Woodie Nooz 5

Death by H……..

I dont have a verb suitable for the description of being undone by the intervention of an Interior Decorator but the above will have to suffice. Last month I was all exited about a project that involved a large ancient house near Oxford two lovely clients that I had met many years ago and their requirement for a Wizzo modern bed as a centre piece for the master bedroom. They had consulted a decorator and did not like what she proposed which was a four poster bed that reminded me of a galleon in full sail  . I worked myself to a frazzle right up to Christmas to get them drawings “ Do not send me full presentation drawings said Meena send me sketches and we can develop it together. That should have warned me, but O K I can do this and I got a bundle of e-mailed drawings to them in New York over Christmas and I sent the actual drawings to their home with timber samples for when they got back.This all brought a very posative response, “We love it”

Enter the New Year I was all set to make maquettes and do designs for other pieces in the room, however the sense in the air is all rather different, “

We have just had a visit from H………., about the bedroom, can you just hold on with other drawings for a while……..

Now I know whats comming next. Hen will be wanting to put her designer in place and probably, possibly, collect a commission from the maker. I feel cross and express my feelings on the forum that we furniture designer makers use to keep in touch [and find out where to buy No3 brass screws) I get an e-mail from an old pal that says “do you mean Henrietta So-and So? If so, I worked with her a few years ago and would rather sh-g Gordon Brown than work with that woman again”

Now that image rather put me off my lunch. A  few days later I get a call from a friendly furniture maker that confirmed my suspicions about other workshops being brought in, also ignorant of my previous work.

Now I happily tender for work but in that case I charge £475 per day of studio time whether I get the job or not. Doing a good set of drawings usually takes me about three days. However if the client has done their homework and selected me to do a job I will not charge a penny, I will do drawing after drawing to get it right for them. If I fail no fee. 

So what do i do if I get caught with this situation. A situation that my mate who runs the other workshop is also caught in for he was not told that other designers had submitted drawings. Well I could have withdrawn in a huff, told the client what I thought of their duplicitious decorator or just gone off in a sulk. Well what I have done is remember that I am still in with a shout and its a big house. What I have done is send the client an expensive book called “Bespoke. A referance source book of furniture designer makers”

by Betty Norbury. It features my work inside and on the cover of the book. It also shows my mates work and most other top makers in Britain. I just sent it with my compliments to hit their doorstep before their meeting with H…. and the competitors sketches.     We shall see, if P… and M… can get the hang of commissioning modern work, this could be one one will run and run. We could in twenty years be looking at one of the finest collections of 21st centuary furniture in the world. Or we could be looking at another decorated up market country house that looks just like a good hotel.

As one door shuts…… Hi David, Can you come up and have a look at our new dining room we want a couple of tables to go with that lovely dining table and chairs you made for us two years ago…. Penny

PS Colin is building a new house for us .

Some new house. I met at the site office and asked the site manager “how many units you got on this site it looks like ten or twelve” “just one” he said” its for Colin and Penny. As we wander about the site with Pennies decorator and the joinery contractor (this is how to do it ) two special  tables turn into six and “Oh” said Colin “I really want a desk for my new study something special, a few curves nice and tasty”


We are in the happy position of seeing new students buy tools every four months so we are constantly being confronted with what is the best winged habwit for thirty bucks. The result of this is that we are constantly upgrading and changing our recommendations for winged habwits. The latest example of this is the straight edge. This is key bit of kit as without it one cannot check flatness and this can affect the fitting of components. We try to avoid spending too much money on unnecessary accuracy. Starrett  have been makers of best quality straight edges for as long as I can remember and make really nice feather edged straight edges of two foot and three foot lengths. They are eye wateringly expensive and not always as straight as they should be.

We check out all flat making tool on a big granite surface plate that is really really flat. I got this a few years ago when a customer service girl from Axeminster Power Tools told me that I was measuring the flatness of the students tool incorrectly and had been doing so for twenty five years. This stone is the ducks guts covered in a protective box it is certificated to be within Eons of perfect flatness. So we put planes and other tools on it and check with a feeler guage around the perimiter. Any customer service girl that argues now gets the Certificate of Eons waved at them.

Putting a straight edge on the surface should give you a twinkling of light evenly along the length of the blade.Some Starrett edges have given problems because they have been bent in transit being relatively thin construction they will bend and this changes how they perform. Some straight edges are simple bars of steel ab
out 4mm thick without the feather edge of the quality Starrett. Format makes a good one and I have a couple of these in my own tool collection. These are less expensive but one needs to hold the on the edge at an angle to get a reading as 4mm is a pretty thick blade and prone to obscuring light.   Another product we have used was the 450SE from Axeminster Power Tools This looked very like the Starrett with a nice feather edge but was very very cheap. And very very unflat. We returned a lot of these to the nice customer service lady until I think they stopped selling it. Then we got the idea to straighten the edge ourselves. As the feather edge is less than half a millimetre across it need little work to get very flat. Most blades were concave so the two ends touched on a sheet of plate glass with 180 grit abrasive fixed to it. Rub rub rub, check, rub rub, flat. Hoorah!

Veritas have taken all the sport out of this for us now by selling a really nice extruded Aluminium edge that is less expensive and pretty flat but dont ding it, it dont ding nicely.

The other tooly fashion that is sweeping through the workshop at the moment is low angle bench planes. Daren and I bought our bench planes years ago so they are conventional style bevel up he swears by old Stanley planes and i rather sniffily have a Norris plane. We have waited for a student to get one of these low angle bench planes after reading reviews. I am always a bit suspicious of the way tool makers want to fill out tool cabinets and empty our pockets so I havent rushed out at this new development and said I gotta have this. But Jonathan did, bless him. He bought a Lee Neilsen no 5 and we were all very taken with it. Planing English oak that with Darens well sorted Stanley gave 95% polished oak and 5%rough as guts with the low angle gave a clean 100%oak surface. “Would you buy one I ask Daren?” “Yes, probably if I had a job that needed a planed finish”

came the answer.  Now Tom has got himself a No7 and Steve either wants one or has already bought one…….. winged habwits!

Synagistic Life drawing 

We have had a great spell of life drawing classes recently. That probably because i feel that my drawings are going in a new and interesting direction. I have a few students in there with me, some turn up for the class, some would rather finish a bit of woodie stuff. Life drawing is always important but never urgent. So I teach and draw and look forward to the session every week as a time I can learn something new. I remember the advice give to tennis players by the great female tennis pro Virginia Wade

”Success in Tennis is about liberating your mind to allow your body to do the right thing.”

Drawing is pretty much like that, sometimes its about taking the brakes off. Allowing your eyes to see and your hand to move without interferance from the brain.  We certainly ask our students to look in a different way to see straight surfaces to distinguish correct shapes from incorrect. Drawing is just away of doing that better.

davids life drawing feb 2008


I recently sent out the following PR release. I am really excited to get the chance to spend a week in Japan at the invitation of Kodansha. Watch this space.



Mad furniture master craftsman David Savage of WWW.FINEFURNITUREMAKER.COM is very popular in Japan these days. This photo shows a rare shot of the old man actually doing some work. These days he is too busy to polish tables as he is traveling the world promoting the British hand craftsmanship he so passionately believes in. This time it is Japan where a Japanese publisher Kodansha selected Davids workshop to represent the recent British influence on Japanese culture. “They are very concerned that with the modern manufacturing ethos their culture is being robbed of something valuable, the touch of the human being evident in hand made artifacts.” said David. “In many ways they are ahead of us for they already have a higher sense of the value of what hand made is. They know that craftsmen and women cannot produce perfect surfaces or objects, they understand that what is exciting is the struggle of the skilled human being wanting to make the object a beautifully as he or she can, but knowing they are doomed to imperfection. It is the struggle that demonstrated the humanity.”

New Chair Designs by the end of February

I have a challenge. Can I put together a group of ideas into a usable, beautiful and saleable dining chair and display the whole creative process in a public exhibition in the form of drawings and photos by the end of February.

keith making dining chair prototype feb 2008

Only with the help of Keith Fernley a skilled maker who has joined us for the next few months. I have worked with Keith before many times, he is one of the local makers who are part of a community of small workshops around here. So keith has been on my case since the New Year i got abit of peace while he set up a couple of my student who are making matched pair of sycamore cabinets for me. Keith is managing the job whilst Pete and Jonathan are actually making the pieces. Once they were settled we were full tilt onto the chair. Well we couldnt make a model which is my usual method, i have sketches but nothing too defined . This chair is a rather clever piece if I say so myself as it it based around the cutting out of the chair seat on the bandsaw in a rather ingenious way to give a seat curved to fit your bottom and look very comfy . This is why we couldnt make a model. Sooooo…. Keith makes a full size softwood prototype and keep pestering me for decisions.  We change one thing at a time first the seat shape then the back leg shapes then the front legs. Then we sit on it and go back to square one, dont pass GO dont collect £200.

As I tap this in realising that I am late getting this out to you woodies, the softwood chair sits quietly waiting for my attention. If i can sort the front legs and the back splat we may just may have a winner. 

walnut chair prototype feb2008

Short Course Special Offer

I run a very few one week Masterclass courses for Basic Intermediate and Advanced makers. We have a few places left this summer . Only for subscribed members to ” Woodie Nooz” we can offer you this: 

Join us for a week and get to be a part of this special creative workshop. Book a place for this summer and get a 20% discount .

Join our “Dimblebie Workshop Lectures” and “Synergistic Life Drawing Classes”

Learn about woodworking, more in a week than you ever thought possible.

Have a great Woodie Month




David established Rowden Atelier in 1995, a now world renowned fine woodworking school. Discover Rowden, the woodworking courses, and the work that students go on to do.

Looking for our woodworking courses?

Rowdenatelier.com is the new home of Rowden Atelier Fine Woodworking School.

It is where you will now find all the information about our renowned fine woodworking courses, our ethos, and why our students go on to do so many great things. This site remains dedicated to the designs and work, of Rowden’s Founder; David Savage. If you are looking for our woodworking courses, please click here.