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