Sunday, January 3, 2010


These are some of the wood related businesses that are making a larger impact on the local scene at this time.

The web site gives you a pretty good idea of the history of this business, a profile of its founder and the products they make. In many ways this is an ingenious woodworking business in that they have overcome or avoided many of the challenges and pitfalls that many woodworking businesses face. The most significant of these would be joinery. Joinery, to a large extent is what defines furniture making, thus the term “Joinery”. Generally speaking, making the parts is the easy part of woodworking, especially if you are taking advantage of CNC technology. The hard part is putting those parts together. For that you need skilled trades people and or a highly sophisticated manufacturing facility. IKEA gets around this problem by passing on the job of putting the parts together to the consumer. Brent Comber takes it a step further and eliminates the need to put parts together by designing most of the pieces to consist of only a single part. Some of the pieces such as the Alder tables do consist of numerous pieces but do not involve complex joinery; rather the parts are fused together with a gob of construction adhesive.
Although brilliant in its simplicity, this method has its limitations, as we can see the Brent Comber product line is limited to objects providing horizontal surfaces to be used as tables or something to sit on and decorative wall pieces. There are no case goods.
Another great thing about this business is the material they use, commercially worthless cast off material.
With support from organizations such as BC WOOD Brent Comber markets their products internationally, this has been critical to their success.
One of the major, ongoing challenges they face is protecting their products from plagiarism, obviously, if the designs are cheap and easy to make for them, they would be for many others.

The Wood Co-op Gallery was established on Granville Island in Vancouver circa 2000. In January 2008 after part of the roof collapsed in a snow storm the gallery was given two weeks to move. As an interim measure the landlord provided the gallery with a temporary space in The Netloft building also on Granville Island. This space is approximately 1/10 the size of the original. This severely limited the ability of the gallery to show the work of many of its artists. After about ten months of searching, finding and renovating a new space the gallery has re-opened at 1554 West 6th Avenue in Vancouver, a short walk south of Granville Island. The Co-op has also retained the Netloft space. The Wood Co-op gallery carries an eclectic collection of work reflecting the diversity of the artisan / artist woodworking community in British Columbia and provides an indispensible venue for artists and the public to come together.

Kozai is an importer / retailer of Japanese artisan furniture. As you can see from the website the work is fantastic. Obviously there is something good going on in Japan as far as woodworking is concerned. Ironically, if I am not mistaken, much of the choice hardwood we see used in these designs comes from North America. Kozai is located almost directly across the street from The Wood Co-op Gallery, each benefit from their close proximately to each other.

This company has been around in different forms since the early “80’s. They design and produce mostly upholstery with a few wood pieces such as side tables. A few years ago they opened a new showroom in Chinatown. This is a great Vancouver success story and Russell Baker, the founder has a good understanding of the local scene over the past several decades.

This company was founded by its owner Niels Bendtsen and has grown enormously since its humble origin at 1000 Parker in the early ‘90’s. One of their first projects was to supply seating for the huge expansion of Starbucks into Canada. Mr Bendtsen is also the owner of INFORM INTERIORS and a large inventory of commercial real estate in Vancouver.


  1. Shouldn't we add to this list William Switzer and Michael Trayler?
    There must be others too!

    A good, thought provoking read Francis, thank you.

  2. Thanks for your comments.

    Why would we stop at your two examples? I am sure there are hundreds of woodworking operations in Vancouver. The ones I mentioned are the ones most relevant and interesting to me at this time.

    You may have noticed that I mentioned the Wood Co-op Gallery but none of the 150 or so woodworkers represented there. Part of that is because I was on the board of directors and I did not want to be evaluating their work.

    Brent Comber is a bit of a contemporary phenomenon and should be of interest to anyone in the furniture / woodworking business today, especially from a marketing point of view.

    Kozai has unique very high quality Japanese work. There is nothing like it elsewhere in Vancouver.

    Bombast, again has taken an innovative approach. Their designs are interesting and contemporary and they have definitely taken a different approach to retailing by setting up a showroom in the heart of China Town.

    Bensen, is a unique Vancouver story and while the designs are pretty generic modern, they have been able to fit themselves into that international modern niche, while no one else here has. How they did it is a story worth pursuing.

  3. Another reason I mention the businesses that I do is because they are accessible to the public. They all have public showrooms. (Brent Comber may be an exception, but his work is ubiquitous on the internet) Switzer and Traylor are private companies that sell only to "the trade". I could be wrong but I don't think they have showrooms that are open to the public. Also, I would not say that Switzer and Traylor are making an impact on the local scene at this time.