Managers in the furniture manufacturing world must have a clear focus in order to earn a living and live a long life. If you say yes to enough furniture projects, every inquiry tends to perpetuate even more furniture. The same goes for taking on too many custom, one-off pieces. But I have a passion for furniture design, so I always try to guide the order and production flow towards my designs. At times, this pursuit feels like it’s going according to plan, but at other times—especially in the early days—it feels like an utter uphill battle. Progress can be very elusive.
It turns out that there are at least a few mountains to climb besides selling my designs. How do I get my own store space? How do I get enough machines and tools to actually operate? How do I do that while building my portfolio? I need a decent photo of my work if someone sees my website.? What about your website? Even if it looks decent, who would buy such a thing in the first place? How do I get enough marketing traction for my designs to actually make money? I just missed a cut and I’m out of wood. I solemnly vowed never to do the same thing again, so why did I do it again? There are no easy answers here, nor a set of solutions that relate to everyone’s particular journey as a furniture maker and designer.
But I strongly believe that good design, which reflects the personality of its creator, can create the momentum needed to succeed and build a career. I’m always looking for opportunities to bring out new designs and keep the momentum going. Often the ideas came from previous work, and the current design represents another level of refinement and progress that has evolved from that work. But many other times I find myself reacting to what I see as external prompts. And depending on how you look at it, almost anything can be considered a prompt if you want to. Recently, he was asked by an interior designer if he could suggest a 24-inch model. round end table. I said without thinking: “Yes, I have a concept in mind…wait while I work on the prototype.”
move into action
The exchange led to the purchase Origin of Shaper. Kidwell Fabrications’ studio only has room for two people, not enough space for a conventional CNC of any size. But Origin’s small footprint allowed me to apply the CNC machining process to the parts, and having Origin suddenly made my new round table concept a reality. I’ve used Origin almost everywhere on my table in Ghent. I made a plywood form for the bending leg laminate. This requires inner and outer radii to fit a 24 inch diameter tabletop. For the round top he cut out notches for the three legs and machined the profile of the scooped rim around the top. Origin cut the shape of the top (basically a tenon) of each leg so that it fits perfectly into the notched round top. We machined all the lower stretchers and the triangular components connecting the corresponding mortises and tenons. It also makes it easy to cut exposed joinery mortises and tenons on the outside of the legs.
Some are worth investing in
In other words, I could not have attempted or accomplished this table design without using the technology available to me. This sentiment transcends the assumption that, given enough time and effort, ultimately the same results can be achieved using other methods. No, literally, without Origin, we couldn’t have designed Ghent, let alone built it in a profitable period. So in this latest project it was a handheld CNC router and before that it was a Pantorouter. Then there was the Minimax T124 Copier Lathe, etc., which came to the store after purchasing a Euro-style slider saw. In my experience, some of the most significant design breakthroughs have coincided with investments in more sophisticated machines.
Balance of technology and craftsmanship
In some parts of the woodworking community, there can be a palpable resistance to the role of technology and advanced tools. This is because traditional ways of creating objects are usually circumvented. What this means is that it is eroding the craft and pushing human hands further and further away from preserving woodworking traditions. But if my mission is to design and sell superior, high-quality products that make a living, I will look for any method that can get me the results I need at a consistently profitable level of efficiency and execution. must take precedence. In this way, we truly believe that the tools and methods we use at the Kidwell Fabrications studio will help preserve the art of furniture making by allowing us to sell our creations without compromising on design or quality.
On to the next work!
Kyle can be found in both Instagram and Kidwell Fabrications.com.
Sign up for our email today to get the latest Fine Woodworking technology and how-tos, plus exclusive offers.