My custom furniture process starts with selecting materials, which may seem uninteresting, but is the first step in creating a quality product. I hand-select individual hardwood boards from a regional hardwood dealer or saw mill. For outdoor furniture, I will use mostly softwoods, and only hardwoods that perform well in the outdoors. I pay close attention to grain orientation, color matching, and potential weak points in each board, and select only those with the best qualities and/or character. I can also acquire specific materials for your project after the custom design and planning step, but will need to wait for that wood to acclimate to my shop before starting the build.
ht Once I get the wood to my shop, I let it acclimate to the conditions for anywhere from 3 days to a month, depending on the thickness of the boards and the climate of the location where I acquired the materials relative to the climate of my shop. Thicker boards, more time, similar environmental conditions, less time. I make a judgement call for each new load of wood, and won't start a custom furniture or woodwork project until the internal moisture content of the wood reaches a suitable level - I check the moisture content using a moisture meter. If the moisture content of the wood is already suitable for a finished piece, I may start the project right away.
This is in some ways the most important step. Once I receive a request for a custom piece, I spend the time necessary to flush out all the details by providing options for materials, joinery, and finish. I'll collaborate with you to determine exactly what will create the piece you want to see. This step will include initial communications about what kind of custom woodwork you need, where it will be located, what function it will serve, and what sort of design elements you find appealing. These choices will determine various aspects of my recommendations for the materials, joinery, and finish.
Once you have approved the final design of your custom furniture or woodwork, I will begin building your piece as soon as my schedule allows. This starts by going through the rough boards I acquired to select the ones I will be using to build your piece. During this step, I am even more careful about color and grain matching than I am while initially selecting materials at the hardwood dealer or mill. Once the boards are chosen, I decide what part or parts each one will become, and then mill them to their final dimensions. I then create the joinery. Finally, I dry assemble the piece to check its fit, finesse the joinery where necessary, then glue or otherwise join it together.
The final step before delivering the piece starts with surface preparation. This can include flush-trimming various parts of the joinery, easing edges by adding chamfers/roundovers, planing, scraping and possibly sanding the wood surfaces to 220 grit. The piece is thoroughly cleaned off to remove dust and debris. The final finishing can be as simple as clear coating, or may involve other steps like dying or pigment staining the wood, and/or sealing then glazing. The final finish coats are applied, sanding between coats when necessary. Depending on the gloss level desired, the piece will be left with its full-gloss finish, or it will be buffed out with 0000 steel wool then waxed. Almost all pieces will be waxed, whether buffed or not, in order to help prevent surface scratches.
Yes, I am willing to paint pieces under certain circumstances. Expensive hardwoods, and even softwoods with lots of character, in my professional opinion, should not be painted. But there are some hardwoods I will paint (soft maple, alder, other low-cost hardwoods), and plenty of softwoods. If you want a painted piece, bear in mind the fact that it wouldn't be worth the expense of paying for a wood like walnut, or white oak, or sapele, or any of the dozens of hardwoods that have tons of character and often have prices that reflect not only that character, but the scarcity and aesthetic value of these woods.
If you would like to get started collaborating to create a unique piece of furniture or woodwork, and you would like to see what wood I have in stock and ready-to-use, please click the button below.