With a few days spare between projects I have been looking ahead to the summer where I shall be exhibiting at some Rural Shows in the East of England. I earn my living as a wheelwright, a maker of wooden wheels, and that’s what I will be primarily concentrating on. However in an effort to broaden my appeal I shall be featuring some of the other wooden items I make including my latest project.
Which brings me nicely to the latest item to emerge from my workshop, a rocking chair. Over the years I have made a number of rocking chairs including a double rocking bench for the Garden. The common theme or style is the American Shaker style. I rather appreciate the elegant simple lines, and having studied a number of books on the subject I have come to understand the simplicity of design is matched with a ruthless efficiency designed to maximise the raw materials and reduce labour costs.
As wheelwrights we build the rims of wooden wheels in sections, by cutting them out of a solid plank, therefore when we were looking to make the rockers in the past we cut them out of a solid plank. The shaker method is too steam a straight piece of wood into shape, Cutting a straight piece is much faster than shaping a curve, and by steaming it into shape you reduce considerably your waste material. So for this project out came my steam box for the rockers, the back posts, and the curved back sections.
For this project I have used Beech wood, an excellent wood for furniture and steaming, but if I am honest its not the most exciting grain pattern to look at, therefore a perfect opportunity to try Black Polish something I have had waiting on the shelf for the right project to come along. The end result as you can see from the picture is rather smart but it could be suggested has strayed away from Shaker towards Gothic, or has been suggested a “Nervous Goth” ( shaky gothic).
For someone who doesn’t claim to be a chair doctor I spend a lot of time working with chairs. Historically a wheelwright would have worked on chairs as the skills and techniques are complementary.
In this instance I found this Victorian chair frame in a local farm sale for the princely sum of 50p. At Some point in its life someone had attempted a refurbishment and had cut away the original woven cane seat and back, replacing it with plywood, and then liberally and badly applied gloss white paint.
The first task was to remove the plywood and strip back the paint to reveal a fine mahogany frame underneath. The freshly revealed wood work was then sanded, sealed, and French Polished, including one coat of Red Polish to accentuate the colour of the natural wood.
Finally the seat and back was re caned with the original split cane. We cant claim its as new after all its a 150 year old chair, but its certainly good for a number of years yet. Having finished it we can attest to its comfort. A very comfortable chair.
A typical project for us is the one we have just installed today at Canary Wharf, a customer we have served for many years.
They are having a trendy “Urban Food Festival” and wanted a free standing sign post, to act as a focal point, and to give directions to approx. 20 destinations. They wanted it to look modern, urban, whilst at the same time reminiscent of those sign posts you see at tourist destinations with multiple signs pointing in all different directions telling you how far it is too New York, or Basingstoke.
It had to be Free standing onto a solid floor, assembled in a few hours ideally without expensive access equipment, and able to act as a central support for overhead festoon lighting. Oh and by the way you have a 10 days to design and build it.
Now whilst we don’t aim to be signpost manufacturers we do understand temporary structures. Therefore we designed an Urban Themed structure manufactured by us from welded steel lattice, 4mts high, which is self supporting with 2 x 150kg water weights. Built in several sections it can be easily assembled by 2 people in a couple of hours, and yet still fits into the back of a medium sized van for transport. The signs supplied in bright modern colours, which are fixed in site are reusable, so once this event is finished the whole structure is taken down, put into our stores, and then gets reused next time, albeit with different wording.
the customer was delighted and we are rather proud of this one.