The Woodworker Sessions Series is about South African woodworkers sharing our craft and learning from each other. Our techniques, shortcuts, mistakes and triumphs all combine to grow our common passion - working with wood. I am always looking for interesting, intriguing and dedicated woodworkers to interview. If you are, or you know of a woodworker who fits the above bill, I would love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org
You are also most welcome to call me at 082-532-9661 All Hours or 021-705-1247 ext 313 during Office Hours.
Please feel free to offer your comments on The Woodworker Sessions in the comments section below each interview.
Andrew in his workshop with one of his wonderful puzzle boxes!
I have known Andrew for many years and have watched him grow as a woodworker in leaps and bounds. His enthusiasm is entirely infectious! I firmly believe that his newfound passion in building fascinating puzzle furniture will be well worth following and will hopefully stir other woodworkers, young and old, to widen their horizons and to engage in more of the diverse disciplines of our craft.
Tobias: How, why and when did you become interested in woodworking?
Andrew: I think I became interested in woodworking at the age of about 20. Growing up, I was always fiddling with things and pottering around in my dad’s garage, but unfortunately tools like chisels and hand planes were as blunt as screwdrivers, so there was not much fun to be had with them!
I love the concept that something beautiful, creative, artistic and functional can be made from a tree and I love the challenge of designing and creating useable and sometimes whimsical things.
Bird feeder made for my aunt.
Tobias: What aspects of your craft do you find most enjoyable and least enjoyable?
Andrew: I love being challenged by new projects and I thrive on working out ways around the technical and artistic issues that arise with every project.
Wooden Handscrews that I built using Dubuque Miro-Moose Hardware Kits
The immense satisfaction of achieving something that you didn’t believe was within your capabilities is an indescribable pleasure!
I don’t think there is any aspect of my craft that I don’t enjoy, other than repetitious work and the thankless regular task of cleaning my workshop!
Tobias: Which are your favourite hand tools?
Andrew: Here I must be very honest, I am not as fond of hand tools as I probably should be. I have about 10 different hand planes and a handful of chisels. These are all mostly hand-me-downs and flea market finds.
Tobias: Which are your favorite power tools and stationary machines?
Andrew: I have a good collection of power tools. It is difficult to define which would be my favourite tools as each one has a specific range of capabilities within my workflow.
As far as stationary machines go, it has to be hands down my CNC machine. It is a home build with a bed size of 700mm x 1200mm. Next would be my Jet lathe. Both of these machines are wonderful from a creative standpoint.
Tobias: Which machines, power tools or hand tools could you not do without?
Andrew: Most definitely the following:
- Workbench (Roubo style) Not quite finished yet!
- Tape Measure
- Table Saw
- 200mm Jointer
- Benchtop Thicknesser
- Band Saw
- CNC Machine
My (almost finished) Roubo inspired Split Top Workbench. (I still need to do the dog hole & front apron sections, construct the tail vise and fit the lower guide system for the leg vise).
Martlet 10" Table Saw with Router Table Extension
Jet Tools Benchtop Thicknesser
Mitre Saw Station
Martlet 200mm Long-Bed Jointer
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?
Andrew: I have a workshop with a floor area of 60 square metres. Time spent in the workshop is difficult to quantify as it depends on what projects I have on the go.
I’m always on the lookout for new, challenging and stimulating projects, but never make something just for the sake of just making something. I need to be excited about a project and of course, have the available spare funds to purchase the timber.
At a guess, I would say that I spend around 10 hours on average each week in my workshop.
Tobias: What was the first piece you ever made, what is your favourite piece and what is the next piece you wish to build?
Andrew: The first piece I made was at the age of around 10. It was a table for my mom to put a video machine on. It was made of plain chipboard and rough-sawn battens and coated with a horrible brown varnish.
My favorite piece is probably my wooden functional surfboard (probably cause I surf).
I built it from 3mm Japanese Cedar and featured Purpleheart stringing accents in it. The surfboard is hollow inside with ribs much like an aeroplane wing, this was an immensely challenging, but extremely rewarding project.
I have recently become fascinated by puzzle boxes and furniture that features mechanical actions and hidden compartments.
This genre of furniture was made popular in past centuries by the Roentgen brothers and Thomas Sheraton amongst a number of other luminaries. Today, the world leading cabinetmaker in this fascinating field is without doubt, Craig Thibodeau.
Having watched a number of videos of Craig Thibodeau's remarkable work, I became completely hooked and am now in the process of building a copy of his "Wisteria Puzzle Cabinet" This project is incredibly exciting and challenging for me, as one needs to do marquetry, joinery and create one's own hardware from scratch as well, so it really ticks all my boxes!
Craig Thibodeau's incredible Wisteria Puzzle Cabinet
Starting the base leg structure for my Puzzle Cabinet
My Puzzle cabinet taking shape!
Tobias: Which are your favourite timbers to work with and which timbers do you avoid?
Andrew: I work pretty much only in hardwoods. Wild Olive, Maple, Purpleheart, Padauk, Black Walnut, Beech and White Oak come to mind. I dislike working with softwoods, unless the specific project requires them, such as in my Japanese cedar surfboard.
Tobias: What is your standard finishing process for your pieces?
Andrew: Depending on my requirements for the use of the piece, I tend to use either Rustin's Danish Oil or Woodoc 10.
I will definitely be expanding my range of finishes soon and will be trying my hand at using shellac as a sealer as well as for brushed and rubbed top coats in the near future.
Tobias: If you could add another discipline of woodworking to your arsenal, what would it be?
Andrew: With my burgeoning fascination with Craig Thibodeau's cabinetry, I have been learning as much as I can about marquetry as well. I am not a total newbie to this aspect of woodcraft and have done a little bit over the years.
I would love to become really proficient at marquetry, as inlaid embellishment such as stringing, parquetry and marquetry can definitely take a furniture piece to an entirely new level, once you become really good at it.
- Benchtop Hollow Chisel Mortiser
- Cantilevered Drum Sander
- More Clamps!
- Dedicated Router Table System
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- Tags: CNC, Danish Oil, Jet Tools, Liquid Hide Glue, Martlet, Narex, Puzzle Boxes, Roubo, Rustins, Shellac, The Woodworker Sessions Q & A, Titebond, Veritas Tools, Woodpeckers