On dovetail joints, inlay work and pieces made to last

I have an appreciation for hardwood furniture and furniture that tells a story; something that has stemmed from my father’s passion for the same. I first met Johnny Wagenaar when I was having some old family furniture restored.  I didn’t want the mahogany dining chairs that I had inherited to lose their character – the patina and marks from long term use. Johnny understood this and the results were stunning. Since then I have contacted Johnny whenever I have had things restored or need some new and unique furniture. My favourite of the pieces he has made for me is an Art Deco bed frame – something that one couldn’t  find in modern retailers.

To diverge on a little rant, the furniture available through most retailers is simply not made to last. The presence of chip board, staples and substandard upholstery is ubiquitous. And yes, handmade furniture is often more expensive, but it is more durable and it lasts longer. I mourn the relative lack of appreciation for artisans, and their skillful and beautiful work. Rant over.

Johnny started his business, Albany Cabinets, in 1992. A cabinet maker, he has a passion for hardwood furniture and indigenous woods like African Rosewood, Zimbawean Teak and Kiaat. He showed me pieces in his home that he made when he got married; pieces that have value far beyond economic terms. While Johnny has all sorts of machinery in his workshop, he most enjoys making things by hand and showed me his collection of hand planes that he uses to shape his pieces. He has a passion for handmade dovetail joints and that moment when everything fits together perfectly. He also produces pieces featuring inlay techniques that provide intricate details and patterns to the most basic of forms. This makes him a true artisan, working at the interface between the technical and the creative.

Albany Cabinets 082 320 1126


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