Cherishing Craftsmanship!

July 17, 2019

Over the past ten years we have had the immense pleasure of working on some truly amazing projects, some that even now make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up on end. One project in particular changed even my perception of what we do and made me fall in love with cabinet making all over again. If you’re not the hands-on type I can appreciate that at best this sounds geeky and weird but let me try and explain.

At the beginning of each project you’re full of ambition and partially ignorant to the true scale of the challenge ahead. You start with great excitement and importantly with a clean sheet. Unlike writing this article, where I can delete my mistakes, as a cabinet maker you more often than not have to live with them. Being a perfectionist, this can be enormously frustrating. To counter this, you plan with foresight, jot down notes, sketch, consider the various processes and jigs required and go to sleep trying to build in your mind a three-dimensional picture of each joint and component. You plan the timber out methodically, allowing for natural splits, knots, the occasional lead shot, and human mistakes whilst trying to keep your options open as much as possible. Then it’s full steam ahead and only experience tells you when you need to put the brakes on and take a step back.

Hands using a traditional spokeshave in the workshop to carve timber.

The further into the project, the greater the responsibility builds. You’ve taken a simple but beautiful piece of timber, cut it, bent it, shaped it, glued it, shaped it some more, sanded it, sanded it some more, until it becomes a recognisable and tangible piece of furniture. In some cases, this can be the culmination of months of hard work, thousands of tiny decisions and numerous jubilant highs and nail-biting lows. I can assure you high-end furniture making is not for the faint-hearted!

Of course, there are varying degrees of furniture making, from rustic joinery to fine cabinet making. You will know that we do not just machine a nice piece of timber, stick four legs on it, fill the gaps with bright coloured resin and push it out the door (I think I’d rather the piece of wood was left as it was, at least it would rot quicker without the resin in it! Arrghh!).

Edward Johnson in the workshop hand spoke-shaving the fram of a freeform chaise longue.

Fortunately, we work at the finer end of the industry and we are increasingly being commissioned to work on extraordinary projects. Projects that have allowed me and the team time to focus our craftsmanship skills and cherish our position as innovators in the industry. From the family tree boxes (see front page) that took over 500 hours to finesse, to two extraordinary chairs we made a couple of years ago, each one taking three months – yes, three months for each chair – it blows your mind doesn’t it! We’ve certainly been able to indulge and progress our ability as craftsmen and further explore the boundaries of furniture making.

When you get to work at this level, it isn’t just a job, it’s a passion, and one that we are extremely grateful to be part of. In a world full of mass-produced plastic, it’s nice to provide our clients with a valuable traditional skill that continues to stand the test of time. Hence, I say thank you to all those who have commissioned us and other craftsmen and women alike to create beautiful objects and preserve skills that without your patronage wouldn’t exist. We cherish the craftsmanship process and we hope you enjoy the final product.

Edward Johnson, July 2019

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