coverage on Furniture Making For Beginners Nov 2015 woodworking course by FRIM

With IKEA Cheras just recently opened last Thursday, furniture has never been easier to buy despite it’s still very expensive price. But have you ever thought to yourself – if only I can make that coffee table, or that book shelf, instead of buying it?

Well good news for DIYers for whom over the weekend KerjaKayu and FRIM organised the Basic Woodworking Furniture workshop held at Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM), with its green lushes and jungly flora and fauna.

Did you know FRIM was actually an ex-mining site that had no trees?

Replanting FRIM to what it is now, where a stroll feels like a real jungle, FRIM Research Officer Zairul Rabidin and online wood making DIY site founder Azlan are amongst those who advocate a DIY culture on working with wood and furniture making for beginners and they tell us why Malaysians should learn on how to work with wood.

Workshop Teaches Individuals How To Work With Wood

“Today we’ll be making this small TV table,” FRIM’s Zairul who has a Masters of Science in Wood and Technology, said to the six participants in the workshop.

Delving deeply into the classification of wood, to the anatomy of a tree trunk, the properties of softwood or hardwood and drying wood, the workshop aims to introduce the basic properties of wood, safe working practices, the use of woodworking tools, machines and materials, to measure and cut wood stock, and learn how to join and make the finishing of the wood.

“There are over 3,000 different species of hardwood trees that exist in the Malaysian forest, with 800 species commercially important for timber production, 100 for trade, and 60 most common commercial timber,” Zairul explains.

“And when it comes to working with wood, 50 percent of the wood is sapwood (the outer ring), but the wood we will be handling is the heartwood, or the inner, stronger ring of wood,” he details, for those who thought any wood could be used for furniture.

One Log, Many Purposes

Azlan started with KerjaKayu, his own company this year after he got interested in making furniture early last year.

Leveraging on FRIM and FITEC’s tools at hand, Azlan decided to bring their technical know-how together with his legion of DIY fans both together.

We asked why should Malaysians bother with DIY?

“You can ask yourself, why would you need an education in woodworking and DIY? Malaysia itself has rich sources of wood and we have tools that can help us fashion these woods into items. Why spend money when you can make them?

“For ready-made furniture, you know the quality that you will get. Sure, something is beautiful and you pay RM1,000 for it, but what if you know about wood, you realise that you can make it yourself at a much cheaper rate, and with a better design.

“When I first got interested in wood, I saw that a lot of people threw away furniture that could still be used or repurposed, and I could have made something out of it,” he shared.

Azlan hopes that after participants had gotten the basics of woodworking, participants can use their creativity to create other items.

“All we do is teach you the basics. That’s what you need to know before embarking on bigger projects,” he said.

Increasing Interest In Alternative Hobbies With The Public

Below are photos, showing us in-process of building our small coffee table made of Meranti wood − from cutting the legs to its proportions using the back saw, to drilling holes and screws for the joints, sanding the wood with at least three different types of tools to smooth out the wood. Who ever knew even building something this small took quite a bit of work?

Speaking with the participants who ranging from all ages and occupations, from lawyers to students, business NGO’s, and corporate people from the Oil and Gas industry, most have a keen interest in wood making.

Participants told us that it was all due to their interest in DIY that they took up this project.

“I accidentally discovered this course, I first checked out the KerjaKayu page and it’s something different when you create furniture with your own hands instead of buying them. It feels more personal,” claims a participants who is part of an NGO that deals with business associations.

“I’m thankful for KerjaKayu to have organised this session, and what drew me to this was the fact that it was for people with no ‘experience’ in wood. Thank you!

“I can buy all the tools in but never knew which does what? It’s very difficult for me to find beginners courses like these – and making tables, or something simple, can be a hobby,” he declared.

53-year-old Wan Nadzree on the other hand says that he joined because of his personal interest and the fact he already was interested in timber since a long time ago.

“It’s good to finally be shown how to do things properly, how to use the tools properly – I mean if you make something like a hen house where precision is not required then that you can do lah, if you cut a piece of wood too short you can still go ahead with it.

“But for the things that you do need to be precise, this workshop has shown there’s techniques on how to be precise, using the trimmer tool to make the table’s legs straight for example – I’ve never used that before.

“Woodworking is exciting once you are able to create a function out of the wood, and that is what it’s all about. I always wanted to do a carpenter’s work bench – and I might come back to FRIM for advice,” he says with a laugh.

“It’s the guidance that you need and that, they provide. You can buy your own tools, no problem, but you need teachers to show you how to do it properly. Nothing beats hands on demonstrations over videos or book diagrams, face-to-face is a lot more effective and there’s not many institutions that can do this,” he expressed.

Finally, 25-year-old Gary who just recently graduated from Durham University, had done the course along with his father said that it’s very important for modern society, which has lost touch with nature, to be more hands-on.

“Because of our buy and throw consumer culture, we have lost touch with nature and we hardly repair things anymore. We don’t have many craftsman, we have too many mass produced items, with IKEA and all that, we need to get back to handmade items,” he stressed.

As we put on the finishing touches to our tables, coating the table with a staining product for the colour, then manually sanding it for smoothness, before adding the sealer, undercoat and two overcoats (with manual sanding of the table between each layer), we finally stand proudly with what two days of work led to.

We also realised that this course on making basic furniture has attracted the young and the old, from all types of occupations. Personally for me, I took this workshop because I envied how our fathers and men before us could build and repair things on their own. As men, we should know how to use tools and create things, rather than just consume them.

For those who are interested and seek to build their first wooden item, what steps can they take next?

Zairul adds:

“FRIM does a lot of things. Forest products and green technology is one of them. We’ve actually conducted many wood making courses based on requests from educational institutions, corporate events, secondary schools – so besides FRIM’s other attractive options of hiking and cycling, we’re happy to provide something different.

“We also provide other courses such as ones on basic furniture making, using power tools, using woodworking machines for processing (suitable for those opening workshops)”.

In future, tables with drawers, cabinets, and bookshelves are amongst the furniture items they might build in the course.
Also, good news for beginners who are not confident in investing in machines or on creating wooden products, Azlan has rented out his workshop for the public to use the available space and equipment provided by KerjaKayu to learn and build anything they wish.

“I just want people to enjoy wood making, it’s my way of giving back to the community.

“I plan to work these woodworking sessions the same as in the States. I want to make the DIY culture a trend where instead of buying something, we make it. This is only the beginning, but soon, I hope that we can bring the culture of building rather than buying to Malaysians.”


For more information, check out KerjaKayu.My

Written by : Mushamir Mustafa
Photos taken by : Mushamir Mustafa

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