Just before Christmas I was approached by the multi-talented Steven Holland at Just Inspire to design and construct a set of indoor dining furniture, 12 x 2m tables with matching benches for Mead Open Farm.
Mead Open Farm is a play farm in Leighton Buzzard. It is reinventing itself with an exciting new vegetable themed soft play area and a restaurant that prides itself on its local produce and child friendly menu.
The farm wanted something rustic, stylish, durable and with a family appeal. Not too much to ask then!
After I produced a range of samples, Matt from Open Mead chose ash as his preferred timber. It is a real favourite of mine and more economical than oak.
I was able to get hold of a large quantity of English Ash fresh out of the kiln from Tyler Hardwoods in Hungerford who specialize in English timber. A traditional family run business, they select their trees whilst they are still standing.
Ash is usually quite a pale timber and joiners will often specify white ash. However I am a big fan of the coloured sections of ash referred to as the olive wood. Buying large quantities like this means we get lots of olive wood which gives a stripey two tone appearance. I accentuated this in the construction process by joining sticks together to make exaggerated olive and white sections.
Design and Construction
If there is one thing I hate it’s a wobbly table or bench so I used a substantial cross leg system. This will help to reduce any movement even over time and the hammering I expect it to endure from some of the 280,000 visitors the farm gets each year.
I don’t often mass-produce anything so I wanted to make sure the quality, style and finish were on a par with my one off pieces.
Due to the size of the job I chose to invest in some new toys, Derek the drum sander and Doris the Domino from Festool.
Derek has been a brilliant investment and will be used for everything, but the real new star of the workshop is Doris Domino.
Put simply she is probably the best tool I’ve ever bought.
Her unique motion creates perfectly aligned, elongated, movement free dowel joints very quickly and accurately.
It enabled me to create tabletops quickly and very flat, reducing sanding time and preserving the maximum thickness of the top.
With Tom working with me we ripped through the task in record time. The workshop extension had its first real work out doubling as a store and finishing room as we danced around the ever-growing towers of benches.
There was something very grand about the sheer quantity of highly finished furniture.
It is now installed in its new home and I’m eagerly awaiting feedback from their grand opening.