My first visit to the Dunstone Design workshops was back in 2016 when I was organising the Veritas Down Under tour for Carbatec featuring Wally Wilson and Vic Tesolin from Veritas Tools Canada. The three of us had been on a whirl wind tour of the East Coast and were feeling a little strung out. We had a spare day before the event scheduled at the Bungendore Wood Works Gallery, I thought this would be a good opportunity to drop in on Evan Dunstone.
“Evan and his business stand as one of Australia’s best examples of a fine woodworking workshop”
I had known Evan for years, but I’d never actually visited his workshop before. I know that sounds strange especially as here we are two years later organising Wood Dust together, but Evan and I had managed to build a relationship catching up at woodworking events, just never on our home turf.
I didn’t really know what to expect at Evan’s workshop. I had met Evan originally back in the early 2000’s at an invitation only exhibition at the Bungendore Wood Works Gallery called ‘Wow”. I had travelled down from Northern NSW with my Japanese inspired sliding door cabinet, from memory not a bad piece but on account of the super dry climate of Southern NSW the cabinet shrank and twisted damaging the sliding door mechanism and the doors fell out. Embarrassing. Anyway, Evan had recently returned from his Churchill Fellowship and his finely made dining chairs were there in all their glory and yes, I was jealous. To alleviate my pain, I put Evan’s work down to being overly manufactured, he’s nothing more than some sort of high-end machinist I thought, where’s the handwork? He’d probably hate me describing him that way, particularly with the big woodworking reputation Evan has forged since then over the years, but hey, I was young and emotional.
So the three of us turn up at Dunstone Design. Evan was very accommodating granting us all an extensive tour of the workshop, finishing areas and showroom. It was pretty obvious to all of us Evan and his business stand as one of Australia’s best examples of a fine woodworking workshop. Evan’s team of three makers work to very exact standards in everything they do from the finished product right down to the extra clean floor of the cavernous 650 metres plus workspace. Thinking of my own humble workshop back in Brisbane made he feel a little ill.
Evan has accumulated an impressive set of machines that are the best in their class. He has a Martin T45 thicknesser, an SCM surface planner, an SCM wide belt sander and a custom built Centauro Band Resaw, just to name the big guns. All the machines were bought new, so they are all in excellent condition. His dust extraction system winds its way across the ceiling like something out of an Alien film, so powerful that it just about sucks you up the spout and spits you out in the hopper.
So why all the big machines? Evan understands that his makers are the most expensive things in his workshop, so it is critical to get to the hand work as fast as possible and it is in the hand work where Dunstone Design’s furniture really shines. The subtle details and fine finish that can only be achieved through hand work sets Evan’s furniture apart. Evan’s team work together on production runs and as individuals on specific custom pieces such as cabinets and tables—the pride and enthusiasm for their work is obvious. When the team are on the job the place fairly hums, this is not a quaint romantic workshop, this is a tool every bit as refined as the machinery. I reflected on my first experience of Evan’s chairs all those years ago, it all made a lot more sense now.
Wally and Vic were also suitably impressed, though Wally did note a lack of Veritas tools on the benches – Evan is definitely a Lie Nielsen fan-boy I am afraid. For me, Evans workshop showed what hard work, discipline and a chunk of raw talent can produce. My own woodworking has always been about play and expressing ideas, Evan comes from the complete other end of the spectrum. Perhaps together he and I will produce a woodworking event that fulfils all different types of all maker’s needs.
Dunstone Design and Wood Dust Masterclasses
So, I must say that I’m pretty excited about seeing the Dunstone Design workshop come alive for the Wood Dust Masterclasses. I’m not sure whether there is another workshop in Australia that could run this many classes simultaneously. I’m looking forward to the buzz of all those enthusiastic makers and teachers talking and doing the craft they love. Imagine the likes of Michael Fortune, Andy Buck, Matt Kenny, Bern Chandley, Vic Tesolin, Thomas Lie Nielsen all rubbing shoulders while they make, teach, demonstrate and amaze with their lifetime commitment to the craft. It’s just a pity that I’ll be running around managing the festival, otherwise I would be there as a student! I’m still a woodwork die hard at heart.
Dunstone Design is the location for Wood Dust’s woodworking masterclasses. Some tickets are still available for Andy Buck’s 3-day Masterclass. However a series of Short Masterclasses featuring Thomas Lie Nielsen, Vic Tesolin and Matt Kenney will be released mid-July. Explore our website to learn more about the festival and join our email list below to be the first to hear about the short masterclasses.