Marriage of Metal and Wood
Woodworkers in search of a perfect union of materials for all types of furniture, from tables to desks and chairs.
Synopsis: Wood is a fascinating material to work with and, on its own merits, can challenge and inspire a craftsperson for an entire career. Some woodworkers, however, find wood even more compelling when paired with another material, such as metal. Pairing metal with wood offers a whole new range of design and construction possibilities. Here’s a look at a handful of the many makers who are finding success mating metal with wood. Featured are Michael Robbins, Greg Klassen, Stewart Wurtz, Robert and Tor Erickson, and Peter Harrison.
Wood is such a compelling material that it’s easy to spend a career building with nothing else. Its range of textures, tones, and aromas, its strength and warmth, its adaptability and flexibility—all these make it inexhaustibly interesting to use and explore.
But for some dyed-in-the-wool woodworkers, the enjoyment and challenge of using wood is deepened by pairing it with other materials. We’ve brought together here a handful of the many makers currently advancing the art of combining metal with wood.
Greg Klassen, a furniture maker trained in woodwork in the program founded by James krenov, speaks for many other materially adventurous makers when he says, “wood is my first love, but I’m always searching for a material to pair with it, something that makes the wood even more beautiful.”
And Seattle furniture maker Stewart Wurtz, who builds primarily with wood but includes a wide range of metals in his work, says, “when you pair metal with wood you create contrasts—of hard and soft, cold and warm, bright and matte—that emphasize the best attributes of both. It’s a marriage of materials, and they really sing when they’re combined.”
When Michael Robbins has an idea for a new piece of furniture he’ll start with some “quick, intuitive sketching,” but the design process really comes to life, he says, when he gets his hands on the material. “I’ve never been great at drawing, so I’ll just pull out some material and start making something.” The material is most often wood, but Robbins, being largely self-taught in woodworking, is not afraid to dive into other materials and learn them as well. His Bridle benches, with their bows of brass bar, were born when he had a prototype for an all-wood bench in progress in his shop. “One day I ordered some brass bar and just tried it out,” he says. Purchasing free-machining flat brass bar stock from Onlinemetals.com (his go-to source), he found he could cut it cleanly with a chopsaw and bend it by hand without kinking. For the benches, he uses brass bar stock 1⁄8 in. thick and 1 in. wide and pins it at the midpoint to the underside of the bench with a wood screw. At the ends he uses Chicago screws sealed with Loctite to attach the bar to the stretchers. On pieces that require bends of a radius too tight to make by hand, Robbins has a metal shop bend the brass bar for him with a ring roller.
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