The look in Tim Kenney's eyes when he's showing you his shop says it all: "I was born for this job." And it didn't take him long as a kid to know this self-truth. "When the other kids were playing sports, I was in my basement scavenging model airplane engines and making rockets," he says.

 Tim Kenney
Photo: David Nevala/WPN Tim Kenney

Later on, while the rest of his shop class was figuring out the intricacies of their spice racks and recipe boxes, Kenney was machining parts for his grandfather clock and laying the groundwork for a lifelong affair with wood and tools. He now boasts a 29-year career as a machinist, pattern-maker, and bonafide toolhound.

For the past 13 years, Kenney has led the team in Milwaukee Electric Tool's rapid prototype shop, where industrial designers and engineers bring their conceptual tool designs for 3D modeling and a quick reality check.

"I'm the liaison between engineering and modeling," Kenney says. "By the time a new tool leaves our shop for manufacturing, we're very sure of the design, and we know how the product will perform. We work the bugs out here." At Milwaukee, they call him the "Gazinta Man" for his wizardry, or maybe because he knows what "goes-into" every detail of toolmaking. They won't say.

But Kenney is no different at home, where he's built every stick of furniture in his house–after designing and building the sawmill and planer he uses to create the lumber. "I love making furniture," he says. "Besides, I'm too cheap to buy it."

–Rick Schwolsky