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  • Customer Profile - Duncan Villet

Customer Profile - Duncan Villet

Furniture designer/maker, woodworker and Carbatec staff member in our Adelaide store


When you’re being served at your local Carbatec store, chances are the person serving you is also a woodworker. Many of our staff have a trade background or are craftspeople working in a diverse range of woodwork-related areas such as; instrument or furniture making, boat building, carpentry, woodturning or woodcarving. We are very proud to have people who possess a high level of expertise on staff.

Duncan Villet is such a person, he works part-time in our Adelaide store and is a man who has traversed the globe to learn his craft and bring to his woodwork the traditional skills of several different cultures. He is an unusual blend of old world craftsman and contemporary designer/maker. He clearly has a deep love of the purity of working with his hands and has a highly ethical approach to his craft. He says,

“It is my objective to design and make furniture and woodwork with the notions of timelessness and longevity, combined with careful attention to quality and detail.”

Duncan grew up in the market town of Salisbury in England. A town that has held regular markets since the mid 1200s. In many of England’s towns and villages the town centres are like museums where people live their modern lives amongst the ancient architecture.

Growing up amongst all this tradition certainly had an influence on Duncan, but he had a keen eye for contemporary design too. He initially studied Art and Design specialising in ceramics, however this wasn’t the medium for him. Courses in interior design and carpentry and joinery directed him in 1999 towards a furniture making apprenticeship with acclaimed designer/maker Johnny Hawkes. This in turn led to Duncan working in London as part of a co-operative named ‘Echo’ alongside three others designer/makers.

He was creating bespoke furniture pieces and high quality interior fit-outs. The group were committed to sourcing raw materials they knew to be sustainably harvested, preferably with ‘Forest Stewardship Council’ certification and finishes derived from organic oils and waxes.

“I hope my work will bring a lifetime of joy to its users and to future generations, having a minimum impact on the environment.”

In 2002 Duncan took his design and construction skills and established his own business in Brighton on the south coast of England. In 2005, before moving to Australia, he decided to take a break from furniture making and the pressures of running a business to pursue his interest in timber framing. This led him to America and the Heartwood School For Homebuilding Crafts in Washington, Massachusetts, a school dedicated to keeping alive traditional home building skills, particularly the art of structural post and beam framing.

This method of construction has been used for centuries in both America and the UK. The load-bearing frames are constructed using mortise and tenons secured with wooden ‘hand riven’ pegs. These majestic skeletal frames truly capture the essence or traditional craftsmanship.

The timbers are generally worked green. The fresh sawn material is easily worked with hand tools that have varied little since medieval times. A saw, a chisel and a mallet are the principle tools of the trade.

Due to the size of the joinery, the tools are on a much larger scale than most conventional tools. Other items included in a traditional framers toolbox would include framing squares, a tape measure, steel rule, chalk line, combination square and plumb bob. A hewing axe would have been used originally to dress the timber and many of the joints would have been cut by axe as well. Some traditionalists still use this method, although there needs to be some concession to modern times and making a living, so circular saws and chain mortisers are often used. The pegs, however, are all still made in the traditional way using a spokeshave and a drawknife.

In England, oak is the timber that’s normally used for this form of timber framing. In Australia, Duncan chooses to use Cypress pine. It has a high oil content and works well with hand tools, particularly when fresh sawn. It also has the advantage of being naturally termite resistant.

These days Duncan divides his time between making furniture, timber framing and helping out at Carba-Tec in Adelaide. With such a wide range of woodworking experience, his advice to customers is invaluable. He has recently been involved in an exhibition at Aptos Cruz in Sterling in the Adelaide hills. This satisfies the contemporary innovative side of his multiple woodworking personality.

You can view more of Duncan’s work on his website: www.duncanvillet.com

Check out the heartwood school of homebuilding Crafts www.heartwoodschool.com

The Forest stewardship council www.fscaustralia.org

Aptos Cruz Gallery www.aptoscruz.com

Duncan Villet in our Adelaide store
Hand riven pegs secure the mortises and tenons
Completed outdoor entertaining area
Post and beam construction work in progress
Frame laid out ready for assembly
Fellow students at the Heartwood School
Hall table by Duncan Villet
Hall table detail
A traditional post and beam constructed building