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Illingworth Designs

AHEC met Richard Illingworth through a recent collaborative project with Rycotewood College, where at the time Richard was completing his third and final year. Fascinated by the furniture production industry and methods of batch production, he noticed that although CNC technologies are more efficient and speed up the process of batch production; a lot of waste material is created from CNCing set patterns out of timber boards. Richard’s dedication to designing sustainably lead him to investigate the process further. He wrote a dissertation on the furniture manufacturing industry, speaking to some of the big players in manufacturing along the way.

His research lead him to the concept for his final project; the Kekkan (defect in Japanese) tables and shelves and the Leftovers table that are all made exclusively from waste and leftover material. The designs aim to educate consumers on why these timbers are normally discarded and why it’s important not to waste material.

The Leftovers table is made using 10 pieces of common American elm waste shapes from the production of a popular table design by Ercol. One Leftovers table is produced from the waste of four Ercol tables, which would have otherwise been discarded. The piece has been designed so that when batch production pieces of furniture are cut out from a sheet of timber using the CNC machine, the repetitive waste material can be processed again through the CNC to create the table. The calculated design means that the table produces almost 0% waste - give or take a few shavings to create the rounded smooth edges.

The Kekkan tables and Defect shelves approach the subject of waste material by highlighting the characteristics of the wood, such as knots and splits, that are normally classified as ‘defects’ because of the aesthetic they bring to the piece, although structurally they have minimal impact to the design. Leftover American red oak, from AHEC’s project with Rycotewood College, has been burnt around the knots for the Kekkan shelves and American soft maple has been used to create ‘stitches’ in the splits of the Defect shelves.

“One of the changes we have seen over the years is the willingness of designers, and consequently consumers, to start to incorporate some of these, what were previously considered “flaws” in the wood, in order to bring a natural element into the design. And also seeing this as not only an element that adds beauty to a design, but that its important from an environmental perspective to ensure we’re getting as high of a yield as possible from these trees.” – Mike Snow, AHEC’s Executive Director

Watch the full interview with Mike Snow here > 

American red oak is still widely underused across Europe yet is one of the most abundant species. In fact, it is growing at a rate of 55.3 million m3 per year while the harvest is just 33.9 million m3 per year. It’s total volume after harvest is increasing by 21.3 million m3 per year. AHEC’s Executive Director Mike Snow comments that “in order to use this resource wisely it’s important not just to use the one or two species of timber that are in fashion but to use all of the species that the forest provides.”


For updates on Richard’s work, follow him @illingworthdesigns


Find out more about American red oak here >

Find out more about American soft maple here >

Find out more about American elm here >


Download project imagery and press release >