The wonder of oak - part 1


At Petrel HQ, we are busy making for the upcoming Celebration of Craftsmanship and Design furniture show at the end of August, where we'll be exhibiting three pieces. We're really excited about showing our work there and looking forward to meeting people, who'll be able to see and get their hands on our work (a great thing to be able to do with furniture.)

We're passionate about the wonder and diversity of British woods at Petrel and one of the pieces we'll be exhibiting celebrates a wood often associated with the British Isles; the mighty oak.

Our design will pay tribute to oak in a variety of forms, including 4000-year old bog oak from the Fens and brown oak.

Brown oak is formed as a result of a beefsteak fungus growing on the tree, which reacts with the tannin in the tree and changes the colour of the wood, making it a glorious darker and richer brown, occasionally with dramatic streaks.

In preparation for making this piece, we bought an entire tree - a first for Petrel! This is a big outlay for a small workshop, but exciting too as it means we can get amazing quality, consistent colour and interesting details, which will feature throughout the finished piece. We searched long and hard to find the best possible brown oak available and were super lucky to get a superb quality specimen, from a great timber yard only an hour away from the workshop. 

These are our lovely boards (or boules as they are known when you buy the whole log) 

We hand picked this tree, as we loved the consistent deep hazel brown colour and small decorative knots (called pip - a cute name hey! But they can be a pain to deal with,  but give great character to the finished piece.)

The joy of hand picking your timber, is not only so you can get the details you're looking for, but so you also know the provenance of the timber. We believe wood is a precious resource and we take responsibility for crafting our work in woods that we can account for.

Buying from small, independent specialists, enables you to learn the backstory of the wood you buy. As I mentioned, this piece will also use incredibly valuable bog oak. 

I sourced a few boards from a renowned maker, whose dedication to getting the finest bog oak available, sees him travelling to remote fields in the Fens to unearth and assess massive prehistoric logs, to then arrange transport, cutting and conditioning. He has even built a series of custom dehumidifiers, to bring this incredible oak to a stable condition fit for fine furniture.

This process, from getting the oak out of the ground, to becoming ready for use, takes the best part of a year.  After that, once this fine material is on my bench having completed its 4000 year long journey, it is a unique feeling of responsibility. Working with bog oak demands I respect the material, cut economically, design with sensitivity and don't bugger it up!  

Now, hours and hours of careful, focused work will take this oak on to the next part of its story.

There's still plenty to do before we have a finished piece. But when it is completed, I hope our craftsmanship and our chosen design will show off this beautiful British wood and do justice to the formidable oak  tree.

You can follow our progress in finishing this piece on our twitter feed.


Come visit Petrel at craft shows this summer


We're really excited at Petrel HQ, as this Summer we're going to be exhibiting at a number of craft shows.

We are looking forward to previewing some beautiful new pieces, as well as talking to people and sharing our love for fine, hand crafted furniture.

We'll be at the Celebration of Craftsmanship and Design, 20-29 August.

Thirlestaine Long Gallery
Bath Road
GL53 7LD

There is a  preview day on Friday 19 August which we'll be at, so we hope to meet some of you there.




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. 





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!

So here we go....toe poised for dipping

ImageCome on in the waters great....Greetings and welcome to Workingbench a blog for all things handcrafted. This site will focus on the fine furniture and homewares from studios and workshops throughout these fair British Isles. It will bring you inspiration, maker interviews, news and comment on the main issues impacting the arts and craft industry today. Most of all this site will be a celebration of great British design heralding the people and precious skills needed to produce something handmade and truly exceptional. Please join me on this exciting journey