January, 2015, will mark a decade since David and Ros Sheridan arrived in Sidney, BC from Leicestershire, England. Woodworking is a part of David Sheridan’s genetic code. His passion for woodworking began as a young boy building in his mum’s garage in midland England to becoming a master craftsmen today. Sheridan created Splinters Millworks in Sidney in 2008 and as a custom cabinet and furniture builder he provides a wide range of custom millwork services. From Sidney’s Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre, the Victoria Golf Club, and custom-kitchens and furniture, Sheridan works on both residential and commercial projects.
“Built to last”, an old adage seldom heard in our current consumer culture, is the foundation that Splinters was built on. Steeped in longevity, Sheridan’s philosophy is that homes should not only look great but they should be built to last through generations. From custom kitchens to furniture, his work boasts traditional joinery techniques, such as dovetailing and mortise and tenon joints, proven to stand the test of time. Sheridan strives to create distinctly practical and durable, timeless products, with intricate and eye-catching detail.
One of the most influential furniture designers of the early modern design movement, French Industrial Furniture Designer and Engineer, Jean Prouvé (1901-1984), never designed for the sake of form alone, concentrating instead on the essence of materials, connections, and production. Prouvé designed a series of tables that have the perceived lightness of bridges and the presence of architecture. With clipped vowels and a fusion of consonants, listening to Sheridan speak about his passion for woodwork in his Leicestershire accent, you get a sense that Prouvé may have had an influence on Sheridan’s ethos as a woodworker. As Prouvé once said, “never design anything that cannot be made.”
Tell me a little bit about your history as a woodworker and your background in furniture design. I have been building things and working with wood since the age of eight. I did woodwork at school and I had a lucky break early on with an apprenticeship in Leicestershire at a company that had been around for more than a 100 years. They taught me everything I know about mastering the craft of joints done by hand used in cabinetry and furniture making. We used some machines but a lot of it was still very old school, hand done, and I appreciated that background and knowledge, it gave me a solid foundation. After my apprenticeship I went from shop to shop and lost a little bit of that old craft. But once I started my own business I brought back those techniques and started building furniture again.
What are the elements of a good piece of furniture for you? Simple lines. The fussy, more ornate styles, can look nice but it really depends on the trends and the look a client is going for. I prefer a Scandinavian look for furniture with simple, clean lines. A table like this might look simple and delicate, but to me it’s strong and makes an impact. I have also designed more ornate Chippendales-style chairs and I’ve really enjoyed that too.
I can virtually build anything people want. People come to me with a style point, a picture out of a magazine or even just an idea and I can sketch it, bring it back to them to finalize, and start building. Whether it’s curved, steam-bended, molded plywood, I can build it. I recently designed and built a scandinavian-style desk that has beautiful, strong lines.
Can you tell me about the properties of this table? It is a Prouvé-style walnut table. The top is an inch-and-a-half walnut, tapered down to three-quarter thickness. It’s dominoed together like a tenon joint. But it’s a loose tenon joint, a better version of a biscuit joint. It’s tenoned every 8 inches, then glued together and will never fall apart. Ever. The legs are inch-and-half solid walnut as well and made with Prouve’s template which are available online.
The metal work is a direct reflection of Prouve’s work as well. I zoomed in on a photo of Prouve’s work, drew it up and gave it to my metal worker to form. The legs are tenoned into the top as well so it is structurally sound; the metal work ties it together so it will never come apart. An important part of joinery is allowing the wood to move, where screws are attached to the plate, for example, I always allow for some movement.
Why should people consider investing in custom made furniture? Longevity, it lasts forever. People are more likely to attach value to it, to look after it, and take pride in it. And if it’s something that has meaning to you, you are more likely to pass it down to your children. It’s a shame because we are a throw-away society, people tend not to value quality pieces anymore. I like some Ikea furnishings but you’re definitely not going to hand that down to your children, are you? But thankfully, there is a backlash and a renewed interest in custom-made furniture.
What do you think is the motivation behind your client’s request for custom furniture? We don’t do stock pieces, each piece is commissioned and designed specifically for each client after meeting about their style and needs. I pride myself on keeping things personal and creating unique, one-of-a kind pieces. The woman I built this table for is from Alberta and was having a custom kitchen built with very modern, simple lines. They contactedSplinters to ask if I could build her a dining table to complement the clean lines of her custom kitchen.
The client was happy with my dining table suggestion and I was able to design a table that was exactly what she wanted and couldn’t buy anywhere else. We really aim to keep our prices fair and ensure everyone gets good value. The client was able to test the material for durability before she committed which I think is appealing to a lot of people. She took a piece of walnut home to do a red wine test and it wiped off beautifully. It won’t stain. Walnut is a very low maintenance wood, if it gets damaged at all you just sand it a bit, oil it, and it’s as good as new.