Most furniture makers consider finding an old bullet in their wood a flaw, but creator Peter Sandback has turned this common problem into a design concept that is yielding stunning wood furniture designs.
We happened upon his unusual and eye-catching pieces at ICFF 2016, where we were immediately drawn in to the booth for a closer look at his intricate designs fashioned using bullet casings and nail heads. From large floral motifs to more abstract sprays of metal, Sandback’s finely crafted wood furnishings feature a variety of designs.
From his studio in Harrisville, New Hampshire, Sandback — who as a background in industrial design and sculpture — answered some questions for us about his work.
Homedit: You said you were inspired to create designs with bullet casings because of the bullets found in trees by woodworkers…can you expand on it just a bit?
Sandback: Every woodworker that I know who has been at it for 20 years has cut in to a bullet. People have been hunting in the woods for more than 250 years. Countless shots that missed the mark were lodged in the surrounding trees. The tree grows around the invading bit of metal until the day that the tree is harvested and processed. I cut into a brass jacketed lead slug in a piece of Pennsylvania walnut about a year ago. The resulting lead dot surrounded by a brass circle perfectly inlaid in the dark walnut was a happy surprise.
Homedit: How did the bullet casings idea evolve into the nailhead designs?
Sandback: The nail inlay tables came first – I have been making those for about 7 years.
Homedit: Where do you get the inspiration for your designs?
Sandback: Most of the pattern designs are from old japanese fabric stencils called katagami. Many are from old bits of fabric that I have collected over the years.
Homedit: About how long does it take you to produce an average-sized table?
Sandback: About 3 weeks
Homedit: How did you get into woodworking from your education in industrial design and sculpture?
Sandback: In graduate school I somehow got a job in the wood shop teaching other students how to use the tools. I didn’t know what I was doing so I learned fast and grew to love it. After graduation I discovered that making a living as a woodworker was easier than making a living as a sculptor. I made canvas stretchers for painters for a few years. I started making furniture when my wife got a job at a furniture store and encouraged me to build something for her to sell there.
Homedit: Where/how do you source your woods?
Sandback: Most is from here in New England. Some of the walnut is from a little further south. I use one exotic species called wenge which is from Africa.
Homedit: Do you work solo?
Sandback: I do and have enjoyed it that way for about 25 years.