Tuck box

Melbourne-based designers and makers Tuckbox produce furniture that emphasizes the creative process, and celebrates the narrative of its materials.

In an unassuming shed in Melbourne’s north, craftsman and industrial designer Dan de Groot is getting back to basics. He has traded in his computers for cast iron woodworking machinery, and by all accounts things seem to be working out quite well for him.

Dan’s furniture company Tuckbox was brought into being by a love of making and design, and a genuine appreciation for the stories different materials can tell. Together with wife Prue and brother Ant, Dan brings the robust dependability of traditional craftsmanship together with contemporary design to create elegant pieces of furniture that are built to suit the modern urban living environment.

I caught up with Dan to have a chat about the Tuckbox ethos.

You describe your design process as nurturing creativity and experimentation. Can you describe this for us? 

Our workshop, the materials, and importantly the people in it and around it, are what bring shape to our work now. So design time is shared between conversations and experimenting with sketches, materials and the processes that bring out their character the best. I guess we simply made the design office a workshop.

Your furniture accentuates the natural beauty of the materials you use. Do you use a variety of timbers?
A lot of our custom work comes with specific timber requirements and we generally try to offer a good selection of responsibly sourced options.

Where possible we like to keep it local and use responsible, locally sourced and reclaimed Aussie hardwoods. There’s a lot of variety in Aussie hardwood. It can be temperamental, but it’s local, and tells the story of this place we’re in: the light, the seasons and the climate.

Where have you reclaimed timber from in the past?
Prue’s family is from country Victoria so we’ve sourced some from demolitions and sales out there in the past. Melbourne’s constantly changing, and we have some great contacts in timber yards who know what we’re after and let us know when they might have something coming in.

We’ve worked with some beautiful old Douglas Fir that came out of a really old factory warehouse demolition. It came in broad planks with pink tones, and gorgeous grain. It tells a great story.

I hear you’ve got a soft spot for vintage machinery and often go searching for it. This sounds fascinating! Can you elaborate on this at all?
I’ve been a bit short on time to go searching for vintage machinery of late! But this initially came out of a simple inability to be able to afford machines brand new. Along the way we discovered that the old machines were built to last and with a little work they would keep running much longer than some of the newer machines we later purchased.

Some of the heavy old cast iron units have real personality in their designs and operations, so much so they’ve received names in the workshop and have become characters we work with every day.

We have our favourites – ‘Brobo’ the old Australian-made cold-cutting steel saw, ‘Cleever’ the big old Italian band-saw, and our less favourable – ‘The Man Eater’, an angry old Italian radial arm saw who is chums with ‘Grey Ghost’ a powerful old metal polisher that likes to grab and throw pieces of furniture at us from time to time!

We admire vintage machinery – it comes from a time when everything was carefully designed to look good and work well.

In keeping with this spirit, Tuckbox furniture is at once aesthetically pleasing, strong and durable. They offer custom made, bespoke creations to suit commercial or residential requirements. To view the full range of products and custom design options go to www.tuckbox.com.au.

Leave a Comment