Not many people know this about me, but I started my work life doing a joinery apprenticeship. My dad was a career joiner and I began working with him when I was a teenager. It wasn’t always much fun – at that age you get all the jobs no one else wants to do like crawling in loft spaces – but the work was honest and there was plenty of job satisfaction to be had. However, one winter, in Worksop, whilst digging in frozen-solid ground for the shutters needed for the foundations of the new Bassetlaw hospital extension, I had a moment of clarity. Did I really want to spend the rest of my life doing this? No! My next full-time job was working as a bench-joiner building furniture for banks and supermarkets. Now this job I loved! Not only was it indoors, but the work was interesting, my colleagues were goof fun, and there was even more job satisfaction to be had. It’s a great feeling looking at a well-crafted piece of furniture you’ve made practically from scratch. And my life would have panned out very differently if by a twist of fate, the company lost a contract and they had to let some of the workers go – last ones in, first ones out. And that was the end of that chapter of my life. I moved to France a few weeks later and didn’t end up back in Sheffield until 7 years later.
I may not work with wood anymore, but I do still know my way around a joinery workshop. Back in the days of shop furniture we’d be using a lot of chipboard and wood-effect laminate. Why? Because it was cheap and hard-wearing. However, if you’re more interested in making something authentic and beautiful, you’d probably be looking at using solid wood instead. However, the problem is that large, solid, real-wooden boards are expensive and potentially contain weaknesses like knots. A good alternative is finger jointed panels as this provides incredibly large panels up-to 6 metres and in a range of different woods such as beech, ash, oak, maple or walnut. This allows you to not only save time but it’s also often a much cheaper alternative. And many people also like the ‘striped’ effect you get!