Monday, December 28, 2009


A few art movements were introduced in the early part of the 20th century. One of the defining art movements of this era was "cubism". Cubism had a great influence on both modern art and later generations of art. Even today, if we look at the art from the cubist movement, it looks contemporary and modern. Early 20th century Europe was at a great turning point and innovative art movements were appearing one after another all over the continent such as Fauvism in France, a forerunner of Cubism,expressionists such as the Brucke and the Blaue Reiter in Germany,and Futurism in Italy. This spirit of innovation had gradually been evolving since the the 19th century and it is said the Cubism innovative art movement was begun by Picasso and Braque.

Cubism can be defined as follows, "leaving the tradition of seizing natural objects from a single angle under the laws of perspective,a tradition which had existed since the Renaissance,and while shifting the viewing point of the object to different positions,at the same time dividing it into many fragments seen from various angles,and rearranging these fragments later became an important characteristics of Cubism". Cubism went through different phases over its short life, ranging from analytical to synthetic cubism. In its relatively short lifespan, much innovation occurred within the Cubism genre which has influenced later art movements.

The Cubist emphasized a flat, two-dimensional surface and rejected the idea that art should imitate nature, refusing traditional techniques such as perspective, foreshortening, modeling, and chiaroscuro. Spanish painter, Pablo Picasso and French artist Georges Braques in Paris founded the movement before World War I. The movement is considered to have its roots in the work of Post-Impressionist, Paul Cezanne. It reduced everything to cubes and other geometrical forms. Cubist artists depicted drastically fragmented objects, sometimes showing multiple sides simultaneously. Cubism was the forerunner of abstract art.

Cubism can be regarded as a wide ranging art movement that lasted from 1907 until the middle of the 1920's. I recently designed the wood art in the photo as a tribute to Cubism. It was an interesting exercise in design for me with cubism in mind along with other criteria such as limited materials, stability, introduction of metal into the work, etc. The work depicts three levels of cubes, the larger virtual cube, the middle solid cubes, and the single dimension cubes in the form of inlay.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dynamic design...

Over the past two years,I have come to use a new term in my design philosophy. The term, "dynamic design", allows me to modify a design to adapt to circumstances, for either technical considerations, or for purely aesthetic reasons. This is a term I have coined to describe how design doesn't necessarily need to be cast in stone but instead can be modified as a project progresses. The changes I refer to can be either subtle changes or large scale changes. One of the meanings for the word "dynamic" from the American Heritage Dictionary.

dy·nam·ic - Characterized by continuous change, activity, or progress.

As my wood art or studio furniture is being handcrafted, sometimes the design I originally envisioned can be improved at different stages, or the original design can remain as is. Having this flexibility provides a continuous excitement for the wood artist or studio furniture maker along with the benefit of improvising on the original design after seeing the wood art at various intermediary stages. An excellent example is the hall table design in my previous posts. I had chosen to invert the base of the table for both aesthetic and technical reasons. Not to say the original design of the maquette would not have worked, inverting it just simplifies a design dilemma for me and introduces a new aesthetic to the piece. After creating the maquette, I realize I needed to have a fairly stable, strong sub-base to be able to support the V-shaped arch, whereas inverting the base utilizes the points of the arches as legs.

Often, we become fixated on a particular design and don't bother seeking out alternatives which often stare us right in the face. Case in point, I have been creating a new design for a smaller wood object, and as part of my philosophy I strive to use as many materials in my possession as possible, without continuously sourcing new material for the components. Working with material at hand sometimes limits what I can do, but on the other hand challenges me to work within certain constraints, in this case certain materials. So here I have an instance of what I like to call "dynamic design", sometimes the beauty of a design is also in its simplicity. Simplicity is one of the tenets of the minimalism philosophy. I have to admit that I am a fan of "minimalism", and have read one book on the subject so far. You tend to gain a different perspective on design after being exposed to the philosophy of minimalism.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Hall table...

In my previous post I discussed how I like to use maquettes as part of the design process, how I can better visualize the design in three dimensions with the maquette. The maquette also allows me to determine if both the proportions and aesthetics of a piece are fine or need to be improved. While toying with the maquette for the hall table base, I came upon a different orientation for the base...simply inverting the maquette provided me a completely different outlook on the design. The base then evolved from a V-shape to an arched look. Orienting the maquette with the legs down eliminated the need for me to create a sub-base for the upper base, a sub-base which was to stabilize the V-shaped base above. This sub-base can be seen at the bottom of the maquette.This was not much of a design dilemma and if done correctly would have enhanced the V-shaped base above.

On the other hand I now needed to create a structure to firmly hold the table top itself, since the base is arched and the pointed top has minimal latitude with which to securely fasten a table top. The new design of the base now opened up a possibility for me, to create a "wishbone" styled arch. The arched base could be simply an arch but why not create an image of something else while maintaining the arch structure and shape? I looked at a few wishbone details and re-designed the arch to better reflect the shape of a wishbone. In this process I also developed the semi-circular table top support for the table top which melds with the curves in the wishbone and would soon be part of a curved table top. This semi-circular support actually evolved from the original maquette orientation as you can see in the photo above. I also needed to consider the harmony of the table, do all the elements blend together well? I wanted the semi-circular table top support to blend in with the table top so I created it with the same wood species, in this case bloodwood. Bloodwood also nicely contrasts with the maple base.

The cocobolo feet on each of the legs are a small touch I included to bring some of the colour down to the bottom of the "wishbone" shaped base and to create balance.The hall table also needed to have a narrow profile so I placed this criteria in my design. I made it narrow but at the same time stable. When I designed this hall table I use predefined measurements for typical hall table designs. I incorporated a curved top into the design with its widest part at the peak of the "wishbone" arch. I hope I have enlightened a few of you of the positive aspects in using a maquette as part of the design process.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The maquette...

As part of the design process I believe in creating a scale model or maquette of the full scale piece or work I am creating.

"A maquette (French word for scale model is a small scale model or rough draft of an unfinished architectural work or a sculpture. It is used to visualize and test shapes and ideas without incurring the cost and effort of producing a full scale product."

I often use maquettes to visualize my design in three dimensions. The maquette also serves to determine if both the proportions and the aesthetic of the piece are correct, which is to say visually appealing. There can be a fair amount of time spent on actually creating the maquette but typically it is of no cost and the benefit is tremendous. I make my maquette from scrap wood and the process becomes one of experimentation. Often the maquette will help identify any issues which can arise in the creation of the larger, full scale piece. Another benefit is to help determine the stability of the full scale piece. The maquette is essentially a scaled down version of the larger work so the inherent characteristics are there but on a smaller level.

The maquette in the photo above began as the base of a hall table I recently designed and created. The orientation of the maquette has the arches of the base in a V-shape. This maquette is based on the final drawings for the hall table. After creating the maquette I realized that I much preferred an inverted orientation. It made more sense to me as the points of the arches could serve as the legs without creating a base as illustrated in the maquette. I also realized that I could easily minimize the number of arches to simply two, one in the front and one in the rear. This updated design also greatly minimized the technical details of creating the hall table.

The original design of the hall table base as illustrated in this maquette is something I would like to pursue at a later date as it is quite intriguing. In conclusion, the process of initially creating a scale model or maquette greatly alleviates any doubts about a design. I can now feel confident pursuing the full scale version that I am on the correct path. In my next post I will show the completed hall table with the modified base...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Design (2)...

In my previous post I discuss the concept of hatching a design and transferring it to paper. Now I have a sketch on a pad and need to evolve this sketch into an object. At this stage I begin to refine the design, after all it is but a sketch at this point. The sketch now evolves into a drawing with more defined, straight and equidistant lines. This process involves a few iterations and I build from my previous drawing with each of the iterations. This process results in a drawing which closely resembles the wood object I wish to create. Although the shape of the object has been essentially defined, an important component of the design is yet to come. Many of my designs have the type of wood and the grain graphics of the wood as the focal point. I usually begin with the design and then select wood which has interesting graphics. Graphics is another word for grain pattern and the mix of heartwood and sapwood on a board, which can be either pronounced or subdued. I then spend time determining how to incorporate this interesting wood into the predefined design.

On occasion, I instead create a design around a particularly interesting board or set of boards which have exciting, interesting graphics. Basing a design around a particular board or set of boards can be quite challenging, and I like to rise to challenges. I find challenging myself expands my skills and provides me a different outlook on the design process. Instead of a methodical approach, it is instead "material based" for lack of a better set of words.

These are my two approaches to design. The first one involves drawing and refining a design and then acquiring an interesting wood selection for the piece. The second approach involves having wood with interesting graphics and basing a design around this wood. This approach is more of an artistic approach to my craft, whereas the first approach I would say is the craftsman method. They both have their place and serve a purpose. I typically use the artistic approach for speculative work and use the more structured craftsman method for commissions where a design needs to be defined. Once the design is fairly complete and drawings ready, the technical details are determined. These details involve the dimensions of the individual pieces of wood, the joinery involved, is there any alternative media in the piece?

I must say I get excited about finding a board or boards with interesting graphics and colour and creating an object with this wood. This must be the artist in me...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


When creating either a piece of furniture or a wood object, if not following a pre-determined plan, a design will need to be established. I hardly ever work from plans. The design process typically begins with an idea hatched in my mind and is then transferred to a sketch pad. The idea might have originated from a shape I have seen, the need for a particular object or a furniture piece with certain design criteria, or simply an idea hatched on a whim. The basis of the design process is coming up with a good design. What is it about a design that make it a success? Is it the aesthetics of the piece, the pleasing proportions, the balance of form and function... or all these characteristics combined?

Taking a step back, the aesthetics and pleasing proportions are definitely at the forefront. I'm usually drawn to a piece of furniture or object that stands out with respect to the "look" of the piece. This one characteristic causes me to stop and further examine the piece by trying to understand what has drawn me to this particular design. This analysis aids my design process as I better understand what characteristics of an object or piece of furniture I am drawn to. We all have different styles of furniture that we are drawn to, but the common theme is good design. My favourite style of furniture is modern and contemporary. Typically even an admirer of period styles of furniture will stop at a well-designed modern piece of furniture to further analyze it.

We've all heard the saying that everything has already been discovered or invented. I have even heard of this saying applied to furniture design. After all, we're re-shaping the same objects over and over... adding curves, changing proportions, adding ornamentation, removing the ornamentation, using darker or lighter woods, utilizing curves, replacing curves with straight lines, utilizing thicker or thinner components, etc. It is easy to come to this conclusion, however, I regularly see new pieces of furniture or decorative wood objects that make me sit back and say "wow, that is an interesting, unique design".. or "that is a cool design, I wonder if it's been done before". In light of this, the boundaries of design are limitless, one just needs to think outside the box. Also, I feel that often using pre-existing styles as templates for a new design sometimes handicaps the designer , the designer subconsciously has the existing style in mind and cannot get past it. Sometimes it is better to begin with a clean slate, in my case, hatch an idea then transfer it to pad and pencil and begin to sketch it without being influenced by pre-existing designs.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Mixed media...

The medium which forms a large percentage of my work has for the longest time been wood, both of the domestic and exotic type. Over the past few months I have begun to explore alternative media such as metal and glass. You can see a few pieces in my portfolio which incorporate metal or both glass and metal. What do I attribute this radical shift to? For the most part, I have entered an exploratory stage in my art. The challenge of working with new media and the associated techniques I need to develop and acquire to be able to use these alternative media excite me. I also like to develop and create a new aesthetic which will be predominately wood but include metal and glass elements to enhance the design. The beauty and curiosity attached to mixed media work is another factor.

I've faced some new challenges with this new mixed media aesthetic and for the most part overcome them, although I continue to learn and develop. Technical considerations such as how to attach metal to wood and how to attach glass to metal have come up, the issue of expansion and contraction is somewhat different with extremely stable material such as metal and glass. Metal and glass don't noticeably expand or contract with environmental changes such as wood does. Another interesting technical issue that has arisen is the lack of compression characteristic of metal. The slots or holes which I use to insert metal components need to be created very precisely for precision fitting. Working with metal also involves slightly different tools and processes, I don't even prepare the metal components in the space I work with wood to not contaminate wood with metal filings.

Once these issues have been overcome, the design possibilities open to me are unlimited. The choice of media I previously created my designs with was somewhat limited to different types of wood; domestic, exotic and figured. Today I can incorporate metal, glass and possibly stone in my work, along with my predominant medium of wood. Throughout history, much art and craft has been designed using mixed media so I am by no means a trend setter here. Artists and artisans of earlier eras had probably also sought to challenge themselves with the addition of different medium to their main material and to appreciate the beauty of mixing wood, metal, glass, stone in a piece of art.

Monday, November 9, 2009


Another influential style from the early part of the 20th century has its origins in Germany. The "Bauhaus style" was developed during the era of the Weimar Republic in Germany. The arts and design community was actively supported in the years following WW I up until 1933 in Germany. It was during this period that the Bauhaus design movement flourished in parallel to the Art Deco movement. It was very avante-garde for it time and incorporated shapes and forms which are fairly modern looking even to this day. As an example, I walked into a local furniture showroom recently and there was a reissue of a Marcel Breuer tubular metal and leather chair on display. This particular chair is iconic in the furniture design world as it set the trend for tubular metal furniture and encouraged the use of tubular steel in many furniture designs.

A fairly well known abstract painter, Wassily Kandinsky, was an art instructor at the school. Walter Gropius founded the school and Mies van der Rhone and Marcel Breuer taught architecture. The Bauhaus developed from the Expressionism of the early Weimar years, 1918- 1919 and transitioned to Constructivism and finally to a architectural emphasis in its later years towards 1933. The school itself evolved during the few years it was in existence in both direction and location. It began as an edgy art and design school but became more mainstream in its latter years and was ultimately dissolved.

Although Bauhaus is today associated with a style of design it was in fact a leading art, craft and design school in its era. In the period from 1919 - 1933 this school was the leading design institute in Germany. The school was comprised of different departments ranging from arts. crafts, metalwork, furniture, design, printing and architecture. These departments combined to form a fairly independent art and design institute which heavily influenced much of the design emanating from Germany throughout this period. Much of the Bauhaus style continues on to this day, influencing a considerable body of design. The Bauhaus derived style of architecture has been very influential in mid-century buildings.

Many of the instructors at the Bauhaus design school emigrated to the US and became architects and professors of architecture in the leading universities of the 1930's through the 1950's. A fascinating period of design and architecture in my opinion...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Furniture design... some background

One of my favourite topics is furniture design and its evolution. In earlier centuries, furniture was not very common, typically only the aristocracy could indulge in furniture such as chairs,tables and cabinets. The aristocracy of the era would regularly task furniture makers to create ornate chairs, tables and cabinets. The furniture of these early periods was assembled without much consideration for wood expansion and contraction, also known as wood movement. This methodology did not present much of a problem as the buildings of these early years were not heated very much, and inside, outside temperatures and humidity levels were often similar. In later centuries, heated interiors introduced wood movement as a criteria in the furniture making process.

Frame and panel construction was invented in the middle centuries precisely to address this wood movement issue. This technique allowed a solid wood panel to literally float within a wood frame composed of rails and stiles. The solid wood panel could expand and contract on a seasonal basis and not cause any structural failure within the furniture. Using this process of building furniture created many more possibilities for furniture design and its widespread appeal began in earnest. In more recent centuries, furniture also began to become more affordable as more furniture makers flourished and along with this standardized, robust joinery techniques began to appear.

Numerous periods exist over the past centuries and each of these periods had a style or styles associated with them. Additionally, each country had a style of its own within these periods. Similar furniture design principles were adopted by many countries over the different periods. Popular furniture styles which are widely recognized have familiar names such as English Chippendale, German Biedermeier, American Federal and Arts & Crafts, French Art Nouveau, Italian Rococo, etc. To be continued...

Monday, November 2, 2009

Art deco...

I briefly touch on my interest and fascination with the art deco period in my artist statement. The art deco period of style was probably the most exciting period of design of the 20th century. As with most periods, Art Deco is partly derived from the previous, organic Art Nouveau period and partly to distinguish France as a leading nation for design. The Art Deco name is derived from the "Exposition International des Arts Decoratifs", an event in 1925 Paris showcasing many European designers. There was competition in this era between countries to determine the leading centers of design, and this exposition brought to light some of the leading design movements of the time. Consequently, the art deco style resulted from the predominant style of the exposition. The exhibition reflected contemporary style of the time and popularized the coherent theme which is today regarded as Art Deco.

The Art Deco aesthetic is comprised of many elements and characteristics. Not all elements need to be part of a design, but as few as one or two elements would define a object as Art Deco influenced. Sun rays, geometric forms, curvilinear forms, chevrons, stepped forms, inlay are a few of the elements which define Art Deco style. Art deco became an international design movement quickly moving from country to country. Europe was at the forefront of embracing this movement and the US was on board two or three years later. One of the reasons I find this period fascinating is how Art Deco evolved from the 1920's through to the late 1930's. What began as the earlier Art Deco style later embraced the "streamline" characteristics of the 1930's, Art Deco of this later part of the period had somewhat different design elements than the earlier part of the period. In its later years, Art Deco had become very commercialized and as with other periods of design, a revulsion to the style slowly began and the creation of a new design aesthetic resulted.

I embrace design elements of Art Deco and try to be subtle with minimal ornamentation, simply focusing on the elements which appeal to me from this period of style. There seems to be an ongoing revival of the Art Deco style occurring with more or less popularity in certain decades since the 1960's. I like to work with this style based on its merits, enjoying the fascinating and beautiful aesthetic of this period. When inspired to create Art Deco styled wood art, I incorporate certain Art Deco elements in the piece, deriving my own style in the process.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Not to be taken lightly, inspiration is one of the motivating forces behind each artist. As a wood artist, I can completely relate to this notion. You've heard of the term writer's block, well I have often experienced artist's block. Design ideas are not forthcoming, a creative void occurs and sometimes this can last for days. Often I remain focused on a particular design because I've been working with it for a number of days or even weeks. It becomes time to break away, to expose myself to new sources of influence or inspiration. At the very least, not being in the studio often clears the thought process, preparing the mind of new ideas for art forms.

in·spi·ra·tion - an inspiring influence; any stimulus to creative thought or action

What I do in this situation is to seek out inspiration, sometimes from unusual sources. I can either stumble upon inspiration or seek it out. For example since nature can be an excellent inspirational source and it is everywhere around us, I often take a weekend trip to the mountains or simply go hiking. This serves to both clear the mind and also to open my eyes to new shapes and forms. A subtle curve along the surface of a rock ledge, unique shapes of trees, meandering streams, fallen leaves, waterfalls, unusual yet harmonious shapes in nature, curved shapes of polished rocks, all attract my eye. These organic shapes influence my ideas for my designs. Every season brings us new forms and shapes from which to derive art . Often I bring a small pocket-sized sketchpad along with me to draw the outline of an interesting shape or formation I have seen. I have this sketchpad with me more often than not, never sure when I might stumble on to an interesting shape. Another excellent source of design inspiration can be found in the architecture around us. Unusual buildings, bridges, pavilions, monuments and photographs can also serve to provide design ideas in my work. Inspiration can also be derived from every-day items, the shape of a tray, household objects, etc.

From the sketches I then begin to use my imagination as to how a particular shape can evolve into wood art I create. The shape from the sketch can either influence the complete design of the wood art or simply to influence one or two elements of the design. A collage of different elements I have seen can also be instrumental in the creation of a new design or art form. The conclusion to this is that we are surrounded by so much inspiration for design, it is well worth the time and effort to get out and seek new ideas for art forms. The process of taking ourselves away from our studios to seek out inspiration also clears the mind. I feel like I'm recharged after a day or two away from my studio, ready to tackle a new design and create an art form from a shape or image which has inspired me.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Cabinet complete...

I guess I disappeared for a while, but in reality I've been busy with a multitude of things. I did finally get around to completing the beech cabinet I began a few months ago. There wasn't really much left to do except to design and create the drawer and door pulls. I use a two-tone cocobolo for this and carefully selected each pull from a blank to maximize the heartwood and sapwood graphic. The drawers needed a little more fitting, but the rest was primarily the task of judiciously scraping the exterior and interior of the the cabinet and applying finish. I also installed a brass door catch in the upper portion of the right hand door. The doors can be individually opened and each door reveals a partitioned section of the cabinet. The left side is composed of one drawer while the right side is composed of two drawers. Above each of the drawers is a shelf which is ideal to place art objects. There is also a small space below the left drawer for a smaller art object. The middle partition is purposely only half-height both to provide a separation and to admit light to either side of the cabinet interior.

The inside of the cabinet is kind of sparse, but in my opinion this adds to the beauty, it is after all a display cabinet designed to showcase art objects. The graphics on the front doors immediately bring to mind plumes of fire or smoke to me. The orientation of this cabinet is a departure for me. I typically design cabinets with their height or vertical dimension longer than the width, but this cabinet has it the other way around. I like the proportions of this.
An alternate photo of the interior can be seen here:

The finish is primarily many coats of thinned shellac with a final application of wax. I finally liberated a small part of my shop by completing this. Why is it that the final 10% of a project takes the longest :)

On to my next project(s).

Friday, January 30, 2009


I am currently shaping some legs for a table. The legs are double-tapered and will be shaped to form a curved outside edge overlapping three facets of the leg. I spent some time measuring and re-measuring the width and depth of the top and bottom of the leg since everything in between leads to these two points. I quite like the shape of tapered legs which provide a larger surface for strength at the joining area towards the top and then taper down to a thinner point at the bottom where strength isn't as much an issue.

In this case I have combined cherry and maple feet to form these particular tapered legs. I work with certain sizes and slope of legs which I have been successful with in the past. The slope is not too dramatic, but more gradual which presents an elegantly shaped leg once I have completed the shaping. I rough out the blanks on the tablesaw and bandsaw , but the handplane is my tool of choice for shaping the legs. I use an variety of handplanes ranging from a block plane to the jointer plane, the jointer plane to maintain the correct and straight taper on each of the leg sides.

I can't begin to explain how joyful it is working these rough blanks to fine, elegantly tapered legs which are smoothed to perfection. It's almost like forming a chunk of rough stone into a fine diamond. As the bandsaw marks disappear and the leg sides become straight, true and square to each other along their taper, it becomes difficult to stop planing :) This is where the regular measuring and comparing enters, since even with pencil lines, these are soon enough planed away and any reference disappears. What I do is use one leg as a template and compare the others against this one.

Next entry I will show the completed, shaped leg.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


I like to devote much of the time I spend on a project to the design, wood selection stage and the latter stages , referring to board preparation, joinery and detail work. The intervening part about cutting boards to length and ripping these boards I leave to my machinery. This methodology also allows me to perform a better job of selecting parts of planks with which to incorporate in my project, since the laborious part about slicing and dicing the planks is done with safety and ease. I recently completed a sliding miter saw station to assist me in cross-cutting long, wide planks into more manageable pieces.

In the past, I would, through use of either a handsaw or smaller circular saw, try to accomplish this with varied degree of success. I had a miter saw station in mind for a while, and decided recently to go ahead and build one with certain criteria in mind. The station needed to have some portability since permanently attaching to a wall is out of the question for the time being for numerous reasons. The length ( 7 ft.) should allow me to safely and easily manage planks up to eight or nine feet in length and the height is sufficient for me not to need to crouch or bend down. With this in mind, the station also needed to be rugged to handle the heavier hardwood planks. I also needed to be able to work either on the left or right side of the sliding blade with appropriate adjustable flip stops and solid stops.

The sliding miter saw itself has all the features I need.. dual bevel, 10-12 inch wide capacity and 3-4 inch deep cut capacity. The station is composed mostly of baltic birch plywood with hardwood fences. The portability is there through use of two workmate type stands which can be folded and the whole unit with the saw removed can then be moved around. These stands easily handle the weight of the station and saw and any planks I need to cut and are rock solid. The station itself is attached to two large, wide planks spanning the workmate type stands. Having used the station for a week or two so far, I'm very satisfied with it as it meets all my criteria.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Small components...

I've been working on small components lately. The components are partially shaped and a great deal of handwork is involved to ensure all the components are uniform in profile, contour and overall dimensions. The components are part of larger pieces which are destined for a client. I kind of enjoy working on smaller components, it's a welcome break from the larger frame members typically used in furniture. As you can see in the photo, much handplaning is involved to develop the contours of the components. I make use of a spokeshave to round the edges out afterwards.

One of the problems working with small components is handling them while shaping them. Since the parts are small and low profile I use my planing board and raise the bed with a narrow sheet of masonite. This provides just enough of a stop for the small part as well as allowing me to handplane it, I place the part at the outermost edge of the planing board to add clearance for the shaping process. I do need to hand hold the components for some of the shaping or profiling though as the tapered shapes just aren't conducive to setting up firmly in a vise..

Interesting how second nature working with hand tools becomes once you've spent some time at it. A long while ago, I would seek out solutions to shaping issues through the use of machines. In the past few years I find it simpler and more efficient to pick up a handplane or a spokeshave and shape the component. No dust and instant results.