It would be easy to think, looking at a calm and refined piece of furniture, that the experience of making it is equally calm and refined – a relaxed and measured series of steps that takes you from timber to table. Oh how wrong! What you see is the serene swimming swan, while under the surface…….
Just think about the cutting of the mitres on the corners of the big ripple sycamore dining table I’ve just delivered….
That is: cutting absolutely cleanly, at precisely the right angle (and working out what that angle is in the first place) into two curved pieces of wood that have already been painstakingly chosen for the way the figuring in each relates to the other and have been in the workshop for weeks before reaching this stage, and joining them to the veneered surface which has taken even longer to produce and which would cost thousands in material and time to remake. And it’s not just time and money. You can’t put that much care and thought into something without having a visceral connection to it.
Then there is a number of different techniques you might use to cut the mitres. And you’ve decided absolutely definitely in favour of each of them … in turn. So now you can’t put it off any longer. Today is mitre cutting day. You can imagine how the adrenaline flows. And that’s just one part of a much, much longer process.
For me the experience of making a piece of furniture is something like seeing a child from baby to toddler to adolescent to adult – compressed into a few months – the ups and downs, fears and joys, sleepless nights and small triumphs, feelings that you’re doing it all wrong, and discovery that in the end it’s all happening despite you. It’s pain and pleasure in equal measure.
And, like a child it’s lovely how the wood and the idea gradually turn into something with a life of its own, something that doesn’t depend on you any more. Something out there in the world. It’s a wonderful thing to be involved with…. but it’s not calm!
So, goodbye, table. I hope you’re at the centre of many happy meals. For your owners you’ll be just “the table”, but I will remember your making.
Now what’s next?