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136 Aranui Road, Mapua, Mapua , New Zealand
Categories: Nelson + Tasman - Arts
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I started as a cabinet maker in Germany when I was 16 years old. I have worked with furniture ever since and my passion for fine cabinet-making continues to grow. Having recently moved from Christchurch to Nelson, I am amazed by the number of fantastic, top quality cabinet makers in this region. The majority of them are working from home either by themselves or with one other cabinet maker. In general, they consider themselves to be from the old school, valuing superb design and proportion.
I have been wondering how it is possible that such highly qualified cabinet makers have not yet been discovered by the main public. Maybe it is partly that the cabinet makers don’t want to be drawn into the mainstream of standard cabinet making, even though there would be better financial rewards. These cabinet makers believe too much in pursuing their own designs and their own ideas.
The very famous designers of the twentieth century started with similar philosophies. Marcus Brewer, Mackintosh and Le Corbusier all took risks designing and building timeless long-lasting furniture. Their designs even today seem to have only been designed yesterday.
Furniture should be made and designed to last from generation to generation. Children will be proud to inherit such furniture, and not just discard them because of low quality or dated designs.
Recognising quality in furniture can be difficult. It would be easier if our eye could work as a magnifying glass. Then we could see the clarity of the timber grain, the sharpness of the details and if any glue joints were visible. Look carefully at the back, which acts as a spine for furniture. A quality piece should not have any staples. It is worthwhile to make the effort to look underneath dining tables, chairs and desks and to slide any drawers out. This will give a clear indication of any short cuts taken by the maker.
For custom-made furniture, ask for detailed scaled drawings through all cross sections. Don’t be afraid to ask about details of colour, grain direction, profiles of mouldings and joint details. Ask for a written guarantee of workmanship.
Take samples of timber home. Take your time and visit as many furniture shops as you can. Compare price and quality, recognising that something 25% cheaper might last only a quarter as long.
Take a copy of the drawing home. Make sure it is not just an un-scaled sketch scribbled on a piece of paper. You can then compare it with the built furniture before you pay the full amount. (It can be very disappointing sitting at home looking at furniture that looks nothing like what you had envisaged, especially after paying a lot of money.)
My recommendation for anyone who wants to invest in special, customised, high quality furniture is not to rush into a decision. Talk to as many cabinet makers as you can to build up your confidence in identifying and recognising real quality.