Fertilizer Fridays are interviews with artist friends. Honest, casual conversations that share ideas and bust myths about being an artist/making art.
I needed to get a box made to house my WEEDS rubberstamps set. That’s when I met Daniel Salehuddin, self-taught woodworker. The craft and care he puts into everything he makes blew me away. Read on for great insights on Malaysian woods, wood sourcing and making things with love.
Just like everyone else, craftsmen have good days and bad days. Could you describe what your working day is like, a good one and a bad one?
A good day is when you get the chance to make or do something new. It’s always a good feeling when you finish your first dovetail joint or your first full-sized stool.
A bad day would be making a wrong cut even after you’ve measured ten times!
Offcut Cushion Bench. Various hard and soft woods including Resak, Meranti, Nyatoh and pine. The frame is made from Meranti.
When we met you were just finishing your internship at LAIN Furniture. Now you work there full time. So give us the story! How did you get into woodworking?
Growing up I was always a maker, and wood was always in abundance. So, I became quite handy with a saw and hammer at a very young age.
When I was 17, one of the assessments for my Engineering Technology subject was to build a full-sized cabinet. I tricked my dad by telling him that, if he bought me a jigsaw, I would build a gate for our garden. Instead I used the jigsaw to build an actual shoe cabinet with drop-down compartments (like those IKEA ones), a drawer and even a place to put your umbrellas.
I was really proud of it. Because of that project and the feeling I got from it, I fell in love with woodworking! I ended up building a gate and a door for our garden later that year.
Pallet Low lounge/table. Made from reclaimed wooden pallets, with tiger claw sofa legs.
Could you run us through some basics about types of wood available in Malaysia? Do you have any favorites?
Meranti, Balau, Nyatoh, Merbau, Jati, Resak, Getah, Chengal, and Belian are some of our local woods that I’m familiar with. The cheapest out of that group would be Meranti, since it’s the wood used in construction. You can get it easily from the normal hardware store. If you’re just starting wood working, get some Meranti to practice.
The furniture industry is familiar with Getah, Nyatoh, Jati, and even Merbau.
Chengal, Belian, and Balau are really hard woods and often used as decking or for structures like pergola and sheds.
My favourite wood right now would be Nyatoh since it’s easy to work with and the wood has some pink and purple colour in it!
Wall-mounted ukulele holder
How about sourcing? What are some good places to get wood? Usually I only see poor quality plywood at hardware stores and I’ve always been curious how to get my hands on the good stuff.
Don’t go to a normal hardware store to find good wood! If you want some good quality hardwood, try your local lumber yard or sawmill. Some shops even offer wood plane-ing service so you can get your wood all flat and squared up. Another thing to keep in mind is to try and get dried lumber!
About plywood, the ones at normal hardware stores are usually construction grade. Try to find a furniture hardware shop in your area to get furniture grade plywood, but be ready to spend about triple the price! If you are in the Klang Valley, try going to Kampung Baru Sungai Buloh, there you can find lots of wood related stuff!
Handcut and sanded from a Meranti offcut block. Ngiauuuu~
For someone thinking about trying their hand at woodworking, what are some basic tools you’d recommend? Does it take much to get started?
The most basic would be a handsaw, a hammer and some wood glue, but since we live in the modern age where power tools are cheap and abundant, I would recommend a jigsaw and a drill. When I started, I only had those two power tools.
When I came to you I remember whining that ‘it’s easy to get someone to make a box, but a REALLY good box is another matter’. It seems harder and harder to find good craftspeople in Malaysia, from general contractors to welders or glass workers. There’s a lack of care or pride in the work. What are your thoughts on this?
I can’t really comment about other people, but for me, it’s always about doing something you love. That’s the backbone of doing anything, whether it’s welding, drawing, driving or dancing. You know you will do a good job when you are doing it with love!
End-grain Nyatoh wood cutting board – in progress and finished. A cut out on the underneath edge makes it easier to lift.
We spend so much time on computers or mobile devices. I still find that I think best with my hands. There is also a sort of joy; I even experience time differently. Why do you think making things with our hands gives us so much satisfaction?
It all boils down to the feeling of success and pride! Different people have different ways to achieve that feeling. Some get it after making a good sale, others after doing a performance. For us, we get it after we have a finished product in front of us with paint and dirt all over our hands!
What’s next for you?
I’m currently setting up my home workshop. Nothing fancy, just a small shed at the back of my house. I can take my time setting up the little shed since I’m currently working at LAIN Furniture, which is a proper woodworking studio. When the shed is done, it will be my space to do all the ‘not work’ projects!
Working at night with the help of a construction site night lamp.
Fine Print: Images are courtesy of Daniel Salehuddin. All Rights Reserved. Wouldn’t hurt to ask before using. But if you’re taking them anyway, credit correctly!