There is a new design to welcome to the Lloyd Brooke Furniture family. The Finn coffee table. The client wanted a custom coffee table with prerequisites being splayed legs and baby safe edges.
I started by gluing and scraping the top, followed by attaching the breadboard ends. These help keep the tabletop flat. The trick is to glue the centre but not the edges, to allow for expansion and contraction of the timber.
Next was the frame design. I wanted to create an elegant statement. These two words guided my design decisions throughout the process. Once a rough sketch was drawn, I created a prototype out of scrap. Prototypes are invaluable because a drawing lives in a different world to a true 3d object. The prototype was hideous but earned it's keep with the information it provided.
I then pieced together the frame out of Blackwood.
Once the edges were smoothed and angles refined, I believe we came out alright in the end.
I use a lot of hand tool processes when I'm building a
piece. Not only is it enjoyable, but it also offers efficiency in small, home
workshops. Ones that don't have the capabilities to use large scale machine
sanders and need to keep noise and electricity usage to a minimum.
The planes made by Australian toolmaker, HNT Gordon, allow me to quickly take out marks left by my machines and move onto the joinery of the piece.
This means I go through a minimal amount of sandpaper and it
helps keep me fit.
The HNT planes and spokeshaves are beautiful but more importantly, work brilliantly despite the challenges that Australian timbers throw at them.
I am in no way affiliated with HNT Gordon and haven't even
met Terry. I just thought, given the economic climate at present, what better
time than now to support quality Australian business?
The sky is the limit when it comes to woodworking
techniques. There are makers out there, wizards of all sorts of joinery, marquetry,
veneering... The list goes on and on. A question I often ask myself is where to
stop? Where will I set deliberate and intentional limits on my craft?
Many of the best craftspeople have access to basic tools and use fundamental techniques.
Many of the best craftspeople have access to state of the art tools and elaborate techniques.
So, where to head?
In days past, you would apprentice under a master of the
craft, organically pick up techniques and modify them to suit your needs as
your experience increases.
Now we live in the face of infinite technique options and infinite
design inspirations. It's hard not to feel dizzy when facing up to a plethora
of concepts and techniques that don't belong to a set cultural tradition.
I've found music can help guide my decisions.
When questioning how I will tackle a design, I like to think back about how I like to write songs. For me, a song should be simple, direct and strike at the heart. My artistic tastes do not lean towards the virtuosic but instead toward the spirit.
Let's take one of the greatest songwriters as an example.
Bob Dylan. His songs use simple chords, commonly accepted forms and simple
words. The genius lies in his ability to weave these in such a profound way as to
make direct contact with the heart.
Do I find the internet useful for establishing technique and
inspiration? Yes. If my furniture could approach the simple profundity of Bob
Dylan's work I'd be a very happy maker.
Though I would consider leaving out a few of those harmonica solos.
How many things you own aren't produced on a mass scale?
I was in the car this morning thinking about cars and how
car choice affects personal identity.
That car has been produced on an enormous scale, with as
much individuality as a can of soft drink. How is it possible that this
cookie-cutter possession can be used to construct a representation of our own
unreproducible, unique, self?
I love my 1991 Toyota Camry.
Look around your home, can you find one item that has not been produced en masse? Even personal items that carry meaning every day. Your favourite trackies, your trusty mug, your snuggly bed........
Items like this hold meaning in everybody's life. We spend a lot of time at home, and we want our lives enriched, so how could this home-life hold even more meaning?
Now, for experiment's sake, take a look around and imagine
what could be taken off that assembly line.
This is the treasured item that won't end up in hard rubbish no matter which turn fashion may take. These do not have to be expensive things. My dad still uses the pencil holder I made as a 4 year old (at least I hope, Dad?).
To replace everything that can be replaced is wasteful in itself, but this way of thinking could influence our next necessary purchase or determine whether we choose to make something ourselves.
Our immensely personal and unique homes won't be transformed overnight. The process, if done right will take a very long time. But it will be a long time well spent, gradually accumulating meaning instead of stuff.
Trying to navigate the sustainability of Australian and
international timbers is like trying to choose a suitable political party.
Heavily weighted opinions are thrown about from all sides, and few are without
some sort of agenda floating around in the background.
Where does that leave the customer, looking for beautiful, handmade furniture?
Where does that leave the independent maker, not looking to
sway public opinion in favour of profit, but instead, trying to make an
Reclaimed timber might seem like the best option, and of course, is most immediately sustainable but the timber is of lower quality, with hidden weaknesses and voids. All of which jeopardise our wish as makers to offer a lifetime guarantee.
So we turn to sustainably sourced timbers, grown from plantation sources. The big names in the Australian timber industry all preach sustainability and have the accreditation to support it.
International timbers are approved by the Forestry
"FSC is an
international, non-governmental organisation dedicated to promoting responsible
management of the world's forests. FSC has developed a system of forest
certification and product labelling that enables people to identify responsibly
sourced wood, paper and other forest products."
Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, is a leading global
alliance of national forest certification systems. As an international
non-profit, non-governmental organization, we are dedicated to promoting
sustainable forest management through independent third-party certification."
I believe as makers, we can go a step further by getting to
know smaller, independent suppliers which have a personal link with the forest
One of my favourite suppliers is Corsair Timbers. Denis Brown, the owner, harvests trees from his own property, replanting the trees that are felled and prefers to personally select trees that are at the end of their life.
I have a hunch that for big company manufacturers, Australian hardwoods will become more and more difficult to source, leading to more and more laminate construction.
I also have a hunch that this will lead to an increase in people desiring beautiful, solid timber furniture. These pieces will be made by independent makers, utilising quality and sustainable timbers from local suppliers.