Interview – Bruce Feldman, steampunk furniture

image copyright Bruce Feldman
His first project is a steampunk coffee table

Bruce Feldman is a furniture maker and has been for over 50 years. He started as a hobby when he was 12 years old and has turned toward steampunk inspired items in the last month. In the last 30 days or so, he’s started restoring a Mid century house with aims to sell it. He’s also started on a number of steampunk interior furniture items including a 32 inch coffee table from hand-made mill gears. I caught up with Bruce and managed to fire some questions to him about his work.

image copyright Bruce Feldman
Salvaged items are upcycled to create furniture

Steampunk is from birth, but most people have a moment when they know they’re a steampunk. When was that for you?
Since I was a child I have been interested in odd home build things, I became aware of the Steampunk movement about 4 or 5 years ago and loved it from the moment I saw it.

When did you start building furniture?
I started building furniture in my early 20’s, but living in NYC for 30+ years, I was confined to refinishing, or small creative projects. One was coating colourful shopping bags into waste cans by coating them with a brush on auto body fibreglass that made the bags stiff and strong. The fibreglass cannot be sprayed, just painted on, so due to the toxicity I stopped.

Has it always been steampunk inspired?
Some of my projects had an unusual bent to them, I avoided traditional design. I don’t think you could call them Steampunk, just unique.

Do you upcycle or build from scratch?
My approach now that I understand the movement is to upcycle, or repurpose unusual items into a totally different object. I bought a 100 year old grinding wheel which will become an end table when the right base presents itself.

image copyright Bruce Feldman
Bruce seeks out anything that catches his eye, even without an idea for it.

What materials do you favour?
I focus on repurposing wood and metal, An upcoming project will be an 80 year old 8′ toboggan to be bolted to a wall with shelves coming out where each cross support currently is. I will try to incorporate a Steampunk look to it for use in a bar for bottles, or home use as a bookcase.

Do you have a particular Victorian style?
I’d say my style seems to evolving to American, as the repurposed items I find are mostly 19th and early 20th century items.

What colours do you sway towards?
I try to refinish the wooden components to a beautiful finish and prefer black. I often wire brush the cast iron items and use a black, hammered finish paint.

Are there particular features that a steampunk needs built in to a piece of furniture?
I often buy an interesting item, and simply keep it visible until the final product emerges. I have no investment in any type of finished product as long as it useful, clever, fun, and has the Steampunk look. I let the base object determine the design.

Could you take us through the process of making a typical piece of furniture?
First an item catches my eye, even if I have no idea what it will turn into. When a product comes to mind I begin refurbishing it and sometimes the original idea changes as the project starts shaping up. The wooden wheel was to be a dining table, but as it progressed, a coffee table seems to be a better fit.

Do you accept commissions?
As I am just starting, not yet. However if someone wants a particular functional item, I would search out the pieces. Right now I have a full plate, so that will wait for now.

Is this your main career or do you have a “day job”?
Right now I do some consulting, but would prefer to divide my time between developing a line of woven screens and Steampunk designs. Unfortunately, after restoring the house, finances will direct me towards what I can do to bring in money.

What’s the most bizarre thing you’ve built?
Most bizarre thing. Hmmm, so far, just the wooden gear and I wouldn’t call it bizarre, just Steampunk!

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