Canadian Woodworking

Meet John Glendinning

Blog by Rob Brown
John Glendinning

Today I just want to introduce you to a guy I met at the Interior Design Show in Toronto close to 20 years ago.

When I first started my furniture-making business and was trying to promote myself to potential clients, I did a lot of shows. Many were small craft shows, fairs and the like. I’d set up a 10′ x 10′ tent, unload a bunch of furniture under it and chat with people as they walked by. These weren’t always a huge success, but I did fairly well at them. Because of the relatively low cost to show my work there, as well as the simplicity of doing so (drive up and unload), I considered a show to be good if I sold one piece of furniture or connected with someone who wanted a piece made.

Some of the shows were the opposite, though. Lots of preparation of pieces of furniture, the design and construction of a booth, hauling all this stuff to the show, setting everything up, then spending anywhere from two to five long and tiring days standing there hoping to meet clients. One of these days I’ll write about some of these shows, and how they sucked the life right out of me, but today I just want to introduce you to a guy I met at the Interior Design Show in Toronto close to 20 years ago.

John Glendinning

I was a part of a collection of makers who were all grouped together in the same area. We were all small companies and generally were owner / operators working alone. From glass artists and metalsmiths to woodworkers and fashion artists, there was a bit of everything there. One of the other furniture makers was a guy I’d seen online before, but had never met: John Glendinning.

His work was featured by the Ontario Craft Council (now Craft Ontario) and he graduated from both Sheridan College and Conestoga College. I really enjoyed his work and we hit it off right away. We mainly lamented about how hard it was to sell well-made furniture to the general public. Misery loves company.

Sharing his work

Fast forward a number of years to when I started as editor of Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement Magazine. After getting up to speed on my duties, I reached out to John to see about including how he made a specific workpiece in a future issue. In fact, that started what would be our “Finer Details” column, which lasted for about 10 years. That was our October/November 2010 issue.

I also wanted to bring the work done by some great Canadian makers to the attention of the public. That’s when I started the “Canadian Quotes” column that has run on our pages for the past decade or so. It’s surprising to me that I’m just now getting around to including Glendinning’s work in this column. Better late than never. He’s the feature maker in our upcoming October/November issue, which is being delivered around the country right now and will be on the newsstands in a few days.

The thing that jogged my memory and prompted me to get ahold of John was a bit unusual. One day I was making my kids’ school lunches. I was cutting up some cantaloupe and was about to toss the rinds into the garbage when I noticed how they were sitting together. They looked just like a piece John has made many times; his “Shift” vessel. I snapped a photo and sent it to him. We then caught up and chatted about how he makes these great vessels.

Quite the process

Many years ago, John had some leftover parts that had been steam bent. Always interested in experimenting with a new design, he picked them up to play around with how they could fit together. They seemed to fit quite nicely, especially if each segment was shifted slightly when it was assembled. After some experimenting, he had himself a winning combination. Shortly after that he was adding texture, colour and veneer to the mix to come up with some gorgeous vessels.

After John steam bends the parts, he uses a bandsaw jig to hold the segments on a slight angle to trim off most of the waste on both sides of the workpieces. The parts then get thicknessed more precisely with a jig and thickness planer. Assembly is next, and that’s where a lot of the artistic side starts to come in. John sometimes assembles them so their ends are flush, though more often they go together (as their name implies) shifted slightly from each other. Offsetting the parts even 1/2″ from each other has a strong visual impact and creates a dynamic look. Once assembled, texture and colour may be added to complete the look.

Check out the current issue of Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement to read the “Canadian Quotes” column that features John and his work. You can also view a slideshow that highlights John’s work on our website.

One of My Favourites

Once John steam bent, machined and assembled the parts for this vessel he textured the outer surface and coloured it blue. The effect is striking.

John Glendinning

A Past Cover

This is John’s hall table leg featured on our Oct/Nov 2010 cover. He describes how he made the leg inside the issue.

John Glendinning

Whiskey Cabinet

Here’s one of John’s pieces. The door and gables are made up of coopered panels that consist of curved parts. The resulting effect is powerful.

John Glendinning

Shift Vessel

The parts of this vessel were only shifted slightly during assembly. The effect is a much more open finished piece.

John Glendinning

Another Approach

The parts in this vessel were shifted quite a bit and create a form that’s nearly closed.

John Glendinning

Starting Point

The first step is to steam bend the parts.

John Glendinning

Rough Trim

Next, John bandsaws them to rough shape.

John Glendinning

Dress Them Down

A thickness planer brings the parts to final size and leaves them with flat edges that are ready for assembly.

John Glendinning

Ready for Assembly

The completed parts are now ready to be assembled.

John Glendinning

Even Ends

This shows how the piece would look if John assembled the parts with their ends even.

John Glendinning

Slight Shift

Shifting the parts even slightly produces a much different look.

John Glendinning

My Reminder

This is what I looked down on one day as I made my kids’ school lunches. While not remotely as beautiful as John’s “Shift” vessels, there are certainly some similarities between the two.

John Glendinning

Lots More to See

To see more of John’s work visit our website.

John Glendinning
Published:
Last modified: September 15, 2023

Rob Brown - [email protected]

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

2 Comments

  1. A high caliber designer/maker who consistently produces fresh, refined pieces. Thanks for celebrating him and his work here’

  2. Very interesting article. It makes me want to use my imagination ‘more’ when trying to use left over material that you don’t want to throw out but don’t know what to do with it.

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