Monday, 15 December 2014

Quality Woodwork; Factory Tour of Fechters South Africa

Fechters furniture manufacturer in Knysna, Western Cape, is the latest stop in our series of visits to masters of wood in South Africa. MornĂ© Smith is the operations manager for Fechters and showed us around their factory.  It is a fascinating place; one of the few yards where raw timber comes into the compound at one end and leaves the other end as finished goods.
Established in 1936, Fechters continues its commitment to the traditional “Cape Dutch style” designs and to training local young people to produce a high level of craftsmanship. 

That’s not to say this company is lost in the past: modern manufacturing processes and more contemporary designs coupled with old-fashioned skill and experience are producing some outstanding work.  Keep an eye out for the live edge table with a glass centre being finished prior to exhibition - the butterfly joint is a beautiful piece of work.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Best of the Woodworking Web - Shaped on all Six Sides: Wooden Boat Carpentry

Shaped on all Six Sides from New Canada on Vimeo.

Another golden nugget from the Woodworking Web. Andy Stewart is a wooden boat builder based in Washington. Boat carpentry is in Andy's blood, and the tools he is using today are the same tools his ancestors used in the craft generations before him.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Woodworking Book Review : Complete Illustrated Guide to Finishing, by Jeff Jewitt

Complete Illustrated Guide to Finishing By Jeff Jewitt

It's not how you start, it's how you finish! OK, couldn't resist that, but for many woodworkers the finish applied to their work is the crowning glory for their efforts. However, achieving that perfect finish isn't always easy.

The Complete Illustrated Guide to Finishing by Jeff Jewitt is now ten years old but continues to be the reference guide for finishing techniques from the ever-popular stable of the Taunton Press. Though the book is written as a dip-in-and-out guide and a long-term reference to be used in the workshop, it makes no assumptions and is helpful for woodworkers whatever their skill level.

Much of the most important information is where you would expect it, at the start of the book with detailed instructions about setting up a suitable environment. Fortunately, the author recognises that, for most of us, a purpose-built spray room, in a separate annex wing of our extensive workshop is, though desirable, not always feasible, and he gives simple instructions for the mortals amongst us to achieve an effective working space within a reasonable budget. 

After the obligatory section on suitable tools required for finishing, where the general rule seems to be one more than you anticipated for your last project", the author gets into the meat of the subject.

Surface preparation: there is no easy way round this folks, if you want the very best result from your work before applying any kind of finish you have to prepare the surface thoroughly. For me, this is probably the best part of the book. All the basic techniques are covered, using both hand and power tools together with some great tips and techniques that on your own would take years to figure out.

The section on fixing defects will be invaluable for those of us who might be a little over-zealous with the glue pot or have to make do with less than perfect stock to make our projects. Recognising that a blemish must be hidden well before applying a finish coat is an important lesson and there are some excellent techniques here to help the woodworker master the art of concealment.

Using stains or adding colour, artificial or natural dye to your work can have a dramatic effect on the outcome especially for decorative / art pieces. Getting the dye to take with the shade you expect can be a trial and error process but this guide gives clear instructions helping you get closer to your goals with fewer experiments" on the way. 

The remainder of the book is a terrific work of reference to help you choose the right finish for each job, the materials you require and the application technique particular to each skilled operation. Not something to read cover to cover, but worth a browse as you contemplate how to finish that prize project you have been slaving over for months.

Would I buy this book? The short answer is yes; I can find no other reference with quite the depth of information on such a range of techniques in one place. Sure, there are books just about French polishing or applying a stain but this volume pulls all of the best information into a single place. Although it has been ten years since it was first published, this guide is as good as ever.

Complete Illustrated Guide to Finishing (Complete Illustrated Guides (Taunton Press))by Jeff Jewitt is available from  and other retailers online.  ISBN-978-1-62710-767-9

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Sk8Shades - Making Wooden Sunglasses From Skateboards

Sk8Shades, based in Durban, South Africa, makes hand-crafted sunglasses with wood recycled from used skateboards. Dave de Witt, the man behind the company, came up with the idea when his sunglasses began falling apart and he decided to use the wood from an old skateboard to create his first pair of Sk8Shades.

On the Sk8Shades website, Dave describes the creation process: Once the used boards have their grip tape removed and have been cross-cut, ripped, planed, sanded, laminated, squared, veneered, sanded and sized, they are ready for laminating into a curve. This is done, one-by-one, using clamps and moulds made from off-cuts of birch plywood. Shaping edging and grooving takes place on one of the bench-mounted routers and comes 24 hours after being removed from the moulds. Temples are shaped from the tails and noses retaining some of the graphics. All moulds, templates and tooling is made in-house using basic tools, woodworking machinery and a few Franken-tools made up from various pawn-shop finds. With +250 laminated glue joints in our layered frames and up to 200 in our Dirty or Clean frames, Sk8 Shades are rebuilt layer by layer to create a strong, lightweight and comfortable frame.

We were lucky enough to be given our very own Sk8Shades by Dave made using Triton tools and these are now proudly on display at Triton HQ.

Check out Dave's website to see more of his designs :

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Choose Woodwork for Life

Meet Alistair ‘Jock’ McConnachie - a man with a passion for nature, wood, and creating beautiful objects.
Having served time as a lawyer in Cape Town, Jock decided to change direction and get closer to nature.  The result is Timber Village - a truly unique part saw mill and lumber yard and part artisan workshops and show room for bespoke contemporary furniture. There is even a museum highlighting the history of the timber trade in and around the area.

Visitors can choose from an amazing selection of indigenous timbers, which includes some truly spectacular woods, due to the fact Timber Village is based in the Knsyna forest on South Africa’s Garden Route.  In this short film Jock talks about Timber Village as well as the motivation to work with wood creating custom furniture. Look out for the giant slab of Yellowwood - a jaw-dropping piece of exotic timber.

Timber Village played host to the recent ‘Working with Wood’ festival in Knysna, and you can see more about that in our earlier post working-with-wood-festival. We will be checking back with Jock at a later date to see how the Yellowwood slab develops.
If you would like to know more about Timber Village please visit their website:

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Surf meets woodwork, meets art.

The Triton blog has been showcasing exceptional individuals we would describe as ‘Masters of Wood’ for some time now. Our latest Master is Patrick Burnett from Kommetjie near Cape Town, South Africa. Patrick has a love of the sea and surfing, and he has combined that with a passion for working with wood – designing and hand-crafting stunning hollow wood surfboards. We visited Patrick to find out more about his work and the drive behind his creative process.

For those interested in learning more about Patrick’s work, his approach to sustainable craft, and details of how to book a course where you can make your own board, please see his website:

Monday, 27 October 2014

Working with Wood festival, Knysna

Our Triton team recently visited South Africa to meet woodworkers and gather information to share on the Triton blog. We met some interesting and talented woodworkers, from an independent craftsman making beautiful wooden surfboards, to a modern factory reproducing traditional designs. We will share their stories with you over the next few weeks.

This is the first of our stories from Knysna, a traditional timber and woodworking town situated on the coast in Western Cape at the foot of South Africa.  Knysna originally developed as a timber town to support the growing colony in Cape Town,  and the ‘Working with Wood Festival’ was organised in support of the Knysna Timber Initiative (KTI), a non-profit association of stakeholders in the timber industry, including local government. The festival is held at Timber Village, an extraordinary woodyard and craft centre and a real melting pot of information and ideas for woodworkers.  We will take you on a tour round the Timber Village in more detail in another post.

In addition to the main site, festival visitors were also able to visit local timber factories in Knysna and surrounding areas to see how local wood products are made, and to buy locally manufactured items.  All aspects of timber production was on show - from young tree seedlings, timber harvesting and milling technology, to fine furniture and craft products - all made by local individuals or businesses.  The Working with Wood Festival hopes to inspire and grow interest in the town’s heritage, and to spread the word that specialist knowledge and skills both in forestry and fine timber production are still flourishing in Knysna today..

Fine design and craftsmanship from Fechters on display
Traditional skills from Timber village