Quebec furniture maker Stéphane Dumont on mistakes, the joys of CNC machines and how music makes sanding easy.
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Q & A with Stéphane Dumont
How long have you been building furniture?
What sort of furniture do you specialize in?
High-end furniture, rocking chairs, dining tables, bookshelves, chairs, any challenging project.
If you were not a furniture maker what would you be?
Bush pilot. I was working on it when I decided to take a year off and go to Selkirk College to try woodworking.
In order, what are the three most important items in your shop apron?
6″ ruler, electronic caliper, 4″ square.
Do you prefer hand tools or power tools?
I like the feel of a hand tool, but over the years I have to say I like the cerebral way of making and designing with computer drawing and CNC machining.
Solid wood or veneer?
I use more solid wood, but one of our trademarks is to laminate three layers of contrasting 1/16″ thick veneer between solid wood. Veneer offers many ways to design that are not possible with solid wood.
Figured wood or straight grain?
Both. Inherited Vintage Stanley Sweetheart or fresh-out-of-the box Veritas? Veritas by far. So well-designed and crafted.
Flowing curves or geometric shapes?
I’m leaning toward very simple lines. Or flowing curves with some geometric shapes. Sorry! Both can be very nice together.
“Ogive” Dining Table
This 106" long dining table was built from wenge and lacewood. Much of the joinery was machined using a CNC router, but it’s on the underside of the top so it can’t be seen. Dumont says he’s fine with that. “It would have been nice to see the complexities of the frame,” he said, “but in the end I don’t feel we have to show off. I appreciate Japanese furniture for this reason; the construction can be very complex but it’s not all visible.”
Dumont and his team make a wide variety of turned grinders and kitchen utensils. These grinders are made from a 220kg piece of amboyna burl that he bought from a wood collector in Quebec City.
Quotes from Stéphane Dumont
My studio is very well equipped. All the tools you want in 2021, we have them. The most important thing in a shop in a cold country is a heated concrete floor. The tools are always warm. It’s located on the shore of Rivière-Ouelle, beside our house. I built the first part 26' × 40', then a second one in behind it 26' × 32'. I then added a third section at the front that is 26' × 32'. Now it is 26' × 104'. That’s all the land I have!
I don’t mind sanding as long as I’m listening to music.
I use my CNC machines more and more often. They are so accurate and they push me to go further in my design. They push me to get better quality or to do things that would not be possible with regular tools. They’re not as sexy as hand tools, but it can be really fun. You still need to work with the same principles as hand tools. You still need to consider wood grain when you cut your piece. It’s not magical. It’s a different mindset. I know a lot of people think working with CNC is not crafting anymore. I don’t agree with that. I would say come to my studio and look at the designing process. We make very complex pieces that are very accurate.
I get my design inspiration from patterns in nature, visual art, museums.
My design process is mostly a flash in my head… I can work for days or years on an idea…. and then — poof! — it comes.
Draw and don’t push yourself when the idea doesn’t come right away. Take time. It will come maybe when you take a shower.
Respect to all the woodworkers who make a decent living with their passion in life.
The sales on the web are getting more important and we promote ourselves more with social media than five years ago.
Quebec’s Kino Guérin makes some very spectacular pieces. I also like the work of Peter Pierobon. Very clean and sculptural.
Makers have to keep imagining stuff and keep pushing ourselves. No cruise control, otherwise you lose the passion at some point.
Design comes first, then the materials.
The guys at the shop hate when I start with an idea that evolves over the build. When you have employees, it’s harder to do it, but I love this approach .
I love finding the best process to get furniture or kitchenware built. David Fraser, my teacher at Selkirk, was always talking about the process.
We woodworkers will need to be creative in the distant future. Fewer trees. Maybe more veneer.
Mistakes are easy and costly.
Customers are thankfully more aware of fine craft these days.
Twenty years ago, I had to convince people that wood cutting boards were better than plastic. I was at the right place at the right moment and my love for both cooking and nice tools led me to create a line of wooden kitchenware.
The motifs and repetitions of nature offer me an inexhaustible source of inspiration.
It’s important to minimize our impact on the environment, so quality and durability are strongly considered during the making of the furniture and accessories that I create.
It must not be forgotten that we design the antiques of tomorrow.
December January 2022