Forget Ikea: Meet the Kiwi making furniture the traditional way

by RNZ / 18 January, 2019

Richard Hare Photo: RNZ/Supplied

Bay of Islands’ Richard Hare makes furniture the old way.

American double bow rocking chairs, Windsor settees, pedestal tables, ladder-back carver fancy slat chairs - traditional greenwood chair-making is a rare skill these days. And it’s one Bay of Islands’ furniture marker and workshop tutor Richard Hare adores.

Traditional greenwood chair-making is basically the pre-industrial revolution way of making chairs, Hare explains.

He only uses hand tools, some of which date back to the 16th century, and carves pieces directly out of straight grained wood logs. It’s a method that keeps the wood’s strength and flexibility as it’s made into a chair.

“I make chairs traditionally because they’re a beautiful, naturally evolved product that had lots of techniques that aren’t used anymore,” he tells Radio NZ's Summer Times.

“I can’t think of a better way of making a chair that will last generations.”

Hare says he was previously more interested in making Scandinavian-type modern furniture but was drawn to traditional greenwood chair-making because of the tool work involved.

“As well as using tools that I enjoyed using, I was making a product that is a very sustainable and appropriate product.”

He says making a more contemporary chair using the traditional techniques is on his “bucket list” but that it’s very difficult to do without compromising the process.

Hare says he can use a variety of different trees for the chairs if it’s a “fairly clean splitting” hardwood.

Read more: New Zealand's talented craftspeople harness the allure of the handmadeThe old-school goldsmith making jewels with a story

While in the South Island he primarily used native beech. In Australia and the North Island, he’s used eucalyptus. His preference, if he can get it, is ash or English beech.

His tools have come to him in different ways over the years, and he says they’ve become an extension of who he is.

“One of the things that really intrigues me about this craft is the fact that these tools are hand-eye coordinated. The skill of it is the knack. After nearly 700 chairs, I’m still getting the knack.

“It’s a constant challenge and that keeps me passionate about it.”

This article was first published on Radio NZ's Summer Times programme.

Latest

Norah Jones’s new beginning and return to New Zealand
104817 2019-04-21 00:00:00Z Music

Norah Jones’s new beginning and return to New Zeal…

by Russell Baillie

The jazz songstress is staying inspired by writing with others.

Read more
Bill Ralston: Only fundamentalist Christians should be hurt by Israel Folau
104814 2019-04-20 00:00:00Z Social issues

Bill Ralston: Only fundamentalist Christians shoul…

by Bill Ralston

Israel Folau’s social-media post might condemn the Wallabies to Rugby World Cup hell, but the rest of us should ignore him.

Read more
What happens next with the Mueller report?
104863 2019-04-20 00:00:00Z World

What happens next with the Mueller report?

by Noted

Did Trump “corrupt” with intent?

Read more
The Heart Dances: Lifting the lid on the culture clash behind ‘The Piano’ ballet
104740 2019-04-20 00:00:00Z Movies

The Heart Dances: Lifting the lid on the culture c…

by Russell Baillie

Documentary offers an intriguing look at the clash of artistic sensibilities behind adapting The Piano into a ballet.

Read more
How this remarkable native insect is being saved
104836 2019-04-20 00:00:00Z Planet

How this remarkable native insect is being saved

by Jenny Nicholls

Principles of bird conservation are helping to save another remarkable native you’ve never heard of.

Read more
Environment Ministry 'unashamedly proud' of bleak report's honesty
104868 2019-04-20 00:00:00Z Planet

Environment Ministry 'unashamedly proud' of bleak…

by RNZ

The Secretary for the Environment Vicky Robertson said she was proud of the report's honesty and it was an important stocktake for the country.

Read more
The new What We Do in the Shadows is more dad joke than demonic
104712 2019-04-19 00:00:00Z Television

The new What We Do in the Shadows is more dad joke…

by Diana Wichtel

Diana Wichtel reviews a new American TV series based on the hit Kiwi comedy.

Read more
Louis & Louise is a satisfying exploration of gender and identity
104230 2019-04-19 00:00:00Z Books

Louis & Louise is a satisfying exploration of gend…

by Brigid Feehan

In her latest novel, Julie Cohen traces the parallel male and female lives of a single character.

Read more