Hand Crafted Custom Furniture

Hand crafted custom build vanity shelf, finished in two coats of matt osmo

We were commissioned to create a custom piece of furniture, for our lovely client who is opening a local interior design studio space. The design comprised of a 5m piece of 65mm thick elm.

Hand crafted custom build vanity shelf, ready to be cut with Festool track saw

The first step in the custom process was to cut one edge clean so it would butt nicely up-too the showroom window wall. The 3m festool track definitely comes in handy for this kind of work. Now this is no ordinary window shelf, its custom design has a ‘waterfall’ edge, which is an edge 90 degrees to the face that drops down the side. As you can imagine with a piece of timber this rare and expensive this became quite a pressured mitre cut… But what can I say we have balls of steel, oh and a little bit of skill !

Hand crafted custom build vanity shelf, mitre cut and dominoed into position

Mitre cut complete, grain still flows, some sweating from the furniture maker but all in all extremely happy with the result. Its now time to ‘domino’ the joint. For those of you in the know ignore this next bit, maybe head of to the loo or make a brew… Domino’s are the miraculous invention by German tool manufacturer Festool, they are basically a jointing system that is quick and easy and extremely strong. The domino replaces the traditional mortice and tenon joint, which is not only time consuming but also needs to be done extremely accurately to give comparable strength.

Hand crafted custom build vanity shelf, block glued in order to assist with the bonding process

Once the slots for the domino’s had been cut we now need to consider the clamping process for the waterfall edge. We need to ensure suitable pressure was applied to the mitre joint in order to form a strong bond. I decided to glue some angled blocks to the faces of the custom built vanity shelf. Although this would mean an extra process in removing them carefully with a chisel we felt it would be worth it to achieve the quality of joint

Hand crafted custom build vanity shelf, clamped and glued waterfall edge

I should mention at this stage that although we cut the mitre joint with the track saw, in order to finesse the joint with the hand plane a full day was required to get the joint absolutely perfect so that the faces met perfectly all the way along the joint.

Anyway… this hand crafted, custom built piece of furniture was now really taking shape, a few deep breaths and we applied the glue and bonded the waterfall edge to the main shelf. Four Bessy clamps were added to the blocks to apply the necessary pressure to the joint, then we went for a cup of tea and a lie down!

Hand crafted custom build vanity shelf with hand carved radius waterfall edge glued

The day after… hey presto the waterfall edge lives! I was extremely happy with the results, the grain flowed beautifully around the joint, and the joining of the custom built furniture had gone really well, but then…..

Our client requested a radius edge to be planed into the edge. We had foreseen this could be a possible situation so I had set the internal domino’s back, just in case. The only slight draw back to this is that we would loose some of the grain consistency around the edge of the shelf. But a 65mm radius was selected and we set to work with the hand plane.

Hand crafted custom build vanity shelf with hand carved radius waterfall edge

I’m not sure… what do you think? I did like the really crisp edge, but the custom built shelf does now flow really nicely down its waterfall edge with the radius applied. Anyway its almost time to select the surface finish, just a little bit of chisel work required on the edge then it would be out with the matt Osmo.

Hand crafted custom build vanity shelf, finished in two coats of matt osmo

WOW!!! Look at that grain, its magic really, look what happens when solid timber is sanded and finished with Osmo. We love Osmo for our custom built hand crafted furniture, as it looks great, it brings out the natural beauty of the timber, if cared for it is extremely durable and the best of all there are no ‘nastie’s’ like you get in sprayed finishes.

Hand crafted custom build vanity shelf, finished in two coats of matt osmo, final design

And that my friends is that, a beautiful solid elm custom built piece of furniture. We will keep you posted when we actually deliver the piece to the new showroom and post some pictures of this beautiful piece in-situ.

Creative Happiness?

I heard something on the weekend that made me stop and think about everything I do not only personally but professionally. The question seems simple..”What is your definition of happiness?” The answer much more complicated.

I set about trying to answer the question for myself and struggled to find the right words. I didn’t want the answer to be just a list of material things but to go a little deeper and find out what exactly is it that make me happy?

And in this fast paced ‘technological’ world we are living in do we take time to recognise these moments no matter how small or fleeting they may be?

I’m still working on my answer but while you contemplate your definition, listen to the words from Mr Alfred Hitchcock. When asked in a live interview “Mr Hitchcock, what is your definition of happiness?” He replied with this masterpiece…

“A clear horizon.
Nothing to worry about (on your plate)
Only things that are creative,
And not destructive.
Within yourself, within me I can’t bear quarrelling
I can’t bear feelings between people.
I think hatred is wasted energy,
And it’s all none productive.
I’m very sensitive, a sharp word said by say a person who has a temper
Or if they are close to me,
hurts me for days.
I know we are only human,
We do go in for these various emotions,
Call them negative emotions
But when all these are removed
And you can look forward
And the road is clear ahead
And now you are going to create something.
I think that is as happy as I will ever want to be.”

Alfred Hitchcock

Design and Create a Custom Table

How do you start to design and create a custom made table. At District Furniture we think we have the perfect recipe for success… Firstly you need to listen! That’s right sit down and listen to what the client wants. Ask questions of your client… Are there any problems you can solve for them with the design? Do they have an unusual space in which to house their custom designed hand-crafted table? What are the dimensions? Are these fixed or will they change from time to time?

Communication is the key, extract as much information as you can. Next up; Materials, what reclaimed solid timber top do they prefer? What grain structure or depth of colour once a finish has been applied? At District Furniture we have a variety of standard timbers that we use but also have a fantastic supplier with an amazing array of timber to choose from.

Another key to creating the perfect custom table is the design. Modern, classic or traditional? We can do them all, we will work with you to create ideas and develop your own designs. Our team can provide sketch drawings, CAD model and detailed renders in order to ensure you will receive exactly what you require.

Then we bring your ideas to life in our canal-side workshop in Bollington. We hand select the timber that suits your requirements, then start to work to shape the material. Using all hands-on techniques we plane and thickness the timber to the correct dimensions. We then laminate boards together in order to produce the right size table top. Depending on the design for the leg frame we will either use timber or metal to produce the table.

District Furniture workshop in Clarence Mill Bollington

A quick ‘lick’ of natural, but durable finish and hey-presto the design you have been thinking about for years and years has finally come to life. We can deliver your table in our District Furniture van, ensuring that your project has gone from start to finish, completely tailored to your needs.

Sustainability Goes Mainstream, as The Ego Catches Up!

We are a furniture business formed through the desire to be ‘sustainable’, this word is pretty ambiguous in today’s vernacular. Our interpretation of this is; to make the best product, without causing any harm. To use locally sourced materials and produce furniture with longevity, which can be repaired and at the end of its life recycled.

We formed in Melbourne Australia, under the brand name ‘Tane’ in 2012, with exactly the same ‘sustainable’ mantra. We exhibited a range of furniture made from cardboard at the Milan exhibition in 2013, to which we received no column inches in any publication.

Cardboard furniture designed by District Furniture custom design hand-made furniture

On reading recent reviews of the 2019 edition of this world renowned and quite frankly ‘MASSIVE’ furniture event, it appears we were o the right track all along but simply ahead of the game!

Even the ‘celebrity’ designers within the industry seem to be endorsing well considered furniture, that goes deeper than the superficial and actually has environmental impacts at the forefront of the design process. It appears the ego has been replaced by concerns bigger than the individual.

British designer Ross Lovegrove appears to be a high profile name with the design industry who has endorsed the sustainable movement within the furniture game. Lovegrove spoke at the recent Milan design week, following the launch of his Ergo range for Natuzzi that is made using renewable and recyclable materials.

Photo from the Dezeen blog May 2019

“I don’t design furniture very often and I’m not interested in just doing another L-shaped sofa,” he explained. “I wanted to come in and try to facilitate a change in mindset. Natuzzi is a big company with young blood and they are open to doing things differently.”

“I’m involved with industry and industry is good and bad,” he admitted. “Unless we start reducing the sheer scale of stuff we’re producing I think we’re going to have some real problems.” said Ross Lovegrove.

We hope this trend becomes mainstream thinking and eventually the main consideration before anyone begins the design process. I personally feel a great responsibility for anything that is created and put out into the world. It must be needed, enhance someones life, be well made, well considered, have a long life and be able to be recycled.

Written By Gary Pennington

District Furniture : Hand-made custom furniture

Solid Walnut Custom Design and Hand-Made Media Unit

We were commissioned to design and make some custom furniture for a client. The first piece required was a media unit, to be made from solid walnut. The design brief was for a modern looking unit, with adequate storage for DVD’s and game boxes. To house a large flat screen TV on-top, with a vast open cavity to place video and audio equipment.

We set to work, sketching up ideas for the furniture in order to present to our client. Once sketches were approved so we moved to the computer to produce a variety of options for the finer details of the custom built media unit. These were presented to the client as computer renders…

Once the final design was approved, we then set about drawing up ‘shop drawings’ for the media unit. These would ensure the client was getting exactly what they wanted before we started work on the custom built furniture. The drawings were presented and the client was excited to get started with the build.

Now the fun could really begin… we hand selected the ‘rough-sawn’ walnut timber from our local yard and began the process of planing and ‘thicknessing’ down to a finished thickness of 25mm. The planks were over 2.4m in length and 34mm in thickness so really took a bit of wrangling into shape!

Once the solid timber was down to finished thickness we could then start to shape the planks. Although the design looked relatively simple there were a lot of tricky little details to negotiate on this custom build. The first was a 45 degree chamfer which ran all the way around the inside front edge of the finished furniture. We used a track and router to machine this on….

We were slightly concerned with the final design requested by the client of a large open cavity across the entire span of 1800mm, we felt with our experience that the solid timber would eventually ‘sag’ over time if un-supported across this distance. The client urged us not to put any visible supports in this area, so we devised a fabricated metal frame produced from 16mm box section that would run under the entire span of the top, then down both sides, This would be hidden in a machined channel and provide the support required to stop the sag.

The parts for the unit were now taking shape and time for a ‘dry’ fit of the components before being glued and clamped into place. Masking tape was applied to all edges that would come into contact with the glue, to allow for easier clean up and sanding especially in place hard to reach on the custom built furniture.

Once glued and clamped we could then start to work on the drawers and fronts. For the front of the custom built drawers we chose one continuous piece of walnut to add a beautiful and unique feature to this stunning piece of bespoke furniture.

Once the drawer fronts were cut to shape we could start to produce the drawers themselves, from 12mm premium quality birch ply. We used the top of the range Blum runners which are push to open and soft close, they took a bit of fine tuning but once perfected worked beautifully to give a smooth ride!

Just the frame to go then…. custom designed leg-frame shaped on the band-saw, sanded down to 240 grit. We used the trusty domino to produce accurate mortice and tenon joints for the frame to provide a great degree of strength required to hold what was turning into a particularly weighty piece of hand-made furniture.

The final piece was now ready for the finish, we chose a beautiful matt natural oil finish. Hand applied with very fine steel wool then wiped off, this process was repeated several times until the right level of sheen and protection was added to the timber.

The piece was then delivered to our extremely satisfied and happy customer, who was over the moon with his hand-made custom furniture designed and built by District Furniture

PearsonLloyd gives flat-pack furniture an upgrade with Cross chair

Its not very often you find well considered, highly designed but clean simple sophisticated chair that is flat-pack: Which also has environmental and ‘after-life’ considerations, which is made from high quality materials. But that’s just what London studio PearsonLloyd have done with their Cross chair.

The design marries the convenience and economy of flat-pack furniture with quality materials in a chair designed for new Copenhagen brand Takt.

Named after the cross structure that forms its four legs, the Cross chair has a plywood seat and backrest, with the structure itself made from solid oak to give it the feel of a non-flatpack, high-quality chair.

The “strong but light” wooden chair was designed with the “goal of accessible pricing without compromising on quality or adversely affecting the environment”, according to PearsonLloyd.

The chair comes delivered in a recyclable flatpack box as four disassembled pieces of timber, with six screws.

Made from FSC-certified wood, it requires minimal instructions and a single Allen key to assemble at home.

The simple cross structure ensures that assembly of the seat is intuitive, without the frustration people often find assembling flatpack furniture.

“We wanted to find a design that communicated the principle of the assembly in a direct, understandable way,” explained co-founder and director of PearsonLloyd, Tom Lloyd, who set up the company with Luke Pearson in 1997.

“The way the two cross members overlap was inspired by the inserts in a wine box. It is immediately apparent that they go together in some way, meaning that almost no instructions are necessary.”

By the same token, the chair can be easily disassembled for recycling at the end of its life – a feature that was important to the Danish brand.

“We believe that modern design must consider both the form of a product and its full life-cycle – including responsible manufacturing, shipping, the user experience and how the product can be repaired, reused and recycled,” said founder and CEO of Takt, Henrik Taudorf Lorensen.

Ease of assembly and disassembly is one of a number of features by which Takt aims to reduce the chair’s environmental impact.

The brand sells directly to customers online to cut shipping costs and reduce supply chain complexity, which in turn reduces the emission of CO2 in transportation.

Six flat-packed Cross chairs fit into the same volume as a standard chair.

“Takt is aimed at people who want to reduce their impact on the world’s environment,” said Lloyd.

“Our flatpack design of Cross chair reduces the packaging size of a chair considerably while also engaging the customer in a self-evident assembly process that we hope will be joyful.”

The design is available in natural wood or with a black lacquer finish. It can be supplied with a seat pad upholstered in a variety of organic aniline leathers – meaning they are dyed with soluble dyes – or natural wool fabrics from Kvadrat.

PearsonLloyd is well-known for its designs for transport, including a number of projects for airlines including Lufthansa and a redesign of economy class seating to make better use of space.

Forword by Gary Pennington

Main copy by Augusta Pownall | 15 May 2019 for the Dezeen Blog

Furniture With A Purpose

With an Industrial design background, I really get a kick out of seeing furniture that solves a problem. Its not often you see something in the world of furniture that is not just a ‘tweek’ or a slight style change, but something that goes deeper and really looks to challenge and solve a real world issue.

Enter the 7:1 collection by BBDO Bangkok’s collection for HomePro. The furniture collection is a response to the global issue of visual impairment, with its rounded shapes and stark colour combinations. The furniture is all outlined in bold contrasting colours scientifically proven to be the most beneficial to a visually impaired person recognising and improving visibility of an item.

This short video by the team at BBDO and HomePro explains more….

The name for the collection 7:1 is derived from the fact that the collection has been proven to increase visibility for the visually impaired by up to a ratio of 7:1. I’m sure you will agree that there is fantastic purpose behind this range of furniture, which I personally believe has led to a magnificent looking range. The function has driven the form, but the colour choice driven by research has really created a unique and striking range with an almost ‘drawn’ cartoon like quality that really appeals.

Written by

Gary Pennington

Rip It Up, And Start Again

How do you start again?…. With what? With everything!

That’s the question my family and I are currently asking ourselves, after living in Australia for the past 11 years we have recently moved back to England. With my wife and two young boys, we boarded a plane and drew a line under everything we had worked for over a significant period of time.

Why? in a word; family. Since the arrival of our second son we had felt a real disconnect to all our family being on the other side of the planet. So although we owned our own home, my wife had a good job, I had built up my furniture business over seven years to be a self-sufficient little enterprise: It was time to go!

Over a short period of time we systematically sold furniture, surf boards our house and regrettably by beloved 1974 campervan ‘Billy’. We had last days at childcare, kindergarten, work and in the workshop. We had our last Melbourne coffee (for a while) and boarded the plane back home.

So here we are… on a personal side trying to rebuild our family life, by searching for a home to live in. And on a professional side starting again with a new furniture business. Even though it has been a long time away I feel in a very strong position regarding the new business. I have learn’t a lot after seven years building a business and figuring out what works and what doesn’t. My Australian business which I ran form a studio/workshop in Melbourne was extremely diverse, which kept the work very interesting but also made the brand ‘Tane’ a bit confusing.

This really feels like I have been given a second chance to construct a business that fits what I want to achieve. And even better coming from a more educated position. District Furniture will be extremely focused, starting out as a service custom design and hand-making dining tables. The tables will be produced from locally sourced reclaimed timbers, they will use natural finishes with no nasty chemicals.

Some might say its a risk, but I say its a real positive step to stop, re-calibrate and go again.

“If you take no risks, you will suffer no defeats. But if you take no risks, you win no victories.”

Richard M. Nixon