Welcome to Yale Design of Devon

Hi & welcome to the blog page of Yale Design where everything is 100% English hand-made. I am based in the beautiful Suffolk countryside of East Anglia, where I specialise in making my unique wooden heraldic shields and quirky wooden boxes.

I use very thin birch ply to hand-shape my curved shields and create the carcases of the tiny boxes I make, and everything is decorated with hand-made transfers which feature heraldic & Celtic themes.

I can produce bespoke shields to the customer's specification finished with a coat of arms design or logo. All the items featured here are available for sale in my Zibbet shop, and I'm always interested in commissions.

My newly-launched range of Share-My-Heart boxes features the paired Heart Wedding Ring boxes,the Memento child keepsake boxes, the Tear-drop Memento Mori boxes, and the Custom Guitar Pick boxes. All designer and made bespoke.

Why Yale Design? The Yale is one of the most mental of the heraldic beasts with its swivelling horns, which is a good enough reason by itself in my book, however I am directly descended from the English Plantagenet king Edward I, which makes Henry VIII my 7th cousin 17 times removed. Still with me? The logo I've adopted shows the Yale of Beaufort, one of the Tudor badges. Margaret Beaufort was Henry's grandmother, wife of Sir Edmund Tudor, and responsible for getting Henry VII to the Battle of Bosworth and establishing the Tudor dynasty.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

The miniature shields just got smaller!

I've just started making a new line of super-miniature heraldic shields.

These are hand-curved and finished just like their bigger brothers, but these are hung on leather thonging and can be used as heraldic tags on the personal equipment of history re-enactors, or on longer thonging worn as pendants.

They all feature hand-made heraldic decals over a gold or silver base coat and finished with clear lacquer, and can be made to order.

I am currently experimenting with different pendant shapes, and also with Celtic knotwork themes.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

New shield treatments

The next stage in the evolution of my miniature heraldic shields is the edge-to-edge coat of arms decal, which completely covers the shield, and applying a base coat to the wood to create different effects with the coat of arms.

The pictures show a shield primed with a coat of white gesso, and shields with a gold base coat, and finally a shield with silver leaf applied before the decal is added.

Once the shields have received their final two coats of clear lacquer, they achieve a deep gloss finish and a metallic feel.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

The Cabinet of Curiosities - Part III

All the construction is now done and the exterior surfaces have two base coats of lacquer. This is important as it seals the wood, because the decal material I use has to go onto a non-porous surface. The theme of the exterior decoration was to be images from natural history, medical images and so on to illustrate the eclectic mix of wacky stuff you'd find in a Victorian collector's Cabinet of Curiosities.

I treated each panel of the cabinet separately, and created a collage of images for each face of the piece using the fabulous archive of vintage images provided by Karen at the Graphics Fairy with a vague theme for each panel, medical, advertising art, natural history, architecture etc. It was essential that the decal for each panel of the piece be exactly the same size as the surface to be applied to as the decals are edge-to-edge so that piece was entirely covered with decoration. Each face of the piece was scanned and the image resized to match the original exactly, then the collages were put together using the scanned images as templates. When the artwork was complete the decals were made and varnished with several light coats of spray acrylic varnish to make them waterproof. They were then cut out and floated onto the outer surfaces of the cabinet, a very tricky operation as they had to fit perfectly and they are very delicate until they are dry. The hardest part of the job was the front panel which was a one-piece decal that was positioned over the front of the four drawers, and then had to be carefully sliced through with a fine scalpel to fit the individual drawer fronts - a very hairy operation, because if the decal gets damaged during application, it's game over.

The decals then have to harden for 24 hours before you can apply the final 2 coats of clear lacquer to protect the decoration. The finishing touch I found in a local dolls house shop - some insanely-small miniature wooden drawer knobs. I drilled the drawers, glued the knobs in place and the piece was finished

Here are some pictures of the finished piece, also shown with a take-out coffee cup to show the size of it. This piece will shortly be going in to my shop on Zibbet.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

The Cabinet of Curiosities - Part II

So with the carcase built and clad in 0.8mm ply, that gives the external dimensions of the piece, and the shape and depth of the four drawers. At this stage there is no back to the piece as it is much easier to fit the drawers into an open framework.

The drawers are now constructed, and the only way to do this is slowly and piece by piece, starting with just the base of the drawer and one side. The base is cut to size and is taped in place inside the aperture in the carcase. The first side is also cut to fit and strong wood glue applied to the relevant edge, then the side is positioned inside the framework against the drawer base and also taped in place. Because of the wonky shape of the drawer apertures, this is the only way to do it, and before any gluing is done I line the drawer apertures with sellotape as a glue barrier to prevent the drawers from being permanently glued in place! Once the drawers have four sides and a base and are flush with the front and back of the carcase, the front panel of the piece is cut to the outside profile of the carcase. Then it can be marked out and cut to fit the individual drawers and glued onto the front panels of the four drawers with them in situ. Here are some shots of the drawers so you can see the crazy final shapes.

When the front panel has been fitted the back panel is cut to shape and glued in place, and when the glue has dried the whole piece is sanded and the edges rounded off and shaped. When this stage has been finished all exterior surfaces need two coats of clear lacquer as a base for the decals which will be applied as final decoration.

Here are a few shots of the cabinet completed to this stage and awaiting final decoration.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

The Cabinet of Curiosities - Part I

As you may have noticed already, the boxes I make are a bit quirky - usually a slightly unusual shape.

Check out the triangular Double Eagle box and you'll see what I mean. After all any one can make a rectangular box can't they?

So for the new project I decided to design something really mad - a miniature box that worked like a piece of furniture, but where the individual drawers were all wonky and nothing had parallel sides. The outside would be natural wood, but decorated with a collage of old engravings showing the kind of weird stuff that the Victorians used to collect and file in drawers in old wooden cabinets (thanks Karen the Graphics Fairy), a little like the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, England, which is a mad collection of the weirdest stuff you've ever seen, from shrunken heads to violins and canoes. I also wanted it to confuse the eye in a photograph, so that you weren't quite sure if it was tiny or a full size piece of furniture. I have called it the Cabinet of Curiosities as a tribute to those Victorian collectors who travelled the world to fill their own cabinets, and it's basically a miniature box for putting your own (very tiny) weird stuff in.

So here's a shot of the carcase of the box - my starting point - and the template for the drawers. The carcase was constructed of slightly heavier ply than I normally use to give me a framework, but then clad in the 0.8 mm ply with decent grain to give an attractive support for the graphics.

So there we have it. The template for the project. Not a pair of parallel sides in sight, four wonky apertures to fit with four totally dissimilar drawers, and the resulting shape a bit like a super-trendy avant garde piece of sixties furniture. Watch this space.

Friday, 16 July 2010

How small can these boxes get?

I tend to work very small when I make my wooden boxes. The "planks" of wood I use are less than 1mm thick, which is I suppose around about a thirty-second of an inch in old money, so I make them small, thin and light, and they don't form a solid structure until all the layers and panels are in place. This makes them fiddly to make, as there is no frame or armature to build on and no shape until you get the base and 2 walls in place.

I made a couple of small "goth" style coffin-shaped boxes which you can see on the slide-show and are featured on my Zibbet shop, and then guess what, I decided to go even smaller!

I think that the new coffin, at present in natural wood & undecorated, is probably as small as you want to go in terms of a practical box of that shape with a lid that works. Checkout the pix and you'll see what I mean. Now I just have to decide whether to leave it in natural wood finish or decorate and lacquer it. Might even put an image inside it as a change.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Tools of the trade & methods

I have been interested in heraldry and the medieval period for many many years, and have recently found a way to translate that interest into 3D form by producing my Yale Design heraldic shields and boxes.

I use a very minimal tool kit to produce my work. The birch ply I use is very very thin, less than a millimetre thick, which means that I can do all my cutting with a surgical scalpel on a cutting mat, and the shields can be shaped by hand. My unique shield design is the only one available which copies the shape and form of a 14th century "heater" type shield in miniature, and are shaped and laminated with strong wood glue - that's the glue that says it's stronger than the wood it's stuck to!

Naturally, when you make miniature wooden boxes and you need a toolbox, you have to make your own, so I made a miniature toolbox from 0.8mm birch ply just large enough to hold my scalpel, 6" steel rule and mechanical pencil. Here are a couple of pictures.

I managed to cut the ply to feature a tiny knot in the wood on the lid of the box, just for a little added interest. The box has been sanded smooth and just left with a natural wood finish.

Producing my stuff is a naturally slow process. The hand-laminated shields have to stay in tension for a couple of hours at least to allow the glue to set sufficiently so that they maintain their shape for ever. The shields and boxes have to then have 2 coats of clear lacquer as a base for the applied designs, and 2 further coats of clear lacquer as protection after the artwork transfers have been applied, so there is a lot of built-in drying time. I usually try to run 2 or 3 projects at the same time so that I can "piggy-back" the various stages of the process.

Because my pieces are always finished in natural wood, I deliberately use a semi-translucent type of transfer material so that the natural grain of the wood shows through and adds an extra dimension to the artwork. For this reason I try to select wood with an interesting grain pattern that will enhance the final piece.

In the next post I'll focus on an almost finished work-in-progress, the most quirky box so far, which is called the Cabinet of Curiosities.