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Trust the Experts: Turning Timber Into Legs

    At George Smith, we believe that inspirational interiors require exceptional furniture, and that quality will always be more important than speed and cost. We have the largest team of master upholsterers in the UK, some of whom have been with us since George Smith first opened its doors in 1985. Trust the Experts is a series that sheds light and shows admiration for some of the key processes required in the manufacture of our exceptional furniture.

What is the Turning Process?

Using a lathe, a block of timber is carved into legs in a process called turning. Turning is a carving technique in which a block of wood is rotated at high speeds while a fixed cutting tool removes material forming the desired shape. The legs are shaped to our standard designs or can be made entirely bespoke depending on the piece. Each leg is then sandpapered to ensure a perfect finish over the curves and fine lines of the carving; the wood is now ready for staining and polishing.

Meet Richie...

Richie is our master-turner who has worked at the George Smith Factory in Cramlington for 22years. Richie learnt the craft of turning from a three year apprenticeship at college before undertaking in-house training. Richie contributes to each piece of George Smith furniture and estimates he makes around 15,000 legs per year! At George Smith, we are not aware of another manufacturer in the UK that turn their own legs. We continue to do it ourselves to ensure the renowned George Smith quality from start to finish and so that we can offer bespoke designs.

What are the Challenges of Turning?

At George Smith we work with hardwood timber which means that turning is more difficult, Richie has to make sure that he takes his time and uses smaller cuts to avoid splitting the wood. Ensuring the piece produced meets the exact expectations of our client is crucial. Often Richie will work from a sketch to ensure the visual silhouette is correct, however, as with most natural materials, each piece of timber is unique in colour, grain structure and hardness which can be challenging to work with.

How are the legs stained and polished?

Polishing and staining the wood is a bespoke process in itself. Stains are mixed using our own recipes, or entirely new recipes depending on the client's requirements. The stain is then applied by hand with a technique that rubs the stain on and off before sanding it back. This process is then repeated several times to build richness and depth of colour. A layer of lacquer is then sprayed on to achieve a finished sheen that offers protection.

sustainable craftsmanship
Image: Hana Snow

Leg Trivia

    In the Victorian era, upper-crust society members were so cartoonishly prudish that it was considered proper to cover up the legs of tables or pianos, for fear of bare “legs” of any kind being too evocative.

Want to learn more about our craftsmanship?

Call our London showroom to learn more about the craftsmanship that goes into every piece of George Smith furniture.

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