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Top Drawer - Home | Gift | Fashion | Craft

Made by 68° Ltd is delighted to announce we have been selected to exhibit at the London Top Drawer show in 2017.

The trade only show runs from 15 - 17 January and is held at Olympia, London.  

This design led and carefully curated show has four distinct worlds: Home | Gift | Fashion | Craft. Within the craft area, we will have on display a range of pieces, including a number of new lines as part of our Pop / Deco range. Our stand will be within an area curated by the Society of Designer Craftsmen. 

For further information do visit their site by clicking here. 

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Growing in confidence

Completing the box project and getting some much needed publicity was followed by the excitement of a new project. I settled on a coffee table. Design inspiration this time came from Origami. I played around with bits of paper for ages, looking for a concept that could work as a low table. The design is strikingly simple, but in reality quite a complex build.

The design brief this time was for the table to resemble a folded piece of paper. The drama in this piece was to be a deep v section or valley that ran across the centre of the table. I chose crown cut English Ash not only beautifully figured but with a textured grain to match.

When viewed from above the shape of the table is a perfect rectangle. In order for the components to fit this brief there were lots of compound angles to work out. My training on CAD packages including Rhino 3D came in useful. With help from more advanced students on the course I modelled the shape in Rhino and produced a full size mockup in MDF. This process really helped to refine the design as well as to check the methods of construction.

The timber was carefully selected, five 4 metre long sequential planks from the same tree. Much more material than I needed, but we are taught to buy at least twice what we need. This means we can make our component selection without compromise, this is essential when making items of the very highest quality. The ash had been kilned dried and had a moisture content of 9.4, well within the acceptable range for furniture makers. The timber was allowed to acclimatise in the workshop, and was dimensioned down to size over a period of two weeks.

Mitres seem to have become my joint of choice and there was going to be no change to that in this project.  I was able to cut some of the mitres on the Altendorf table saw we have in the workshop. However, the joint at the bottom of the v section required use of the spindle moulder. A scary machine, but once mastered is incredibly flexible. In order to use the machine, each student undertakes a two-day training course. I duly received my training and set about building a jig to hold my work. It took longer to set up the machine, build the jig and run through a test piece than it did to machine my ash, but as all good craftsman say, it’s all about the preparation.

The Origami Coffee Table 

The Origami Coffee Table 

In all projects there’s always one exercise or joint that you put off because you know it’s going to be tricky. On this piece it was a hidden mitre connecting the legs to the top. It was necessary and intrinsic to the design. It was the joint that would make or literally break the design aesthetic of the table.  I drew on my training as well as patience and quiet determination and built the jig, sharpened my tools and set to work. As is often the case, those things you dread are not always as bad or as tricky as you first thought.

The table was completed on time and taken up to London for a photo-shoot. As furniture makers, photography is incredibly important, poorly lit or staged photo’s do nothing to enhance or showcase your skills. The studio we used was a railway arch in Shoreditch, our professional photographer Tony took some amazing shots. The table looks stunning in this industrial setting, the hardwood floor and distressed brick wall highlight the lines beautifully.

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From trainee to furniture maker…

I began my journey from a very different place. The world I previously inhabited, the corridors of power in Westminster, the choked up streets of Whitehall and the busy bars surrounding the Mother of Parliament no longer held the excitement they once did. I had long wanted to use my creative talents and actually ‘make’ something, produce something tangible.

Always carry a notebook

Always carry a notebook

After much thought and no looking back, I said farewell to my colleagues and my life in the city and relocated to the South coast to study fine furniture making and design with Marc Fish at his robinson house studio.  It was a world of discovery, where everything is possible. I enrolled on to the 50 week designer/maker course. The intake is strictly limited and I filled the last place on the May intake. I was joined by 5 other budding furniture makers from various parts of Europe with varying levels of skill and experience. We were all very different, but we each shared the same dream - to design and make bespoke furniture to extremely high standards.

From the outset we were all in such a hurry to learn as much as possible. We would get to the studio for 7.30am in order to prepare for the day’s lessons. Those early days were intensive, teaching began at 9am prompt. We covered all the basics starting with tool preparation and sharpening, metal theory and timber technology. I was itching to start work on the first project, but it was a couple of weeks before we even saw our first piece of timber!

Marc would structure lessons so that morning sessions were classroom style involving lectures, discussion and demonstrations. After lunch we would get on to the practical lessons anything from sharpening to tool tuning. The days flew past and it wasn’t long before we began our first project. All students make ‘winding sticks’, a little used tool in the workshop but an exercise in precision. The winding sticks are used to check for wind or twist in timber and need to be identical is size and perfectly square. With our newly tuned planes we are able to achieve an extremely high degree of accuracy. So much so, that Marc promises a bottle of Champagne to any student able to produce these pesky little sticks of Maple to within two thousandths of an inch of each other and of course square on all sides too.  At one point, Marc was looking at a very expensive trip to the wine merchants, with all students on track to achieve the almost impossible. In the end three of us celebrated at Marc’s expense, a pretty impressive result considering some of us had no previous experience of using hand tools.

As the weeks turned into months my confidence grew. The trips to timber yards, the drawing and painting classes, design discussions and homework sessions all helped to equip me with ‘tools’ I needed to design and make furniture.

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