Why Hawaiian Fine Furniture?
A lifelong ambition led to the founding of Hawaiian Fine Furniture. I intend to pursue the evolution of a new style of furniture.
I have studied furniture for most of my life, and have observed the trend of reproducing old styles, but with something left out. Much like remakes of classic movies, the imitation of a traditional piece is frequently less elegant than the original period piece it is meant to represent.
My primary goal is to produce superior furniture using the finest joinery techniques, as part of the process of developing a new international furniture style inspired by the multiculturalism of Hawai‘i. It is my belief that the world is primed to embrace new designs to define the times and culture of today, rather than continue to accept past experiments in design and discomfort.
A second goal for Hawaiian Fine Furniture is to produce furniture crafted from wood primarily from Hawai‘i. There are many wonderful woods that grow in our islands. We are blessed with a great diversity of climate that allows for a wide range of species from around the world to be cultivated here – and the king of them all, koa, is native only to Hawai‘i.
An added benefit of producing furniture from wood is sustainability. Wood is one of the few truly renewable resources. In just one human life span, an entire forest can be completely re-grown.
Douglas Gordon established Hawaiian Fine Furniture in early 2013. A Master Craftsman with more than 20 years’ experience designing and hand-crafting furniture, Doug creates elegant furniture designed to last for generations.
Doug began working with wood when he was only 11 years old. Following graduation from Virginia Tech’s College of Architecture and Urban Studies with a professional design degree, Doug pursued a career in architecture, working on resorts in Hawaii. Although he enjoyed the work, he determined that his passion is furniture design and construction. He left Hawaii and established Hampton River Furniture Company, a custom furniture business in Virginia. After 15 successful years, he closed the business when family considerations recalled him to Hawaii.
Upon his return to Hawaii in 2008, Doug joined Martin & MacArthur, where he became Vice President of Furniture Production. He subsequently co-founded Honolulu Furniture Company, which he left at the end of 2012 to establish Hawaiian Fine Furniture. Doug is highly skilled in all aspects of furniture production, from wood selection to drying techniques to design to craftsmanship. Special features in his pieces demonstrate his wide range of talents, many of which are specialty crafts in their own right. Examples include wood turning, and shell cutting and inlay.
In addition to producing furniture, Doug designs and creates handsome keepsake boxes, iPhone cases, vanity mirrors, hair bushes, and a variety of other stylish beauty accessories. Doug loves to share his knowledge about wood and woodworking. If you have any questions or want to know more about Hawaiian Fine Furniture products, don’t hesitate to ask him!
Most of our furniture and ornaments are crafted from wood grown in Hawai‛i, supplemented with imported woods that are selected for unique properties such as scent, figure (pattern of grain, such as curl), or striking color. We’d like to share with you information that we find interesting about the woods we select, and some of the reasons we choose these woods.
We are partial to ‘ōhai for many reasons. This hardwood is beautiful – the wood that comes off Oahu is as attractive as koa. It is a locally available, sustainable resource and our use of it supports the local economy. And termites don’t like it! ‘Ōhai is a shade tree native to the tropical Americas but now found in abundance throughout Hawai‛i. It is in the Fabaceae (pea) family, and is known by several different names, including raintree and monkey pod – and a Latin name that has just changed.
‘Ōhai can grow to 50-75 feet tall with a crown of nearly horizontal branches up to 80-100 feet across. The leaves of the ‘ōhai close at night and re-open in the morning. The nutritious pods provide food for cattle, hogs, and goats. The seeds are used in lei. ‘Ōhai was introduced to Hawai‛i in 1847 in the form of two seeds brought back by the consul from the Kingdom of Hawai‛i at Mexico City. One became a tree in downtown Honolulu which was cut down in 1899 to make room for a building, and the other was planted at Kōloa, Kaua‛i, where it grew into the parent of a large stand of ‘ōhai. When dry, the wood is generally light to golden brown with darker streaks. It is moderately hard, fairly strong, and lightweight, making it an ideal wood for furniture. It is also popular for bowls, plates, and various souvenirs. The wood is resistant to decay and to dry-wood termites.
Koa was the wood of royalty, and we consider it to be the King of woods in Hawai‛i. We are fond of koa because it glistens. It’s a very unique wood – there are many colors and figures, and no two trees are alike. We also tend to consider it to be a very ‘feminine’ wood.
Koa (Acacia koa) is endemic to Hawai‛i – it does not occur naturally anywhere else in the world. It is in the pea family. Koa is the second most common endemic species in Hawai‛i, and is found on all six of the major islands of the Hawaiian chain. There are currently more than 20,000 acres under cultivation. (The industry in Hawai‛i would need to grow less than 6,000 acres to remain sustainable with current demand.) Koa typically lives for about 100 years but may grow as old as 200 years.
A typical koa tree grows to 50-80 feet in height with a 20-40 foot canopy spread, but may reach a height in excess of 115 feet. While it is native to an elevation range of 330-7500 feet, its optimal growth area is above 2000 feet due to pests and diseases that affect it in lowlands. It is a fast-growing tree with an aggressive surface root system, and requires well-drained soils.
Koa was traditionally utilized by native Hawaiians for many purposes, including dugout canoes, surfboards, paddles, calabashes, and spears and other weapons. Today it is prized throughout the world for guitars, ukulele, furniture, and bowls.
Koa is highly variable in color and figure, not only from tree to tree but even within a tree itself. There are four types of figure in koa:
Although not typically used for furniture, we like coconut wood for creating gift items because it has a very interesting grain. It is also a sustainable resource. The coconut (Cocos nucifera), which is in the palm family, is a familiar site to Hawai‛i residents and visitors alike. It is remarkably adaptable to a wide range of soil types, and is found in all tropical and subtropical regions. It is generally found between sea level and elevation of about 500 feet, although it is found up to elevation about 2000 feet near the equator. A typical 40-year-old coconut will be about 65-72 feet tall with a 26-30 foot diameter canopy.
Every part of the coconut tree is used by people, providing food, drink, oil, medicine, fuel, tools, thatch, fiber for rope and mats; and timber. It has been called the “tree of life.” Native to Southeast Asia, coconut (niu in Polynesia) is believed to have been carried on ocean currents east across the Pacific and west to South Asia. More recently, it is believed to have been carried by migrants including Polynesian voyagers.
We value milo for its wonderful light spicy smell and really nice soft color. Also, it tends to be fairly bug-resistant.
Milo (Thespesia populnea) is in the mallow family, and is found in tropical climates around the world. It is native to the coastal areas of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It may have been introduced to Hawai‛i by early Polynesians, or it may be native to Hawai‛i. Milo is an evergreen tree averaging 20-33 feet in height with a dense crown that thrives in a variety of soil types. It is generally found below 500 feet elevation. A primary use is for windbreaks. It tolerates heavy salt spray and periodic inundation with brackish water. It regenerates rapidly from seed. Milo flowers are reminiscent of hibiscus flowers. Milo is one of the most important trees to Pacific Islanders. The trees were planted around temple sites in ancient times. The wood is traditionally used for bowls, tools, small canoes, and ornaments. Other parts of the milo are used for medicine and food. A traditional use in Hawai‛i was to make calabashes for poi. More recently, the wood is used in woodworking, furniture making, and wall paneling.
Kamani appeals to us because it has lots of grain character and nice pink to reddish wood. Further, is a wood that is hard but not tough, meaning that it tends to machine well. Kamani (Calophyllum inophyllum) is a shade tree is in the mangosteen family, and is widely dispersed throughout the tropics, including Hawai‛i. It has a dense canopy of leaves, flowers, and nuts. Native to Africa, East India, Southeast Asia, Australia, and the South Pacific, it has been naturalized in Hawai‛i. It is, or has been, considered sacred in some Pacific islands.
A typical kamani will grow to 25-65 feet tall, and is generally found most commonly found along the shoreline – it grows best in sandy soils. It is known to withstand typhoons.
Kamani has many uses, a few of which are: as mosquito repellant (mature fruit is burned for this purpose), medicinal uses, boat building, cabinet making, and for fabricating crafts and tools. Kamani wood is useful as receptacles for food since it imparts no taste to the food. It is traditionally used in Palau for storyboards.
Just like its name, silky oak it feels silky to the touch. We love the wonderful character in the wood – a radial flecking in the grain. The wood tends to be light pink. We also appreciate that it is dimensionally stable, and it machines and sands nicely.
Silky oak (Grevillea robusta) is in the Protea family – the same family as the macadamia nut tree. Silky oak is native to coastal eastern Australia, and was introduced to Hawai‛i about 1880. Also called silk-oak and silver oak, it is popularly used as an ornamental tree because of its yellowish-orange flowers. It is also frequently used as a windbreak and as shade for macadamia nut and coffee trees.
Silky oak reproduces rapidly and can survive in both wet and dry locations at elevations from sea level to 3,000 feet. It is very drought resistant and tolerant to a wide range of soils if they are well drained. A silky oak tree may grow to more than 65 feet in 10 years in more than 100 feet in its lifetime.
The wood from the silky oak is used for furniture making, turning, joinery, plywood, and veneers. It was once a leading veneer in world trade, marketed as “lacewood.”
We regard pheasant wood as a great feature wood that is an excellent highlight for other woods, such as koa. It has a wonderful grain with attractive light and dark striping. In its native Southeast Asia, the wood tends to be golden in color, whereas older growth pheasant wood in Hawai‛i tends to be almost black. We appreciate that the wood is hard but not tough, making it very workable.
The pheasant wood tree, (Cassia siamea), is in the Fabaceae (pea) family. Native to India, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka, it was introduced to Hawai‛i in 1865. It grows to about 60 feet tall, and is found in elevations ranging from 600-2500 feet. The tree gets its name from the figure of the wood, which is reminiscent of feathers when flat sawn. Pheasant wood is used for timber and veneer, and the trees for ornamental uses.
Eucalyptus is a hardwood that we like for its rich red color and wood that is invariably figured. The heavy, dark coloring makes it an excellent wood for features as it complements many other woods that we use.
There are several varieties of eucalyptus in Hawai‛i. The most common eucalyptus in Hawai‛i is the robusta eucalyptus (Eucalyptus robusta), which is used for house siding, framing, and flooring as well as in furniture. It is in the Myrtle family and was introduced to Hawaii post-western contact.
Native to southeastern Australia, mainly in coastal swamps and on edges of saltwater estuaries, robusta eucalyptus it is also known in Hawai‛i as swamp-mahogany eucalyptus, and in Australia as swamp-mahogany or swamp messmate. Robusta eucalyptus was the most commonly planted tree in Hawai‛i; the State Division of Forestry planted more than 2.3 million of these trees prior to 1960, and nearly as many were planted by private landowners. This tree will generally grow to 80-160 feet tall, with a relatively dense crown of long irregular branches. This tree is suitable for windbreaks, shade, ornament, and as a honey plant. About 1 million board feet of robusta eucalyptus lumber used to be produced annually in Hawai‛i, and has been put to a wide variety of construction-related uses.
‛Ōhi‛a, or ‛ōhi‛a lehua, is a heavy, durable wood that tends to have pretty pink coloring but can have lots of variation in color. In our experience, the wood almost invariably has a wavy character to its grains. We consider it to be an excellent feature wood. It is also good for large flat surfaces, such as beds.
‛Ōhi‛a lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha) is in the myrtle family. It is endemic to the six largest Hawaiian islands and is the most abundant tree in the Hawaiian islands. Its size is greatly variable, typically reaching 66-79 feet in height, although it may be much smaller on lava rock or in bogs. It has been known to reach 100 feet. It is found in a wide range of habitats, from 1 to 8200 feet elevation, and in a wide variety of soil types. ‛Ōhi‛a regenerates prolifically from windblown seeds, and can grow on new lava flows. The flower blossoms have a pompom, brush, or hair-like appearance, and can vary dramatically in color from site to site.
The ‛ōhi‛a is a critical food source to some endemic birds. ‛Ōhi‛a forests are highly valued as habitat for native and endemic biota, as well as for aesthetics and watershed protection.
Hawaiians traditionally believed that ‛ōhi‛a forests are sacred to Pele, the goddess of volcanoes, and to Laka, the goddess of hula. ‛Ōhi‛a is mentioned in many legends and chants. ‛Ōhi‛a blossoms are used for honey production and in medicine, notably for childbirth pains. The wood is hard and dense and has historically been used for fence posts, furniture, veneer, ukulele keys, supports in construction, railroad ties, and a variety of other uses. Ancient Hawaiian uses included carvings of sacred images (ki‛i), spears, mallets, poi boards, and construction. The red flowers of the ‛ōhi‛a lehua are the official symbol of the Island of Hawai‛i.
We love toon’s wonderful aromatic scent and rich red color. We typically use if for drawer and box liners. We find it reminiscent of Spanish cedar, which is popularly used for cigar boxes – both are in the mahogany family. An added bonus of toon is that bugs don’t tend to like it. It is stable and good to machine.
Commonly known as Australian toon (Toona ciliate). toon is native to the Himalaya region of tropical Asia from India to China and through Indonesia to Australia, and has been introduced elsewhere for forest plantations. The toon found in Hawai‛i was introduced from Australia in 1918 for forest plantations, and is the southern variety native in eastern Australia.
The toon tree grows to about 50 feet tall and is suitable as a shade tree. It was the most commonly planted tree in the Waiakea Forest Reserve near Hilo during the 1960s, where there are now more than 2300 acres. There is a stand on Round Top Drive in Honolulu that was planted in 1924.
Camphor is well suited for lining drawers and boxes because it is an aromatic wood that is a natural insect repellant. In addition to its lovely spicy smell, we like its pink and yellow colors.
The camphor tree (Cinnamomum camphora) is in the Lauraceae (Laurel) family, the same family to which the cinnamon tree belongs. It is an evergreen tree with a dense rounded crown of shiny dark green leaves and a distinct aroma. It may grow to about 80feet tall and has small yellow flowers and green to black berries. Native to tropical Asia from eastern China to Vietnam, Taiwan, and Japan, camphor has been widely planted in tropical and subtropical regions. It was introduced to Hawai‛i before western contact, and is used as an ornamental and shade tree. In addition to the use of the wood in cabinetry (chiefly for chest and closet linings), the gum and oil from the camphor tree are used in medicine and industry.
We find that Port-Orford cedar is great for drawer and box liners due to its aromatic wood.
Port-Orford cedar (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana), also commonly called Lawson’s cypress, is a conifer that is used as a windbreak at higher elevations in Hawai‛i. It usually grows about 50 feet tall with dense, spreading branches in a pyramid-shape with full branches down to the ground level.
Named after Port Orford, a town in southwest Oregon, it is native to southwestern Oregon and northwestern California. In 1854, seeds were collected and taken to England for culturing as an ornamental. Many cultivars were developed, and the Port-Orford cedar became very popular in Europe and North America for landscaping.
In its native range, Port-Orford cedar has traditionally been used by Native Americans in ceremonial houses and sweat lodges. It is also highly prized in Japan for use in homes, as it closely resembles the hinoki cedar that is native to Japan.