Working with a client on designing and then building a piece to their specs and aesthetic sense is my favorite kind of work.
The project starts with coming up with a concept for the piece. Some clients know exactly what they want. They send me a photo of a classic piece and ask me to recreate it. Other clients may not have a clear idea of what they want so I send photos and ideas and help them visualize the possibilities. I then put ideas to paper and work out the details through a series of drawings. As we fine tune the design, I send photos of the drawings to the client for feedback and approval. While working on the design, I am also locating the perfect wood for the project.
Once the drawing is finalized, I create a complete working plan, usually full scale with multiple perspectives, which I use to work out the joinery and construction, and make patterns for cutting the curved elements. Sometimes I make samples of carvings or inlay to work out lines, depth and placement of details. After I make a cutting list, I begin cutting parts.
Carving, Joinery & Assembly
In the piece illustrated here, a desk my client and I designed in the Sheraton style, after cutting the parts, I started with the legs—turning them on the lathe, cutting the joinery and then carving the reeds and floral elements. I then made the curved cuts and complex joinery for the case, and veneered and inlayed the curved back and sides. Once the case was assembled, I built the top of multiple layers of substrate for stability, with veneer, inlay and edge banding on the top surface and edges. The next step was building the dovetailed drawers which had curved fronts to match the rails.
Sanding is an ongoing task. Each piece is continually refined and then after all is assembled, a final sanding and inspection is done. Then I begin the finish. For this desk, I protected the white inlay and banding to preserve their natural color which involved using a tiny brush to carefully seal the lines with shellac and then I stained the mahogany to bring out its familiar rich color. I applied over a dozen coats of varnish over the course of two weeks until I was satisfied with the smoothness and sheen of the piece. Last step is to put on the carefully selected hardware such as drawer pulls, locks and handles.
Once the piece is completed, I either hand deliver or crate and ship it to its happy new owner.
Drop me a line
Building both classic and custom pieces is wonderful and satisfying work. Each piece is unique and tailored to the needs and values of the client. If you are considering having a beautiful piece made, give me a call or drop me an email. I look forward to working with you.
Jeffrey Scot Roberts