Wood Work


Things have been quiet here a few days. I’ve been busy in the studio with a different kind of creative project. I’ve put down the guitars and cameras and taken up the power tools in a bid to make myself a new piece of furniture for my recording equipment.

Back in 2003 I was in India. I had brought an old, fairly large, Ikea desk with me from London. Pretty soon I had a piece of furniture built for me, a big leather bound side table (1800mm wide, 600mm deep) that sat over one half of the desk with a bit of clearance underneath. This allowed me to set my monitors (screen and audio) closer to head height and gave me a little space, about 1 rack unit, between the desk and new piece of furniture, to store audio interfaces, cables and other gear.

Both pieces of furniture were in storage during my years in Hong Kong. It was a delight to unpack them and put them to work in my new studio space here in Singapore. However, when I started to buy some new gear last year I realised the desk had to go.

I needed something that would put the new gear at my fingertips, doing dual service as a desk and equipment rack. But, I wanted to keep the unique piece I had made in India and incorporate it into the new setup. Ready to build studio furniture didn’t fit my requirements and I had a hard time finding anyone who could custom build what I needed here in Singapore

Relearning The Tools

The solution seemed obvious and also a little daunting. Build it myself. Problem was, it has been years since I built anything larger than a speaker cabinet and finding decent raw wood here was a bit of a hassle. Thankfully I was able to find some sturdy and useable material at Ikea (Lagan kitchen counter tops). And, a crash course in power tool use and safety via YouTube inspired me to take the project on.

Designing The Desk

I figured if the gear was mounted at a 25 degree angle, I would be able to create enough space for 15 rack units of gear and still keep roughly the same desk height as before. The design process was slow, as I burrowed around the dark recesses of my brain trying to dig up some high school trigonometry.

Test Assembly

Once the design was in place, it was down to cutting and assembling (after a few trials with the power tools). I took my time, following the old adage to “measure twice, cut once.” There were plenty of features to pay attention to. The 25 degree cuts for the gear needed reverse 25 degree cuts in the top boards for the gear to slide into. Holes needed to be cut for cables to be routed inside the desk. Each panel had a small rout made to sit the desk into the rack unit for extra strength. And, a side overlap was added so that cables run from behind the rack to the front desk would have somewhere to sit.

Test Mounting Gear

The slow methodical build was, dare I say it, something of a spiritual experience. I’ve always been inspired by the old shaker motto “hands to work, hearts to God.” That’s the kind of spiritual activity that really inspires me and this experience of working wood for a week was delightfully inspiring.

Assembled And Ready For Finish

In my next post I’ll show you the unit moved into the studio and mounted with gear.

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  • Toni - 4th February 2013

    Looks good Fern, and not just like something you knocked up rough’n’ready.

    I know a little of what you mean about the spirituality. While not wishing to over-do the fantasy stuff, there’s something that feels almost spiritual about working with wood, whether it’s creating things or just simply cutting large pieces of timber with a chainsaw. Wood-cutting may well run in my family, and hefting an axe for splitting logs just seems ‘right’.

    • Fernando Gros - 5th February 2013

      Toni – although I’m loathe to use the word organic, it feels appropriate here. There is something organic about working with wood. Every piece is different and building something like this piece, you have to adapt as you go to make it work. I think it’s the same when cut with an axe.

      With a big piece like this there’s a moment, towards the end, where screwing it together actually pulls and straightens the wood into place. It seems impossible given how solid and heavy the material is, but it gives and yields.

      And, I think there’s something about the pace of this work as well. Even with power tools, there’s a limit to how fast you can cut. Adjusting one’s rhythm to that is powerful and for me at least, quite emotional.

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In his Tokyo studio Fernando combines his life-long passions for art and technology. On the road, he is always looking to take the next wrong turn, just to see what kind of images and stories might unfold. A photographer & writer, with a background in music, Fernando has lived in Chile, Australia, the UK, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan. Read More.


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