Grafton Men's Shed member Frank Heppell has created a masterpiece of craftsmanship turning 489 pieces of silky oak into a beautiful daybed.
Grafton Men's Shed member Frank Heppell has created a masterpiece of craftsmanship turning 489 pieces of silky oak into a beautiful daybed.

Carpenter converts 489 pieces into just one lounge

THE numbers involved in one of Grafton Men’s Shed’s latest projects are mind boggling.

Eighty-five-year-old master carpenter Frank Heppell took on the job of making a chaise lounge (or day bed in common parlance) with matching coffee table for Nikki Taylor, the daughter of fellow shed member Kevin Watkins.

“Nikki showed me the photos of what she wanted and asked if I could make them for her,” Mr Watkins said.

“I said I could, but I said I knew someone who could do it much better than me.”

It was a task made for a craftsman of Mr Heppell’s skills.

Although the photos were of cane furniture Mr Heppell immediately thought of creating them out of silky oak.

“I thought it would give the pieces a real authentic furniture colour,” he said.

The task of matching the curves in the cane pieces using timber proved to be a real test of his carpentry skills.

Mr Heppell decided he would cut strips of the timber, laminate them and shape them using custom-made jigs and clamps.

Grafton Men's Shed woodworking guru Frank Heppell used jig and clamps like this to bend each individual piece in the lounge he has just completed.
Grafton Men's Shed woodworking guru Frank Heppell used jig and clamps like this to bend each individual piece in the lounge he has just completed.

It involved a staggering amount of cutting, planning and patience.

“In the lounge there’s 489 individual pieces of timber,” he said. “They’ve been put together into 190 individual parts. All to make one lounge.”

Mr Heppell said each of the 88 curved struts (18 on each end and 52 along the back) on the back of the piece consists of three strips of laminated silky oak.

Each piece was painstaking cut and glued together, then clamped overnight to force it into the desired shape.

If that was not enough each of the joining pieces for the corners of the lounge consist of five pieces of timber laminated together.

And he believes the jigs and clamps might be pressed into service again.

“I suspect when Nikki’s sister sees what she’s got, she might want one too,” Mr Heppell said.

But Mr Heppell said the timber did not give into his ministrations easily.

“Before it’s sanded and polished silky oak if very splintery,” he said. “Every night after working with it I would be pulling splinters out of my fingers.”

Mr Heppell had no idea what the pieces would be worth.

“I’ve seen catalogues with cane furniture pieces like this for $3200,” he said.

“I suppose the wood for the lounge might cost $300 but I couldn’t accurately say how much time’s gone into it.

“Just shaping the pieces for the back and sides probably took two weeks at least.”

Grafton Men's Shed member Frank Heppell has created a masterpiece of craftsmanship turning 489 pieces of silky oak into a beautiful daybed.
Grafton Men's Shed member Frank Heppell has created a masterpiece of craftsmanship turning 489 pieces of silky oak into a beautiful daybed.

Mr Heppell said the project had been a good way of filling in time until the COVID-19 travel restrictions are lifted and he can take his Men’s Shed-built caravan Iowna on the road again.

“When the borders are open, I’ll be off,” he said. “I’m going to take her on a trip around Australia.”



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