009 — Tree Decorations 2.0!

Recently at college we’ve been talking about how designs evolve and how an initial design is rarely ever perfect. You often have to settle to get the thing made and then, once it’s in the world as a real thing for you and others to interact with, the design will start to change and mature in your mind, ready for the next, improved iteration.

It could be small refinements here or there; or practical changes around its use, or maybe some technical change that refines the process of how it’s made in future. We were talking with fine furniture in mind, imagining the effect on chairs and tables but it’s equally true of simple designs, and even Christmas decorations.

Like the latest popular smartphone, my decorations have taken on a host of subtle refinements this year. I’m not sure I could boast hundreds of changes like those tech companies, but my changes are important nonetheless.

Most important I think is that I’ve had an extra years experience on the lathe from last year. My turning is that much better and it shows in the crispness of the cuts. As my control with the tool has improved curves have become more elegant and flowing and edges have become more defined.

With that extra tool control has come a better finished cut straight from the tool. This means I spend less time sanding and more time applying finish and getting the right level of polish.

There have been small changes to how I sand too. I now use mesh backed sanding strips which are very expensive but work more efficiently and allow me to get to the right finish in a more controlled way. I also use a wider range of grits now too which also helps. Each one is sanded up to 600 grit.

The wood I use has also changed. Most of the decorations this year are made of ash. Ash has a more distinctive, broader grain than sycamore, which is what I used predominantly last year. To me this gives them more character, they feel warmer in a colour sense, they are slightly darker too, but look more like wood to me. More authentic and homely.

As before most of the wood used has already been used somewhere else first. Some of it is from off cuts from other projects and most comes from old furniture here which was made by me a few years ago and is now being re-used.

And that wood came from an FSC supplier locally, and while I’m not FSC certified myself and so can’t claim the wood the wood as FSC, I can say it’s come from a good source. It’s already had a life as useful furniture for my family and now it’s got a new future as decorations for your tree, which I hope will be it’s home for years to come!

Each one is now finished with a 3 stage process of grain sealer, which just helps the final polish on the wood. An oil is used next which is left to dry before applying a final wax coat to finish. This all happens on the lathe with the wood spinning with drying time and light sanding in between. All products used on the wood as before are rated as toy safe. They are not toys, but I don’t want there to be any doubt and it gives you peace of mind.

The ribbon had changed this year too. I liked last years so I’m not sure I’d say this was an improvement as a personal preference, but I do think what I’ve chosen is beautiful. It’s more subtle than before and matches the warmth of colour in the new wood type.

And lastly, though I’m sure there are more improvements, the fixing to the ribbon has changed. I used to use brass eyelets which were screwed into the top of each decoration and it was fine but I do think what I have now is simpler to look at. They’re no easier to make, in fact it’s probably harder, but the effect I feel is worth it.

I hope this has given you some idea of the love and attention that goes into each decoration and of how they have improved this year. I’m really pleased with how they look and I know you’re going to enjoy them too. I think I say it every year but there are decorations which still come out every year on my parents tree with I can remember from when I was tiny. They are, rightly or wrongly, a part of Christmas and are full of memories of all the years past, which is what ultimately I would wish for these.

If you’ve bought or received one I hope you enjoy it for years to come knowing that it has helped support a student craftsperson learning to make furniture. It’s time I put all my coats back on and went back out into the cold to turn some more.