Duration: 11.10.19 / 25.10.19 / 15.11.19
Product: For more than 40 years, Drechslerei Schlieper produces all kinds of turned objects from wood. Their product catalogue ranges from traditional table legs over peppermills and modern private commissions to balusters for old staircases.
By-product: When a customer orders a certain number of the same shaped parts, Olaf Schlieper produces an archetype that he puts in a copier. This machine allows him a way of mass production. If the order has a quantity of 20 pieces, he always inserts one or two more blanks into the copier. If just 19 pieces would be acceptable due to splits or knotholes, he would have to run through the whole production line again. With this strategy, he saves time and quality. On the other hand, the result can be single and second choice products. Then the beautifully turned material turns into firewood and heats the workshop.
Inspiration: The woodturning workshop of Olaf Schlieper inspired me since day one of me trying to become a designer. With his support, I produced the work for the entrance examination for my studies at KISD. It felt just accurate to include him also in my final project as well. Beside this fact, I was always inspired by how the same technique can result in either old-fashioned or modern shapes. Could there be a way to have it both?
Organisation: Since I knew Olaf before, there was not much of organisational effort needed. On the phone, I asked him about by-products of his production, I visited him at his workshop, he showed me what he had and we produced something. It was that simple.
Potentials: The bespoken leftover table legs from various past productions have two things in common. They are more or less the same height and they have a square, unturned part that is usually building the corners of the table frame. The facilities of the workshop in itself combined with the skills of Olaf Schlieper hold endless possibilities to play with.
Goals: The aim was to design something solely from the already turned by-products. In this case, the material in itself needed to form a surface. Connecting the legs with their rectangular parts would fulfil exactly this and would form a plinth. To use the potential of the location and the skill of the craftsperson, this structure is put on the lathe again. The result allows new profile perspectives of the old-fashioned forms and is combined with a simple overall shape. Some tool marks are left visible to give a hint of the production process.
Challenges: The danger here lays in imbalance of an asymmetrical fast turning object. Holding a tool onto this open and moving structure could end in serious injuries.
Production: Before the leftover table legs are glued into one block, the rectangular parts of the legs are flattened. We glue the legs into a nine-piece-blank. To prevent the unglued bottom side from splitting, a baseplate is screwed underneath. Turning the piece to a cylindrical object, it took around 10 minutes on the lathe but more than 40 years of experience. Assessing the risk in this production is crucial and takes an open-minded craftsperson.
Reflexion: The fact that I made a craftsperson experience something that he has not done in his 40 years of crafting made me kind of proud. Olaf Schlieper and I were both amazed by the result of our work since we both have never seen something like this before. This success illustrates the underestimated value of knowing less than the craftsperson. It seems as if this amateurism makes rethinking processes easier. This is the first project where I paid attention on uniformity in the by-product and it immediately rewarded me. The result is unique but the process is repeatable.
Prospect: Still, the production of the objects depends on other customers’ orders. To bypass this dependancy, I would order a number of table or stool legs from second choice raw material and ask to produce on the copier. With this I would form leftover raw material and compose this to a block instead of depending on already turned material. In other words, I would go one step back in the production process. The results of this process would be more or less the same. The process would just be less interwoven with the production of other products.