WHEN Jackie Tan was working as an interior designer in the commercial and hospitality industry, he was used to seeing lots of waste material being thrown out during renovation works. There would be cement, copper pipes, leftover metal bits, wood pallets and plywood, which would all be tossed out.
"For almost all interior design jobs, there would always be leftover raw materials and industrial waste," says Mr Tan, 28. "I wanted to experiment with the materials to see what products I could produce, given my creative background."
Mr Tan has a degree in environmental design, and now runs Triple Eyelid full-time.
"When Triple Eyelid first started, there was no client so I had to identify what products I could make to improve our daily lives," says Mr Tan. He started by making a daybed constructed from wood pallets, concrete chairs and shelves for the studio.
That was two years ago, and now the studio produces pieces such as laptop stands made from plywood offcuts, timber amplifiers, and reclaimed pallet wood nightstands, which are available for sale through the website.
Mr Tan is no stranger to woodworking. When he was studying for his degree in Tasmania, he had to design and make furniture from scratch. Later on, he also had the opportunity to design and build stage props for the university's plays.
"I find wood a great construction material due to its versatility. It can be perfectly modular yet uniquely organic at the same time," he says. He particularly loves working with reclaimed pallet wood. "There is always an element of surprise because you never really know how the wood looks until they have been properly processed."
He usually works with plywood, pallet pine wood and pallet solid hard wood. The pieces are all handcrafted in a workshop in Joo Koon.
Mr Tan works with Xcel Industrial Supplies, a company that supplies solder and packaging products, and repurposing old pallet wood, for his raw materials.
"Our collaboration allows us to produce quality sustainable furniture and do our part for the environment in our small little way," says Mr Tan. Xcel supplies Mr Tan with quality pallet wood that has been heat treated so that he can experiment with creative upcycle products and furniture. The company also provides him with a workshop space and other resources such as logistics and transportation. In return, Mr Tan shares part of his profit with Xcel.
Building furniture is more than just cutting and joining pieces of wood. Mr Tan says that most of the wooden planks that he gets are not perfectly flat so he has to ensure they are perfectly flat with a jointer. The jointer is a woodworking machine used to produce a flat surface along a board's length
Next, a thickness planer machine is used to ensure that all the wooded planks have the exact same thickness to join up into a bigger board.
Depending on the project design, a combination of tools such as the drill press machine, panel saw, router, mitre saw, and bandsaw are used to create the different pieces.
To finish the furniture, Mr Tan uses a machine to sand down rough edges before sealing the wood with varnish.
Apart from a regular range of products, Mr Tan can also do bespoke pieces such as a beer crate stool with storage options, and a copper timber display rack.
Clients usually come with reference images, and which Mr Tan develops into sketches or renderings, before proceeding to build a prototype.
"Clients will be invited to try out the furniture and give us comments on the prototype which we will improve upon to create a tailored-made furniture especially for them," he says.
He says that being able to design and make his own furniture gives him a sense of accomplishment. "With every project, I learn new wood working techniques that allow me to tackle more tricky designs in the future."
Working with wood can be a health hazard. Ear, eye and respiratory personal safety equipment are mandatory in his workshop.
Then there are the splinter wounds to deal with, which is why Mr Tan makes it a point to wear gloves when handling raw and unprocessed pallet wood. "Splinter wounds are very common but at some point they no longer bother a woodmaker," he says."