Canadian Woodworking

Brian Newell: pierced carving king

Blog by Rob Brown
Voodoo Cabinet

In last week’s column, I talked about pierced carving, and the great possibilities that technique offers.

It’s one of my favourite techniques, though I haven’t done much of it. It often creates a delicate-looking focal point on a piece of furniture. I mentioned one of my favourite furniture makers also uses pierced carving in their work, and asked all of you to guess who it was. “Nick” commented on the post later that day, and guessed it was Brian Newell I was talking about. Good guess, Nick! I sent Nick a tool of his choosing yesterday, a Trend Mortise and Tenon router jig.

Brian Newell, one of my favourite furniture makers in the entire world, studied under James Krenov more than two decades ago. He’s since gone on to make truly world-class furniture that impresses the heck out of me.

Although Brian uses many different techniques and approaches to bring interest into his work, it’s his pierced carving I’ll highlight here. The first piece of Brian’s I ever saw was his “Voodoo Cabinet,” which he made in 2005. This macassar ebony and pearwood piece tapers in both width and depth as it rises. Its two doors are separated by a pierced carving that opens to reveal a central bank of seven small drawers and a pair of shelves on each side.

I tried to reach Brian before writing this, but he’s a hard guy to pin down. I’ll let some images of his pieces speak for themselves.

“Voodoo Cabinet”

This was the first piece of Newell’s I saw. He made it in 2005 from Macassar ebony and pearwood.

Voodoo Cabinet

Nice Interior

The two doors open to reveal a central bank of small drawers flanked by a pair of shelves on each side.

Nice Interior

“White Cabinet”

Made of English sycamore, this cabinet by Brian Newell was made in 2004.

White Cabinet

“Cicada Cabinet”

One of his more striking pieces, the cabinet has hinged panels that open on the top to reveal storage underneath.

Cicada Cabinet

“Ebony Desk”

One of my favourites, this nine-legged macassar ebony and pearwood desk features pierced carving in its interior gallery.

Ebony Desk

“Daisy Cabinet”

Rarely do you find such a simply designed piece to be so powerful and striking.

Daisy Cabinet

“Walnut Sideboard”

Although it doesn't have any pierced carving, this sideboard is still very nicely designed and executed.

Walnut Sideboard
Last modified: December 14, 2023

Rob Brown - [email protected]

Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement. Instagram at @RobBrownTeaches

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