We’re BackWe have restarted our blog posts – intended to give you a taste of all the many things we are getting up to at the moment as well as some valuable tips, hints and insights into our fine furniture practices and methods. Recent activities have included the resurrection of an old barn into my new machine shop (try convincing your other half you need a barn), my rise to stardom on Channel 4, followed swiftly by my plummet from stardom (didn’t even give me a trailer!) a brand new workbench design and a number of commissions including a table for Her Majesty’s summer house, I thank you. A new beard has even been on the cards. ‘What about time for the tea and biscuits?’ I hear you cry. Well, exactly. These have been sadly lacking. So from now on, to give ourselves a chance for tea and biscuits, we are going to sit down as often as we can and write out a quick story on any interesting activities or ongoing commissions that we think you will enjoy or find useful. And, if after a while, you think, ‘Hey, you know what would be great? If these stories were delivered straight to my pigeon hole as soon as they were ready’, then good news, we will be releasing newsletters as well.
Little Machine Shop of HorrorsSo, in order to allow more room to tackle bigger projects and to detach us from the dust, we looked into evicting our neighbours from their barn next to the workshop. These horses weren’t happy in the slightest and I think we will be walking the farm with sugar cubes and apples at the ready, watching our backs for months to come. The barn, which was surprisingly good at holding water, given its complete inability to keep water out, was housing another resident – overzealous wisteria had punched through the rear wall (with what looked like help from its friend ivy) and I’m pretty sure had begun feeding on the horse feed and perhaps small mammals and birds unwittingly wondering the area. The whole process of restoration was a mammoth task and I understand now why the farmer was chuckling when he walked away having agreed to me using it. Days of angry hacking and slashing like a scene from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, exposed the holes in the wall, and it was at this point that I thought I better ease the chainsaw away from Laura. A new concrete floor, some new wiring and lights and a bit of storage and we are finally there!
A table fit for a QueenBy far one of the most exciting and defining projects to date, the Coronation Table has been high on our agenda. The table was commissioned for the Summer House in Buckingham Palace. We intend to write a separate blog post covering the particulars of this and a summary video can be found here, however, I can say that it was extremely challenging, both in time and skill. To date it has been the most influential element of change in finding my design style and this has led to several other new and interesting designs, most notably, the Aestas side table and the Aestas Jewellery box.
The Moving PicturesShortly after the presentation of the Coronation table, I was approached by Channel 4 to see if I was interested in a new TV programme presented by Monty Don. No, nothing like Gardeners’ World! It was aimed at promoting heritage crafts in the UK and, although I battled to envisage how weeks of labour could be reduced down into a 45min television sensation, if anyone could do it, Monty Don could. The idea of promoting heritage crafts during a prime time slot was, to me, an opportunity to add, to the already well-publicised romantic notion of furniture making, the demanding undertone, the work, the sweat, the tears, the satisfaction and the pride. If more people could achieve this appreciation, it may incentivise others to take up the craft Monty Don’s Real Crafts aired April 2014. The series includes Potters, Weavers, Glassblowers, Blacksmiths, Stonemasons and the succinctly titled ‘Wood’. So if you are looking for your next high paced, action thriller series…well, this isn’t it, but is still a good watch. It’s even a bit emotional at the end.
TeachingNow onto the next really exciting bit: The whole experience of mentoring the trainees during the production brought into focus the severe lack of decent training in hand skills for aspiring furniture makers in the UK today. A number of good degree programmes exist but don’t often offer that particular and required focus. At the end of the day, if you can’t make furniture well, the best furniture designs can never truly be realised. Despite my stern demeanour for the camera (pre-beard days), I really enjoyed the experience of kindling these skills in enthusiastic fledgling designer-makers. So I decided to create a series of tailored training programmes on hand tool skills. I now run short furniture making courses for complete beginners and for more experienced makers who are looking for further refinement or to learn a particular skill or technique to add to their repertoire. There are now dedicated benches and fine cabinet making tools set aside to help trainees realise their potential.
My Pride and JoyWell, yes, obviously Laura, but a very close second is my new Moroubo Workbench which has been designed solely with hand skills in mind. The inspiration for this bench comes from Moravian and Roubo workbenches, marrying the rock solid stability of the Frenchman’s workbenches with the portability of an on-site Moravian carpenters. The result is better than I had hoped and it quickly became a talking point at the recent Art in Action exhibition. It of course has a number of useful features which I will discuss in a dedicated blog post. This all may sound a bit boastful but the purpose of my telling you this is because I want to share this with you. I now have an additional course in place where we work together through the steps of making one of these benches (please make sure you discuss this with your other half first to avoid an awkward discussion on where the bench is going to live, on your return home.) Additionally, for those of you who would like to have a go at making one yourself at home, please drop me an email and I will be happy to send you the plans.
Please be sure to send us your comments, requests/ideas on discussion topics and for those of you with whom I’ve had the pleasure to work with, there is now a review capability on Facebook.