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So I made a real beginner’s mistake this morning. I had a fantastic conversation with Rob from Damn Fine Furniture and so faffed up the recording. So what I’m going to do is I’ll just talk through some of the things that we spoke about because I feel like I learned a lot from what Rob was talking to me about. And then I’m going to get him back on and I’ll make sure I get the recording right this time.
So Rob was a scientist. That was his career and he retired from that. And I get the feeling he was a little bit over. There was too much stress and it wasn’t really giving him the sort of fulfilment that he was after. And this is a man who’s obviously highly intelligent. He was working at Harvard in the U.S. for four years and really needed a new calling as he was getting towards his retirement years.
And so he found woodwork. And it was not something that he’d done during his life. It wasn’t a lifelong hobby or it wasn’t something that he’d been practicing forever. But he had the time to just really get into it in great detail and really embrace making timber products. And some of the things that he’s made like which you can see on his website, you can see that they’re quite unique pieces. Like Rob said himself, he doesn’t batch the jobs that he does. So even if you want three boxes, he’ll make them each one individually from start to finish. So that when he makes something, it is a unique piece. It’s not something that is turned out in bulk.
And I think that’s the sort of thing that when you’re doing something as part hobby and part passion, it means that you can take the time to do things one at a time. And Rob knows that it’s hard to make commercially viable, like commission jobs. And he’s not looking to have a whole new full-time career necessarily out of woodwork. I mean, he really enjoys what he does. And when you’re talking to him, you get the distinct reminder that this is someone who’s gone from a very intellectual background. He’s been in an occupation where, sure, sometimes he might have been working with his hands but really what he was creating was knowledge and information and that obviously, when you’re in that, it’s incredibly interesting and the challenge of solving problems. But to go to an occupation, if you like, where at the end it’s something you can pick up and hold. And the way Rob described it he said like when you’re sanding this box or this table and it’s sort of dusty and doesn’t really… it just looks like a piece of timber and sort of comes together slowly, but when you get to the end and you finish sanding it, and you stain timber, and you see this finished piece, it is the total satisfaction of taking a raw material, a raw piece of timber and turning that into this beautiful piece of furniture or something that you know people will be proud to have in their home.
And he’s done things like toy chests, and chests for embroidery and fabulous dining tables and coffee tables and whole tables. And he also said he doesn’t really do chairs because you’re better off going and buying the chair from department stores. Some of the tables that he’s done are amazing. And well you can see is that he really does put himself into the job. So when he sits down with someone for a truly commissioned piece and they say, “I really want… create us a new dining room table that we can be proud of.” And he can sort of work out what type of timber would you like to use and what style do you want the table to be and that kind of thing. And he really gets a kick out of doing that. So in the true sense of the word, he’s getting satisfaction from that creative process.
And when I was talking to Richard Raffan who does training and courses in the U.S.A., he finds that when he’s over there, people flock to his courses who are doctors and lawyers and scientists and computer engineers. So people who have highly intellectual jobs who deal with information and knowledge every day. They are drawn to woodwork and especially woodturning because of the reward that you get from making something that is real and that comes out in the end and you can be proud of.
And it’s something you can put on the shelf or give to somebody. And Rob said that a lot of the time, he will make a gift. He’ll make something which he gives as a gift. And it could be for family or friends. And he knows that really, in their hearts they want it, but they just can’t necessarily afford to spend $500 or $1,000 on this bespoke piece of furniture. But he gets satisfaction from creating these things for people that he knows and appreciates that that’s him giving back to them. And they’re so appreciative of it. It’s just something really unique and thoughtful.
And something also I’ve picked up that he does, which is really brilliant, is he’s actually mentored a few people. And he’s got a young bloke that he’s helping to finish of a table. And he’s only near 12, I think, or he’s 18 years old and he’s done a table project for school. So he’s giving back in a way to the community a little bit as well. And he’s not highly involved in like the men’s sheds or the woodworking clubs and things like that, but he spends a lot of time on the woodwork forums and a lot of time answering people’s questions and chatting people about what they’re doing and helping them with problems, and really becoming a part of that online community which is completely accessible for him. He’s in Victoria which is part of Australia that, okay, there might be a certain number of people there who do woodwork but he’s got access to talk to hundreds of thousands of people potentially on the woodwork forums.
And for someone that is in their senior years, just to see him make use of the technology, and he’s got his website set up, and really participate in that is great to see.
And we talked a bit about tools like where to buy the best quality tools. And probably if you’re looking for a really good woodworking turning equipment, then the big hardware store is probably not the place to go. They’ll have things at a price point that are not probably going to last you for a long time. And so the place to buy these kinds of tools, if you want a lathe that’s going to last you for a decade, is like a commercial type tool place where tradespeople shop. They know their product and they have high-quality products and still like some of the best equipment comes out of the U.K. and Germany. And he said there is some products coming out of China now which is very high-quality but you need to be careful about what you’re buying and know what you’re getting so that you get good quality stuff.
So if you are in Melbourne, in Australia, and you are somewhere near Eagle Point, then Rob does see people by appointment and he does do commission work. You can find him on his website at damnfinefurniture.com and he’d be happy to have a talk to you if you are looking to get some furniture made. And I think, look, he doesn’t run courses and classes as such but if you’re a good honest person and you’d like to talk to him about a certain technique or maybe get some advice on how to do something or get him to help you finish a project, have a talk to him. It’s not something that is his sort of main preoccupation but I get the feeling that he does like to help people especially if you’re new to the woodworking and just getting started and you are really enthusiastic about it. I mean, he had a less than exciting experience with one person that he tried to help but his heart’s definitely in the right place.
The work that he does is really fantastic and for someone that has only picked up this as a real full-time occupation in the recent years, these are some fantastic work. He really obviously wanted to master it. And he’s always trying new techniques and pushing himself to learn new methods and work with different timbers. You know, he had a client who wanted to get a table made of Huan Pine. The client went themselves to Tasmania to a store and bought the timber and had it sent back to him. So he’s quite of open to doing that kind of thing too.
So I definitely will get back on to Rob soon and have another chat with him. I hope this has given you a bit of an insight into the kind of person he is and what he does and yeah, we’ll get him back on soon. Thank you.