I started my business in 1993 after studying three dimensional design at Newcastle Upon Tyne Polytechnic. Most of the components in my designs are steam bent from green wood, and that is one of the reasons that I like to use coppiced wood. I split the logs myself instead of using a sawmill to cut them up. Coppiced wood is the traditional source of wood for chair makers. I like to try out new ideas to make a better chair, although I still admire the best traditional designs.
The wood for these chairs comes from the same kind of woods that have supplied chair makers for centuries. Many of the processes are the same too, such as splitting the logs with a froe and cudgel, and steaming the wood to bend it to shape. I first learnt to steam bend wood for the purpose of boat building. My chairs, like boats, have many three dimensional curves that add strength. Well managed local woods provide the Ash and Sweet Chestnut that I use to make chairs. Ash is extremely strong and hard wearing. The distinctive grain pattern shows
up well against the white wood with a light stained finish. Sweet Chestnut is strong and dimensionally stable. It has a warm color and a fine smooth finish. I often have to extract the logs from the woods with a hand cart. Some natural bends are useful, but mostly I select the straightest trees I can find. The bark on the logs traps the moisture inside keeping the wood green. This is important because wood will bend much better when it is green. Chairs only require short lengths so this wood is very suitable. A log is usually split into 4 segments. At this point the wood contains the same moisture content as the living tree which makes it easier to split. It is then cut and planed to size. These pieces are heated in a steambox for an average of 1 hour. The hot pliable wood is bent around jigs to form the curved parts for a chair. After several months of drying the wood is transformed from its green state into a hard, stable material, having shrunk across the grain but not lengthways. Only now can the chair parts be precisely crafted into a chair.