Artist of the Week: Tom Zmuda

Who said art had to be between a brush and a canvas?

Tom is a 22-year-old woodworker, entrepreneur and student from the western Chicago suburbs. Being the rugged woodsman that he is, he turned to his lathe to create some one of a kind wet-shaving brushes made from exotic woods. From there, he turned his hobby into a business, starting his own website and making custom brushes on demand.

Fun facts about Tom:

  • He used to breed shrimp in his basement and sell them.
  • He knows how to get the autograph of any of your favorite celebrities.
  • He loves lobster!

CA:How long have you been interested in woodworking? What got you interested? 

TZ: I have been interested in woodworking ever since I started junior high. It was the first time I was able to take a class I wanted to take. Ever since that I have been hooked.

Tom’s Custom Brushes

CA: What types of things do you create (or have you created) out of wood?

TZ: Right now I focus on making custom wet shaving brushes. It is something small that I am able to do in the limited space in my garage. I have made a bedroom set for myself in high school, which included a dresser and night stands. I made my kitchen table in junior year in high school as well. All of these pieces I designed myself and took the plans for them with me so no one else can ever make the same one. I have also helped make countless furniture pieces with fellow class mates that range from corner desk units, octagonal poker tables, china cabinets, full bars, and large entertainment centers.


CA: What is the typical process like for you to create a piece? (and how long would one usually take)

TZ: The larger furniture pieces I made in high school would take up a full semester working about an hour a day on it (while joking around for about 40 minutes of that hour). My shaving brushes can take anywhere from 1 hour to 3 hours depending on the material I am using and how intricate the design is.


CA: Of all of the things you have created so far, which piece is your favorite and why?

TZ: I am most proud of my kitchen table out of the larger furniture. Out of my shaving brushes it’s really hard to narrow down which ones I like most. They all are different each time and all have characteristics I love. The wood grain that shows itself after turning it on the lathe can really be beautiful. The hybrid resin and burl wood handles are beautiful in person, but there’s something about the exotic woods that I love.


CA: What is your favorite wood to use and why?

TZ: My favorite woods to use for shaving brushes are Cocobolo, Spalted Tamarind, and Marblewood. Cocobolo has a sweet scent to it when turning it and I love the dark wood it has. Spalted Tamarind is probably the most fun to work with because you never know what it’s going to look like until you get the rough handle shape done. The grains go absolute every which way inside a blank, and when you finally get it turned it’s a sight to see. Marblewood I like because there is a great contrast between the light majority of the wood with the dark accents in the wood grain.


CA: If you could only make one thing out of wood for the rest of your life, what would it be?

TZ: I can’t answer that honestly because I haven’t made everything I have wanted to. From the minimal things I have made, I would choose tables just because there is so much variety you can do with one such as different woods, full slabs, and different designs. Plus it was the most challenging thing I have made to date.

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