Witherby Tools

L. & I. J. White




Dennis Young


Dennis Young



I have always enjoyed woodworking, even when still a young boy.

When in my early twenties, unable to find a place in the States where I could further my education doing traditional work, and intrigued by the Japanese manner of woodworking, I came to Japan to begin an apprenticeship in a furniture making shop.

It required a lot of searching to locate a shop that would take me on, and I believe there being no precedent for it in terms of a westerner seeking such training, encountered much delay in obtaining a visa that would allow me to receive a wage and pursue the work full time, the only condition under which I would be allowed to enter the company.

With immense gratefulness to finally get everything squared away, I began the association that would last four years. It was both very rewarding and a period of much personal struggle to fit in with the traditional ways, I had never previously experienced anything like it. 

I followed this period of training with two years working in two traditional chair workshops in Great Britain, one specializing in Windsor types, and the other in what is referred to as "best" chair making, that is mainly upholstered chairs, designs in the Chippendale, Hepplewhite, and Sheraton styles, would be very representative of it.

In both cases in the two countries, I was very fortunate to find employment in some of the last remaining shops doing this type of work, where the trades were still being pursued in a more traditional manner. Such had to a large extent disappeared with the changing times.

After returning to my home in California, I established my furniture making business, and for the following eleven years was located there, building a large diversity of work for a broad range of people. Work was very consistent, and although beginning my approach by doing work that was of a traditional design nature, gradually I developed an interest in designing my own furniture.

Absorbing the details from traditional work gave me the confidence to use the forms in some ways that had not been done before, and especially working with curves I found very enjoyable, and wanted to reveal them in ways that I thought might change their potential, and also reveal my own vision that had developed regarding attractiveness. 

I have much respect for traditional work, and except for some forays into very different personal approaches to furniture making using steel, most of what I do hasn't strayed very far away from the sense and methods that evolved the trade over hundreds of years within specific cultures, and out of which I was originally trained, including the use of hand tools.

Japan was a place that held a lot of inspiration for me when an apprentice.  The manner of working and people's spirits about the work were very solid at that time.  I always thought that being an independent woodworker here, in a place where the standards were rather high and the history for it long, would be an intriguing way to go.

I also greatly liked designing and building furniture for the tatami mat room, an environment where furniture is used rather sparingly.  The serenity of the location along with tastefully designed furniture for it, although often somewhat restrained, allows for a good combination where woodwork can reveal itself in both humble and very attractive ways, a quiet atmosphere for details to express.  My shop has been located in Japan for approximately the last twenty years.

Dennis Young
Hotaka, Japan
Visit my blog
July, 2012


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