Curvature and More in the Furniture Intensive

Written by Heide Martin on .

Our summer Furniture Intensive class is drawing to a close next week, and students are spending long hours in the shop in order to complete their final projects. The last weeks have been full of practical learning and design investigation, as students have advanced from the basics of hand and machine cut joinery to the development of expressive, curvilinear designs. Lead instructor Reed Hansuld, himself a graduate of our Nine-month Comprehensive, has encouraged students to innovate and explore.

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Reed was joined for the duration of the course by assistant Helen Helfand, a recent graduate of the Nine-month Comprehensive.

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Local furniture maker Libby Schrum joined the class for the two-week introductory project. In this portion of the course students learn the basics of wood movement and design through the construction of a small bench that features hand-cut joinery. Below, a sample project, by student Robert Wolfkill.

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Toronto-based furniture maker Adrian Ferrazzutti worked with Reed for the second portion of the course, which focuses on casepiece construction. Over six weeks, students are required to build a solid-wood casepiece that features at least one door and one drawer.

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The final project of the course is devoted to curvature, and students are exposed to steam, laminate, and kerf bending. For this four-week segment, New Zealand furniture maker David Haig joined the class. David’s work is very focused on curved forms, with particular emphasis on the techniques of steam bending.

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To walk through the shop during the curvature portion of any of our longer courses always reveals a bustling, creative atmosphere. Bending is a resource intensive endeavor, and the building is often littered with large bending forms that are bristling with clamps.

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Bending often requires more than a single set of hands, particularly for large, complex laminate and steam bends. Below, Reed Hansuld works with student Aaron Hoover to complete a tightly curved lamination bend. Here, they are preparing to spread the glue over the set of laminations.

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Stacking the laminations in order.

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Moving the lamination bundle to the form, together with a Masonite caul.

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A critical step: centering the bundle on the form. A bit of muscle is need to make the tight bend.

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Are there ever too many clamps?

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Adequate squeeze out indicates proper glue application.

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Steam bending is often a group project, depending on the scale and scope of the bend. Here, student services manager Dorrie Higbee suits up to assist student Benjamin Pierce in bending the last in a series of steam bent components.

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Ben’s project requires ten identical components, and a drying rack assists in speeding up the bending process. Here, David Haig is adjusting the components to make room for one more.

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The long gloves Dorrie is wearing are required when pulling pieces out of the steam box. David forces the stubborn timber into place!

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A long metal strap, with wooden handles affixed for leverage and compression, is invaluable for a successful bend.

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The race to tighten the clamps before the wood loses heat and elasticity – an exhilarating step of the bending process.

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Stay tuned in to our Instagram and Facebook page in the coming weeks for updated photos of completed projects!

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