… a story of kangaroos, beer … and, yes, some boxes
The UK descent into winter is well under way and despite it being uncommonly mild as I write all the signs are that it’s going to be a hard one. Lots of berries on the holly, swans flying earlier than usual, or in the wrong direction, or something … we shall see! Which means, of course, that the Australian summer is fast approaching – too hot for me for sure. Fortunately it has always been winter when I’ve been to Australia – it was mostly glorious this time, like good English springtime.
The three and a half weeks we were there went by very quickly – an enjoyable mixture of work and play, mostly work at the beginning and mostly play at the end, as it should be! First we stayed with Paul Henneberry, his partner Nicole and their daughter Eloise.
I first met Paul, a fine box maker if ever there was one, when he came over to the UK for the conference at the opening of the Celebrating Boxes exhibition, the show I organised with my fellow UK box maker, Peter Lloyd way back in 2001. Paul is a member of the Fine Wood Work Association [FWWA] based in Perth, and as a result of that first meeting I was invited by them to Australia in 2002 to demonstrate at the Perth Woodshow and do some other teaching. This recent trip was really a repeat of that first visit.
Paul and Nicole have a wonderful place about an hour outside Perth in a small town called Jarrahdale – it was the perfect environment in which to spend a few days recovering from the journey and getting myself ready for the first event, the WA Woodshow in Perth. They have become firm friends over the years and our huge thanks are due to Paul, Nicole and Eloise for making us feel so at home. Paul put himself and his impressive workshop [of which more later on] completely at my disposal for anything I needed.
The first event was three days demonstrating at the Woodshow, a big annual event run by True Blue Exhibitions and many thanks are due to Mareene Aitken for all her hard work! The venue is the Claremont Showground
where I met lots of people, chatted to most of them, seemingly, and gave three talks/demos a day. These were well attended, even though the subject matter of one of them was hinges! Enough to make all but the most ardent box maker nod off. But more of hinges later …
The Fine Wood Work Association
The FWWA have a major presence at the woodshow every year, and they were again major sponsors of my presence there and very pro-active in getting my trip organised.
The Associations’s annual ‘Out of the Woods’ competition was this year devoted to boxes. I was one of the judges, and there was certainly some wonderful work to judge!
The winning piece is shown above, made by Peter Pauls. It’s a stunningly complex piece, beautifully made – some of the mechanics of which you can see in the right hand image.
Second and third places were taken by Martin Burgoyne and Paul Henneberry respectively. Martin’s music box is again a piece of considerable complexity – a real tour-de-force. In comparison to the other two, Paul H’s box is simple in format, but this is deceptive as it’s absolutely beautifully made in every detail.
There was also a box retrospective exhibition showing boxes of all sorts by FWWA members from past ‘Out of the Woods’ exhibitions.
During the run of the show we had the pleasure of staying with Warren Murphy, the Association’s president, in his lovely house about 10 minutes from the Claremont Showground.
Warren is a seriously good woodworker – here’s a long case clock he made which was on display at the show. Showing something tall and thin to best advantage is not great when trying to stick to horizontal format ‘frieze’ type images as I do in these newsletters. But hopefully you can see that it’s beautifully made …
As the name suggests, the FWWA is full of fine woodworkers – it’s as diverse and multi-talented a group of woodworkers as you’re likely to meet anywhere and my thanks are due to them for their help and hospitality. Very special thanks are due to Paul Henneberry, Alan Williams and Warren Murphy – as well as to many others who were always ready to help in any way they could.
It was a very busy show – and what with giving three talks a day and all the demonstrating and general chat, I got precious little time to look around. I did try, and saw some wonderful work, but only managed to photograph a very small amount of it.
One piece deserves a special mention – this is a gorgeous bowl by the turner Jack de Vos
. I’m not usually a fan of turning, but Jack’s work is exceptional – always elegant, beautifully designed and organic. And very thin walled – and therefore a constant surprise to anyone handling his work as it’s so light! Paul and Nicole gave Hilary and me a very similar one for a wedding present and it’s one of our most treasured possessions. It was a great pleasure to get to meet the man himself on this occasion.
Beer was quite an important theme of this trip – we visited the Little Creatures Brewery
in Fremantle on … several occasions. And Paul brews his own excellent quality beer, a very long way from your usual homebrew. In fact, note the similarity between the first and last of the images above. There is a difference in scale, true, but my guess is that Paul’s brewing is every bit as high tech as it is at Little Creatures. It’s certainly excellent, and much beer was enjoyed by us all, from BOTH excellent brewing establishments throughout our stay.
Three day box making course
When the show was over we were based back at Paul’s house and after a couple of days rest I taught a three day course to five members of the FWWA in Paul’s large and very well-equipped workshop.
One of the problems of doing anything in someone else’s workshop, even one as well set up as Paul’s, is knowing where everything is. And certain things that you take for granted in your own workshop simply aren’t there! With a lot of pre-planning and generosity on Paul’s part this was made as easy as it could possibly have been and the three days worked out very well.
Present were Peter Pauls and Martin Burgoyne, the first and second prizewinners in the FWWA. And of course Paul, although he was there in a helping rather than a learning capacity. So with three other talented woodworkers from the FWWA there was a lot of box making talent in Paul’s workshop for those three days!
Note Paul’s beer brewing kit at the back on the left.
A lovely lunch, made by Nicole and Hilary, was served on the veranda every day of the course. Paul and Nicole’s daughter, Eloise, can be seen clearly not paying any attention to my words of wisdom …
While all the hard work was going on in the workshop, Hilary and Nicole nipped off in Martin’s TR6 – still, I got to go in Paul’s MGA a bit later!
After another day off there was a day’s workshop for thirty members of the FWWA kindly hosted by Neil and Pam Erasmus at their workshop at Pickering Brook. Both Neil and Pam are fine makers and teachers – and Neil was another box maker I met when he travelled over to the Celebrating Boxes opening. It was a good opportunity for me to spend some time with some FWWA members that I’d only briefly met at the Perth show.
Neil has made some wonderful boxes [above right is one such] – have a look at his boxes gallery on their website. Hilary, I and Paul stayed with them the night before the workshop and it was a pleasure to have the opportunity to catch up properly.
My last obligation was a day’s workshop at the Australian School of Fine Wood based in the extraordinary Forest Heritage Centre at Dwellingup.
This was an enjoyable day spent with around 20 talented first and second year students. Tom Kealy was there at the time as he was doing a teaching residency there. I had met him at the Perth Woodshow – here he acted as a good intermediary for the day, asking a lot of good questions the students might not have thought to ask!
And that was the work part of the trip done. Party time!
Paul and Nicole had very naughtily booked a few days away, and kept the destination [almost] secret from us! It turned out to be a two hour flight up the coast to Exmouth, Ningaloo reef and Turquoise bay. But this newsletter shouldn’t really be hijacked by a report of our holiday – suffice to say the four of us had a really great time, had some wonderful walks, glass bottomed boat trip over the reef, and swam/snorkelled over the reef at Turquoise Bay.
Evening paddle – and Paul and Nicole on the glass bottomed boat.
Quite a lot of beer was drunk.
I can’t leave the subject of the Australia trip without mentioning the wildlife …
… we saw whales, kangaroos, emus, a rare black-footed rock wallaby, an echidna and … LOTS of birds!
This was my fourth trip to Australia and every time I’m amazed by the magnificent birdlife! We saw pinks and greys by the thousand, seemingly, rosellas, no. 28s, and countless other exotic species.
We also saw [and heard!] kookaburras, of course, a pair of Ospreys and a splendid fairy wren in all its amazing bright blue plumage.
And I had to include the full version of this image of the red tailed cockatoos because I was so pleased with it!
Finally I was also able to catch up with Peter Cook – yet another box maker who had come over for the Celebrating Boxes conference. We [almost] share a birthday, and it [almost] coincided with when Paul and I visited him at his workshop right at the end of the trip. So, another excuse for a beer or two … Peter specialises in secret opening boxes in a big way. Some who followed the Celebrating Boxes show will remember his extraordinary ‘Lines of Containment’ boxes, shown above. On the right is a new limited edition piece he has designed. His work is of an extraordinary quality – he spares nothing in the search for the perfect solution to every design and manufacturing problem. I urge you to have a look at his website at
Actually, there’s one very important element of my Australia trip I‘ve so far not mentioned – and it has to do with … hinges.
OK – to explain the context of this I am going to have a quick rant, and it may alienate a few, but I will have my say: As many of you will know I am NOT a fan of Brusso hinges: in my opinion they are over-engineered, ugly and hard to fit unless you use their dedicated template – and that involves using a hand-held router which is also something I’m not a fan of. I am referring to their quadrant hinges – they seem to have fallen into the trap that almost all other makers of quadrant hinges fall into: if you are making a machined hinge – that is, a hinge where the extra thickness needed to create the knuckle is machined from solid, you simply don’t NEED the L shaped piece at the back!
Traditionally, that portion is only there to give enough strength in the knuckle on a low quality hinge made from sheet material with a rolled over knuckle – on a machined hinge the knuckle is plenty strong enough without it. But that’s what everyone thinks a quadrant hinge should look like, so they make it like that. But without it, it makes the hinge hugely easier to fit. It’s a shame – they are, after all, ‘good quality’ hinges, well made and well finished. But poorly designed, so I’ve never used them … End of rant!
Consequently I have for ever been on on the look0-out for something better – and for this reason a chance meeting with someone at the Perth Woodshow was one of the most exciting aspects of my trip to Oz – and I think I’ve found the perfect box makers’ hinge!
Clive Jarman is an English, Rolls Royce-trained precision engineer based in Perth WA – and he just happened to come to one of my talks on hinges, and presumably managed to keep awake. We had a bit of a chat afterwards about this and that, and the subject of the perfect hinge for box makers was, I believe, mentioned.
This was on the first day of the show – first thing on day three he arrived having made a very beautiful hinge that solved the problem in one fell swoop! As this was a rather box-themed show there were plenty of talented and knowledgable box makers around [many of them members of the FWWA] and before long most of them were gathered around my stand open-mouthed. The hinge stops at 95 degrees without the need for a quadrant stay, and therefore most importantly, without the need to dig away under the hinge to accommodate it! It is an idea so simple that one of the main comments that day in Perth with everyone gathered around my stand was: ‘Why has no-one done this before?!’
Since then he has made some more for me incorporating some small changes – but patenting is an issue which we are investigating [and currently have conflicting advice about] so for now we are playing safe and not giving too much away. So, I am not including any images yet – however, the drawing above will give you a good idea of the format. Suffice to say they are slim, elegant, beautifully made, simplicity itself to fit and perform their function perfectly.
The next step is to get the hinges reviewed in the WW press and take it from there. I have set up a website at www.smart-hinge.com
[not much to see, yet – but working on it!] and on this hinge-dedicated site there will eventually be an extensive comparison of all the hinges currently available, advice on fitting, appropriateness for various tasks, formats of boxes and so on. And of course a lot of information about the new smartHinge just as soon as it’s available. There will be much more news on this in the January newsletter.
Furniture & Cabinetmaking:
Finally, still on the subject of [… yawn] hinges, there is a tip supplied by me in this month’s F&C [December, no 173]. But this really is only the tip [sorry!] of the iceberg where hinges are concerned! There will be a great deal more posted on the new website in due course. I was actually a little dis-chuffed with F&C as one of the images had been inexplicably edited, making it, in fact, wrong. I won’t go into detail as I’m still awaiting a response from them …
Enough of hinges, for now – on to warmer climes!
Boxes in France 2011
… the ultimate box making course with Andrew Crawford and Peter Lloyd in beautiful Gascony …
Well – this has moved on very fast! Following our initial announcement that we were considering doing this course in France we’ve had a very encouraging number of serious enquiries. Consequently we’ve taken the arrangements to the next stage and can now be far more specific about what we’re offering.
If you’ve expressed an interest in this direct to me or Peter you should by now have received an email pointing you to the newly updated info on the website. Those who haven’t, please have a look …
The ‘Boxes in France 2011’ residential course will be held in September 2011 in a spectacular C18th house in the Gers region of France. The house is in sight of the Pyrenees and stands in its own extensive, secluded and varied grounds. Places are limited and will be allocated on a first come first served basis.
Some details of the course are still under discussion, but whatever the final format we believe that this will be a unique, special and valuable learning experience, offered in an informal atmosphere in exceptional surroundings. We can also guarantee that you will come away with a much greater understanding of box design and construction learnt first hand from two of the UK’s leading exponents of this fascinating branch of woodworking. And a beautiful box!
Follow the link above to my website for more detailed info, and please feel free to contact me if you have any queries.
The rest – in very brief:
I’ve spent so long on Australia, hinges and France, and I still have a lot more things to talk about! So the remaining items will be in the form of short notices and with the promise to expand in the January issue …
Veritas corner jig
This is moving ahead and Veritas have made their own version of my prototype, received some feedback from me and are currently working on a second slightly adjusted version. I hope to receive this shortly and then hopefully production will not be far off.
This jig was very well received in Australia – many who subscribed to receive this newsletter during my trip will have had a go already …
I still have one place left on each of the two weekends, Nov 13/14 and Nov 27/28. Please email me if interested …
Box making supplies
As a result of the developments on the hinge and corner jig front I’ve decided to offer a small range of carefully selected box making supplies through my teaching site at www.box-making.com
These will include ready made box components, my own inlay lines, plans, veneered panels, adhesive backed card and selected leathers for lining, fine birch ply and quality small screws. And the new hinges and corner jig, of course, and various other hard to get items. Watch this space.
fine-boxes.com website update
A lot of work is set to happen to the website over the next few months. There is still substantially less material than there was on the old site and LOTS of new material to upload!
This has turned into a bit of a long one, apologies – but look at it this way: the January newsletter will now only need to be half as long! I now desperately need to get back to making some boxes!
Thank you for your attention.