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Tom McGrady passionate about making outdoor furnishings


FURNITURE & DESIGN - June 30, 2007 Las Vegas Review-Journal

Las Vegas Review-Journal

FURNITURE & DESIGN - June 30, 2007


Tom McGrady passionate about making outdoor furnishings


You could ask Tom McGrady about the time he spent working as an apprentice to an instrument maker. Or about how he learned to make furniture from a Quaker artisan. Or even about the 25 years he spent managing fine art galleries in Las Vegas, Reno, Hawaii and San Francisco. He just might answer any of the questions, but, more than likely, McGrady will steer the conversation to swings.

Right now, life for the Summerlin resident is all about swings. How he hand-selects each piece of wood he uses to make them. How he painstakingly assembles the pieces so the swings will last for generations. How he spends hours rubbing in five coats of tung oil to create a smooth, silky finish. And, most importantly, how relaxing it is to spend some time in one.

"There's just something beautiful about swinging," he said. "I think it goes back to our infancy."

Through his company, Las Vegas Swings, McGrady offers handmade porch swings, garden arbors, Adirondack chairs, settees and rockers.

From creating the patterns to cutting down large boards to make lattice for an arbor, McGrady approaches his work as an artist. In fact, he signs each piece when it is completed.

He said it takes about a month to complete a swing. He strives to make sure each piece he makes is perfect, starting by devoting an average of five to seven hours just to select the right wood. Then, before he is finished, McGrady goes over the swing with a magnifying glass to make sure there are no scratches on the surface.

"So much time is devoted to every swing that I literally become intimately involved with each one. We become friends. And, I like to find my friends good homes with nice families who will cherish their time relaxing in my swings," he writes on his Web site.

McGrady said he prefers to work in walnut, cherry or white oak. His arbors are made of California redwood. He said he appreciates the woods' beauty as well as their resistance to rot.

Additionally, McGrady offers versions of his swings, chairs and settees in poplar, which have no lathe-turned pieces, are painted in porch and floor enamel and are less expensive.

His pieces are priced from $795 for a painted chair to slightly less than $9,000 for an arbor. A tung oil-finished porch swing is priced around $4,500 while a painted swing is priced at $1,595.

McGrady said he has wanted to be a woodworker since he was a young boy, but was discouraged from pursuing his dream by his parents. Until he was an adult, the closest he came was creating a cutting board for his mother during woodshop while he was in junior high school, he said.

Still, he was determined. Growing up in Chester County, Pa., McGrady said he knew there had to be someone who was willing to teach him.  "I checked the phone book and knocked on doors," he said.

Eventually, he met a Quaker man who made authentic reproductions of Colonial-era furniture from the area.

"He worked in an old mushroom spawning barn and he had never hired anyone before," McGrady said. "He was afraid that if he didn't have enough work he wouldn't be able to meet payroll."

McGrady said he offered to work for the man, if he would teach him how to make wooden furniture, for $1 an hour. "It was only $40 a week, but I was learning something."

His life took him away from his childhood neighborhood and into the world of fine arts, where he spent 25 years managing galleries. All the while, the dream of making furniture simmered on a back burner. Then, one day while swinging on a porch swing with a friend, the idea of making his own swings suddenly came to him.

McGrady said he spent hours in the library researching styles and angles so that he could create the most comfortable seat as possible. He made a few prototypes and then in January left his position at Centaur Art Galleriesto start his own company.

"The charm about swings is they're almost like a comfort food. I see them bringing joy into people's lives," he said.

For more information, visit McGrady's Web site at www.lasvegasswings.com."I love the creation of woodworking. I take a lot of satisfaction and pride in it. I hope those who buy my swings feel the same pride."

Studio visitors are welcome by appointment.
Please phone 702-838-3015

Nevada Senior Magazine
May June 2008

Local Craftsman Finds Luxury and Art in Wooden Furniture
By Brittany Noland

Take a step back and picture yourself on an old-fashioned porch swing. You lean back, lightly pump your legs and with ease drift back and forth through the air. Your eyes melt shut and you inhale deeply through your nose as your tongue relaxes away from the roof of your mouth. Every muscle is dormant. Your mind is clear. All you hear is your own steady breath. You are at peace in your swing, even if only for a moment before work or an hour after a long day. The breeze nips your ears and face as you swing to and fro. You bask in a quiet repose.

It sounds familiar doesn't it? Reminiscent of childhood almost, the simple pleasure of a swing, but it involves a relief only adults can understand. It is that serenity which Tom McGrady attempts to manufacture.

Tom is a wood craftsman here in the Vegas Valley specializing in the creation of wooden porch swings. He doesn't view his swings as patio furniture, but as works of art to be enjoyed.

Tom learned his craft as a young man in the early 1970's from a Quaker furniture maker in Chester County, PA. His shop was in an old barn and he had never hired anyone before, said McGrady,He wanted to hire me but was fearful of the embarrassment he would feel if one day he was not able to make payroll.

Tom had always been impressed with the craftsmanship that allowed barns, homes and furniture to survive for hundreds of years. Because he saw the value of this craft he told the Quaker he would work for only $1.00 and hour so long as he would teach him how to create authentic furniture like that of the colonial era.

His passion for everything colonial stayed with him his entire life. He spent years in the world of fine art. I spent twenty-five years managing fine art galleries, selling paintings and sculptures in Reno, San Francisco, Maui and Las Vegas. The dream of making furniture stayed with him all those years and finally at the age of 55, he decided to retire from the world of fine art and create something beautiful on his own and that is how Las Vegas Swings was born.

As an artist I strive for comfort, beauty and durability. Every swing is carefully crafted by my own two hands, said McGrady. And that's just how he sees it. As art. Sure it's furniture, it's a simple swing, but to him, the time and effort that goes into choosing the wood, matching up the grain and applying coat after coat of Tung oil is an art. Because so much time is devoted to every swing, I become intimately involved with each one. We become best friends. My porch swings are not so much a product as a treasure, not so much a purchase as an investment in a work of art to be enjoyed for generations.

Tom's hope is for people to see the beauty in natural wood and the artistry and attention to detail it takes to build each swing. He hopes that those who choose to purchase one cherish it, care for it and make it a family heirloom. The general feeling is that the classic style will fit in a large backyard or on the balcony of a high-rise condo. I take a lot of satisfaction and pride in my work. I hope those families who acquire my swings feel the same pride in ownership, said Tom.

Let's return to our first image, you are on an old-fashioned porch swing. You breathe in deep and realize this piece of furniture, which was crafted with love, will someday be passed to your children, and to their children and eventually their children's children. This swing will provide a place for many future generations to relax, to share with family, and to fall in love... with their backyard that is. Isn't it even more comfortable now? And to think it all started over 30 years ago in the barn of a Pennsylvania Quaker.

More information about Tom McGrady's swings can be found at www.LasVegasSwings.com

Studio visitors are welcome by appointment.
Please phone 702-838-3015


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Quality Hand-made Porch Swings, Garden Arbors & Adirondack Chairs