Mark (TheCraftsmansPath.com) on January 26th, 2008

On Friday I attended a meeting of the Rochester Woodworkers Society. This meeting included a lecture by Thomas Pafk . Thomas operates his shop and custom furniture business in East Aurora, New York – just outside of Buffalo. He designs and builds custom furniture in many styles but, is most influenced by the Arts and Crafts style. The most unique aspect of his designs is his use of veneers which appear somewhere in every piece that he builds.

Thomas_Pafk.jpgThe East Aurora area is also the home of the Roycrofters, a group of artisans following the philosophy of Elbert Hubbard and preserving the ideals which made the Roycroft Campus a center of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Thomas is also one of the few people recognized as a Roycroft Master Artisan which allows him to use the Roycroft “double R” symbol on his work. To become a Roycroft Artisan one must submit his work to a jury comprised of Roycroft Master Artisans who judge it based on the following criteria:

  • High quality of hand craftsmanship
  • Excellence in design
  • Originality of expression
  • Professional recognition
  • Continuing artistic growth

Periodic reviews of all Roycroft Artisan’s work are mandatory in order to maintain the integrity of the movement. To maintain their status, Artisans are reviewed yearly and Master Artisans every five years.

Thomas is degreed in modelmaking and spent the early part of his career doing work for architects. As his career evolved, he took on freelance work including built-ins and kitchen cabinets. Eventually he gravitated toward furniture and discovered veneering. Living in close proximity to Certainly Wood (one of the best sources for premier veneers) has definitely influenced his progression as a woodworker. Thomas uses veneer in some way in every piece of his work. He feels that the use of veneers really opens up the design possibilities and he describes his work as Arts and Crafts for the 21st century – more modern and contemporary. He does all original designs rather than reproductions though, his work is most certainly influenced by the roots of the movement and designers such as: Harvey Ellis, Charles Limbert and Rennie McIntosh. This influence is evidenced by his heavy use of tapers and arches. In addition to his Arts and Crafts work, Thomas also does some work in the Art Deco style.

During the lecture Thomas, showed many examples of his work and noted various construction techniques as well as the specific use of veneers to enhance the designs. Very often in his designs he will use veneers on panels in the construction. This does two things: it allows for a very solid construction because the panels do not need to float and it also promotes the use of contrasting wood types to highlight specific design elements. For some of his curved pieces Thomas will actually laminate up layers of veneer in a form to create the piece – this allows him to use the most beautiful veneers for the outside faces of the piece. Some examples of this technique were in slat backs of some of his chairs and also in some bow front and Art Deco tables. Thomas noted that in doing veneer work you need to be a bit anal about grain matching but, making this effort results in pieces that set themselves apart from normal solid work. In his veneer work he uses Unibond exclusively for gluing. MDF is his most common substrate because it is flat and stable however, he has used many things including foam for very light weight structures.

Thomas’ lecture was very interesting and informative. I have not done much in the way of veneering however, after seeing some of Thomas’ work and hearing his philosophies on using veneer to enhance the design possibilities I am feeling that this is something that may be worth a try on a project in the near future. Also, it’s funny that I live only about 60 miles away from East Aurora yet I have never been to the Roycroft Campus. Looks like there may be a Woodworking roadtrip in my future!

7 Responses to “Thomas Pafk Lecture”

  1. I found your site on google blog search and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. Just added your RSS feed to my feed reader. Look forward to reading more from you.

    - Randy Nichols.

  2. Hi Mark……..that sounds like a nice evening. Glad to see you are going to investigate veneering. Whole new world will open up. Especialy mixed with your solid wood skill-set. The Rochester Woodworkers Society seems very active. Does the society ever bring in individuals from RIT??? and if so are they wood specialists or do you address all materials that maybe could mix with wood??

    Thanks……..Neil

  3. Randy,

    Thanks for dropping by the site. Please continue to visit.

    –Mark

  4. Hi Neil,

    Yes, the world of veneering should be interesting. It seem like for certain pieces, many new possibilities become available.

    The Rochester Woodworkers Society is fairly large and the events are well attended. There are several national speakers every year and also some workshops and field trips, etc.

    I have never seen anyone come in from RIT (I’m an RIT engineering grad, by the way). Though, I think in the distant past guys like Wendell Castle, etc. have lectured. It would be interesting to have someone from their School of America Craftsmen come to talk. Unfortunately, the programs at the woodworking school at RIT are only available full-time (no workshops or part-time study that I know of) it would be interesting to take some design classes there.

    Lots of work on the Queen Anne Side Table project lately – look for another post soon!

    –Mark

  5. Mark -

    Very interesting. Sounds like a very stimulating evening. I have a keen interest in the Arts & Crafts style. The Roycrofters is one of my favorite bookmarks. I am envious that you live so close to such an incredible resource! I have added your RSS feed to my list and I will look forward to further comments on The Roycrofters and your exploration of veneering.

    David

  6. David,

    Thanks for the comment. The Rochester Woodworkers Society is a pretty active group and I enjoy listening tot he speakers that are hosted each year.

    As I mentioned in the post, even though I live close to the Roycrofters, I have never been to the campus. That looks like a trip I will take in the near future. Of course, when I do I’ll post about the experience here.

    Please continue to visit the site. I’ll be getting back to posts on the Queen Anne Side Table project soon.

    –Mark

  7. What a great article! It happens to combine a few of my favorite things.
    I work at Certainly Wood and volunteer at the Roycroft Campus Corporation. Small world!

    I invite you peruse our website at certainlywood.com or give us a call. We have a team of experts here to help you get into a veneering project!
    If you want to get to know more about the Roycroft (which is in East Aurora, NY as well), check out roycroftcampuscorporation.com. I do some of the blog entries there.
    Hope you can make a trip out to see Tom Pafk, the Roycroft Campus and Certainly Wood soon! I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!
    -Amanda

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