If you own and appreciate custom built furniture, you are already a friend of mine. Beyond the deep satisfaction of making something by hand that is useful and easy to look at, the real pleasure in building furniture for friends, is knowing that every piece fills a special need that is just not available in the mass market. I am a woodworker. My work is making furniture, piece by piece, to be used and touched, day in and day out, for those who just aren't satisfied with the same thing that thousands of others have, but insist that, at least some of the furniture in their homes be made specifically to fit them, and their needs and desires.
One of the benefits of living in our North Carolina hills is that it is a major center of the furniture industry and we have close availability of fine furniture lumber in quantity. Each table, chair, chest or tool I make is to fit the life of a friend, therefore I use the very best of this that I can find. And with a mix of traditional and modern joinery as appropriate to each piece, I choose boards that display the beauty and variety of grain and color to highlight the form and use of each piece.
I finish each piece with as clear a finish as practical, given the design, to display the grain's natural sweep and line. A lot of factory made furniture comes with dark or opaque finishes to mask the quality of the wood used. Sometimes a simulated wood grain is added back. I apply my finishes by hand with the very best oils, varnishes, and waxes that can be obtained. I brush and wipe my finishes so I see all parts of the piece as I go. The fuss I take with design, joinery, and finishing is to produce for my friends what, with minimal care, will be three century furniture that is simple, attractive, and every day usable.
My style is spare with a clean line and curve influenced by Shaker, Oriental, Medieval, Enlightenment, and Arts & Crafts forms. The Mill owes much to the work of Mackintosh, Tiffany, Wright, Green & Green, the Roycroft, and the Stickleys among so many others as well as scores of superb, and mostly anonymous Oriental and Shaker craftsmen. The design goal is for a timelessness that fits any room.
That said I must also admit that I am drawn the furniture of the the 17th Century William and Mary period. It has such a solid look of home and hearth but with a very serious sort of whimsy (kind of like a Geek trying to look Hip) that I find totally compelling. I can be transfixed by even a picture of a simple, well designed and built tavern table of that style. Not a little of my love for this fashion is due to the spectacular, finely detailed turnings of my pal Matt. His turnings are far better than anything I might do. I proudly use his turnings to create my version of the style I call, William & Margaret.
The process logically begins with how, where, and by whom the piece will be used. This is naturally the first and central driver of design. After usefulness, we work on decoration and highlights that will enhance the completed work. While this art (for want of a better term) is vital to the success of the overall project, the real art is in an understanding, restrained, and purpose driven design. For me, it must always be the art, used sparely, after a lavishly designed usability. I call my way of doing, the Glencarraig Way. The word is from the language of my father's people, the Gaels of Ireland's Southwest, and goes to English as "The Rock in the Valley"
I live with my wife on our small farm near Horse Shoe, North Carolina. I have been a woodworker since 1964 when the kitchen needed a spice rack, maybe even longer. As a boy, I was always eager to go "out to the shop" with my grandfather, Ald Wilson. He cut and polished marble for decades at the quarry in Gantt's Quarry, Alabama. After working marble all day, he relaxed by working wood. I just liked to be with him because he didn't talk down to a kid. Apparently I was absorbing more than I could have guessed. Every day I look at a toolbox he made before I was born.
During more than thirty years crafting software, including some time on Project Apollo at the Kennedy Space Center, to support my sawdust habit, (although six of those years were with Drexel-Heritage Furniture Company so something besides software may have been happening there) I always relished the opportunity to build something of wood for family, friends or neighbors. In 1998, I completely left the flashing lights of the computer monitor for the glint of light on the keen edge of a chisel.
If you have read this far you probably have already, or soon will, review the "Showroom". Note that while every piece is unique simply because it is my way, most are so by their very nature. These pieces with special elements connected to the owners life are my warm delight and inspiration. I work, for the most part, on one piece at a time so I just lollygag along like that.