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Based in Cornwall, Mena Woodwork + Design is a small, focused workshop, specialising in functional, understated and sustainable outdoor furniture. We prefer to use traditional joinery techniques, tried and tested by generations of woodworkers before us, and a timeless design aesthetic.

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The Huers Chair

29 December

Part 2 – The Process

Location | Boconnoc Estate
Images | Holes In The World Studio
Words | Emma Bourton Marketing

Our last blog delved into the origin of our sustainable raw oak and how we utilise the historic water-powered sawmill on the Boconnoc Estate to source our materials where possible. We are now taking you on a journey from source to process and how the oak goes from essentially a length of wood to the finished product. In this case, the Huers Chair.

Let’s talk about wood. Our much-loved Huers Chair is made up of two types of wood which forms two aspects of the Huers Chair for a very specific reason. For the chair frame we use kiln-dried European oak (sourced from managed forestry), this has been dried in a large industrial oven which removes all the natural moisture from the wood. The kiln drying process puts a great deal of stress on the timber which naturally highlights any weaknesses or defects, so it ensures that we end up with a structurally sound timber for making the frames of the chair which is vitally important. Before we do anything with the oak, we store it undercover outdoors to help it acclimatise to ambient moisture.

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The second type of oak we use comes from our local Sawmill on the Boconnoc Estate as mentioned in our previous blog; we use this oak for the seat slats. This oak has been air-dried but it has a slightly higher moisture content making it easier to curve when we come to the steam bending process. The Boconnoc oak has far more character and colour variation which makes our job even more interesting whilst also giving each chair its own personality. We use a variety of techniques and tools to create the Huers Chair, each tool plays its own part with a mix between traditional methods and new technology to ensure uniformity. Our CNC machine helps us with some of the more complex tasks which helps us to reduce our wastage. We then use a combination of hand tools and traditional workshop machinery for the other aspects.

One of the key features of the Huers Chair is the beautiful steam bent slats which give this chair part of its distinct look. To create the curvature, we steam the oak for 45 minutes before then bending the wood to a tighter radius to allow the wood to spring back or relax to the desired angle. Oak can only compress, not stretch as stretching will cause the fibres to split. As we bend the wood around the radius using a steel strap, we are forcing the timber to compress to avoid any breakages which means we avoid any wastage.

Once we’ve cut down the frame we glue and peg it all together using bridle joints on the corners and half laps for the cross members. The glue, pegs and screws ensure that everything is held together nicely, and the joints are designed to allow for some seasonal wood movement as it expands and retracts during the various months of the year. The chairs have a raw sanded finish, this means no oil or varnish is applied. This is the beauty of the natural oak; it weathers naturally to a beautiful silvery tone over time without any intervention.

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The Huers Chair design was a result of allowing the function leading form to be the focus over any frivolous design concept. Our whole collection follows suit in this sense; simplicity is key, along with a loyalty to traditional methods and a passion for high quality materials. You may also wonder where the name ‘Huers’ comes from. In fishing customs of the past, a Huer would sit somewhere high near the coastline and signal to fishermen which way a shoal of herrings or pilchards would be moving allowing them to ensure a good catch. The Huers Chair is therefore a nod to our Cornish heritage, and we’d like to think it is somewhere a Huer would like to sit whilst surveying the coastline.