Although my job or trade title is cabinet maker, over the years I have come to think of myself, more as a traditional woodworker, because I feel this more accurately describes what I do. Especially as today’s public have a more eclectic sense of the built environment. So “Cabinet Maker” could imply rigidity to a past genre; or maybe some other limitation to the repertoire. Contemporaneously a Cabinet Maker may also be someone who uses a lot of machinery, or CAD and CNC routers. I’m not decrying their place in the modern woodworking world. Simply stating that this isn’t me. In my “traditional woodworker world”, process is as important as result, freedom of artistic expression more important than the tyranny and constraint of machines. I like to work in harmony with natural locally grown timber. That is not to say that the odd bit of plywood will never enter my workshop, it has its uses, but only as a support material, never as a prime element. I also work with veneer, but generally with thick veneers that I saw myself in house, from the same wood as used for the main parts of the piece. I do this because it allows freedom of design in certain circumstances, that would otherwise be difficult, unstable, or just plain impossible to be executed in the solid. My veneers are saw cut, at about 3- 5mm thickness and then hand planed, in the same way that the rest of my furniture is finished. I rarely abrasives before applying a finish. This ensures what I have come to think of as my signature, a certain luminous glow, which only natural hand planed wood can give. As a woodworker, I also enjoy the freedom to work in the round on one of my lathes. This might be to make a unique replacement part for an antique piece of furniture, that I might be restoring. Like many other woodworkers, I have have been restoring fine antique furniture for many years, to supplement their turnover. Now however, since living in central France, close to the many château of the Loire valley, restoration of antique furniture has come to represent a significant part of my repertoire. Alternatively, by way of change, I may sometimes make a woodworking plane, or perhaps another hand tool like a shoulder knife. These knives are used for cutting out background to receive inlay. My hand planes can be fine tuned to take the gossamer thin shavings and leave behind a polished surface, ready to take my own blend of finish. This may be a shellac, a blend of oils or waxes to leave a durable, yet easily maintained finish that throws out its own warm glow. The choice depends on the type of piece and its final destination.
As a traditional woodworker my own work is heavily influenced by The Arts and Crafts movement, in both its incarnations either side of the Atlantic. The Shakers have also had an influence, as I believe they did on the Arts and Crafts movement itself. Although these genres form my primary reference points, their interpretation is my own.
Working with timber teaches one a certain humility, that one cannot force one’s will, nor lay too heavy a reliance upon one’s own choice of detail. Because nature speaks through each piece of timber of its individual character and uniqueness. One must know when to stand back and let the timber take the lead, itself choosing where each delicious display of it’s figure should stand.