About David Saltmarsh
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"With the exception of ash and elm seat planks purchased from local suppliers, I source my wood from within a 20 mile range. Often after felling a tree I will see a pleasing curve and that will start the idea for a new chair."
Studio: Fivepenny Chairs, Spence Lane, Wootton Fitzpaine, Dorset, DT6 6DF
Facebook: Fivepenny Chairs
I grew up in a small village in rural North Essex. The only subject I ever did well in was art, and the woodwork lessons were pretty dire. We would be given a blunt plane and a hard block of beech and be told to make a train set whilst the teacher went outside to smoke. My father was a carpenter and joiner, often I would go out on site with him or be given simple jobs in the workshop. Whilst I learnt the basics of woodwork here, above all I inherited his practical capabilities.
Later on in my twenties I would meet a man who introduced me to 'green' woodworking. He showed me how to fell an ash tree and convert the timber into saleable products: tool handles, tent pegs, kitchenware and chair legs. I was hooked on the idea of creating a livelihood for myself. I was living in a woodland in Somerset at the time. In a basic workshop I began to teach myself Windsor chair making, working on a foot powered pole lathe similar to those the Bodgers of High Wycombe would have used two hundred years ago.
I now live in West Dorset with my wife and four daughters in a wooden house that I built. We farm our 25 acres with sheep, cows, chickens, pigs and veg. So I am both a smallholder and a woodworker. It is on this land overlooking Lyme Bay that I have been fortunate enough to build a small but perfectly formed workshop. I work using mainly traditional hand tools- the pole lathe, draw knife, chisels, adzes. We are completely off grid and have a wind turbine to provide electricity, so any machine work is saved up for windy days. I also co-own a portable sawmill which I can use to saw trees from local woodlands into planks.
With the exception of ash and elm seat planks purchased from local suppliers, I source my wood from within a 20 mile range. Often after felling a tree I will see a pleasing curve and that will start the idea for a new chair. The timber is taken back to the workshop where it is cleft, axed, draw knifed and made into shape. This approach to woodworking allows me to be involved in the whole process from felling, shaping, drying to construction. I make country chairs, traditionally built, but follow the natural tendencies of the wood to come up with original designs.