Guelph, Ontario based studio furniture maker Adrian Ferrazzutti on the cabinet scraper, CNC machines and his education with James Krenov.
Q & A with Adrian Ferrazzutti
How long have you been building furniture?
If you count the chairs I made in high school, it’s almost 30 years. No, really it’s been since 1996, so what’s that … 18 years.
What sort of furniture do you specialize in?
Chairs are a favorite of mine, I do a lot of them. Tables too.
Tell us a couple interesting things about your personal life.
I love making the ice rink in the back yard for my kids. Pottering around the garden is important to me.
If you were not a furniture maker what would you be?
With my last name I always thought I could be a Formula One race car driver.
Do you prefer hand tools or power tools?
Power tools. My fingers are starting to hurt from all the hand work.
Solid wood or veneer?
I really enjoy working with both.
Figured wood or straight grain?
Ten percent figured, 90 percent straight in solid; 90 percent figured, 10 percent straight in veneer.
Inherited Vintage Stanley Sweetheart or fresh-out-of-the-box Veritas?
Inherited Stanley with a Hock replacement blade.
Flowing curves or geometric shapes?
It depends on the project. I work with both.
Ferrazzutti teaching a vacuum veneering class at the Centre for Furniture Craftsmanship, in Maine. (Above; Photo by Karina Steele)
Ferrazzutti is most proud of this series of chairs. He says clients really take to the design, and they are very comfortable. (Photo by Dean Palmer)
After hiding sketches of this cabinet from James Krenov, Ferrazzutti was told “You must make that” by Krenov when he finally saw the design. (Photo by Seth Janofski)
Quotes from Adrian Ferrazzutti
Since moving my shop out of my house, and into a large warehouse with six fellow woodworkers, my routine is more 9–5, 10–5. We call it the crack of noon at my shop as we sometimes start at 11. I’m all business when I’m in the shop. My head is down and I’m working hard, always thinking of the next steps ahead of time so there’s not a lot of wasted time or movements. Chisels are dull, tools covered in glue, pants are ripped, music is loud, dust is flying.
When I’m teaching I always bring out the cabinet scraper and announce to the class that it’s my favourite tool.
I’ve never been one to find inspiration from the wood itself.
I’m getting tired of the reclaimed, live-edge movement, but I think it’s here to stay.
I had the chance years ago to see work by the late Stephen Harris. I remember really liking what he made. Michael Fortune, Peter Flemming, Gord Peteran, Jamie Russell, Michael Hosaluk, Don Kondra.
I’d love to see shows and competitions put on by museums like the ROM and other major art galleries across the country. So much of what we do goes from workshop to home, never to be seen by more than a handful of people.
Some international makers I like are Wharton Esherick, John Makepeace, Tage Frid and James Krenov.
People like Esherick, Nakashima, Krenov, Maloof, Frid, among many others, have transformed a grueling occupation that defined one as being of a certain class, into an art form and a way to be an artist.
I find the design process is very challenging, yet can be very rewarding.
If I had to pick one of the pieces that I’m most proud of it would be my arm chair, with slung leather seat and back. I took many renditions to refine the lines and the dimensions of the components. I’ve made many of them, and it’s just nice to see how positively people respond to them.
I teach a fair bit and I see many people searching to make something real, something they can touch. So much of what my friends do all lives in the clouds.
When I started at the College of the Redwoods program I was not very well versed in James Krenov’s work. I read his books and applied to the program. It sounded like a magical place to learn and even though my current work is different from Krenov’s, I never felt constrained with creating and design when I was there. I only got encouragement from Krenov and the staff. Other students may have wondered what I was doing though ... weird guy from Canada ... There was one design I didn’t want to show Krenov, as I thought it would be too much, or he’d hate it, so I kept the sketches to myself. He saw them a few weeks later and asked, “What is that?” I said, “A cabinet on a stand”. Jim replied with, “You have to make that!” I was so excited, it was the next thing I made. It’s my Mondrian Cabinet.
I’ve seen CNC machines in action, making very complex chair components and left/right parts. Why not if you need 100 left arms and 100 right arms – who wants to do that by hand? The problem is you often need to feed the machine all day long to pay for it. I have students who would rather run up the street to have templates and patterns machined on a CNC, as they come back perfect. It’s a good idea. The difference in the end always comes down to the design, the fit, and the finish, which are often due to hand tools.
Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement.