In 16 Months of Making…
. . . the eclectic gathering.
So I considered the making of the recent designs I put together for the Sellers’ home furniture pieces listed below: I thought about the tools it took to make them. By tools, of course, I definitely mean hand tools and not machines though, of course, you can use machines too if you want to. I used but one machine the whole way through, a mid-sized bandsaw you might have found in a high school woodworking workshop a decade or two ago. Anyway, perhaps hard to believe but the essential tools number only around 30 main tools; additional versions or conversions of the same tools add another 10, but they are preference tools rather than essential ones. I think that that seems remarkable to me. My next blog or so covers the tools used. Ordinary tools like a plain smoothing plane and some chisels sold in a supermarket. A handsaw costing a mere £20 and such like that. This rocking chair had under 20 basic hand tools you might already have in your shed or garage. None of the tools cost me more than about £20 with most costing much less and all of them are lifetime tools that will last any man or woman a hundred years of daily use so a once in a lifetime investment really. I do hope that this sounds inspiring to you. You can do this!
I made this one as the first of new designs for sellershome.com in February 2021. Made from cherry, its colour changed gradually and it is now that deep, rich honey colour cherry naturally changes to over about a year of exposure to daylight. I think a rocking chair is a stand-alone piece most makers seem excited to make. It was my way of introducing difference to online presentation; idea Joseph and I had to fulfil my ambition to conserve my craft by planting the you-can-do-it-too seed in new and seasoned hand tool woodworkers worldwide. I wanted something very real and aspirational for very real woodworkers worldwide to hone their skills on. It’s really no easy thing to design a rocking chair from scratch and it was quite a challenge for me once again. I have half a dozen designs to my name and this is possibly the last one I will design. I wasn’t looking for studio furniture per se, just a pleasing design within the ability of those I would be reaching out to. I think rocking chairs in a style like this can look complex and even daunting but believe me it is really not at all. But I did include some very unusual features in the piece. There is the three-part seat for one and then the seat sides being tenoned into the legs the way I did. We made the tenons through tenons as a decoration and curved the back support slats for lumbar support. What about the 32 hand-cut joints? Many of them on curved rails?
A coffee table usually has four legs and four rails and then the design stops. You don’t need much to put coffee cups on, after all. But I stepped things up by adding laminated arching, curving the legs gave them a kicker but the unique feature is the swivel-out-of-nowhere I gave to the hidden drawer. It did make the table just a bit more complicated but not much and you can just leave it out if you absolutely know all the time where the remote is.
Side tables (three)
With two more complex pieces under our belts, I wanted something very simple but pleasing in its simplicity. These tables rely on two rails, four legs and four mortise and tenon joints. I take about four hours to make one once the wood is sized. You will see that Cherry is the predominant wood I chose for the living room and I am glad I did but any wood or wood mix would have worked just as well.
Another complex-looking piece but remember you are never left guessing; I walk you through every step and stage so no guesswork here. I was not sure about this piece and made a couple of drastic changes before I finally settled on the design. One thing I do like is the huge drawer. For my grandaughter’s toys it is wonderful but then two for a couple of snuggle blankets it’s handy too. I think that the tambour look is highly unusual and my love for tambours was tolerated too. Cabinet-making skills are finely honed on this piece too and without it being complicated at all. Oh, notice the curved fronts meeting in the centre on the two top drawers. These are veneered as a book match–quite distinctive but not pretentious.
I doubt I could manage without a bookshelf or yet more bookshelves. I took the arching from the coffee table and kept the lighter look I really wanted. Through tenons combined with housing dadoes are unusual but add an intrinsic strength most bookcases lack. You could shove this bookcase still full of books and it would not suffer the lateral stresses that most bookcases suffer in the day-to-day of home life at all.
A blank space can be great for displaying creative pieces alongside plants and more. This was designed to go above the TV stand so I snatched the faux tambour panel for the backboard as an unusual contrast for the displayed pieces. It came out fine.
Coasters and Holder
Coasters are essential for me as a furniture maker. I like to take responsibility for what I have made and want something to protect my pieces so here they are, one set of simple yet attractive coasters. Small things can take a surprising amount of time to do but those go quickly and are well worth stocking up on for that surprise gift you need to give.
So, ten months on, yes only ten months, and remember we made every one of these without buying in preprepared, planed foursquare wood precut but used rough sawn boards we then planed up by hand. No jointer planer, thickness planer, tablesaw, mortise machine, drill press and not even a chopsaw and such. I cannot emphasise how much fitter I am than when I was 50 years old now at 72 years old. I feel like I have been given a new lease of life despite wars, COVID and much more besides. I put this down mainly to the work I do use my whole body and mind.
In November I began prototyping a new design for my dining table and delivered the full oak version to the house in mid-January. Yes, that means we left the living room to start on a new series for the dining room. I am sure that we will revisit the living room for a couple more pieces but this was an exciting new stage for all of us working on the videoing and so on. When the builders handed over the dining room and kitchen it was a blank canvass for me. I took out my pencils and paints. When the builders completed the dining room kitchen they handed me the blank canvass I needed and I started sketching in my ideas for the next pieces of ‘artwork’.
Dining tables are indeed one of the very easiest pieces to make for the home and this one, though with an added variable is a wonderful option for you to consider. I made mine from oak but any wood will work fine including recycled wood from old floor beams and such. For me, it is about a six-day project making it from rough-sawn boards and sections of wood for the legs.
Dining Chairs (set of six)
I was fascinated to come up with something to meet today’s world of design and give a completely new concept to the dining experience. It needed to be light enough to lift and move, attractive and distinctive to the point that as a cluster of dining chairs the design would stand out and of course, it had to be very comfortable to sit at a dining table for an hour of family and friends time and even two. It does everything I mention and even more. It’s an inexpensive chair to make and can actually be made from any strip cut-offs you have so there is almost zero waste.
My last project came in May as a prototype and was installed on the 15th of July 2022. Again, it is another new design concept complementing the dining table and chairs with contrasting woods — Oak and American black walnut. Notice how the handmade handles connect the piece to the dining chairs by sandwiching oak between layers of black walnut and the added black line contrasting the frame of the doors.
And now, what tools did I use? This is the exciting bit for me and for any woodworking enthusiast and so I have a blog following that details these. It will surprise you how very little you really need.
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Well done sir!
Lovely, Paul. Is that the house you actually live in now? I guess I mean to ask are you interacting with all your finished creations on a daily basis? I wonder if you would ever post on the experience of living in a world that you made? I haven’t finished nearly as many pieces, but when I see something I made in the house it really stands apart for me. I’d be curious to know how the house feels compared to other houses at this point.
Good morning Paul,
Absolutely beautiful! God bless you and your family.
I’ve been very much enjoying the series as you make these. I watch you, feel inspired, and then go out in my workshop and make things for my home. I’m not as fast as you but little by little my home is converting from store bought furniture to hand made furniture. I couldn’t be more excited. Thanks for teaching me and others how.
Every item is gorgeous!!
I am happy to see such beautiful work. If I cannot do as well at 85 (maybe never?), at least I can respect and admire those who do.
Incredible amount of great work and excellent projects. Great to see the collection together so far. Hope to see another summary like this.
Incredible work, and all done with hand tools in a good amount of time. Just goes to show that you don’t need all the fancy machines. You are an inspiration to all of us hand tool woodworkers
Thank you for all you share. I do have a question on wood choices. I love Cherry, Maple, Walnut and Oak, however, recently I received free (well, free to me) a piece of rough cut Poplar 1×4. As I planed it from a rough board to a smooth plank it began reveal spalting and some very dark wood in streaks. Even some pieces, when planed smooth took on the look of a Maple!
I dimensioned the wood and made a small side table and finished it with just teak oil and steel wool; it will be used as a plant stand.
My question is: Why isn’t Poplar more popular? Most of the time I see it painted.
I would really like to hear your perspective on Poplar and using it for unpainted for furniture.
What you describe as spalting may not be spalting as poplar is well known for streaking and it can be any colour from lime green to deep and dark grey, brown, tan, almost black and even black too. I am never really sure either. perhaps in industry, it is too unpredictable and it does move considerably too.
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