THE CRAFT OF CARPENTRY: AN INTERVIEW WITH DAVID CHENG
Penhaligon’s sits down with carpenter David Cheng, student of the Prince’s Foundation, to discuss the dressing table and chairs made to celebrate the release of Highgrove Bouquet, our royally inspired fragrance.
What was the inspiration behind the table you made for Highgrove and Penhaligon's?
In conversation at Garrison Chapel with myself, my tutor William and Penhaligon's, we came up with the idea to combine some of the designs and skills I had learnt from the course with making a display for Highgrove Bouquet. During the course at Highgrove, I designed a Windsor chair which I wanted to include in the display, so I decided to make a dressing table to complement it. I linked the fragrance and the furniture together by incorporating a limewood drawer-front with carved lime leaves, in tribute to the silver lime notes in the fragrance.
Can you talk us through the process of making the dressing table?
The first stage was to make a prototype to work out the correct dimensions of the dressing table in relation to the chair. Once the prototype was correct, I selected the timber I needed, which involved carefully looking at the grain and colour of the wood. The spindled frame was made using olive ash, which is the dark section in an ash board. For the tabletop, I used rippled ash. I sawed this in half down the thickness to make two boards, and then glued them together: this is called book matching. The drawer was joined with hand cut dovetail using a traditional method,and features a solid cedar base which gives a lovely smell when opening the drawer. The drawer front was made from limewood, which links to the fragrance.
Had you worked with this type of wood before? Was there a lot of differences?
Yes, I have worked with ash before; it's one of my favourite timbers to use because of the beautiful grain and how the colour can change from blonde to olive. The timber used in the chair and dressing table is all British-grown timber which is very good to be able to use.
What inspired you to take up carpentry?
I always made things as a child with my Grandad, which got me interested in woodwork and influenced my decision to take Resistant Materials at GCSE. A talented box maker worked at my school and taught me how to do hand-cut joints (like dovetails) and marquetry. I then went onto study at Rycotewood Furniture College for three years.
How did you learn about the Prince Foundation Snowdon School of Furniture, and why did you apply?
I found out about the school through social media. I applied because it sounded really interesting to learn about the whole process of the timber trade, and learning about sustainable design using wood.
Has the Prince's Foundation course changed the way you think about carpentry and furniture?
Yes, it has definitely changed the way I think about where the timber comes from, and all of the different British timbers that could be used for furniture making.
What is your favourite piece you've created and why?
My favourite piece is the dressing table and chair because they were the first pieces of furniture I created which linked together. These pieces are made from all British timber, which makes them my favourite as well.
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