Project Linen Cupboard: The Beginnings

It's nearly a year since I left a city career and embarked on my training as a furniture maker, its amazing how quickly time has flown by, it seems like only yesterday that I was unpacking a series of strange looking tools and shiny things on day one of the course. 

A year down and the start of the first major project as a professional cabinet maker is underway, the general feeling is one of confidence and excitement, of course this is mixed with a healthy sprinkling of 'oh crumbs'. 

Over the course of this project I will be sharing with you the journey from raw material to finished cabinet, along the way we will be stopping off to focus on techniques and some of the challenges faced in making a substantial piece of furniture. I will be sharing the fascinating process from translating a design on paper to the real thing. 

Several weeks ago I sent a pack of wood samples for consideration, the idea was to have a single wood for the main construction and provide definition and detail with a contrasting wood, this would carry on inside with the interior to the cabinet and draw sides to be made in the contrasting material.

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Sycamore, Walnut and cherry were packed and sent to the client for consideration with Walnut and Sycamore making the grade, it is going to be terrific to use this fine wood once again.

Now came the tricky part, finding some fine timber. 

The school has contact with a number of specialist timber yards and as makers we are encouraged to keep our eye out for high quality and interesting timbers. In fine furniture the quality of the wood is paramount, I have not yet brought timber without seeing it in person first, and I don't expect this will change. 

Thankfully the smaller specialist firms allow us to rifle through huge stacks of boards to find just the right selection of figure, colour and size. One such firm is a cracking outfit based in West Sussex called English Woodlands Timber, Peter the stock manager is not only super helpful  but will cheer you up with a seemingly exhaustible collection of Hawaiian shirts. 

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- You can just make out that shirt! - 

Walnut typically comes in what they call waney edge - this means that it hasn't been cut square and often has the bark still attached, this is typical for woods that are quite curved and misshaped, you generally have to double the amount you need to factor in the curved boards and waste from the edges. 

After a week of searching high and low for some fine walnut, our friends at English Woodlands came up trumps with a fine selection of French Walnut, I was lucky enough to be the first to see the boards and and got first pick. This meant I was able to match the grain and colour by picking from the same tree, several hours later I had selected 11 boards of the finest walnut I had seen in a while. 

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OK, it doesn't look much now but just wait until I start to prepare the timber, the colour is a subtle pink deep brown. 

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Here we have some sycamore for the drawer linings, as always its the last board that takes your fancy!

Tune in next time for the timber prep and matching the pretty grain and figure the design. 

 

 

 

 

 

It's Tambour Time

As my training nears it's end I have been trying to squeeze in a few of the more advanced techniques, the specialist features that you generally see on antique furniture - This has included cabriole legs and tambours, don't worry I'll explain what I mean by these in a mo. 

It's been great to practice a technique as an individual component rather than a large complex project, as well as developing my hand skills I have also enjoyed the freedom to experiment without fear of messing up a significant amount of work.

Furniture making is a tricky business, the stakes are progressively raised from the first cut all the way to the final rub of polish. I have learnt the hard way that the key to success - not only in making something fine but also within a realistic time - rests with careful planning and thoughtful execution, reducing errors is paramount. Throughout my training I have had numerous situations where I have spent days rectifying a silly mis-measurement or haphazard cut, in fact every time I now hear myself say things like "oh, it should be alright if I just..." it generally isn't.

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The Cabriole Leg - An elegant example of this popular leg design, it was wonderful to refine the use of hand tools including a spoke shave (seen behind the leg to the right) and rasps - the rasps came from a French company called Auriou which hand make each one, a joy to use. 

To practice some hand carving I shaped the foot into the shape of a 'duck's foot' perhaps too alarming a concept to share, although I understand this may now be presented to the student with the biggest mistake at the end of term, you never know it may become a close friend!

Next up is a Tambour, you often see this in cabinets or roll-top desks, mine is a smaller version made into a box - think swish bread bin, or if we're getting technical, Wikipedia explains it as 'a flexible, sliding, slatted shutter'.

The key to success is making the Tambour seamless as if an uncut piece of wood, I think I pulled it off.

The wood here is sycamore and cherry. 

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Thanks to Tom for being a hand model in the pictures.  

 

 

Console Table: hurry, bidding closes at 7pm tomorrow

Make sure you don't miss the chance to pick up the first piece from Petrel Furniture. You still have time to dig out that tape measure and size up a suitable spot. Bidding closes tomorrow at 7pm GMT, the highest last posted bid will win.

Here's a close up of some fine dovetails; oh look what you could be missing.

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Console Table: It's Auction Time

After many hours of beavering away I am so proud to offer the first piece from Petrel Furniture up for auction.

This is your chance to own a fine, handcrafted table, please place your bids in the comment section at the bottom of the post. 

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Up for grabs is a stunning English oak console table that would be perfectly at home in the hall or as a lamp table by the side of the sofa. It is influenced by the Biedermeier period (1815 - 1848) which was an influential period of design that promoted simplicity and clean lines.

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The auction format couldn't be easier:

What are you bidding on? A solid English Oak console table with a drawer, elegant curved top and beautiful tapered legs. The top is inlayed with a fine line of American Black Walnut which is complemented with a matching hand-turned drawer pull.

The drawer has hand cut dovetails and is lined with Cedar of Lebanon which gives the most beautiful aroma. Oak ages most gracefully, the table will get richer and deeper in colour with age. 

How to Bid: If you are interested in having this fine table for your very own simply post your bid in the comment section below. I am offering this at a reserve price of £250 which is basically cost, please bid with minimum increments of £5. A table of this quality would normally have a price tag of at least £800. 

When you bid you will be asked to enter your email address and name this information will not be shared with any third party. 

Auction Deadline: The auction will run for one week ending at 7pm on Tuesday 11th March, the highest last posted bid at that point will win the table. 

How big is it? H 77cm, W 60cm, D 35cm. The drawer is large enough to hold A4 paper/mail/envelopes

Shipping costs: Are included in the reserve price for UK delivery, I will deliver direct to a greater London address in exchange for a cup of tea and a biscuit.

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This is a great opportunity not only to bid on a wonderful piece of furniture that has been lovingly handmade but also support a young fledgling business. Petrel Furniture is dedicated to producing fine handmade furniture combining traditional skills and sensitive design. 

Thank you for your generous support and happy bidding. 

 

A career in the making...

Hello strangers, its great to be back in front of the screen writing again and I have some exciting news to share with you.

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Since my last post I have said farewell to gainful employment and started a full time furniture making course with the exceptionally talented John Lloyd in East Sussex. Eight weeks in and going strong, I have swapped my city desk for vice and bench - ahh the title of this blog kind of makes sense now. I now spend the majority of my days on my feet, using my hands and learning to be precise and aware, it's a stark departure from the days of meetings, spreadsheets and early flights. I expect to be working on my first commissions in spring next year and have started to put ideas on paper, I will share the process of design and the making with you over the coming months. 

I started off planning to become a craftsman several years ago, dreams and plans have now become reality, it is fantastic to have left the rat race and start down the path of a new career. The creation of Petrel Furniture Ltd. is a major milestone in this journey, Petrel will be a business dedicated to the craftsman maker, it will herald design and traditional craft skills, initially we will focus on furniture and expand to cover other craft disciplines as the business grows. 

Over the coming posts I will share the process of learning focusing on design decisions, hand skills and techniques. I will also continue to seek out influential makers both past and present and give my views on material use, environment and design. I hope you enjoy seeing the business take shape. 

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The new seat of learning, a barn in beautiful East Sussex.

 

Welcome aboard it's going to be a great trip.