Rippled box for jewels

A recent commission which left the workshop earlier this year on its way to a new home in Cyprus; what a beautiful gift.

A fine jewellery box in rippled sycamore with a copper coloured silk velvet lining.

 A single piece of sycamore was used for the box creating a seamless and continuous flow of ripples, it's a delight to look at.

Wood of this quality is a rare find. I wanted to do it justice by keeping the design simple and crisp on the outside and a delight to the senses when opening.

Luxurious silk velvet, a perfect place to store your precious jewels. 





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.


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. 




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



Project Reading Chair: It's all in the sitting

Image Here are a few images of the reading chair in its new home. After a few hours of re-arranging furniture to make way for this most generous chair we have settled on a space; close to a window for natural light and next to a fabulous vintage pub table to pop down a cup of tea and the current read.

After a week the chairs settled well, a few creaks - from the cord I hope! It is super comfortable and excellent to while away a few hours with a book or laptop. In fact I write this entry from the comfort of the chair, delightful.


The Walnut oil finish was an experiment and I am delighted with the finish, it has worked so well.  The chair has a soft sheen and given a warmth to the grain, over time the wood will depend and take on a rich orange colour.


- Shaping back into the arm was tricky, no room to hide here.


- Check out that cord. My hands a still aching from this challenging weave, it took three days to complete, apparently trained hands can race through this in half a day!

Image- The curve around the arms and seat give an elegant relaxed feel to the design.

If you could see a similar reading chair sitting in your home, I would be most delighted to make another one so please get in touch.

I complete my training in July and have decided to stay on at the school renting bench space whilst I make the transition to a professional maker. I am thrilled to have a few requests for furniture from friends and colleagues of old, this should keep me busy for the next couple of months and hopefully make the step into a commercial world easier.

Talking of next projects here's some terrific news, I have agreed my first commission for a piece of furniture, a rather substantial linen press. Here is a snap of the wood samples sent out to the client, a selection of English hard woods and some Cedar of Lebanon for the drawer linings.


Project Reading Chair: A sweet milestone

Image Blood, sweat and tears and we nearly have a chair... OK not so many tears but a good few eye watering cuts along the way.

This project has been super challenging, working with curved surfaces was always going to be tough but my word I had no idea how demanding. Days have whistled by without much material progress whilst I got my head around how to handle marking, cutting and generally dealing with so many curved components which need to fit accurately together.



- Marking up the rear legs to ensure the tenon holes are cut accurately on both legs, oh at a 20degree angle! -

Over the last couple of days I feel like I have reached a milestone, not only do I now have something that looks pretty much like a chair but my overall approach and understanding has matured. For the first time since starting this new career I actually felt competent and able to handle the material and tools without constant questioning. In many ways I feel like a professional; a cabinet maker if I may be so bold...Sure I have a long way to go before I have the depth of knowledge and experience to really call myself a craftsman but the signs of life are certainly there.



- Tricky joints on the chair back slats, curved at every angle -



- Fitting the rails has been a nightmare, the first one took me over two days! -

The next steps are rather fun, shaping the arms and legs into a gentle curve with a spokeshave and rasp and glueing up the frame before finishing with oil. I am trying to different oils, I wonder if walnut oil would work?


- What a lovely arm and through tenon, it is going to a joy shaping this by hand -

Project Reading Chair: The catch-up


OK, so how about we play a little catch-up? Here is a series of in progress pictures on my latest project a fine reading chair in English walnut. 



Here's the board before marking out and cutting, stunning pattern hey. 

After the flurry of activity at the end of the second term - which culminated in the delivery of the auctioned console table to its magnificently grand new home and the completion of my first commission, a lovely keepsake box with feather inlay - I took advantage of a three week break to switch off from hand tools and catch up with friends, we also managed to fit in a well deserved break in the Scottish Borders. We stayed in a renovated potting shed cum pig sty, I highly recommend if you want a cosy bolt hole away for two - breathtaking scenery and walks right on the doorstep. 

Well it's back into the workshop with gusto, term three is all about taking my skills to the next level - think carving and curvy things -before that though I have a chair to finish; so let me bring you up to speed. 

During our second term we were all given the task of designing and making a chair, the more difficult the better after all this is about learning, so no harm in making the route steep and challenging. I wanted to make a chair comfortable enough to read and let the hours pass by perhaps even cosy enough to nod off on a Sunday afternoon. The design phase involved many drawings and mock up prototypes, chairs have tricky angles and many individual parts which need to be accurate to ensure a solid fit and a lifetime of use - Cardboard and selotape have become dear friends. 



Here's a mock up with cardboard rear slats and a cushion, this is a quick and easy way to play around with form and proportion. 


Arm: Mock-up fitted with cut out tenon to secure the arm to the front leg. 


Arm: From mock-up to solid wood, notice the cut mortise to fit into the front leg. Next to shaping and fitting. 



Rear Slat: From technical drawing to the actual thing. The rear slats are made up of hand-cut veneer planed smooth and vacuum pressed against a curved template. 


I have decided that this chair will not be sold as I want something at home to remind me of my craft and journey in becoming a furniture maker. I will use the design as a basis for Petrel's first product range, so if you think you would like something comfortable to sit on to while away an afternoon you may be in luck. 

Keep posted for the next stage - fitting the rear slats to the legs, Danish cord seat frame and home-made cushion oh and lets see if it all fits together. 


The first finished commission


I am delighted to share some images of a rather lovely keepsake box I made as a first commission. It has been kept well under wraps as it was for a dear friends wife's 40th Birthday. This is truly a one of a kind box, I was honoured to be asked to make something unique for such a special birthday. 


The box is made from solid American Black Walnut with a Ripple Sycamore lining giving a great contrast when opening. 


The feather in-lay is made out of yew and hand cut into the american black walnut top, it was a tricky process as any gaps or rips would stand out like a sore thumb. The feather is made up from individual cut pieces of yew, arranged to create the lines and lightness of a feather. 

Happy Birthday Michelle, I hope it brings many years of pleasure. 

Console Table: We have a winner

I have been really touched by the response to this auction for the first piece of Petrel Furniture. Your bids and words of encouragement have meant a great deal. 

Congratulations goes to Raymond McCabe for the winning bid posted before 7pm. Raymond please contact me to arrange delivery of this fine table. 

For those who were unlucky or fancy having a piece of furniture made please do not hesitate to contact me. 

Thanks again 


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.


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. 


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.


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.




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. 


Project console table

And so it begins, the second term has two major projects, a table and a chair. Although we need to fulfil certain criteria in each project we have been encouraged to let the creative sides of our brains roam free and come up with ideas. So pen to paper and tables were drawn with flurry and fury. My first couple of passes seemed to push the brief a tad too far and I was encouraged to dial it back a little, I had grand ideas of a floating console table and lightening bolts, I won't dwell anymore on this as I am destined to return to the idea once my practical skills are up to muster.




So here we have it, the agreed plans, a slender console table with drawer and elegant stretcher to balance the design. I plan to make this in English oak and picked up an enormous piece last week from English woodland timber. It gets delivered on Friday so as of Monday work can begin in earnest. The top of the table will have a gentle curve and a small lined in-lay in white holly which should give an refined feel to the piece.

I am amazed at the technical considerations required to translate an idea into a viable piece of furniture, you have to switch to the cabinet makers mindset to see if what you have dealt up can actually be achieved, not only made but assembled and with a nod to efficiency. Last weeks drawing and pontifications have been exhausting and incredibly rewarding.

I'll keep you posted with the progress of this, the first piece of furniture from Petrel, exciting times!