Ever since he was a young boy, Tom McGrady wanted to be a woodworker. He became an apprentice to a Quaker artisan, as well as, a musical instrument maker in his native Pennsylvania. But life called him away from his mid-Atlantic roots into the world of fine art, managing galleries in Nevada, Hawaii and California, and he put his furniture-making dream on hold.
Then one day, he sat swaying on a porch swing with a friend, and in an instant the passion he had for working in wood sparked, once more, and he knew exactly the type of furniture he would make. He spent hours doing research, designing, and building a few porch swing prototypes, and finally, he took the plunge. After 25 years of selling the paintings and sculpture of other artists, Tom decided it was time to sell his own art—beautifully-crafted, functional, backyard art—the porch swing. In 2003, he quit his gallery job and launched his own business.
Tom hand-selects each piece of the best woods—Black Walnut, Cherry and White Oak, taking five to seven hours on this step alone. After he crafts the swing, he spends hours painstakingly finishing the wood resulting in a warm, rich patina with ultimate protection from the elements. His swings feature the finest finishes and hardware. A perfectionist, he inspects each swing with a magnifying glass before he signs his name to his product.
On his website, Tom says, “I take a lot of satisfaction and pride in my work. My hope is for those who purchase my Porch Swings feel the same joy and pride in owning one of my Swings as I do in building them.”
What drew you to your chosen craft?
I’ve loved the feel and smell of wood since my youth. I was also impressed with the barns, homes and furniture that were 300 years old and folks still using them. In the early 70s, I apprenticed with a Quaker craftsman in SE Pennsylvania who was building reproductions of colonial furniture that originated in the area. I decided I wanted to build functional furniture that would one day become antiques.
What do you enjoy most about your craft?
The process of creating as well as the pleasure my work brings others is especially satisfying.
Why is it important for people to make things with their own hands?
Working with our hands satisfies our primal need to make things.
In what ways are hand-made goods better than those that are mass produced?
Handcrafted goods are built with skill and love. The owner of those goods recognizes and appreciates this skill and love.
What does the future hold for your type of work?
Gandhi once said, “There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.” In today’s fast-paced environment can you think of a better way to enjoy the passage of time than relaxing in a comfy Swing with a loved one?