A large part of my business revolves around commission work for domestic and commercial clients. Typically, clients approach me to provide a quote on either their design or my design. When asked to design a piece, I establish a budget with the client so that I have something to work with before pencil hits paper.
A very rough framework is established with the client so that I can be sure our expectations are the same. Once all parties are comfortable, I set aside a couple of weeks to mull over my interpretation of the brief. I usually provide a couple of hand-drawn designs for the client’s perusal, and it’s at this point that refinements are made. Once the client decides to go ahead with the commission, I take a 30–50% deposit and work begins shortly thereafter.
How long does it take?
Hand-crafted furniture can take time. One of the delights for both maker and client is that every piece of timber is worked and finished. Because of the organic nature of the material I have learnt to be patient with its idiosyncracies, allowing it to move and settle between milling, and allowing for movement in the final piece. The trick I’ve found is to work with the material, not against it. Likewise, oils need time to cure, so whilst a dining table may take a week to oil, the end result is a gorgeous tactile finish.
Timing on any piece depends on the nature of that piece and my existing lead time. This can vary, but I’ve found on average delivery is about 6–8 weeks from receipt of the deposit.
So what’s involved?
After receiving the commission and deposit, it’s all systems go. Material purchase lists are drawn up and a visit to the local timber supplier is made. Timber is selected by individual boards, giving consideration to colour, dimension and straightness. I have spent many hours leaning boards up against the timber yard walls to work out the nicest selection. The timber is then delivered to my workshop where it is carefully cut down to working size before it is wire-brushed and dressed.
Careful marking out is carried out prior to joint cutting. I use predominantly mortice and tenons and dovetails in all of my pieces. When all of the joints are cut and cleaned out, a dry fit is done to determine any potential problems during glue-up. All components are then planed, scraped and sanded before glue-up.
Unclamping a successful glue-up is one of life’s little pleasures for me. It means I can move onto the next chapter in the process, whether it be making and fitting doors and drawers, or simply finish sanding, steel wooling and oiling. The clients are then invited to inspect their piece prior to delivery.