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August 2016

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Wiltshire Handmade Furniture

Sam Bertram

12 August 2016

With so much mass produced furniture on the market there’s nothing better than having some handmade wooden furniture in your home. We spoke to Bill Hazelwood at Wiltshire Timbercrafts to find out more about what he does. Tell us about the wood you use to make furniture ‘I mainly use oak and burr oak but have just taken delivery of two lovely Elm butts.  I can also get Ash which is slivery white on the outside and dark towards the middle but people don’t like Ash furniture anymore. These days it’s tricky to get Elm which has a beautiful grain. Unfortunately most Elms were killed off by disease and what little you can get is from Scotland and quite rotted.  Elm used to be about 3/4s of what I did and was very dry and stable. I do have some walnut that I love working with but there’s not much demand for it as it is so dark so I work with it for my own satisfaction only. I get all my timber from Studley Sawmills between Chippenham and Calne so it’s all local and I can get it all year round. It’s a long term project buying wood as after buying it you need to lay it down for a year before kilning.  So I have lots of wood in stock.’ What are your most popular items? ‘The most popular items I make are coffee tables and nests of tables and I’ve recently sold a lot of my mini chests which people use for storage cabinets or storing things like jewellery etc. I have one on my desk at home which is full of my papers.  However I also do cabinets, chest of drawers and tables etc to order.’ What do you love about woodwork? ‘I get a big kick out of converting a rough piece of timber into something that looks beautiful. It gives me a great deal of personal satisfaction so I’m lucky to have a business that I love.  I’ve been making wooden furniture for 50 years although only 31 years of that has been fulltime. Finish is important and that takes almost as long as constructing the item in the first place.  It’s important to have a soft looking finish. It’s not as enjoyable as constructing the item itself but it’s obviously a really important part of the process. I mainly use a water based acrylic from Fiddes in Cardiff.’ How have things changed? ‘Afrormosia and Parana Pine used to be very popular but became banned timbers because of the dereliction of forest from which they were poached. I’ve still got an Afrormosia chopping board. The sort of timbers you can use have changed really dramatically.  I was lucky to get hold of some spalted hornbeam the other day.  Tastes have really changed though – I used to do curvier designs but now people prefer things straighter and more angular and light wood rather than dark. It’s the Ikea effect!’ Where can people find you? ‘I have some of the items on my website but you can always ring up and visit me in my workshop. I also go to a lot of fairs throughout the summer. I’ll be at Stonar Park near Henley over the August Bank holiday weekend, Penshurst place in Kent on 9th to 11th and Hyde End near Great Missenden in 7th to 9th October. It’s still a way off but I’m also doing a Christmas show at Wield & Downland Open Air museum near Chichester which is a lovely venue. I can do commissions but also have lots in stock ready for purchase. Even better it’s all local UK wood and made by fair hand in Wiltshire. Come and visit.’ www.wiltshiretimbercraft.co.uk  

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