The Woodworker Sessions #16 - Ten Questions with Shaun Futter of Durban

Posted by Tobias Lochner on

Shaun Futter in his Workshop

Shaun Futter is one of a rare breed of woodworkers. He carefully crafts unique  products by hand for fly fishing enthusiasts. His attention to detail and quest for the highest of standards is self-evident in each and every piece that he creates.

Question #1

Tobias: How, why and when did you become interested in woodworking? 

Shaun: I think I’ve always had an appreciation for wood, particularly the visual, scent and other tactile aspects of being around it. Although woodworking interested me, experienced woodworkers were not people that I found myself exposed to, and when I did, it was typically at arm’s length.

My own early woodworking experiences were as a 10 year old kid, where woodworking was a once a week activity at the primary school I attended.

Looking back on it now, lack of proper instruction and exceptionally blunt tools, made any real progress or affinity for the craft impossible. I probably subconsciously decided at this point that woodworking was something that other people were capable of, but was simply too difficult for me, and moved on to other things. The necessity of establishing and maintaining a series of creative outlets in order to maintain some semblance of balance became particularly important to me as I moved into a demanding corporate career in IT.

My real interest in woodworking was piqued a few years ago, largely thanks to the online woodworker community on platforms like YouTube. I think at some point, I stumbled onto some of videos being created by these content creators and got hooked on watching them.

As I watched more and more, I began to understand some of the basic fundamental concepts and also revelled in amazement at what I was witnessing being achieved with properly sharp, well tuned tools. Having gained a bit of confidence and having recently moved into a property that afforded me some space to work in, I began to accumulate a few woodworking tools and haven’t looked back since.

Question #2

Tobias: What aspects of your craft do you find most enjoyable and least enjoyable?

Shaun: All of the enjoyment that I derive from my craft comes from the process of creating, rather than the end result.

Often, long before starting to physically start make something, I’ll plan things out and run through the steps required to build it in my head, over and over. When encountering a challenge on how to achieve a particular outcome I am looking for, I tend to allow things to percolate mentally, sometimes for extended periods of time, until I’ve come up with a suitable plan or solution.

I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment of having puzzled things out and come up with a solution. I also enjoy learning and becoming proficient in new skills and techniques.

Certain tasks and techniques are certainly more enjoyable than others, but I appreciate their relative importance and contribution to my processes. Where I have discovered or learned more enjoyable methods or techniques that can be substituted for less enjoyable ones, I’ve tended to adjust my processes to incorporate more of these and less of the not so enjoyable ones. Typically, I tend to favour techniques involving more manual, physical activity, making use of tools that produce shavings rather than dust.

Something from which I also derive great pleasure from is striving for and achieving close tolerances and precision using tools or techniques not necessarily associated with these objectives. A lot of what I do could probably be done better or certainly a lot more efficiently with precision tools or machinery, but then I wouldn’t have the enjoyment of making them by hand.


Question #3

Tobias: Which are your favourite hand tools?

Shaun: My favourite hand tools would be those that I have spent some time and effort in some cases restoring and, in all cases, understanding and tuning them to get the best possible performance from them for my particular purposes.

To list a few off the top of my head:

  • Lie Nielsen and Luban Low Angle Block Planes
  • Lie-Nielsen #62 Low Angle Jack Plane
  • Narex Dovetail Chisel Set
  • Katz-Moses Dovetail Guide
  • Veritas and Luban Wheel Marking Gauges
  • Set of Stanley #3 - #6 planes that I bought from an old man in his 90’s a few years ago, who had bought them new before WWII and owned them ever since.
  • Kakuri Nagakaya Dozuki Saw
  • Narex Double Bevel Marking Knife 

    Question #4

    Tobias: Which are your favourite power tools and stationary machines?

    Shaun: I’d have to say, that having spent a fair bit of time setting it up and tuning it as I’ve gained more knowledge and experience, as well as experimenting with different blade specifications, I have fallen deeply in love with my Makita LB1200F bandsaw.

    Yes, she’s a baby as far as bandsaws go. Yes, I do sometimes (ok often!) have resaw capacity envy that will likely drive me to upgrade to a bigger saw at some point. Aside from her capacity limitations though, she never fails to make me smile as she slices through another piece of Wild Olive or even Red Ivory at her maximum depth capacity without breaking a sweat, all while achieving a cleanness of cut that requires nothing more than 2-3 fine passes of a hand plane to remove any kerf marks.

    The woodworking and any metalworking purists reading this will likely raise a few eyebrows at this one, but hey, I turn some wood on it occasionally so I’m counting it! My Myford Super 7 lathe.

    I recently bought a Bosch GCM12-GDL mitre saw on last year’s Toolcraft Black Friday sale. We’re still getting to know each other, but I have a feeling she’s going to end up being a favourite.

    I don’t know if they could be considered power tools, or stationary machines, but I have a Triton Work Centre 2000, equipped with the Triton precision power circular saw, as well as the Triton Router table fitted with the Triton MOF001 router. I purchased these, along with a bunch of other Triton tools and accessories second-hand for an absolute song when I first started out and all are still doing duty in my workshop.

    Given my lack of knowledge and experience, their portability is something I have valued as I have moved things around in my workshop in an attempt to figure out an appropriate workflow that suits me. While I don’t know that I could say that they are favourites, one thing is certain is that they continue to surprise me with the accuracy that can be achieved with a bit of fettling, for what seem to be pretty rudimentary tools, compared to some out there.

    As far as power tools go, my firm favourites would have to be my pair of Elu MOF 96 routers aka “The Twins”, and my Dremel 3000 when paired with my Veritas precision router base.

    Question #5

    Tobias: What machines, power tools or hand tools could you not do without?

    Shaun: These would be my current essentials:

    • Bandsaw
    • Spindle Sander
    • Small, powerful routers for hand routing
    • Dremel and precision router base for fine routing
    • Japanese Dozuki saw
    • Set of bevel edge chisels
    • Diamond plates and a few Japanese Whetstones
    • Engineering precision squares
    • Lie Nielsen #62 Low angle Jack Plane and #6 Stanley Fore Plane
    • Lie Nielsen Low Angle Block Plane
    • Drill press
    • Cordless Drill/Driver
    • Shooting board
    • A ton of G Clamps and a few F Clamps and pipe clamps
    • Double bevel Marking Knife (I’m a lefty!)
    • Wheel marking gauge



    Question #6

    Tobias: Do you use a dedicated space for your craft, what floor area do you have and how much time do you manage to spend on woodworking per week.

    Shaun: I have three garages on my property, yet all vehicles park outside! I somehow managed to commandeer the double garage adjacent to our main house as my workshop space, and the remaining single garage is used to store my accumulation of wood that I just couldn’t help buying, as well as general garage junk that I didn’t want in the workshop.

    While I consider myself very fortunate to have a dedicated space in which to work, it’s certainly not something that I feel comfortable showing off to other woodworkers, particularly having seen some of the workshops that other woodworkers featured on this site have created for themselves.

    While it’s significantly better than it was a few months ago, it is still a disaster area and generally in complete disarray, and something of an embarrassment to me. I haven’t spent nearly enough time and effort setting up the space properly, creating proper storage which is woefully inadequate and is probably my biggest challenge at the moment, and is a constant source of frustration. Let’s just say it’s a work in progress and leave it at that…

    Current Workshop Setup:

    • Double Garage (haven’t actually measured it so I don’t know the square metres).
    • Concrete flooring typically decorated with 3 Rottweilers who I constantly trip over.
    • No cupboards, a few shelves.
    • Not enough lighting. What lighting there is, consists of fluorescent tube lighting, supplemented by an array of lamps that I have installed at various points.
    • Basic workbench I built from reclaimed Baltic pine. This was the first thing I ever made. I built it on the garage floor with hardly any tools. It’s ugly, but I’ve had pretty effective use of it. I’ll build better one at some point.
    • Compound mitre saw station. It’s also ugly, but so far it seems to be doing the job I wanted it to do.
    • A weird old bench that came out of my father’s garage when he passed away. I have it for sentimental reasons. My Drill Press stands on it.
    • Bandsaw
    • Metal Lathe
    • Triton Router Table
    • Triton Work Centre 2000
    • Storage for wood shorts
    • Triton Wood Racks
    • Compressor
    • Oscillating Spindle Sander
    • Disk Sander/Belt Sander Combo machine
    • A couple of Triton dust buckets and a couple of Karcher vacuums connected to my major dust generating machines.

    Time wise, I probably spend on average 1 day a week in the workshop, split over the duration of the week, sometimes more, sometimes less.


    Question #7

    Tobias: What was the first piece you ever made, what is your favourite piece and what is the next piece you wish to build?

    Shaun: Apart from my workbench, the first thing I ever made was a chalkboard for the kitchen. It has a frame that has a nice ornamental routed profile and has lapped mitre joints at the corners which I somehow managed to pull off.

    I don’t know that I have a favourite piece. My favourite piece is usually that which I happen to be working on at a particular point in time.

    At the moment I am working on a Walnut and Wild Olive book box to house some rare and collectable books for a friend of mine and some fly boxes and landing nets for customers. I’m looking forward to getting started on my next builds, where I get back to the audio side or my interests, with some table top Bluetooth speakers and possibly a couple of valve amps.


    Question #8

    Tobias: What are your favourite timbers to work with & what timbers do you avoid?

    Shaun: My favourite woods are the ones that typically have me revelling in their beauty or aroma. I’m a big fan of Walnut, Wild Olive, Bubinga, Maples, Red Ivory and Gaujuvira.


    On my “avoid list”, at the moment I only have Silky Oak. The one and only time I worked with it, I had a bad reaction to the stuff that saw me violently scratching parts of me that it’s apparently not acceptable to scratch in public on an ongoing basis. A trip to the doctor and a course of cortisone cream eventually sorted it out, but I live in terror of the stuff.


    Question #9

    Tobias: What is your standard finishing process for your pieces?

    Shaun: I try to avoid or at least minimise sanding where possible, so I make liberal use of cabinet scrapers in different shapes and profiles. I’ve taken to using dewaxed Shellac as a sealer and then typically favour oil finishes like Tru-Oil as well as quick drying Tung Oil and building up the finish with anything from 10-15 coats, depending on the look I am going for.


    Question #10

    Tobias: If you could add another discipline of woodworking to your arsenal, what would it be?

    Shaun: I hate the word discipline! I’ve never been one for rules and regulations. I’m very much at the beginning of my journey into woodworking, and really, I consider myself a sponge, willing to soak up knowledge and skills from any and all “disciplines”.


    My Wishlist:

    · A powerful dust collection system, piping and attachments

    · Set of Narex Hand Stitched CabinetMakers Rasps

    · York Moxon Vise Spindle Kit

    · A relatively small but decent jointer

    · A relatively small but decent thickness planer

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    • Fabulous work and inspiring write-up.

      Johan Pieterse on
    • Fantastic workmanship! Want one of those amazing boxes, just need to start fishing.Keep up the good work.
      Regards Ennis

      Ennis on
    • Fantastic workmanship! Want one of those amazing boxes, just need to start fishing.Keep up the good work.
      Regards Ennis

      Ennis on
    • Great read guy. Shaun .. you are super talented.

      Brian on
    • Good one Shaun!

      Andrew on

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