A Journey of Discovery: How Our Mahogany Furniture is Made
Follow us on our amazing journey to Indonesia and the exotic Island of Java to discover how our mahogany furniture is constructed and finished.
From mahogany timber yard through to final loading on a container in our factory we show just how much passion, skill, organisation, and sheer effort is involved in the production of our hand crafted mahogany furniture. And… all this intensive work is done by the wonderful people of Indonesia with a smile on their face – well they do live in some kind of paradise!
Here we go….
Well we have just come back from an exciting working trip to visit our factory in Indonesia fro where we supply all our mahogany furniture. We managed to get a look at all the processes from the Plantation , where the trees are sustainably grown, to the loading on the container that has just left. We met all the wonderful hard working people involved and were given a great welcome, nothing was too much trouble and they were very happy to show us what they do and passionate about their jobs and delivering a high standard. They all want to produce a great product and will pay great attention to getting it right even if that is going over and over it again.
They do all this whilst in high humidity (89%) and temperatures, which are cooler at the moment as there is still monsoons, of 38/40o. The monsoons are amazing and it is a constant battle to avoid moisture when packing the furniture. It takes a little getting used to as it is humid and hot from 07.00am in the morning through to the end of the day, getting slightly cooler when the sun goes down at around 6.00pm, but only slighty! Most people start work at 07.00 and finish about 4.30/5.00 as it is dark by 6.00pm and as there are no street lights and the roads are not brilliant it can be a bit scary riding a scooter in the dark.
Plantation and Sawing
The mahogany wood we use to construct our furniture is sustainably grown in plantations. We hold the Certificate to confirm the wood is sourced correctly and I saw this Certificate in all the places we deal with. The wood is cut down and transported by lorry. The wood is then chosen by the man in charge of the sawing and taken to his sawmill.
On our trip we wanted to follow the process so we visited the sawmill one day and saw them cutting the wood that has been chosen, into planks. There can be different thicknesses depending on what is required and of course not all logs are the same so the planks can be of different sizes and shapes. This does mean that it is important that the correct plank of wood is chosen for the piece of furniture and if there are several pieces in one order they will do their best to choose wood from the same tree and similar planks so that the grain matches as much as it possibly can.
The process is labour intensive and the machinery is basic but it works well and if anything needs repairing then there is people on site to do it and no need to wait to call someone from another town that would take several hours to get to them. The massive saw that is used is sharpened on site by a special piece of machinery as it is too far and costly to send it away to be sharpened, (I have attached a video of them doing this). It also means that they can continue to sharpen one saw whilst using one of the others. It is very hot working in those conditions but it is continuous and they are always smiling.
This vintage! saw blade sharpening machine (video below) looks like something from the industrial revolution. It takes a while to get it going but once it did it was very effective. The blades need sharpening after ever 10th log or so. Overtime, as the blade is sharpened, it is worn away and after about 20 times being sharpened it has to be discarded.
Once the wood has been sawn into planks it is taken to our supplier who arranges for it to be dipped and kiln dried. The dipping is important as this makes sure that any insects/bugs etc are completely destroyed. It is very important that the wood is dried carefully so that it can be used to make furniture without it warping and splitting. Not all suppliers do this and it can lead to major problems later on, our supplier has been doing this for years and is very mindful and pays a great deal of attention to this stage. The wood is stacked in the kilns and dried at a very high temperature for between 2 – 4 weeks depending on the thickness of the wood. I did stand in front of one of these when they opened it for me and despite being in great heat anyway, the blast of hot air that hit me was incredible to the point I did not want to breathe in as the hot air was burning the inside of my nose!!
After this the wood is taken to the drying room if required or is then used to make the furniture. If after construction there is still any moisture then it goes back into the drying room and then is checked and serviced again when it comes out.
Wood (Mahogany) Selection and Raw State
Once this wood is ready then the correct piece of wood is chosen for the piece of furniture that is to be made and that is an individual choice each time. For example in terms of length an thickness and also for table tops making sure the planks have no knots in unwanted places. The carpenter that is going to make that specific piece of furniture will then take that wood and make the furniture in the “raw” state to whatever specification is needed, i.e. size etc. For bespoke pieces of furniture he will work from a plan drawing supplied by drawing office other standard pieces the carpenters may already have the ‘pattern’ to work from.
Construction & Carving
First stage Finishing
After the skilled and talented carpenters have done their job the people in the factory take over the finishing. They check for any flaws, cracks, marks, knots in the grain of the mahogany wood. They make sure that it meets the standard and that the joints are secure etc. They also check that edges are flush if they need to be and mark on the pieces any areas that need to be double checked. If extra carvings or mouldings need to be added to a piece of furniture this is where it is added. These are very important steps and so there are a lot of people working on this as attention to detail and quality is so important Once they have done this and they are happy it will go to the spray room and the colour will be added. Making sure that the spray is evenly done is a knack in itself and the spray team have years of experience. It has to be done in a confined area otherwise it can spread within the factory. There is also a completely, and in a different part of the factory, spray room for the painted furniture, I,e, white, grey, black, silver etc
The furniture is then taken to dry and on to the next stage of checking;
Quality control and finishing
By this time the furniture has been handled and checked several times at different stages, all of these checks are to ensure that the furniture is perfect. However nothing gets past the last stage. This is where the runners are added to the drawers and put into the desks, the tables are all checked over to make sure nothing is out of place, the wardrobes have the doors checked and so it goes on. If there is a mark, or an uneven area, or even a little scratch it will be sanded down and redone. I have watched one man redo the same spot with extreme precision a few times until he got it exactly correct, each time fine tuning. The tables are sanded using different fine grades of sand paper and then polished and all the furniture is put together to make sure it matches and fits and again if a little bit of sanding to make it run smoothly is required, this is where it is done. Once everyone is happy with the furniture, and they are passionate about delivering a brilliant piece of furniture, they will then wrap it ready for transport. That does mean in the case of the bed , desks and large pieces of furniture dismantling it again and packing it well so that it arrives undamaged.
Finally after all the furniture has been checked and they are happy with it, it is wrapped so that it is protected whilst it is on its journey, the factory guys are experts at this and have it down to a fine art. The next stage is the loading of the container which is important, it has to be done carefully to protect the furniture that is on there and make sure that it is packed so that it does not moved about. This is so important that there are specialist teams that go around from factory to factory doing this. The people that the factory use, are the same team they have been using for a number of years and so are brilliant at it. It then leaves for the port to be loaded onto a container ship and make its way to Felixstowe in the UK.