details / furnishings / materials / people

Furniture in Nature’s Finish

Todd Leback is a master artisan working from his custom furniture making shop in Charlottesville. Faced with the choice of attending William and Mary or honing his craft, he left for Washington State twelve years ago for a six month exercise in the craft of traditional wooden boatbuilding. After practicing carpentry and cabinetry for many years, he recently began making custom furniture full time in Charlottesville with an eye towards the inherent nature of the materials at hand. Lacewood, Red Oak, Bird’s Eye Maple, Cherry, Curly Etimoe, Sycamore, Curly White Oak, Leopardwood and Walnut are his palette. His work is imbued with a strong sense of authenticity through his choice to use several types of wood simultaneously within each piece for both function and finish.

He is currently experimenting with the “torsion box” concept, a method similar to the construction detailing of an airplane wing yielding a very dimensionally stable and stiff assembly. A rigid wooden grid is skinned on each side with a thin substrate such as ¼” MDF and then covered with select wood veneers imparting a particular finished surface according to the natural color and grain of the wood.

“I prefer to work with woods that have strong character and an interesting appearance, and try not to use stains or dyes that would obscure the [natural character of the] wood itself; if I want a particular color I simply use the appropriate wood. In most pieces I try to use at least two species that provide some visual contrast,” says Leback.

Whether furniture or cabinetry, his process involves working with a client to design according to their needs, but like the mark of a true artist, a sense of Todd Leback’s own aesthetic remains in the finished artifact – destined to become heirloom pieces.

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Images: Todd Leback


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