From the woodshop to the operating room

Last night, my wife and I were watching an episode of "Discoveries this Week", on The Science Channel. This is a pretty good show, though I haven't warmed up yet to some of the other offerings on the channel. It may be because their website does a pretty poor job explaning what the shows are about.

Anyway, one of the segments on last night was about a plastic surgeon named Michael Bell who didn't like the design of standard surgical scalpels, and, being an avid woodworker, turned to the Lee Valley catalog to help. He chose a carver's knife:

and was very happy.

The only problem was that it was rusting when it was sterilized in the autoclave, so Bell called up Lee Valley, and ended up talking with Lee Valley founder, Leonard Lee.

After Lee got over his surprise that Bell was using the carving knife -and many other tools - as part of his practice, the two went into discussions, and Lee ended up leaving Lee Valley to found Canica Design. Their first product was the Canica Standard Scalpel:






More interestingly, they've branched out into the unglamorous but very important area of wound closure and surgical retractions and stabilitzation (note: do not click on that link if you're squeamish).

There's a good article from the National Post that describes this in a bit more detail.


Comments (6)

  1. My wife and I saw this same show and she, being an LPN, was very impressed by the wound closure mechanisms. Nice synergy between two different professions.

    Steven J. Ackerman, Consultant

    ACS, Sarasota, FL

  2. Julie Lerman says:

    cool story. We love the Lee Valley stuff. Me for the fantastic gardening tools, and my husband the professional carpenter for all of their high end goodies! Finally a Microsoft blog post I can actually share with Rich!

  3. Rick says:

    Len Lee started his (then) small mail-order business in his own home, built it into one of best woodworking stores around, then ‘retired’ to start Canica Design.

    There’s a good article with a short bio at

    Unfortunately, the UI for navigating the article is clunky, but still worth the read.

  4. tonyso says:

    Eric Gunnerson got there first. I watched the episode he refers to last night on Tivo. Check it out:…

  5. im sorry

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