Woodcase

A venture into the world of product design, that’s piqued interest from record labels to photographers across the globe.

Timber variances and protection

Produced in a variety of soft and hard woods, the cases are book matched and slide fit to allow for variations in the timber.

With a raised spindle, we kept the CD's surface clear of the wood to prevent any scratching during transit.

CNC milling & tool paths

Almost 80% of production is done by our CNC milling machine. The path which the router blade takes through the wood (illustrated by the diagram on the left) is constantly being refined, depending on the hardness of the wood, and the speed at which we to run production

Although the CNC time has been reduced, every unit still has to be hand-finished with varying grades of sandpaper. This is the part of the process we have no desire to speed up. After all, it's the stage the customer pays for as it allows us the opportunity to carefully examine each case properly.

Woods: Ash, Walnut & Oak

Early on we conducted numerous experiments to find the best timber to use. Soft woods such as pine were prone to splintering and warping during the hot milling stage. Very hard woods such as oak had a habit of taking much longer to process (both by machine and by hand). We also noticed router blades wore significantly faster with oak, which we had to take into consideration for much larger production runs.

Ash gave the best results. It has the tight grain of hard wood, which means it feels solid and pleasant to the touch, and is also much easier to finish by hand than other hard woods.

Warping: why it failed

After several months of producing small batches and shipping them off to customers around the world, we started to receive units back which had developed a slight warp. We looked at our production technique and initially blamed the speed at which we were running the milling cycle. Perhaps our times were too fast and aggressive and this put the woods under unnecessary strain. But even when we moved to a gentler cycle, units were still returned. Nobody wants disappointed customers, and several refunds later we ceased production, determined to resolve the problem.

One of the biggest issues was shipping the cases to international locations with vastly different climates.

Being a product produced in a small workshop in temperate Britain, the cases aren’t durable enough to withstand the climate shock of parcel warehouses or being left on the doorstep by the postman in a desert.

Ben and I often revisit the problem, and wonder if one possible solution lies in following the example set by iPhone case manufacturers who have machined from warp-resistant block-laminate bamboo. Although it is a potential solution, it would ruin the unique selling point of the product, which is something made from one solid piece of wood, with no glue or fasteners involved.