Organic

I love wood because it’s simple - it is what it is.

Working with wood is like a partnership. It’s not just me running the show, left to my own devices with unlimited possibilities. Well, sort of, but there’s the wood too..

It’s pretty rad to think that you are probably reading this from your computer on a desk that was once a tree. I love wood because it’s simple - it is what it is. The most natural building resource we have, real, organic. It spent its entire existence giving food and shelter to the ecosystem that supported it, creating the air we need to breathe – a wholesome existence. It it then felled (chopped down), milled (cut into planks), seasoned (dried out), and carted off to makers and builders all over the world to begin its next life.

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Working with wood every day you build a relationship with it, a language used between the maker and the materials they use.

down the length for twist, cupping or bowing. The timber talks, on each machine, in every process. Over time you become fluent, when I’m ripping on the saw and feel the pressure build in the push or hear it start to squeal a little, it’s the timbers binding on the blade and I need to slow my feed rate. There is so much tension held in each stick of timber that needs to be release and counter released, worked with evenly to keep it stable. 

It is really cool getting in the zone and just feeling out each process, listening to the timber on the tools and making slight adjustments to compliment or counteract with how it is reacting. I recon most veteran makers could use their tools with their eyes closed (though I do not recommend or endorse such behavior, nor have I ever tried). Feeling out each process, relying on the touch and sound. It’s really gratifying to of built this kind of relationship with my craft and to be able to understand and communicate in this language. 

Working with wood is exactly that, you have to work with it. It’s often the case with furniture making that the more beautiful the figure in the timber you are working with, the more difficult it is to work with. Being an organic material no two pieces are ever the same. You can tell a lot about each piece just by looking at it. Where it was cut from the tree, whether it had any limbs connected to it, big tree little tree, etc. Wood is full of natural defects, some woodworkers showcase these by making them a feature of their work, others use their meticulous skills to hide any imperfections. Either way, your dictated by the piece of timber you are working with, the wood defines what you can create and how you do so.

Working with wood every day you build a relationship with it, a language used between the maker and the materials they use. First through sight, looking over the timber can tell you a lot about how it needs to be handled, looking for knots, checking grain direction, sight

Having a holistic approach to design and making is part of what got me so passionate about JDLee Furniture in the beginning

taking this head on and initiating amazing, creative responses to the important issues of waste and longevity.

I suppose I just wanted to be a part of that, set a bench mark for others to follow. Moving away from cheap, often high waste mass manufactured product and materials into natural,  organic materials and products, handcrafted and build to last. I love working with a natural material, the smell of fresh cut timber in the morning, soaked in sweat and covered in dust in the middle of summer – almost always grinning. Living in the beautiful part of the world that I do and being able to take a few steps and be deep in the lush, beautiful nature lends to a feeling which is incredibly satisfying, being among the trees in the bush. A sense of full circle. Same goes for everything in and out of the shop, if it feels right then it is right.. for right now at least. And working with timber feels pretty bloody good.

In a world full of waste and extensive manufacturing where most building materials and products have been manufactured several times to become fit for purpose. Which are then turned into something else, it feels really refreshing, or just right to be working with wood. No toxic ingredients, no extensive post raw material/pre-building material manufacturing – like MDF or plastics. It’s all natural man. Literally grows on trees. Very little happens between the forest and the workshop, and It’s important to me to make sure I’m conscious of the glues and finishes I’m using, keeping this organic product as natural as possible. From forest to floor. 

Having a holistic approach to design and making is part of what got me so passionate about JDLee Furniture in the beginning. Seeing so much waste in the manufacturing industries and the lack of understanding and communications between the trade/manufacturing industries and the architecture/design communities. There are plenty of amazing people

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Flow

When I’m in the flow time just disappears, it’s beautiful.


Working with wood is incredibly logically. So much it hurts sometimes. There’s basically these rules and if you follow each step with precision every joint, every glue up, every construction will work. But it’s the patience involved that usually leads people a foul. Like everything I have experienced, the challenge is often such a gift. In this case it offers the opportunity to slow down and enter the state I call ‘the flow’. A result of being forced to work carefully with precision in every process in all aspects of woodwork and furniture making. 

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I feel incredibly grateful to be able to do what I love - and I friggen’ love working with wood


blurred out and my mind transforms into something foreign in conscious thinking and a new language is opened, a new perception where through muscle memory my body reacts and each action is incredibly understood, and married with the thoughts and feelings that are created by going through the motions with each process and reacting in sync. It’s difficult to explain but I’m sure anyone who works a craft in this way can relate. I loose myself in it and am guided by it at the same time. 

I often talk about being in ‘the flow’ at work. When I am not able to concentrate and be present for each movement, from normal work/life distractions I can find it incredibly challenging to complete simple tasks and often make mistakes. When I am able to be in a space where I am present and connected to each process I am working on I feel like I am in the flow, literally like I am in a large river or something and a am being gently guided along while I get to sit and relax, watch the beautiful trees and wildlife as I drift by. There is a quieting of the mind that happens in this space and I relate to the saying of ‘getting out of your own way’, because it’s seems that in this space the work just flows through me, effortlessly.

Trying to rush in woodwork will always lead to more work down the track or ruining projects all together. I have always thought of myself as a creative type of person and it’s this structure I find working with wood that seems to really draw me in and bring out the best of this aspect of my life. I thrive on structure, systems, evidence based procedure - if I do this, this will happen. Which woodworking caters for very well. The flip side though is that working with an organic material there is so much that is out of my control and again I am forced to work within the perimeters of each stick of timber I am using at the time - grain direction, natural defects like knots, splits, cupping etc. then throw in reactions to the natural environment - primarily moisture content - and its game on in calculating the most efficient (in time, energy and waste) and effective way to achieve the desired outcomes for the project I am working on. 

It’s in this extreme focus that the gold is on offer. When I am forced to go slow and repeat monotonous process’s (most of my day- sanding is a big one) I am able to find the meditative space in my craft. It’s in the focused repetition of woodworking where I feel as if my eyes are

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When I worked for ‘the man’ I was always a clock watcher. In fact I’m pretty sure I have always been a clock watcher since school days. Where the time always just seemed move so slowly and I was just hanging out for home time. Since opening my workshop and having the opportunity to work on the projects I was inspired by its like the opposite has happen with my clock watching. I still check it regularly (something about my love of systems makes me need to know the time all the...) though, now I’m always blown away at how much time has past and, often struggling to fit everything in. When I’m in the flow time just disappears, it’s beautiful. It’s just you and the movement in the stillness with an ornate knowing. Free from the created constructs and deep within this organic space. It has no reasoning in the why or how, but a grounding and connectedness with the here and now.

Don’t get me wrong it’s not like I’m super connected all the time and work in a state of meditation all day every day. I mean that would be

great and is really the goal, but there’s a whole bunch of life realities that get in the way - deadlines, punishing projects to pay the bills, sleepless nights with young children/babies. But it is important for me to stay connected to this side of my craft and remind myself that it is on offer when I am willing/able (still not sure if it’s one or the other or a bit of both) to surrender to that space.

Like everything I try to keep it simple, I feel incredibly grateful to be able to do what I love - and I friggen’ love working with wood. Some days that’s easy some days it’s harder then others, and that’s okay. I love it when I get into work in the morning and look up and realise the whole days already flown by and there is a beautiful something in my hands I have created. Being able to loose myself in my work is an absolute gift. My dad told me when I was younger that every body has to work, so you may as well do something you love. Thanks dad.

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Handcrafted

There is a real grounding in having your hands as your
tool, I’m sure any artist or crafter would agree.


There is something incredibly satisfying about working with your hands. It is empowering. These bare hands, using time old techniques to create something beautiful. I often find myself just looking at my hands. At their leathery surface. The truth is I’m proud of each callous, the once soft spot in my inner palms that has been well worn and hardened over time. The small cuts and splinters sprinkled all over like a map of the previous weeks work.

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I think it’s something you never stop perfecting. Each joint,
each angle cut and each glue up, it becomes muscle memory…


each glue up, it becomes muscle memory, as your body learns to react to the timber you’re working on.

When there are two of us in the shop planing some large lengths of timber on the small jointer it honestly feels like a dance. Each length needs different attention from each tool so, with meters between us, we echo the movements of the other, making slight adjustments to account for grain direction, slowing down the feed rate etc. It is a really beautiful thing to be a part of. When working with an organic material no two sticks of timber are the same and one of the first things you will learn is you can only ever work with the wood. Each stick tells a story, shows you how it wants to be worked, what it wants to create and you have to work with it. I’ve heard, when Michelangelo was asked how he was able to craft David from a large rock his response was “It was easy, I just took everything away that was not David.” I relate to this.

There is a real grounding in having your hands as your tool, I’m sure any artist or crafter would agree. Especially today, when most professions involve multiple technologies to operate and people spend most of their days staring at a screen. Don’t get me wrong I definitely rely on these platforms too to an extent, but I am incredibly grateful to be able to spend my days in the shop creating the old school way.

When I was learning to play guitar as a kid I remember my dad telling me, “Everything is easy when you know how to do it,” something that still resonates with me today. Like all crafts, furniture making is something that just takes practice. You have to feel it out, and then repeat over and over again. I can spend forever reading about the best way to perfect my dove tails but until I actually get my hands dirty on the timber and feel the pressure of the saw as it resists each pass I won’t truly understand it. I think it’s something you never stop perfecting. Each joint, each angle cut and

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Working with timber on larger projects can be extremely demanding physically. Each process from initial sorting, through to planing long edges ready for joining is a lot of hard work. If you don’t believe me, try hand belt sanding a 4.2m x 1.5m conference table in the peak of summer... We have a mantra in the shop when doing this kind of physically demanding work – ‘Paddle Power’, the harder it is in the workshop, the easier it’s going to be down at the local break when you’re paddling into those big waves. Having said that, the rewards of completing a demanding or ambitious project are always that much more satisfying.

Handmade furniture is a craft, it draws on knowledge gained over centuries of experience. It is the same practice today as it was 100 years ago. The machinery I use in my shop is a lot older than I am and has been a part of the journey for thousands of pieces of furniture before me. I’m sure the majority of those pieces are still around today. Whilst I take incredible pride in my work and every piece I create, I also still feel like an apprentice to my craft. There is still so much to learn. But understanding the path to perfection is a never ending journey keeps me humble.. most of the time.

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