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«Report by Ashley Bryant 2005 Churchill Fellow To gain the traditional skills of woodworking by combining new technology and material to keep ...»

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The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Of Australia

Report by Ashley Bryant

2005 Churchill Fellow

To gain the traditional skills of woodworking by combining new technology and material

to keep Australia at the forefront of contemporary Australian furniture.

Denmark, Finland, UK, USA

I understand that the Churchill Trust may publish this report, either in hard copy or on the internet or both,

and consent to such publication.

I indemnify the Churchill Trust against any loss, costs or damage it may suffer arising out of any claim or proceedings made against the Trust in respect of or arising out of the publication of any Report submitted to the Trust and which the Trust places on a website for access over the internet.

I also warrant that my Final Report is original and does not infringe the copyright of any person, or contain anything which is, or the incorporation of which into the Final Report is, actionable for defamation, a breach of any privacy law or obligation, breach of confidence, contempt of court, passing-off or contravention of any other private right or of any law.

Signed:___________________ Dated:_____________

Born in 1975 from an early age, I possessed a passion for working with wood and a fascination for artists creating outstanding and compelling contemporary furniture. Six years of fine furniture making from the age of eighteen gave me my grounding to hone my skills and techniques, to follow my passion and manipulate wood to the highest quality while incorporating my own design to the piece and individual needs.

Silver Ash conversational table by Ashley Bryant



1.0 Introduction 1

1.1 Summary 1

1.2 Acknowledgements 2

2.0 Executive Summary 3

2.1 Project Description 3

2.2 Highlights 4

2.3 Lessons Learned 4

2.4 Implementation and Dissemination 4

3.0 Itinerary / Fellowship Program 6

4.0 Main Body 7

4.1 Denmark 7

4.2 Finland 12

4.3 England 14

4.4 America 18

5.0 Conclusion 20

6.0 Recommendations 22


1.1 SUMMARY The Churchill Fellowship provided me with the opportunity to meet a wide range of furniture craftsmen, all leaders in their field. I travelled throughout Denmark, Finland, UK and the USA and observed how they design, make and sell their work.

Woodworking is a very traditional skill and it is from this grounding that new technology and new materials have evolved; my focus was on the latest timber bending technology and the craftsmen I visited showed me a vast range of timber bending techniques and products that they use to achieve their fine furniture.

In Australia we have extensive and beautiful wood resources available and I can see many potential benefits for our industry in value adding to the craft by combining high quality design with the latest and best technology available.

–  –  –

I wish to acknowledge and thank the following people for their support and assistance in my successful undertaking as a 2005 Churchill Fellow.

• My overseas contacts that made it all possible and who provided their

–  –  –

• Jeoffrey Hannah 1980 Churchill Fellow;

• Family and friends that encouraged me to pursue my passion;

• The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust;

–  –  –

Report by: Ashley Bryant Designer maker of contemporary fine furniture.

27 RUSSELLTON DRIVE ALSTONVILLE NSW AUSTRALIA 2477 PH: FAX: 02 66287267 MOB: 041 302 8331 EMAIL: abfinefurniture@dodo.com.au

2.1 PROJECT DESCRIPTION To study the traditional skills of woodworking; combined with the latest technology.

My Fellowship started on the 21st of May 2006 and it led me to Scandinavia where my aim was to look at new woodworking technology and machinery, to see how it worked and to see how it could be implemented into the design and manufacture of quality craftsmen built furniture in Australia.

I was able to visit factories, museums, galleries and furniture makers throughout Scandinavia, England and America. I learnt about furniture making traditions, design and techniques. In America I attended two courses on sculpture carving and wood bending, and this completed my fellowship experience before I returned home on the 14th of July, 2006 after nearly eight weeks of inspiring and challenging experiences.

–  –  –

• Philip Koomen Furniture. Creativity and spirituality.

• I tre Furniture. Peter Southall Extensive understanding of wood.

• Edward Barnsley Workshop. A distinguished history of fine furniture.

• Micheal Fortune An inspiration to push the boundaries in bending timber.

• Brian Boggs A lesson in simplicity and not a bad fly fisherman.

–  –  –


• Wood will only bend under compression.

• There are many different ways to approach work to get a desired result; the

–  –  –

• To be a success as a woodcraftsman you have to be a good business man.

• There are very few successful furniture craftsmen without employees.

• Your own unique design style is what will follow through into future success.


• It was a thorough and comprehensive learning experience and it will allow me to implement new designs and techniques into my own work.

–  –  –

information I have attained and I will be sharing my knowledge with colleagues throughout the associated furniture and woodworking industries.

–  –  –

4.1 DENMARK New Technology and Manufacturing Compwood is a Danish company specializing in wood bending technology, a process whereby timber is recompressed to enable it to be cold bent. I looked at the use of this technology and how it opens entirely new avenues for furniture design and innovation.

My intention was to look at the process of this Compwood technology in Denmark and Finland, and then see how it is implemented into furniture designs by manufacturers like PP Mobler.

PP Mobler is one of Denmark’s main furniture manufacturers; it’s a small furniture workshop with a tradition for creating high quality designer furniture. It employs twenty staff and they manufacture standard reproduction chairs and tables. Their designs incorporate a large amount of bent timber.

At PP Mobler, Sussanne Hasselby gave me a tour of the factory and I saw many different chair designs at different stages of construction, most of these designs incorporated some curved components. The workshop had an extensive array of machinery including CNC machines, copy laths, sanding, and air tools etc. The workmanship was quite high and all

–  –  –

and Maple and the curved components did not inhibit the working ability or finishing of the wood for furniture.

Currently PP Mobler purchases their curved furniture components from Davinde Savvaerk near Odense on the island of Funen, the largest supplier of curved furniture components in Scandinavia. The bent furniture components are pre-bent to the desired section size by Davinde Savvaerk and then supplied to PP Mobler for assembly. The Compwood process is one of three methods of timber bending that they use. Some designs require very tight curves and wastage of timber can be as much as 50% because the timber must be free of defects to achieve a tighter radius and many pieces of timber break in the process.

PP Mobler is now in the process of ordering a Compwood machine so they can manufacture their own furniture components on site.

Steen Mikkelsen, director of Davinde Savvaerk, told me the company is a family owned business that was established in 1935 and it has a full capacity hardwood saw mill producing mainly Beechwood but also Cherry, Maple, Oak and Ash. Most timbers are suitable for the timber bending process, both steam bending and also the Compwood technology or compressed timber, and all parts of furniture are made on site, ready to be assembled.

–  –  –

ever seen, it’s fully undercover with one person operating the machine and the other on quality control. Timber is milled on site for sale in packs. Other timber, with straight grain, is selected for bent furniture components and a large array of machinery produces these furniture components. All slabs are broken down by two large band saws with feed and sorting rollers and everything is done on a large scale, with the minimum order starting from around two hundred items.

Initially, to make curved furniture parts, they had to be cut from a solid block of wood, not exposing too much short grain. Then steam bending was introduced, before compressed hardwood, and it is still used today mainly because of the expense of the compressing process. However a key advantage of compressed timber is that it can be bent into a smaller radius. Compressed timber is more labour intensive, with more moulds needed as the timber has to stay in the moulds for longer periods of drying time to complete the process. By comparison steam bending moulds can be used up to three times in a week. Wastage is also a consideration as wastage on steam bending is roughly 10% as compared to 20% for compressed timber. Curved parts are processed green and than dried in the desired forms. Moister content is not so crucial for steaming timber.

The timber placed in the Compwood machine is compressed to suit the finished inside length of the curve required. The process can compress timber up to 20% of its original length. The timber becomes pliable and can remain pliable for weeks as long as it is kept from drying out. Timber can not be stretched as the timber fibres will fracture but it can be bent under compression. The bent timber is dried in this form in a series of kilns that

–  –  –

shape. Timber has been mainly bent in two dimensions but with the considerable developments in the timber compressing technology it can now be bent into three dimensional shapes.

Steen Mikkelsen, Director of Davinde Savvaerk, made it clear that the process of bending compressed timber is not as simple as it may seem; experience and knowledge is required to achieve the level of returns that their company has achieved. Davinde Savvaerk operates as a contract manufacturer of bent timber for furniture makers and they export their product all over the world.

The Danish Tradition Danish people show great admiration and appreciation for their designers and craftsman.

The Danish Design Centre houses a semi permanent collection of designs from the 20th century including a selection of Danish and international design icons such as a chair designed by Hans J. Wagner and made by PP Mobler.

The Danish Museum of Art and Design has an inspiring display of Danish furniture making, throughout the ages. Since 1920 the museum has been housed in the former Royal Fredericks Hospital, which is surrounded by a large recreational garden, and you can walk through galleries displaying furniture from many difference eras. The permanent collection shows many examples from the 20th century, plus a wide range of

–  –  –

when furniture was more elaborate with inlay and carving and curved work.

Even today, despite so much competition from low cost manufacturers elsewhere, the Danish people and the Danish retail sector continues to support their indigenous furniture designers and manufacturers. New furniture, such as pieces designed by PP Mobler, (Mobler meaning furniture) is sold in furniture outlets such as Illums Bolighus. Chairs, such as the Valet Chair designed in 1943 by Hans J Wegner and perhaps the most obvious and striking piece of Danish furniture on display, sell for a price equivalent to seven thousand dollars Australian per chair.

Sussanne Hasselby from PP Mobler with a sample of compressed timber.

–  –  –

Teak OY is the largest adult educational training centre in Scandinavia focusing on the furniture industry. Lars Kronqvist, the Managing Director, explained that the Teak OY institution covers all aspects of the furniture industry; educating people world wide and helping them to develop their skills by incorporating the most advanced technology. It not only helps craftsmen and women to develop their technical skills to enhance their employment opportunities but it also offers training and education in the area of small business management for those wishing to establish their own small business.

The equipment and machinery on site at Teak OY is comprehensive; it ranges from general workshop equipment to laser cutting machines, compressed timber technology by Compwood, CNC and robotics. They have designed software and machinery and developed education packages that can be purchased by companies as a complete training package. The businesses that purchase this technology range from one and two-man operations to larger businesses and companies.

Teak OY also has mobile workshops throughout the country for eduction opportunities outside Teuva; and one, two and three day educational lectures on this developing technology is also available to other countries, such as Australia, upon request.

Teijo Hyttinen explained in detail the Compwood technology. Firstly you need fresh timber, the moisture content of the wood needs to be between 20 and 40%. The timber is

–  –  –

minutes. The Compwood Machine compresses the timber to 20% of its original length and it will stay between 2 -10% shorter.

When the timber is removed from the machine it is pliable and it will stay pliable if the timber is kept from drying out, this is when the timber is bent into its new shape. Not all wood responds the same way to the process and there will be varying degrees of success according to the timber used. The raw material has to be good for the process to work without the timber failing; the timber has to have straight grain, free from defects such as knots.

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