Hand-made furniture that folds away
Made in NelsonJUDITH RITCHIE
Rex Lucas - Wood Works Wonders
Retirement can sometimes bring an end to what a man has focused on all his working life, with little of interest to do and too much spare time. For Rex Lucas, now in his seventies, retirement has been an interesting and creative continuation of his whole working life and far from boring.
In between social engagements including having regular visitors stay with him and his wife, Pam, in their Tahunanui home, he makes wooden tables and stools.
Rex spent his working life as a handyman so it was no big leap for him to put his hand to making furniture.
His first experience "on the tools" was at just 13 years old, when he set out with his father to build the family home. After five years of working on weekends and during holidays, they completed it, and now Rex credits a lot of his practical skills to this early experience.
Talking with him in his home, he mentions the sunroom where we sit as an addition he did, along with the special cupboard on his trailer outside, the cat-flap he moved and various other projects around the house.
Rex says he has always loved wood, and six years ago he started collecting pallets made from untreated pine.
He had seen a collapsible outdoor table, found it was very heavy and thought, "I can improve on that", so he remade one to his own much lighter design. Rex is quick to add that his stools are by no means flimsy and recalls when at Opera in the Park, one of the guest tenors sat his full 118kg on a stool and it held up "no worries".
Pam, who is an artist, paints the furniture in bright colours, and between them they turn out one to two sets per week. "Nothing too demanding," he says with a grin. He doesn't want to get into "production" - this is a hobby.
Having the right tools makes work easier, and having places set up to facilitate making them also keeps the process straightforward and the stress levels down. Rex works from the single garage downstairs, plus has a shed around the side of the house, with a drill press, drop saw and his grandfather's band saw, all fitted into a compact space.
As well as the painted pine sets, Rex also makes rimu sets finished with polyurethane.
Rex and Pam go to markets to sell the tables and stools, not regularly, just every now and then. Lately it has been the Wakefield Market, they also sometimes go down to Culverden. Soon they will sell at the Stoke Sunday Market, just to see how that goes.
Rex knows the bright colours really attract people's attention; then once they come for a look, he demonstrates how they fold down. This has been a big selling point and Rex says that many customers are in campervans or mobile homes wanting something that will pack away. Others just like them for a small outdoor setting and have been known to come back for a second set.
Rex's tip: Have all the equipment that is required to do the job and be patient.