A tree begins its life tiny and unformed. If provided the ideal stimuli--light and liquid--in perfect proportions, the seed flowers into a lifeform aesthetically striking, and flawlessly adapted to function among its surroundings: a natural masterpiece.
I like to think that crafting quality wood furniture entails a similar evolution: masterworks of nature, being shaped into a new tour de force. Trees all the same, only molded along a design scheme illuminated by expert woodworking knowledge, and grown among an outpouring of flowing creative processes and fluid new trends. In spirit, the end product will always remain one fraction of a landscape, but--like the seed before--it is now acclimated to suit the aesthetic preferences and functional demands of a new type of environment.
The process of converting wood materials into top-notch furniture is an epic journey of sorts. Drills, saws, sandpaper, and heat: these are just a few of the trials that lumber must survive to assume its destiny as a centerpiece in clients’ homes and offices.
Selecting a Log
Once a tree is chosen for harvest, it is felled and “bucked” to a proper length. Next, branches are cut from the trunk. The resulting log is “scaled” to determine the volume and quality of its timber, then shipped to the sawmill.
After arriving at the sawmill, logs are debarked, and “decked,” or sorted by size, tree species, and manufacturing purpose. A head saw is used to separate logs into “flitches,” or unfinished planks, which are then trimmed of irregular edges, leaving four-sided lumber.
Residual moisture is stripped from planks, either by kiln, or air-drying. Once dried, the lumber’s surface is smoothed into a uniform thickness and width, and the finished timber is shipped to manufacturing sites.
Received lumber is checked to ensure size and moisture content are within specifications. Bundles are then moved to the production floor, where they are cross-cut and molded into a desired shape and size.
Molded lumber is further processed and refined to acquire a definitive set of shapes and features. After that, furniture components are carefully sanded to smooth surfaces and round edges. Pieces are then assembled, and joints are glued.
Another round of sanding levels glue spots and other imperfections. Holes and blemishes can be mended with wood putty, and wood filler may be applied to reduce pores. Color might also be changed via staining or bleaching. Finally, several coats of finish are applied, with each coat followed by an additional sanding.
Some projects may be polished and waxed to add another layer of protection. Once furniture is complete, it is moved to the packing area and prepared for shipment to customers and vendors.
On its path to becoming finely-crafted wood furniture, a tree is imbued with not only new physical characteristics, but creative flair and a special kind of life. With care, a piece can provide functional enjoyment, as well as aesthetic pleasure for countless years to come.
- Sim Fern, Founder, Upbeat Designs