In the summer of 2009 I got a call from a young man called Matt Barry. He'd just finished a masters in design at Sheffield Hallam University and he was wondering if I had a job for him, or if he could work as an intern or do design work for me. Anything, basically, to get started making or being involved in designing and making furniture. I get these kinds of calls quite a lot, for obvious reasons (I make contemporary furniture in a city with not very many other people doing it), and as can happen from time to time, Matt was lucky with his timing. I was pretty snowed under with things to make, and on top of everything else I was working on I'd just been commissioned to create some teaching aids for a school as part of the Creative Partnerships programme.
The stuff we made together called on exactly the kind of unfettered free-thinking approach that Matt turned out to have, as they say, in spades.
Matt ended up staying with us for a couple of years, creating many very good visualisations for potential jobs and picking up good making skills as he went along. Eventually he got a job at Howden's, the kitchen manufacturing firm, and moved to Beverley with his girlfriend. We have stayed in touch, and last year he commissioned us to make a dining table using wany-edged oak for the top and chunky sections of pine for the base. Being both a designer and a whizz with the right kind of software, he had designed the table in every detail himself, and sent me plans and visualisations.
I got the oak from John Boddy Timber in Boroughbridge, an immense single slab of medium pippy oak 15' long and about 2' wide, broadening to closer to 4' near the tree's base. It was 2 1/4" thick and weighed the proverbial ton.
The job was to cut the slab in half, rip one of the edges off each piece, and join the two together on the long edge. There is an extra level of complication with any job involving pieces of material at the limits of what is physically possible to move around, and a further set of challenges when pieces are wany-edged. The relatively simple act of biscuiting the two pieces together is much more of a challenge because it's so hard to get a good joint when the pieces are massive and weighty, and when sash cramps are struggling to get purchase on an organic edge that needs to be protected from the potential damage that crampheads naturally tend to cause in the sappy bit of oak when you tighten them up .
However we cracked it, and the top was set onto the pine understructure that Mat had designed:
We made a day trip out of delivering it. We set it up in Matt's dining room, and immediately ate lunch from it.