A very wood de­ci­sion

An In­dus­trial De­sign grad­u­ate turns to wood to show­case his cre­ativ­ity and make a liv­ing, writes Oon Yeoh

New Straits Times - - LIFE & TIMES -

MOST Malaysians will aim to get a univer­sity de­gree if they have the chance be­cause in or­der to get a de­cent job, pa­per qual­i­fi­ca­tions are pretty much the pre-req­ui­site. Daniel Sale­hud­din stud­ied engi­neer­ing and has a de­gree in In­dus­trial De­sign but in­stead of look­ing for a de­sign job in some cor­po­ra­tion, he opted to start his own busi­ness in­volv­ing wood­work.

Upon grad­u­at­ing, he teamed up with his friend, Khairul Asyraf, who was also an en­gi­neer with a de­gree in Me­chan­i­cal De­sign, to cre­ate Fine Grit Stu­dio.

The only work ex­pe­ri­ence he had be­fore em­bark­ing on this was an in­tern­ship at a cus­tom fur­ni­ture shop.

But Daniel knew what he wanted to do and de­cided to dive in — head first. And he has not looked back since.

HOW DID YOU GET INTO WOOD­WORK?

Wood­work­ing started off as hobby to feed my in­ter­est in mak­ing things. As a child, I used to bor­row my dad’s power tools to do small projects on week­ends. Th­ese projects grew more com­pli­cated as I went through high school. It was then I de­cided that I wanted to make prod­ucts for a liv­ing.

WHAT KIND OF WOOD­WORK DO YOU DO?

I con­sider my­self a mod­ern wood­worker. This means that I use mod­ern ma­chin­ery and power tools to get the job done. This doesn’t mean that I don’t use hand tools. There are times when I need to use a chisel and a mal­let to get things done. So I use a mix of both.

WHAT KIND OF WOOD DO YOU WORK WITH?

We mainly work with lo­cal wood at Fine Grit Stu­dio, with the main ones be­ing Ny­a­toh, Kem­bang Se­mangkok, Kasah and Rub­ber­wood. Once in a while we’d also use Chen­gal. We like to in­tro­duce lo­cal wood to our clients.

WHERE DO YOU GET THE WOOD FROM AND WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE TYPE?

We have a few lo­cal sup­pli­ers not far from our stu­dio. I don’t re­ally have a favourite type of wood but if I had to choose one, it would prob­a­bly be ny­a­toh be­cause of its tight grains, strength and work­a­bil­ity.

DO YOUR CUS­TOMERS USU­ALLY KNOW WHAT THEY WANT OR DO YOU MAKE SUG­GES­TIONS?

We would of­fer them some sug­ges­tions and then we’d come up with a so­lu­tion on how to turn their ideas into re­al­ity.

WHO ARE YOUR TYP­I­CAL CUS­TOMERS?

Our cus­tomers are mainly home­own­ers who are look­ing for cus­tom fur­ni­ture that meets their spe­cific needs.

DO YOU DO WOOD­WORK­ING EV­ERY DAY?

I’m very hands on. I spend roughly eight hours a day do­ing this.

I used to bor­row my dad’s power tools to do small projects. Th­ese projects grew more com­pli­cated as I went through high school. It was then I de­cided that I wanted to make prod­ucts for a liv­ing.

Daniel Sale­hud­din

MANY MOD­ERN WOOD­WORK­ERS LIKE TO UPCYCLE, WHICH IS SOME­THING OF A TREND TH­ESE DAYS. DO YOU UPCYCLE AS WELL?

Up­cy­cling is ba­si­cally mak­ing new prod­ucts out of old ma­te­ri­als. I used to do up­cy­cling. I once made a chair out of an old suit­case and a ta­ble out of pal­lets. But I found that it is not a sus­tain­able busi­ness model to use ma­te­ri­als that are not read­ily avail­able. So I don’t do much of that any­more.

HOW DO YOU MAR­KET YOUR SER­VICES?

We use so­cial me­dia ex­ten­sively — mainly In­sta­gram (@finegrit­stu­dio) — and we get quite a lot of leads from our web­site (www. finegrit­stu­dio.com) as well.

ARE ALL YOUR PROD­UCTS CUS­TOM­MADE?

Yes, all of our prod­ucts are made to or­der. Mass pro­duc­tion is good as it re­duces the price of the prod­ucts. But some­times peo­ple want some­thing dif­fer­ent or some­thing spe­cific that fits their space and needs. That’s where we come in.

WHAT’S THE MOST UN­USUAL WORK YOU’VE DONE TO DATE?

The most un­usual so far would have to be a life-sized, mo­tor­cy­cle-shaped wooden block puz­zle for BMW.

WHAT ARE THE LARGEST AND SMALL­EST ITEMS THAT YOU’VE MADE?

The big­gest item we’ve made is a 3.7 me­tres x 1.8 me­tres meet­ing ta­ble. The small­est is a size eight wooden ring.

WHAT’S THE MOST SAT­IS­FY­ING PROJECT YOU’VE CAR­RIED OUT SO FAR?

This may sound corny but it’s al­ways sat­is­fy­ing when clients are happy with the end prod­ucts. So all our projects are sat­is­fy­ing for me.

HOW DID YOU END UP WITH YOUR BUSI­NESS PART­NER?

We were school­mates as chil­dren so we’ve known each other for many years. Af­ter he grad­u­ated, he of­fered to help with my busi­ness but I in­sisted we be­came part­ners in­stead. He gen­er­ally han­dles the clients, while I han­dle the sup­plies. Both of us are in­volved in pro­duc­tion.

HOW BIG IS YOUR COM­PANY RIGHT NOW?

Cur­rently, we are a team of four, in ad­di­tion to some in­terns. But of course, we have plans to ex­pand. We re­cently moved to a big­ger space, from a shop lot to a small fac­tory. This al­lows us to take on big­ger projects go­ing for­ward. Now we have to in­crease our head­count and do more mar­ket­ing.

Daniel Sale­hud­din

Ac­ces­sories rack.

Chess set.

Desk

Ring

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