Questions to ask your ‘fundi’ before you give him the job - Beaking Kenya News

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Thursday, 18 June 2020

Questions to ask your ‘fundi’ before you give him the job

One mistake homeowners make when getting their bespoke furniture crafted is to leave most decisions to the fundi. All they do is WhatsApp the fundi an image of what they want made, M-Pesa the deposit, call in frequently to check on progress then finally have the finished product delivered to their home.
This is when the coin drops: you wanted a cruise ship, yet your fundi made a fishing boat.
You almost collapse when you see it — this is clearly not what you paid for.
The thing about bespoke furniture is that you must communicate your preferences and tastes at the design stage.
In that regard, here are five questions you must ask your fundi before he gets down to work:
1. What particular type of wood are you using?
This is a crucial question for you to get value for your shilling and from the wood your fundi selects. Hardwood costs more per square metre than softwood does. Break it down further and you will learn that there are particular varieties of hardwood and softwood that cost more than other varieties.
For example, mahogany and mango wood are both hardwood, but mango wood costs much less per square metre than mahogany does.
There are some fundis who tell you they are using hardwood but use softwood instead, then they make you pay through the nose for it.
Ask your fundi to show you samples of some of the products he has made using each particular type of wood, so you have a reference point for whatever you will select.
2. Is the wood completely dry?
Natural solid wood has moisture content. The wood needs to be completely rid of this moisture before it’s used to make furniture.
Ideally, when your fundi buys it from the wood yard, the wood should be dry and ready to use.
Wood is either dried in a wood kiln or left to air dry. Air-drying takes weeks longer but you get a better quality wood in a more natural state. Kiln-dried wood that is not properly done becomes much smaller and much harder, ruining it in the process — imagine a cake that has been in a hot over for far too long!
Furniture made from wood that is not completely dry will eventually dry out as a finished product in your home. Or, depending on where it is placed, it may absorb more moisture.
This is when things go to the dogs: your furniture will gradually warp and twist, glued joints will separate and nailed joints will get hairline fractures.
Little can be done at this point to remedy the wood. Ultimately, for the sake of your safety, you may have to throw the furniture out. Strongly insist that your fundi uses only dry wood for your furniture.
3. Are you staining the product, painting it or leaving it as is?
Natural solid wood comes in various shades of brown. To add an artificial colour to the wood, your fundi will either stain it or paint it.
How a stain works is that is that the wood absorbs it into its fibres, soaking up the pigmentation. This not only alters the natural brown colour of the wood, but also prevents other elements — water, paint, a different shade of stain, mildew — from being soaked up. It essentially protects the wood.
Paint goes on the surface of the wood. It is not absorbed into the fibres as stain is. It also protects the wood from the natural elements that can damage it.
Acrylic paint is best for wood. Ask your fundi if he is using this type of paint. Paint covers up the beauty of natural wood, but it also gives you the option of playing around with colour.
It will chip, crack and peel with time, though.
You can also opt to retain the natural grains of the wood, and not stain or paint your product. Your fundi will go straight to varnishing it.
4. What type of finish will you go for?
After your fundi has stained your product, painted it or left the wood in its natural state, he will finish off the job with, likely, varnish.
Varnish is applied to the surface using a paintbrush. The varnish can either be matte, satin or high shine. Whatever you select is based on your personal preference.
A matte finish does not have a shine; it gives off a muted subtle tone. It is used with furniture in modern homes, especially in the bedroom and kitchen.
A satin finish has an eye-catching shine, the furniture is bold and stands out in a room. There are certain decor styles that benefit from satin finishing, like the retro style and when you want a luxury finish.
The high shine is what you see used in hotels. Furniture so shiny, you can catch your reflection in it. Or smudges of your fingerprints. Again, if you are uncertain of finish, ask your fundi to show you some samples of finished products with different finishes. This will help you better decide.
5. Can I return the product after a couple of years for a fresh coat of finish?
Wooden furniture that is taken care of can last almost forever. (That is how you end up with antiques handed down from generation to generation.) With daily wear and tear, however, your wooden furniture will begin to look lacklustre after a couple of years. The finish will dull away, varnish fade, paint chip at areas of frequent contact, and your toddlers may turn sections of it into their canvas.
Natural wood also absorbs natural light, causing it to darken over time. Ask if you may return the product after a couple years to give it a new lease of life. If it was made from dry wood, your furniture only needs some loving treatment to extend its life.

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