools since the 1980s. He started selling as a vendor at woodworking group meetings nearly a decade ago. When he first moved into the 1,100-square-foot store in 2010, the space was sparsely filled with whatever he had in his vehicle at the time. He shop is now stocked with hundreds of vintage hand tools. The tools aren’t the only items with a long shelf-life. An acquaintance’s shoe store closed when Ed opened his shop, so he picked up all the footwear displays for free. He repurposed them to display wood planers and other tools. One of his foldable four-sided vendor stands still serves a purpose in a corner of the shop, displaying tools on a permanent basis instead of traversing events.

When Ed mailed the tools off to Hamish at the film set, he used the shipping services at the Chatham Business Services Center. If you’ve taken my writing workshops in Pittsboro over the past year, this is the same space where I rent the conference room for classes!

If you’re a film nut like me and enjoy the behind-the-scenes stories, here are a few pieces I found interesting about The Revenant:

Draping Leonardo DiCaprio in Bear Grease and 100-Pound Furs” by Julie Miller, Vanity Fair

Meet the Man Who Taught Leonardo DiCaprio to Speak the Arikara Language in The Revenant” by Brandi Moran, APTN

A 20-minute interview with set decorator Hamish Purdy from Maija Preddy at MKP Celebrity Talk: