What is Furniture Lab?
Woodworking has a problem: More people are going out than are coming in. Most of yesterday’s shop classes and factory jobs have gone, and today’s kids excercise their thumbs where past generations built tree forts and hot-rodded their cars. And if we are going to grab their attention, I don’t think it will be with dovetails and handplanes. Those will always grab some newbies, but not enough in my estimation.
But there are green shoots of hope for the handcrafts. Check out Make magazine for a strange new intersection of high-tech and handmade. And the brave souls at The Furniture Society have had their ups and downs, but have never stopped looking forward.
The truth is that most of the furniture in Fine Woodworking is either a reproduction, or a close relative of one. And that’s how most readers want it for now. They love the close connection to history. I do too. But where is custom furniture going? That’s what Furniture Lab aims to find out.
We’ll start by exploring two tracks:
1. Working with found items, breathing new life into the past. And already our own art staffer John Tetreault has led a junkyard excursion and made his first Furniture Lab piece, a brilliant blend of weathered boards, 20-year-old circuit boards, and LED lights he found online.
2. Working with exciting new materials. I’ve been making some traditional bow-arm Morris chairs, and I need a small table to go between them. So we designed something revolutionary, I hope. The base will be made from a new type of dimensional bamboo lumber, called Lumboo, simply bolted together. And the tabletop will be a thick piece of a new material called Varia Ecoresin, from 3Form, simply bolted to the base. Ecoresin is amazing stuff, with a variety of manmade and organic materials bound inside it.
We FWW staffers are doing this Furniture Lab stuff on our own time, so it had better be fun. And it has been a blast so far. We all love traditional woodworking, but there is a great sense of freedom in throwing the rules out the window. We want to hear from you. Think we are on to something here? Want to join in?
Art staffer John Tetreault built our first Furniture Lab project, a cool combo of weathered barn boards, traditional joinery, old computer circuit boards, and LED lights. He parks his Bose Ipod system inside.
And here's a preview of a table I am planning, to go between two Morris chairs. Note the two possible designs we are playing with. Both are a combination of lumber made from pressed bamboo and funky new plastic panels from 3Form.
3Form makes a wide variety of resin panels, some colored, some textured, and many with cool materials bound inside. This one has Gingko leaves and stalks inside.
And this 3Form material is textured. It reminds me of raindrops hitting water.
This is the lumber I want to use in the base of my table. It is made by Cali Bamboo, by pressing stalks of bamboo into dimensional form.