Peter McManus from Yard furniture


Words: Manuela Millan
Photos: Roberta Lia

Peter McManus has been a carpenter for 30 years, he has worked on building sites, taught at TAFE, and now runs Yard Furniture in Preston. Peter’s design style emphasises locally made, small batch or one-off pieces, designed to let the character of the wood speak for itself.

 

Peter started collecting recycled timber while he was working on building sites, where he saw that a lot of wood was being wasted and thrown away. As he began to devote more time to crafting objects and furniture in his backyard he found that he needed more space.

It developed from the back yard element, but when friends of mine Pop and Scott first started their workshop, I moved into there with them. I decided to can the teaching and after being with Pop and Scott for about 12 months I got my own space.

Peter’s hard work has paid off. He founded Yard Furniture about two years ago after moving to his current larger warehouse and it has grown from there.

It came along very well and expanded in the way I had hoped. It’s been a lot of hard work but the rewards are there.

Peter gets his timber in large batches where possible to ensure consistency and to allow him to replicate the tone and character of his work if he decides to make additional pieces at a later date.

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Peter took us through his workshop and explained his process for selecting and preparing the recycled timber. Because the timber is recycled, it often requires significant preparation before it can be used to make furniture, but Peter is sure to retain the essence of the timber itself.

There’s natural features and then there’s human features – nail holes, bolt holes and certain things like that. We have to use the metal detector to get all the nails out of the timber, so that our machines don’t go through and put big chips in them. Whenever I hear a nail going through I get cranky.

Sustainability is a major consideration and ethos of Yard Furniture and Peter aims to reuse or recycle his materials wherever possible.

We try to limit our waste, although a certain amount is unavoidable. We try to come up with ideas and designs to use the off cuts. I’ve got an apprentice, and we will design a simple thing together using the offcuts, developing his skills. Once the off-cuts get below a certain size, a lot of it goes to firewood. This time of year I get a lot of friends calling for that. Also the word is out in the local area that if you need sawdust for composting, mulch, things like that to come to us.

Peter has very high standards for himself and his work, and refuses to compromise his design integrity, even if that means spending more time and effort.

A guy from [major furniture retailer] came in and asked me if I would be interested in making some of my designs for them. He started talking about using veneer and other products to lower the cost.

I wouldn’t be doing this if I was going to use veneer. Using recycled timber keeps me entertained. It keeps you creative because the timber is always different, it comes in a whole host of varieties which keeps you on your toes, and keeps you challenged. Veneer board is so consistently boring.

It’s these qualities that make Yard Furniture unique and has allowed it to grow a loyal following in a relatively short time. We look forward to seeing what Peter and Yard Furniture come with in the future.

Using recycled timber keeps me entertained. It keeps you creative because the timber is always different
— Peter McManus
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MM: Where do you get your best coffee and lunch?

PM: The best coffee I get is from Harvest Food Store in Fairfield. Sunday is my day when I’m flexible because there’s no one here, I’ll drive to Fairfield and go to Harvest and have a really nice lunch.

MM: If you had to make a table or a chair, which one would you choose?

Table!  Chairs are complex and time consuming. We have a lot of chairs here, but a lot of them we don’t make. The only one we make is the all-upholstered one. A lot of recycled timber is not conducive to making chairs, you need a furniture grade wood.