To create inspiring wood furniture, Sawdust Bureau owner Bryan Cush demands high quality tools

by Woody Smith
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Image: hp officejet pro

Bryan Cush, owner of bespoke Melbourne furniture company Sawdust Bureau, can make a lot of things. Compromises arent one of them. The Belfast, Ireland-born graduate architect worked in Scotland, Ireland, the Netherlands and Austria before setting up shop in Australia. He became disillusioned with commercial architecture while working for builders who emphasized cost savings over quality; in 2012, he decided to go it alone.

After a few years of tinkering with potential designs in a collaborative Melbourne wool-store studio, Cush received a start-up business grant from the city of Melbourne in 2015. The money allowed them to buy machinery and a new workshop, and an opportunity to step back and try to fine tune a vision for Sawdust Bureau, Cush says.

Its been a steep learning curve. For starters, hes had to integrate his design skill-set into the daily duties of running a business, such as cashflow management, marketing and advertising, filling jobs on time, sourcing high quality lumber and dealing with unexpected circumstances, such as a 2015 flood that inundated the workshop with water. To hit his deadlines and survive with his sanity intact, Cush credits an all-star cast of positive collaborators (and a ton of coffee).

For a man obsessed with meticulous workmanship, the production process for each item is a serious endeavor. Take one recent piece, titled Pinch Noir. Black and sleek, the angular object is meant to display and conceal reading material as a hallway bench or coffee table.

It owes its namesake to the technique of pinching, or creating rectangular loop forms to construct a narrow, shadowy nook that stashes away old magazines, while highlighting embedded brass strips that act as hanging rails for more important rags at the opposite end of the table.

We value the importance in learning how to use a tool or piece of machinery correctly, Cush says.

Structurally engineering the functional artwork and maintaining the smooth matte black finish throughout without using stain presented the greatest challenges. The 90 hours of work cutting and assembling the wood, boosting the lumbers tannn count with ebonising techniques and coating it all with iron acetate (which generates the beautiful black finish) made Sawdust Bureau $4,980 per table. Cush showcases his craftsmanship on the companys Instagram page, which allows him to connect with a global community of furniture enthusiasts who share his passion for a dynamic blend of thoughtful design and insightful engineering.

Buyers of these generational-spanning artworks subscribe to the buy quality, buy once principle of ownership, which happens to be Cushs personal doctrine when it comes to his tools. For that reason, he uses HP OfficeJet Pro printers to visualize his designs, inside and outside the office.
We use HP printers to print out CAD (Computer-Aided Design) drawings and cut lists of our projects, Cush says. Most of our work begins life in our sketchbooks, which we then scan in order to tweak and fine tune the concept on the computer.

To hit his deadlines, Cush is constantly on the move between the timber yard, the gallery and anywhere else his work takes him. To print these all-important drawings on the move, he uses the HP iPhone app, which allows him to access his printer, run off the drawings and grab them without slowing his gait.

For Cush, the printers fit perfectly into his mantra of mastery.

We value the importance in learning how to use a tool or piece of machinery correctly, Cush says. And honing our skill set around it before we move onto the next investment.

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