Finalist 2022

In Clover

John Wardle / Sawdust Bureau

'In Clover' is a dining table collaboration between John Wardle, and Bryan Cush (Sawdust Bureau).

‘In Clover’ is result of a symbiotic relationship between designer (John Wardle, Architect) and craftsman (Bryan Cush, Sawdust Bureau). This unique dining table is crafted from native Leatherwood frame and a Tasmanian Oak top, all salvaged from the bottom of Lake Pieman by Hydrowood after almost 40 years on the lakebed. The piece features clover-profile leg forms which penetrate through the table top. A sliding tray which glides down the centre of the split tabletop offers a communal, sharing aspect to the table.

Design Brief:

‘In Clover’ was designed around conventional dimensions to fit within the standard footprint of 8 to 10-seater dining table, maximising it’s ability to fit many different residential and commercial settings. The frame and legs of the table cast a strong silhouette, highlighting the cantilevers and mass of the clover-shaped legs. The relatively low density of the Leatherwood meant that the weight of the piece is reduced, allowing for reduced shipping costs and easier on-site installations. The piece features the highest-quality Australian materials, low VOC finishes and is constructed with a high degree of craftsmanship by award-winning furniture designers, Sawdust Bureau.


This project was developed by:

Design Process

Designer’s statement: ‘I sketched a myriad of shapes for legs that when extruded through the table top could form some kind of emblem. A four-leaf clover in its perfect geometry of intertwined radiuses suggests the good fortune of sharing a table and bountiful sociability. Tasmanian Leatherwood can no longer be harvested due to it’s importance for Tasmania’s apiarists. It is only these trees harvested from the bottom of Lake Pieman that allows us this opportunity.’

John Wardle Maker’s statement: ‘When I first viewed John’s concept sketches I focused on exploring the technicalities involved in crafting the piece; how to manage the seasonal expansion and contraction movements of timber, how to achieve such pronounced cantilevers, how to interlock the subtle 5-degree tapers of the frame and finally the challenge of creating the clover-shaped legs. The complex clover profile required us to break up each clover leg into 4 separate quadrants with the connection mortises pre-cut to attach into the frame. The quadrants were then CNC machined by the incredible team at LikeButter and they were assembled them into the clover form. Other challenges involved in this piece were an Australian summer heatwave causing havoc with the numerous laminations and the pressure of working with such a rare species of timber - eliminating any margin for error.’ - Bryan Cush, Sawdust Bureau

Design Excellence

The piece was originally realised for 'Relatively Useful’, an exhibition at the Heide Museum of Modern Art which showcased several of John's designs for 2022 Melbourne Design Week to thousands of visitors. The first obstacle faced in creating 'In Clover' was obtaining the timber as Leatherwood can no longer be harvested due to it’s importance for Tasmania’s apiarists. It is only these trees which have been submerged at the bottom of Lake Pieman since the 1980’s that allowed us this opportunity to utilise and revive this stunning native timber. Another major challenge was making the clover-shaped legs, which penetrate through the table-top, allowing for zero margin for error. The standard process to ‘under-cut’ the shape of the clover would be to utilise a 5-axis CNC, however budget and lead-time restraints challenged us to explore alternative methods of production.

The piece features pronounced cantilevers, sculptural legs which penetrate through the top, exposing the leatherwood’s spectacular end grain and inviting the table's occupants to count the growth rings in the timber.

Design Innovation

The solution to create the Clover profile of the legs on a 3-axis CNC was achieved through an intensive collaboration process with CNC experts, Like Butter. We developed a workflow where each leg began life as four quadrants. Two adjacent quadrants were clipped together (using lamello fasteners) and the CNC then milled the clover-profile into the upper faces of the pair. The pieces were then unclipped, rotated, the next quadrant added and the milling passes were repeated. The system was successful in creating highly accurate legs which protrude through matching voids in the tabletop which were precision located and cut using a Shaper Origin handheld CNC.

Design Impact

This piece epitomises Sawdust Bureau’s approach to minimising the carbon footprint of all pieces crafted in their workshop. They avoid the use of any imported timbers and instead opt for locally grown and sustainably harvested Eucalyptus species. In the case of ‘In Clover’ the trees had been submerged on the lakebed of Lake Pieman for almost 40 years creating a limited, yet sustainable, source for Tasmanian Leatherwood unearthed by Hydrowood. It stands as a testament to respect of materiality and the environment yet how it is possible to craft a beautiful object which will last generations without having to cut down a single living tree through technological innovation.

Circular Design and Sustainability Features

The piece is crafted from 100% salvaged Australian hardwood which drastically reduces it's embodied energy and carbon footprint when compared to imported timbers. All finishes used in the piece are low VOC and (no polyurethane finishes have been used). 1% of all Sawdust Bureau's sales are reinvested into reforestation programmes through the Treemaker Initiative.

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