Furniture maker Andres Schneiter from Maple Ridge, BC on his jigs, computers and working 16-hour days.
Q & A with Andres Schneiter
What sort of furniture do you specialize in?
High-quality custom furniture with an artistic flair.
Tell us a couple interesting things about your personal life
Was born and lived in Chile, educated in Switzerland (Swiss parents), came to Canada in 1974. I love the outdoors and live in a two-acre rural setting.
If you were not a furniture maker what would you be?
In order, what are the three most important items in your shop apron?
Tape measure, pen, small notebook, sometimes scrapers.
Do you prefer hand tools or power tools?
I use mostly power tools, yet chisels, scrapers and small precision saws are indispensable.
Solid wood or veneer?
90% of my work uses solid wood, but certain things can only be done with veneer, e.g. book matched (stable!) cabinet doors. I cut my own veneer.
Figured wood or straight grain?
Depends on the piece. Use too much and it may be overwhelming.
Flowing curves or geometric shapes?
Both have their place and I like both. I do use a lot of curves.
Just about all northern temperate hardwoods. Holly is a favourite if I can get it. I have been lucky over the years. Cuts like butter. Clean, straight, stress-free and a beautiful colour.
Least favourite wood?
Tropical woods. They may be nice but in most cases are not sustainably logged. As studio furniture makers, we have a responsibility to protect our environment. Why go far when we have the nicest woods right in our backyard?
Schneiter created this to complement the rose buffet (see our back cover) he made for a client who was also a potter. He created a negative space in the opposite direction. The slanted top was inspired during a walk in the forest when he also came up with the idea to design a bowl with an angled bottom so the top rim would be parallel with the floor.
Golden Iris Coffee Table
The base for these tables is made from book matched, figured, spalted maple. The curved legs and supports are laminated with 10 strips, 3” wide and 3/32 inch thick. The laminations are joined with bent stainless steel rods to support a 12mm, 44″ by 27″ glass top. The asymmetrical curves and offset arrangements create compositions which look unique and different depending of where the viewer stands.
Quotes from Andres Schneiter
Golden Iris Table – Schneiter used a bent lamination technique and his vacuum press to create the four members that make up the wood base of this table. Clamping jigs play a large role in bringing the four members together during the construction and assembly process.
My studio is a log building I built in 1984 and enlarged several times. I have all the necessary machines. Shavings go to the chickens and for garden paths.
I start around 8 a.m. with computer design work, respond to emails and inquiries, then head to the shop to clean up the mess from the previous night. I then do the work that requires heavy lifting, followed by successively more accurate work and work that requires more thinking. Twelve to 16 hour days aren’t uncommon.
My Canadian-made General machines are key to my work. I need their accuracy and stability.
I make a lot of laminations with my two-ton vacuum press.
My specialty is jigs. I make jigs for just about anything. The down side is that soon I will need another building just to store them.
In many instances, I wake up with new ideas and shapes and have to race to put them down on paper. I am inspired by architectural forms, forms and patterns in nature, even origami. Often mathematical functions and their graphs are inspiring.
Designs that do not challenge me I leave alone. Life is too short…
I believe live-edge furniture has run its course. Now there are so many cheap and (crude!) live-edge tables in just about every coffee shop that the time has come for studio furniture makers to move on to more delicate furniture, unless it is truly spectacular. But in the end, the market will decide.
Practically all my work is commissioned. If I have a special design, I look for a customer.
A lot of young people are interested in woodworking. The issue is how to make a living without ending up in a mind-numbing kitchen cabinet shop making MDF boxes. It’s not easy to raise a family making studio furniture. To succeed you have to offer something special. Become friends with studio furniture makers. Most want to share “secrets.”
Customers don’t understand that even fixing a chair costs money and is generally not worth the effort for an IKEA or Chinese mass-produced chair.
I would not succeed without being original.
In most builds, I have a finished design in my head which I can “see” from all angles.
Making “artistic” and studio furniture is very fulfilling, but it’s difficult yet possible to make a living. Something special has to be offered and one needs to live close to enough potential customers willing to buy.
My rose buffet, rose credenza, golden iris table and forget-me-not hallway table are the pieces I’m most proud of.
The West Coast Indigenous carved cedar chests are truly Canadian pieces of furniture.
Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement.