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Tambour doors demonstration with Maria Gomez

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Tambour doors demonstration with Maria Gomez

Tambour doors -  you might have commonly seen them on a bread box or perhaps a writing desk – they are usually employed wherever regular doors are too large or awkward, opening without having to swing out like a regular door (or as a design feature).

Designing and making a tambour is really enjoyable. Tambour introduces an aspect of interactive fun to your design, inviting users to play with opening and closing the doors by running the tambour along its track. Tambour doors are also popular on cabinets for the reason that you can reach the entire contents of the cabinet without having to open many doors.

This week, our tutor Maria Gomez has been demonstrating how to make them. 

Just a few months ago, Maria made the commission pictured above. The Air Cabinet was a bespoke commission for a 40th birthday present that honoured the client’s wife’s career as an air hostess and included the importance of family life. The cabinet was based on the shape of a section of aeroplane wing, with 40 brass inlays, 2 aluminium and one white resin inlay to represent the birthday and their family. This stunning commission featured a wraparound tambour door.

Maria’s demonstration explored the planning and construction behind incorporating tambour doors into a project – covering the production of the slats, backing and the rail for the tambour. Maria talked about the importance of building a model to help with the sizing of the slats, and to check the right fit by running mock slats through the groove.

Maria’s commission also featured quite a tight C-curve on the ‘wing tip’ shape of the cabinet, and as such Maria was also able to share her making secrets with the students on how to design tambour that could give a very tight turn.

It was a really interesting demonstration and got some of our students thinking. 

Tambour has been making a comeback in recent years and there are some really exciting companies out there producing  furniture of exceptional quality and design incoporating this technique.

Applying Gold Leaf in Furniture Making

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Applying Gold Leaf in Furniture Making

Of all the optional set projects on our courses, a particular favourite is box making. Why?

Well because this project, is one of the earliest opportunities for newer students to flex their design skills. This project not only brings together essential basic skills like measuring, cutting, dovetails, interpreting drawings, choosing materials and veneer -  but it also offers the student  design freedom with regards to veneer cutting and marquetry on the box lid.

Students take inspiration from a number of sources. We’ve had Viking inspired symbology, designs in the style of Banksy, Orla Kiely inspired repeating patterns and a whole host of contemporary and more traditional box lid designs.

In addition to the marquetry on the box, students are encouraged to explore a range of finishes and detail. For our student Tim, the technique of applying gold leaf in furniture making was something that he was keen to explore.

Guest tutor, Maria Del Mar Gomez of Byron and Gomez, came into the furniture school to demonstrate the technique of applying gold leaf to wood. Within her business, Maria produces many pieces that feature the application of gold leaf, and she had much experience and advice to share with our furniture students on the subject.

Although a seemingly straightforward process, it has a number of nail biting moments – such as when an unexpected breeze in the workshop catches the gold leaf foil…. just as you are about to place it onto the adhesive!

Maria taught our furniture students best practice in Gold Leafing, from application through to burnishing and sealing. Then it was Tim’s turn to have a go (pictured!). Gold leaf was the perfect choice to compliment the rich tones of Tim’s sunburst veneered box lid.

Box making is an optional set project on our 40 week Fine Furniture Making course -  but did you know that you could also opt to make it on our bespoke furniture programmes?

Depending on how complex you want your box design to be and your making speed, it could be achieved on a 5 – 6 week bespoke course.

Interested? Give us a call  to find out more -  or contact us here.

What will your box lid design be? 

A great deal can be achieved on our short furniture making courses...

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A great deal can be achieved on our short furniture making courses....

"The course was incredible. Everybody was really accommodating and approachable, including fellow students. It was great that so much was covered in a very short time, and in lots of detail too. I would return in an instant!" Dan, August course 2017

"Just a note to say thanks to  you, Jim and Justin for the course last week.  I very much enjoyed it and given my lack of experience and skills was amazed and delighted at how well the bookends turned out." Allen, August course 2017

Five new students gave up a week of August sunshine (....well sunny spells amoungst cloud!) to come and try their hand at cabinetmaking on our One Week Introduction to Fine Furniture Making course. 

Helen, Tom, Dan, John and Allen came to the course as beginners or with a few basic skills, and after completing the week with us saw their skills and knowledge advanced considerably. By the end of the week, they were all turning out dovetails with the same precision, accuracy and beauty as our full time furniture students. The course fired their enthusiasm for furniture making, so much so, that they are tempted to rejoin us for future bespoke courses! In fact - we welcome Allen back for a two month course in October!

Year on year, we evaluate and refine both our long, short and bespoke courses to ensure that our students are getting the very finest experience and tutoring in making high quality bespoke fine furniture.

This year, we've decided to have a change to our set project. We considered a range of small projects very carefully for the opportunities that they would provide to the students in terms of knowledge, hand and measuring skills, understanding of basic joints, understanding basic workshop drawings and choosing/working with different timbers.  After careful deliberation, we settled on making a pair of bookends -  which as well as being incredibly useful  - provide a wide scope of learning experience in the making process.

Your beautifully dovetailed bookends can also be displayed as pride of place in your home and your work admired by all those who visit you.

For more information on our next short woodworking courses, or short bespoke programmes. Please call us on 01984  667555 or e.mail us on enquirie@williamsandcleal.co.uk

Kerfing and Free Form Laminating

Kerfing and Free Form Laminating

Kerfing and Free Form Laminating

On a Thursday, we normally have ‘Hand Tool Thursday’s’ where our tutor Jim likes to showcase various items from his collection of accumulated and inherited hand tools. However, this Thursday was all about demonstrating different wood bending techniques to the students.

First up was Kerfing. Kerf can be defined as the width of the wood that is removed by the cutting process.

Kerfing is the process of cutting a series of kerfs (cuts) along the side of a piece of wood in close proximity, in order to allow the wood to be pliable enough to follow a curve. When cutting kerfs, the wood needs to be cut  deep enough to the edge of the wood that the remaining fibres are free to bend. To cut too deeply will result in the wood breaking in two, or making cuts that are not deep enough will result in the wood snapping. It’s best to experiment, but you’ll most likely find that an uncut width of 1/8 in. or thereabouts works for most woods.

Your kerf spacing will affect both the maximum radius that you can bend, and how smooth your curve will look – the closer the kerfs are together, the tighter the radius you can bend. You can only kerf by crosscutting as to do so with the grain increases the likelihood of the piece splitting.

For the demonstration, Jim cut kerfs that loosely demonstrated the effect. In practice, you would normally use a formula to calculate the exact distance between your kerfs, to achieve the smoothness of the curve you require. Many kerf bending formulas are available online.

While kerfing is an easy and useful technique for bending wood, it is suited to applications where a curve is aesthetic rather than structural, as kerfing does not create a form with great strength.

The magic of kerfing never wanes and all the students (and office staff) were keen to have a play.

Next up…. was free form laminating.

Jim demonstrated a range of different free-form laminating methods using constructional veneer. Take a look at our Instagram feed to see the laminationsglued and clamped into shape, and vacuum pressed.

Constructional veneer comes in a variety of timbers and it is thin and pliable enough to bend. You can simply spread glue on their surfaces and clamp them in layers to the shape that you desire and leave in place for the glue to set. In Jim’s demonstration, the lamination was clamped and wrapped with a ribbon of old tyre inner tube to keep the layers tight together until the glue had set. It is the hardened glue between each layer of veneer that holds the shape of the twist or curve. The multiple glue lines between each layer make the assembly strong, stable and rigid.

As a variation on this method, Jim demonstrated the same concept, but using a vacuum press to hold the shape of the glued layers. The constructional veneer was glued, shaped and then pre-wrapped tight with release film to prevent the breather fabric getting sucked between the laminations, or sticking to the laminate while it is being compressed. As the air is being evacuated, the bag is smoothed out over the assembly to make sure there are no significant wrinkles where it touches the veneer.

 

The advantage of laminating in a vacuum press is that the process creates an even atmospheric pressure over the glue up, making for a consistent strong assembly.

Head to our Instagram page to see more videos and photos of Jim’s wood bending demonstrations. Click here.

Commissions Continued....The Art Deco Memory Box

Commissions Continued… The Art Deco Memory Box

Commissions Continued… The Art Deco Memory Box

One of the first projects that our students make here on our course is a box. This starter project is chosen because it introduces them to hand cut veneering and hand cut dovetails, and acquaints students with power tools like the router for the first time.

Furthermore, the box project is the perfect choice for giving them early design input on their box. They lead on the box lid design and have the freedom to arrange or detail the box interior to their own preference. It is also a great introduction to different types of timber, and each student chooses the wood or veneer that they feel best compliments their design or personal taste. Our students will then be shown wood finishing techniques, and are taught how to finish their boxes in the right way and how to apply an oil finish.

Much like the table in our last blog post, the commercial arm of Williams and Cleal shares workshop space with our students and often our commissions provide really interesting case studies.

Such is the case with our latest commission – an Art Deco Inspired Memory Box – which features a high gloss polyester finish that has sparked great interest from the students and our Instagram following.

The client’s specification was for an Art Deco inspired box, large enough to store keepsakes like DVD’s, CD, photographs, documents and small items. The lid is split and opens from the centre, and it is secured shut by magnetic closers.

The box is made in Macassar Ebony, with the Art Deco design picked out in Rippled Sycamore. The box interior is Rippled Sycamore a red Alcantara base.

The box was sprayed with a high gloss polyester finish which is really successful in bringing out the grain on the Macassar Ebony and Rippled Sycamore. It has been a good commission for our students to see how wood finishes can transform a project and draw attention to the rich tones and striking beauty naturally occurring in different woods.

Polyester has the highest molecular structure and strength of all the finishes available and therefore the finished surface is strong, making it less vulnerable to scratching and cleaning. Polyester also has a 100% sheen clear finish for a mirror-like gloss, and it works perfectly for the art deco style of this commission.

You can see a video of the finished box here.

When Craftsmanship Meets Technology - Commission for a 16ft Illuminated Dining Table

When Craftsmanship Meets Technology - Commission for a 16ft Illuminated Dining Table

When Craftsmanship Meets Technology - Commission for a 16ft Illuminated Dining Table

 

The school shares a workshop with the commercial arm of Williams and Cleal. This augments the learning of our students, who are able to observe our master craftsmen working on a range of different commissions, or to access expert help from our furniture makers in addition our tutor’s time.

Often a commission comes along that breaks the mould of regular work. It demands a combination of technology, craftsmanship and use of alternative and modern materials – and involves a good deal of careful design, research, and expert collaboration to bring the piece together.  These commissions make excellent case studies for interested students, particularly when the processes that we use are at the forefront of developments in industry.

Our recent commission for a 16ft long colour changing illuminated dining table has been just such a project. The client’s specification detailed a dining table with glass legs that would make the table appear to be floating. For the table surface, they wanted a purple eucalyptus veneer with two central glass panels, on which an ‘ethereal’ swirl design could be illuminated by hidden LED’S. The purple veneer was chosen for its rich colour that by contrast would enhance the lit glass panels.

The glass elements of this table required us to work at the leading edge of glass technology. Taking advantage of new laser systems in Europe, we subsurface engraved the clients chosen design into two huge 1580mm glass inserts for the table surface. In subsurface engraving, the lasers are focused below the surface of the glass to create small fractures. This makes visible structures appear inside the glass whilst leaving the surface free of any abrasion. Cerion lasers create four or five layers inside of the glass, as opposed to just one layer on the surface seen in normal Co2 engraving. Therefore there are greater points within the glass to pick up the light, and it creates a cleaner etching to minimize distortion of the design.

Similarly, the floating glass legs were designed and sourced in collaboration with specialist manufacturers in Europe. Superior technology enabled us to source the correct clear structural glass, and to cut the table leg design with unrivalled precision and accuracy from Jane’s drawings.

Williams and Cleal sourced and installed all the LED electrics for the table illumination, and it took a good few tests to achieve a level of illumination that we were happy with. Achieving the optimal lighting level, required the right power of LED’s matched with the position of the LED strips on the glass. We had to find the right distance between diffusion panels and the LED strips hidden in the table recess - to blend out spotlighting effects otherwise seen at the edge of the table. It was important to the client that the lighting source was not visible at the edges of the table -  in order to enhance the magic of the engraving being illuminated.

Jane’s design included a central column underneath the table concealing the LED technology. Williams and Cleal rigged up the technology that enabled our client to change the colour of their table to millions of colour variations by voice command, and by manual control of a colour wheel on a mobile phone app.

The client’s colour preferences were of soft whites, pinks and golds and we were able to preset these choices and store them for their convenience.

The table surface was made here at the workshops from a core of purple Valchromat – chosen for its consistency and density across both the board and colour. It was veneered with Tabu Purple eucalyptus veneer as chosen by our client.

The finished result is an elegant showpiece dining table, with a unique level of interactivity afforded to dinner party hosts and guests in the changing colour features of the glass.

It’s been a pleasure to make another commission that draws together new processes in materials, components and technology – and a fine example to our students how design can incorporate these different elements to make a truly unique piece.

See our colour changing table in action here!

Student Visit to Artichoke Ltd and Vastern Timber


Student visit to Artichoke Ltd and Vastern Timber

Student visit to Artichoke Ltd and Vastern Timber

This month, our students have been on two trips to augment their learning and understanding of the furniture making industry.

The first trip was to Artichoke Ltd, a high end bespoke furniture company based in Cheddar.  Bruce Hodgson and John Hampton kindly gave their time to tour the students around the workshop of Artichoke and talk to us about the developments in the industry in design and production. It was a very inspiring visit, and very informative for the students in terms of developments in the furniture making industry.

Our second trip was to Vastern's Timber near Wootten Bassett. Tom Barnes kindly spent a few hours touring our students around the timber yards. Tom gave a very informative talk on everything though to how the timber is cut, dried and stored... to advice on good timber selection.

Both visits were incredibly useful to the students and a real highlight to the week.

Finishing


Finishing

This week the students had a finishing lesson, a variety of different techniques were demonstrated including:

Staining

  • Water staining
  • Spirit staining
  • Chemical staining, including ammonia, caustic soda and bleaches

Oils and Waxes

  • Linseed (raw and boiled)
  • Tung oil
  • Danish oil
  • Osmo Polyx Wax oil
  • Beeswax
  • Carnuba wax
  • French Polishing

For each of the techniques, surface preparation and health and safety issues are considered. Finally the students get to have a go so that they can see the results on different woods.