It’s no secret that we all learn from our mistakes, they are after all part of the process of honing one’s skills and finding out what works and what doesn’t. Imagine though, how far we would all come in a much shorter period of time if we shared more of our failures instead of concentrating on celebrating our successes.
OK, apologies for the philosophical opener so soon into this month’s proceedings but I learnt a valuable lesson this month; the more mistakes I make the better informed I become. Eventually. There comes a time in your career when the things that used to take forever to work out seem to suddenly take care of themselves.
A few years ago I designed some workbenches for a school in east London. The school came to me for advice on what to buy from a catalogue of specialist educational supplies. I recommended they close the book immediately and look into having something built that would serve them better. It wasn’t a pitch, it’s what I tell anyone that asks for advice on buying a bench – don’t buy, build.
The design I came up with was based around the popular Nicholson form. It didn’t take that long as I’d learned the fundamentals of creating a robust construction capable of withstanding the rigours of the classroom a hundred times before, by mostly making mistakes. Three years later and the benches are holding up well, no loose joints and the tops are still flat, which is everything you need for a good solid bench. Part of me also wanted to see a Nicholson back in the classroom instead of a hybrid table-bench-desk conjured up by a specialist.
We’ve got two bench-building articles in this issue and I make no apology for that. Workbenches, especially the ones you build for yourself are an excellent way to find out on a daily basis how to design and build structures that last. After all, apart from your bed perhaps, it’s where you spend more hours a day than anywhere else.
Our first feature this month is about the designer- maker Carlo Bugatti. Eclectic and familiar at the same time, his designs question much of what we accept as a pleasing aesthetic composition: asymmetry, mixed media and impractical solutions are his trademark. Bugatti’s designs aren’t easy to understand at first but getting to know them will expand your material palette and grow your design vocabulary. Our second feature comes from the workshop of master saw makers Skelton Saws and reveals the lengths they have gone to celebrate not one but two of the most important figures in furniture-making history, Thomas Chippendale and William Squire.