North Canterbury's David Laird is a self-described chairbler – a 17th-century term for a craftsman who specialises in chairs. His handmade pieces celebrate both the timber they come from in and the function they serve – and they’re carbon negative. “Making quality furniture to last a lifetime, the lumber will continue to sequester the carbon for the life of the furniture.”
Tell us what you do and why you do it.
I make handmade chairs from locally sourced hardwoods. I use a combination of traditional and modern techniques to minimise my impact on the environment. I take pride in craftsmanship, in doing as perfect a job as possible, and in producing something of beauty, even out of nature’s discards.
When did you start working with wood?
Being the son of a carpenter, I was lucky and grew up with access to tools and timber from a young age. Working with wood has been one constant in my life, teaching me the joy of working with my hands.
What makes a good chair?
A chair should be made to hold a person in comfort for its intended use. A dining chair has different angles and splay to a reading chair, for example. An understanding of the timber and how to work with it, combined with traditional wedged-through-tapered-tenon joinery, provides an in-service history that will hold up to generations of use.
You describe your work as carbon negative by design. What does that mean?
The carbon footprint of my overall process has the net effect of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, rather than adding it. Utilising traditional knowledge about milling, seasoning and steam-bending timber, combined with Windsor chair construction and some modern methods, allows for a very efficient process. I air-dry my timber and finish drying it in a solar kiln. To avoid the carbon footprint of shipping from overseas, I source my timber from the locally grown hardwood of fallen trees or ones past their prime. Some are more than 140 years old and were planted by settlers because they were the most useful timber from their homeland. It is a privilege to work with timber that someone planted knowing they would never get to see it harvested.
David Laird Chairbler