By Chase Warner
Recognized as one of Tasmania’s finest wood furniture craftsmen, fourth generation woodworker Craig Howard turns sustainable sourced timber into handmade furniture in Tasmania’s capital city of Hobart. Owned and operated by Craig and his middle son Jack, the Craig Howard & Son family business produces all elements of wood furniture from large corporate desks and board room tables to chairs, bookcases, bedroom furniture, coffee tables, and vanities. “Woodworking is something that’s in my blood,” shares Craig.
Sustainable Forestry and Specialty Timbers
Established in 1986, Craig Howard & Son specializes in world-renowned Tasmanian timber including huon pine, kingbilly pine, celery-top pine, blackwood, blackheart sassafras, and myrtle. “Our favorite timber to work with is kingbilly pine and huon pine both for the uniqueness, ease of use, very distinctive smell, and the finished piece is pleasing to the eye,” shares Craig. Huon pine is Australia’s oldest living tree and is one of the oldest living organisms on earth with some timbers known to reach an age of 3,000+ years.
All timber used within the business is sourced through Forestry Tasmania – a publically owned forest certified to the Australian Forestry Standard (AFS) for environmental, social, and economic sustainability and are managed and harvested in accordance with State and Australian government environmental regulations. “Our company is all about a sustainable product so this industry can have enough timber for future generations,” explains Craig. “We are extremely cautious about the environment and sustainability since most species take over 200 years for a good log to grow, there is a limited resource available and we are always looking to improve.”
Instead of buying machined boards for their woodshop, Craig Howard & Son use a personal band sawmill to process purchased logs into woodworking material. A Wood-Mizer LT15 sawmill has allowed the business to hand select timber for specific projects based on color grain, yield, and unique characteristics. “Having our own sawmill gives us an advantage as we can select matching boards for individual jobs,” explains Craig. “I remember making blackwood furniture for a whole house. It came from one log and the color matched beautifully, this would not have been achievable any other way.”
Purchased in 2007, Craig cites the sawmill as a welcomed improvement from his homemade bandsaw. “It’s ease of use from blade changing, tensioning, accuracy in thickness with the dial rise and fall has been a real pleasure to use and has allowed us to create the furniture based around the logs we mill,” explains Craig. Throughout the past decade, the Wood-Mizer mill has sawn hundreds of cubic meters of logs into high-quality boards to be sold or worked with into customized furniture for a client.
In addition to sawmilling, Craig sharpens his own sawmill blades. “When sharpening, I grind carefully and not to aggressively. When they get a little tied on cutting I replace them which has helps greatly on longevity,” shares Craig. “I would recommend any purchaser to buy the sharpening gear so you don’t have to rely on other people for you to succeed in your enterprise.”
Meticulously Handcrafted Furniture
After milling logs into workable board thicknesses of 1”, 1 ½”, and 2”, the boards are stickered and stacked in a drying shed for at least one full year to reduce moisture content slowly until they are transferred to a timber drying kiln to dry to approximately 6 - 8% final moisture content which is required for furniture making. “On the furniture making side, we are lucky because we cut our own timber and can select the boards that we want to use for grain and color,” explains Craig. Based on the project, the kiln dried timber is resized, smoothed, shaped, and assembled in the woodworking shop that includes a panel saw, thicknesser, surfacer, resaw, vacuum press, moulder, woodworking bandsaw, lathe, doweler, and wide belt sander. “I was trained in traditional fine furniture making so naturally we still use traditional joint fastenings, like hand cut dovetails and mortise & tenon joints that have stood the test of time for hundreds of years.”
Most of the furniture produced by the business is one of a kind and customized to the client’s needs. “Our client base is 70% professionals and 30% your mum and dad with disposable income,” shares Craig. “They appreciate the time and craftsmanship we put into our work and always going above and beyond for customer satisfaction. A little rule we follow is, if we are happy with the piece once it leaves the workshop, so will the customer.”
In addition to completed furniture and timber sales, Craig Howard & Son has also developed a groundbreaking new product called Tassie thick veneer which is sold to architects, designers, and furniture makers in 2 to 4 mm pieces. Made from solid Tasmanian timber, Tassie thick veneer can be used as wall dividers, ceiling panels, or even flooring, and provides many advantages to traditional, thinner veneer products.
From Forest to Final Form
Throughout the decades, Craig has established a successful business model that takes control of the entire creative woodworking process from forest to final form. With the ability to hand select timber for the desired project at hand, each piece of fine handmade furniture from Craig Howard & Son starts at the sawmill. “We have steadily grown the business to have very good German static machinery, a timber drying kiln, the Wood-Mizer LT15 sawmill, a large stock of specialty timbers, a stock of handmade furniture, and veneers available to sell all over the world,” shares Craig. “With long hours and faith in your product, a small business will succeed.”
Categories: Success Stories, Woodworking
Tags: LT15, Sawmill