“Hand made 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 have been part of the journey for hundreds of pieces of furniture which I’m sure the majority are still around today.”
There is something incredibly satisfying about working with your hands.Almost empowering. These bare hands, using time old techniques to craft something beautiful. I often find myself just looking at my hands. The truth is I’m proud of each callous, the once soft spot in my inner palms that’s been well worn and hardened over time. The small cuts and splinters sprinkled all over like a map of the previous weeks work.
There’s a real grounding in having your hands as a tool, I’m sure any artist or crafter would relate. Especially in the digital times we find ourselves where most professions involve multiple technologies and computing to operate, people are spending most of their days staring into a screen. Don’t get me wrong I definitely rely on these platforms to an extent too, but I am incredibly grateful to be able to spend my days in the shop creating the old school way.
Like all crafts, furniture making is something the just takes practice. I remember my dad telling me when I was kid learning to play guitar “everything’s easy when you know how to do it”. You just 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 as I try to cut to a line, the weight of a chisel in my hand as I pare away the waste. I think it’s something you never stop perfecting. Each joint, each angle cut and glue up, it becomes muscle memory, as your body learns to react to the timber your working on.
I’ve worked in my shop with two of us planning some large lengths on a small jointer and I swear it’s like a dance. Each stick has to be worked in different ways on each tool and working together as we both react to each others process, in sync, making slight changes to account for grain direction, slowing down the feed rate etc. It is a really beautiful thing to be apart of. Working with an organic material no two sticks of timber are the same, and one of the first things you learn is that 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 it said that Michelangelo when asked about how he was able to craft his statue David from a large rock he replied “it was easy, I just took everything away that was not David”. I relate to this.
“…the weight of a chisel in my hand as I pare away the waste. I think "...the weight of a chisel in my hand as I pare away the waste. I think it’s something you never stop perfecting. Each joint, each angle cut and glue up, it becomes muscle memory"