Simple design concepts lead to prototypes and on to production
The first piece I ever made representative of a fully jointed piece and one that represented my first furniture-type piece was a four-piece wall shelf with two sides and two shelves. My parents gave it back to me just before they died. The significance in this is not so much that I got my first piece back but that they kept it on their living room wall for almost 50 years. They had a right to own my first piece. They loved me and they loved my work. I gave it and they possessed and used it throughout their lives. I took it down to look at what I had made from four stopped housing dado joints and traced my fingertips over the contoured sides with fond affection for my formative years using planes and spokeshaves, chisels, mallets and a hand powered router. That year was my first year working wood. Today I look back and think of what I learned that held me in such good stead. I have no regrets becoming a woodworker. It was my choice alone and no one told me to do it. I am grateful that I had no other influences or pressures to determine this important first step for the future course for my life. I became a woodworker, a joiner and a furniture maker.
New beginnings often lead to great things
My early designs were simple pieces compared to those of later years, but I realized early on that designs are almost always influenced by the works of other makers and especially those recognized for substantive styles. Adam, Hepplewhite, Shaker and Mission style all influence what we sit on and dine at, lay in to sleep and rest and sit our coffee cups on. That being the case, I claim what’s mine and my design by first acknowledging the fact that these early masters passed down what they had to me and that they have a right to be acknowledged.
Fit for purpose
If someone asks me for a design, they are usually in my workshop and they see some pieces they like, unless they tell me, my first question might be what is its function. It is almost inevitable that I choose to make functional designs over those designed as fashion statements. Hence, my designs are for living use in the everyday of life. They are designed to last for generations and combine tradition of joints without the unnecessary third-part components such as dowels and biscuits.
Knowing the working, living aspect of an as yet undesigned unmade piece is of course critical. Once we know that, an image floats into our minds and we think of designs we have admired somewhere and feel inspired to design something that stands out as perhaps distinctive, or something that simply rests contentedly in relationship to its surroundings and its counterparts. Therefor I present the next reality in design that all designs are subjugated to physical space and space plays a major influence on exactly what we make. It doesn’t take very long to realize that many designs are indeed first subjugated to the constraints of function and then to a size suited to space before being liberated to occupy an unoccupied or empty space. Proportion is then the third stage of design, even though they may begin with concepts of purpose and space.
Size is primary
Size is of course of primary importance in that within any design, component parts are determined by function, hence the sides and backs of drawers are rarely larger than 1/2” thick, door stiles on doors rarely span greater widths than 4” and tables are never comfortable to work or eat at when higher than 30”.
I designed this piece for the White House Permanent Collection in 2008 and together with my sons and friends I had trained through the years we made two of them as a matched pair in 2009. 36′ tall and 6′ 6″ long they now stand on either side of the Oval Office entrance way in the Cabinet Room. You never really know where you can end up following your heart to become a woodworker.
In one week’s time we will be entering realms new and not so new to us as a woodworking school. Because we know that not everyone can come to New York or Penrhyn Castle in the UK, we are now offering a training program you can work from at home or at work, during work time or leisure. Our goals remain faithful to our original vision birthed in 1989, which was and is to train the new-genre artisan. As of October we will be providing indefinite Online Broadcast as a training medium for woodworkers of all skill levels and from every background worldwide. We reject the constraints that once restricted the training of artisans in times past to release a vibrant distance learning program as a definitive apprenticeship where you can interact with New Legacy School of Woodworking on an ongoing basis.
George W Bush has three of these designs now. This one is made from mesquite, which was the wood I chose for the White House pieces above.
The designs you see here and above are fully developed concepts. I originated them and the designs are from my personal portfolio. I want you to have them as a basis for ongoing distance training and developing skills. I have dozens of other designs developed specifically to train people just like you, and, no matter where you are, we will be providing you with a series of projects designed to apprentice woodworkers from around the globe. Take advantage of the two decades we’ve invested in artisan training and join them to become an artisan woodworker in your own right. We recently provided online instructions for free via YouTube and and through my blog. That was to give you the essential third hand that we all need to get started. In our new online broadcast the courses will equip you with no-nonsense foundational skills. We hope you will join hundreds of your fellow woodworkers who have followed our courses through the years.