Veneer is not a dirty word
Veneer has copped a bad rap over the years and many of my clients hold a common misconception that solid wood is always better than veneer.
Mass manufactured furniture in the 1970’s didn’t help the reputation of veneer, when low quality veneers were applied to chipboard using poor adhesives. However timber veneer has been used by master craftsmen for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians also used veneers, more than 3,500 years ago.
Some of the most beautiful antique furniture incorporates veneer in its construction and it is often the veneers that give these pieces their unique style, longevity and beauty.
The benefits of using veneers in furniture construction are endless. Veneers can be used to create intricate inlays or patterns in the timber can be laid out in any creative way imaginable. This isn’t possible with thicker solid timber. Solid timber is always moving with fluctuations in moisture and temperature associated with different seasons. This movement across the solid timber will inevitably push and pull itself apart. The movement of the veneer in its thinner form is contained and will keep looking amazing for generations. One example of this is the extensive use of veneers in the marine industry where moisture and sunlight are constantly producing a challenging environment.
Veneers offer furniture makers flexibility in design, from achieving curves or creating unique and beautiful patterns through book matching, banding, marquetry and inlay as seen in some of my pieces below.
Most timber veneer is made from solid wood and involves a process of thinly slicing the timber. The veneers (or slices) are applied to either solid timber or man-made boards such as plywood or particle boards. It is usually timbers of the highest quality and the most beautiful which are cut into veneers, such as Burls, figured timber or premium logs.
It is usually the older trees that exhibit more character and beauty so turning one of these magnificent old trees into veneer where it can be used over many pieces of furniture is important when considering the sustainability of the product and making the most of such a precious resource. The younger and more abundant timber can be used under the veneer in its solid form or within the man-made boards.
The use of veneers is often the indicator of a skilled craftsman looking to create a unique design or highlight the natural beauty of timber, rather than a sign of cutting corners. Some of my finest work indeed uses veneers.
If you have ever dreamed of travelling the world to learn from the world’s best teachers in your chosen profession, now is your chance.
Applications for the 2016 Churchill Fellowships are now open. The Fellowships provide an opportunity for talented Australians to travel the world in search of new ideas, excellence and innovation. Applications for the Fellowships close on May 15.
This year mark’s ten years since I travelled to the USA and UK on a Churchill Fellowship to learn from some of the world’s best furniture makers. My Churchill Fellowship really was the opportunity of a lifetime.
The lessons learned about best practice for furniture craftsmen as well as the practical skills acquired from working alongside the skilled professionals who restore and maintain the Royal Collection for the Royal Palaces in the UK was priceless.
I encourage anyone who has a yearning to learn more within their chosen field to consider applying. A Churchill Fellowship can help you travel to the far edges of the globe to research your passion and bring back knowledge, networks, experience, ideas and innovation for the betterment of Australia.
More than 100 fellowships are awarded each year and are valued at more than $25,000 each. Learn more about applying.
The relationship between a craftsman and a stack of rough sawn timber is a curious thing. Using Australia’s unique Ancient Murray River Redgum truly highlights what respecting the origins of each piece of wood used is all about.
This beautiful black timber comes from trees which are fossils – giant Redgums which grew on the banks of the Murray River over 5,000 years ago. The fossils were formed after the Ice Age when these great gums were buried under the banks of Australia’s largest river – the Murray.
Over thousands of years the trees became impregnated with rich minerals from the gravels of the river bed. The action of the river also helped transform these Redgums into the dramatic black fossil wood.
I love working with this beautiful timber, knowing that each time I use it I am creating something uniquely Australian. The quality of this timber and the attention to detail required when using this timber is what handcrafted furniture is all about.
A client recently asked me to make two stools to match an Antique Chinese Stool that she owns and loves (on the left). Recreating these stools for my client once again reinforced the beauty and stability of good old fashioned craftsmanship. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and in the words of George Bernard Shaw, it's also the sincerest form of learning.
At first glance they look deceptively simple, yet the joinery that holds the top together is compound meaning they have to be cut using two different and precise angles and the legs aren't much different. So each compound angled mortice and tenon are cut and chiseled to match.
The last part of the puzzle in making these stools is putting them together. In most common joinery you would do the ends first then attach the sides and the top. These tricky little buggers needed to be assembled all at once. Gently inserting each component into its matching counterpart then tapping it slowly together until the whole stool is rigid and complete. The more you study these stools the clearer their complexity reveals itself - their simplicity hides their complexity.
In addition to matching the exact joinery, I also used a number of tricks to age the new stools by creating pin hole borer marks, stains and general wearing to match with the look of the original stool.
Having spent almost two decades creating handcrafted furniture, it is always a thrill to enjoy and inspect the dedicated and skilled work of the craftsmen of years gone by.
Just as we are affected by the weather so is our timber furniture, especially during periods of high humidity. Timber furniture, including pieces which are sealed or finished, will absorb and release moisture depending on the conditions, and may require maintenance.
You may notice that certain drawers in your furniture open easily in the cooler/drier months but become jammed or stuck during summer. While most furniture will not be structurally damaged by a normal range of moisture changes, your furniture may require some general maintenance to help keep it functional and looking its best.
As a natural product, timber will always be susceptible to outside environmental factors and movement from humidity and dryness is normal. The only way to avoid movement in furniture is to build with man-made materials such as plastics or MDF which in my opinion do not carry the same aesthetic and warmth that timber furniture offers.
Timber furniture is also affected by seasonal changes other than humidity. Just as high humidity can cause timber movement through swelling, extreme dryness can also cause timber to shrink and crack through lack of moisture. The sun can also cause extensive damage to timber and furniture finishes causing colour changes and degrading the finished surface. High variances in temperature or proximity to air conditioning and heating vents can also cause movement and damage within your furniture.
During my Churchill Fellowship in 2006 I worked with Marlborough House in the UK who maintains furniture for the Royal Palaces including Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. With the introduction of modern central heating into the palaces mid last century, pieces of furniture made hundreds of years ago by master craftsmen using fully seasoned timbers, have developed cracks and splits due to drying out of the timber. Even in such controlled environments, timber furniture is still subject to movement and hence is regularly serviced. So it’s no wonder that in Australia’s harsh environment, with high variances in levels of humidity and extreme ultraviolet light, that timber furniture is more susceptible to movement and damage to finishes.
Let me bring your furniture back to life with a furniture service. A couple of hours is usually all it takes to revive your furniture with a clean and wax and to make small on-site repairs such as improving the appearance of small dents or getting drawers to run smoothly.
Please contact me on 0414 400 172 or email email@example.com
Learn more about furniture care and maintenance.
If you’ve ever dreamed of travelling abroad to study ways of improving practices in your chosen field, a Churchill Fellowship provides the means and support to make this a reality.
Applications for the 2015 Churchill Fellowships are closing soon. These fellowships provide an opportunity for talented Australians to travel the world in search of new ideas, excellence and innovation.
For me, the Churchill Fellowships provided the research and travel opportunity of a lifetime. A Churchill Fellowship can help you travel to the far edges of the globe to research your passion and bring back knowledge, networks, experience, ideas and innovation for the betterment of Australia.
More than 100 fellowships are awarded each year valued at more than $20,000 each. Learn more about applying.
Find out more about Nick’s Churchill Fellowship.
Nick Bailey's Catch some Z's bedside tables are currently being exhibited at the Home with Wood Studio Woodworkers Australia exhibition at the Bungendore Wood Works Gallery.
The exhibition focuses on furniture which is innovative, well made with a good design that is suitable for production.
"Queensland designer-maker Nicholas Bailey is showing a pair of bedside tables, titled 'Catch some Z's'. The legs are cantilevered and support two shelves, giving clean, spare lines. Small details include dovetails where the timber is joined, and bevelled edges on the shelves. These tables meet all the requirements."
When I designed these bedside tables I wanted to create a simple and modern design that was also functional. The bedside tables are engineered using finger joins in the ankles of the "Z's" for both strength and stability as well as a visual aesthetic.A storage shelf also allows the top to be clean and free.
The exhibition displays the work of 17 accredited members of Studio Woodworkers Australia with the premise of the exhibition being about creating original production pieces which are well-considered, affordable designs with the quality of handcrafted items. Read on
If you would like to "catch some Z's" please contact me on 0414 400 172 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
With no nails or screws, only eight pieces to connect and an expected life of hundreds of years, this really is flat pack furniture at its finest.
For anyone who has ever experienced flat pack furniture, exceptional quality, a long life and ease of assembly are not features you generally associate with it.
Access can be an issue for some people, such as lift sizes in apartments or narrow staircases in homes. Transporting large pieces of furniture when moving house can also cause damage and dents. This table is constructed so it can be assembled on site and has the ability to be dismantled easily without damaging the integrity of the construction, to overcome some of these issues. This table is an example of flat pack furniture at its finest.This Trestle Table is made using the highest quality traditional joinery with no nails or screws used in the construction. The table top features a breadboard end with pegged mortise and tenon joins and the table is connected together using a stretcher beam at the base. The table is completed with hand shaped columns on sleigh feet. It is also known as my “400 year table” which is how long I expect it to last.
And the best features of this flat pack furniture – I assemble it for you. While this table may take weeks to design and build to your unique specifications, it takes me just minutes to assemble on site.If you would like to know about flat pack furniture at its finest, contact me on 0414 400 172 or email email@example.com
It sounds like something from the pages of Harry Potter, but for Nick Bailey, honing his skills at The Worshipful Company of Carpenters Building Crafts College in London was a key part of his evolution as a mastercraftsman.