Dawid, Thembinkosi (Welcome), Kenneth and Michael are part of the Woodbender family and they make up the Cutting and Bending team. Some of them have been working at the company for 15 years producing our solid wood furniture, while the newest recruit has been there a year and a half.
Founder and owner Charles Mast, who experimented with bending and built most of the machinery still used today, always describes the bending as both a science and an art. There is science in the wood density and steam time and getting that balance perfect. There is also art and skill in operating the machinery, watching and listening to the wood carefully in order to adjust and tweak settings when necessary.
We asked the team about the role they play in producing our custom made furniture and the unique process they’re involved in, which makes every Woodbender piece as original as the tree it is made from.
- What is your favourite part of the cutting and bending process?
“I used to look at furniture in the shops and wonder how it was made – I didn’t even know that you could bend wood until coming to Woodbender! Now I know how it’s done, what the steaming times are, what straps to use, how to know what each plank of wood requires in preparation for bending – and I am the one doing it.” Thembinkosi (Welcome)
“Teamwork is my favourite part: it’s so important to work as a team in order to succeed. You need to learn each other’s personalities, strengths and weaknesses and listen to each other. We work well as a team in complementing each other’s skills.” Kenneth
“I enjoy the responsibility that comes along with the cutting of the wood: it’s an expensive resource that needs to be cut correctly, otherwise it’s wasted. Also, if we don’t cut parts correctly, it will have a negative ripple effect through the factory, with the other departments having to work on incorrect lengths of wood.” Dawid
- What is your favourite part to bend?
A few members of the team said that crafting the rings is a special and skilful bend to master and a challenge that is great when you get it right. Dawid likes developing the parts of new chairs, determining how best to go about cutting, turning and bending them, in order to make our custom made furniture pieces.
- What skills or techniques are required to make you good at your job?
“You need to read the wood and know what’s required for it to bend correctly. This involves steam times and understanding the wood density through the tree ring spacing and also the weight and sound when hitting the floor. Welcome (Thembinkosi)
“ You need to know which straps and clips are required for each bend. Some of the equipment looks very similar but they all have very different functions and you need to know the difference.” Dawid/Welcome (Thembinkosi)
“You need to understand the machines and look after them carefully.” Dawid
“There is so much to learn in our department and the younger benders are grateful to be a part of a team that has such experience and knowledge to learn from. There is an excitement to develop and excel in the department”. Kenneth
Above all, the team needs to work confidently and cautiously, as aspects of the job (like cutting and removing of the straps) are very dangerous.
The Cutting and Bending team have a large workload but they enjoy the daily challenges, mastering the intricate processes and working together as a tightly knit team that perfectly balances each other. After all, it’s only by working as a team that we can produce solid wood furniture of the calibre that we do at Woodbender.