Shop Notes

Meet Philip Morley

Digital efficiency meets traditional craftsmanship

Philip Morley builds custom furniture in Wimberley, Texas and is a cofounder of the Austin School of Furniture. As a classically trained woodworker, his work is firmly grounded in history and a respect for tradition. “Everything has been done before,” he says. “If something is super original, well, it’s probably ugly.” But this respect for tradition doesn’t blind Morley to the value of new tools and techniques when they can benefit his work.

“Every tool I have in this shop is designed to do the job well, do it safely, and to save me time.”

A lot of Philip's influence is rooted in Scandinavian design, in particular James Krenov—founder of the College of the Redwoods. "Krenov's works really spoke to me. It's the subtle little details, leaving things very clean and adding those little profiles." You can find these details in a lot of Philip's work, including his recently published Premium Project, available on ShaperHub.

Explore Philip's Tea Rack project on ShaperHub

Curious to learn from Philip? Explore his latest project on ShaperHub. The tea rack consists of three shelves which can be used to store all your essential tea or coffee making gear. You'll learn traditional woodworking techniques combined with Origin workflows. This project includes step-by-step instructions, photos, and a build video.

Adaptable CNC Precision

His shop is a combination of a prototype shop, a design studio and a small-batch production shop. With this variety of processes under one roof, versatility and flexibility are key components of any project and any workflow.

As his business has evolved, Morley has found it difficult to keep up with expanding demand while still working out of his original space. “I've always wanted a CNC,” Morley says. “You start thinking about budget, space, electrical needs, air compressor…There's so much that goes into that, you’re talking about 60 grand for a big CNC.” But Origin fits his needs exactly, speeding up the design process and prototyping phases of projects that can be such a timesuck.

“Anytime I can get quicker at work, that means I'm making a little bit more money on each job. That means my family is doing a little bit better.”

Designing and Iterating with Origin

Before he added Origin to his shop, Morley designed in SketchUp and then converted those designs into real-world full-scale templates. “There’s this disconnect from the computer to the shop when iterating on designs,” he says. “Before, I’d have to make the template, to make a part, then the template to make the jig, whereas with the Shaper Origin, it's really just a huge time saver. I can spit out this template, pull out my machine and within 15 minutes, I'm cutting this template.”

This efficiency also helps him to be more ruthless when perfecting a design. “I’ve had 20-foot trammels and a router trying to get the perfect arc for a piece, and then I finally get the piece out and stand it up, and all of a sudden its proportions look off. But you’ve dedicated hours to it already, so you’re tempted to stick with it. “With Origin, you just spit out a model in fifteen minutes. Now I can just go, ‘I don’t like that,’ and go back to the computer and try again.”

Focusing on what matters most

These efficiency improvements in templating and design iteration help Morley to focus on the aspects of his work that he’s truly passionate about, including the tiny details that customers might not even notice when they first see the finished piece. “I’ve had clients come back to me and say, ‘Hey, I just put my hand underneath this chair arm and felt this shaping. I had no idea it was there, but I love that you cared about that part I’d never see!’

“Other pros will tell me, Phil, your client doesn’t care about that, and you just spent three hours on that profile. But when a client likes a piece, they might not even know what they like about it. They’re responding to the piece as a whole, whether they know it or not.”

To see more of his work, check out Philip’s Morley’s site and his Instagram.

Check out our Spring Deal featuring Philip's work!