Furniture is an essential part of our daily lives. It is what we sit on, eat and work from, where we store our clothes and possessions and where we sleep. Furniture makers design and craft individual pieces of furniture and storage cabinets such as chairs, tables, dressers, wardrobes, beds and more. They may also restore antique or damaged items of furniture. Antique pieces of furniture can be valued at tens of thousands of pounds so highly skilled restoration work, on behalf of the furniture maker, required to preserve them. Due to the unique nature of bespoke furniture, furniture makers often work alone or in a small furniture design studio workshop with a limited number of other furniture makers or designers.
Furniture making was originally a hands-on trade only, involving long hours creating individual pieces to demand. These days, however, the vast majority of furniture making is done in large factories with the use of industrial machines. In these cases the role of the furniture designer becomes more important than that of the furniture maker. The emergence of flatpack furniture has meant that lower manufacturing and storage costs can be passed on to the customer. Nevertheless, there will always be demand for beautiful and unique, bespoke pieces of furniture, and thus the most skilled aspects of furniture making, although in decline, will never become extinct.
These skills include creativity, attention to detail, good spatial awareness and an ability to visualise in three dimensions. The more practical requirements are being naturally good with your hands, a patience to work with great care and an ability to use a wide variety of woodworking tools. Alongside these skills an awareness of health and safety practices is recommended as furniture makers work in workshops and studios with lots of high powered industrial machinery and hand held electrical tools.
Furniture makers need no standard qualifications or specific training however, they should have a background and/or qualification in Art and Design, Wood Working or Model making. They may also have a more specialised background or training, for example, in industrial Design, Furniture Making or Fine Art. Alternatively, furniture makers may have started an apprenticeship and learned their skills on the job under the guidance of an existing furniture maker.
Prop Makers work in the Properties Departments of feature films, television series and theatre productions making any props that are not being bought in, or hired. Prop Makers use a wide variety of materials, techniques and tools, to design and create the required props. These represent a huge range of objects, including 'stunt' props which are replicas of other props, made of soft or non-hazardous materials, and specialised objects that move or light up. They may also have to adapt or modify existing props. Prop Makers may work alone, or as part of a larger Props team in a Production workshop.
Prop Makers are generally given instructions, designs or rough ideas by the Artistic Director prior to filming. From these designs Prop Makers plan and create the necessary props. They may carry out their own research into the style and specifications of the props required. On period films, for example, this may also involve investigating how the objects would have been created during a particular historical period. Prop Makers often have to work within strict timescales and to tight deadlines. Normally Prop makers produce a minimum of two of every item, in case of damage. During the shoot Prop Makers may be responsible for operating any special props, or for instructing Actors in their interaction with Props.
Prop Makers should have a wide knowledge of the basics of Prop Making: technical drawing, a good knowledge of computer design packages, the ability to work safely with typical industry materials (e.g., fibreglass, latex, foam, polystyrene, wood, cotton and steel), and the ability to work with a variety of different machinery and tools. Prop Makers may also have specialist skills, such as: sign writing, upholstery work, mould work, woodturning, sculpture, casting, furniture making, modelling, electrical engineering and electronics.
Prop Makers need to be adaptable and able to work with imagination and ingenuity. They need good problem solving skills and must be open to learning new skills and techniques to keep up to pace with developments in the industry. The ability to work to external deadlines, under their own initiative, is essential, as is an eye for detail and accuracy. Working as part of the larger Properties Department, and at times as part of a Prop-making team, Prop Makers must have good communication skills and enjoy interacting with others. As they work with hazardous equipment and materials, an in-depth understanding of relevant Health and Safety legislation and procedures is vital to the role.
Prop Makers need no standard qualifications or specific training however, they should have a background and/or qualification in Art and Design, Wood Working or Model making, and experience in the basics of Prop Making. Many Prop Makers train in Stage and Set Design or Stage Management. They may also have a more specialised background or training, for example, in Graphic Design, Furniture Making or Fine Art. Alternatively, Prop Makers may have started in junior roles in the Art department and learnt their skills on the job under the guidance of an existing Prop Maker.
Cabinetmakers, as the name suggests, make cabinets and other (predominately kitchen) furniture. Cabinetmakers often make their products according to set specifications, sometimes for mass production. In addition to designing and building cabinets, they may also have the task of installing them. They need to be familiar with various tools and machines, skilled with their hands and adept at sanding, staining and sealing wood into polished products. Part of cabinetmaking includes creative design and woodworking. They may find employment in furniture stores, furniture repair shops and construction companies.
A lot of woodworkers receive their training on the job, however, they can also obtain skills through formal training at colleges, vocational schools, universities or through an apprenticeship. Some programs result in a certificate or an associate's degree, and others may offer craft qualifications. Training can include instruction in computer aided design (CAD) and computerized cabinetmaking programs for creating 3D drawings, plans and elevations. Students learn about the characteristics of differnt wood, joinery techniques, design and product assembly and installation.