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Shou Sugi Ban

Shou Sugi Ban (or Yakisugi) is an ancient Japanese exterior siding technique that preserves wood by charring it with fire.

Traditionally Sugi wood is cedar, but you are able to use other timbers.  We have recently made a bar top in oak using the Shou Sugi Ban method.  This finish popular for use in exterior cladding because of its natural prevention against wood boring insects can just as easily be used to create the most amazing pieces of furniture.

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Chipped Glass

We have been playing around in our glass & finishing studio with chipped glass. Glue is applied to glass and a specific application of the right temperature causes the glue to contract and chip off pieces of the glass.

This creates a wonderful effect of an etched type glass in a feathered effect. It is lovely to use on its own for a finish application, but becomes something quite special once back-painted and/or gilded. The finished product is quite random in the way the glass in chipped, thus not one the same. However just certain areas can be chipped by applying the glue to those areas, to create a more controlled effect.

We are in the process of using this method as application to a dressing table and we cannot wait to see the result.

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Antiqued Mirror Glass

Rupert Bevan has an established reputation as supplier of the finest antiqued mirror glass in the industry.  All our mirrors are hand-antiqued and we can give detail to the level of patina required by the client.

We would usually class antique mirror in three main levels of patina, light, medium and dark. Foxed edges, refers to the level of distressing on the edges (the usually very dark areas surrounding the mirror edges), and this can vary from none to extreme. Here are a few questions we get asked:

Mirror finishes -what is in trend?
High impact, dramatic, moody, heavily antiqued mirror. It utterly transforms a room and brings real drama to any space.

What kind of different mirror finishes are available?
Antiqued mirror, mottled mirror, etched and sandblasted designs, hand-blown glass, glue chipped, beveled and hand beveled, brilliant cut, gilded glass, hand-decorated glass, and eglomise.

How do you create a whole wall of mirror?
In terms of process, we template the space, draw it up and then present a design to the client for approval. We’ll make a number of proposals that make the most of the space and fit the interior, light levels, and other features in the room. We’ll use backboards to provide a flat surface to fix the mirror tiles to, and incorporate any wall lights, sockets and other fittings.

Does this include skirting board?
We would normally sit the mirrors on the skirting. The skirting helps to prevent damage to the mirror panels. However, it is of course possible to have a skirting cut-out for an installation.

Does this add to value of home or is it something new owner could easily change?
It would certainly make any room more attractive and appealing. We can make the mirrors removable so that they can be taken with you when you move, or a new owner can remove them if they want to.

How is the mirror fixed to the wall?
The backboards are screwed to the wall and then the mirror panels are glued to the backboards with special adhesive. If the panels are very large we would also use mechanical fixings in the corners that we’d cap with brass dome studs.

Is it safe?
We would normally toughen our glass before applying the mirror finish, making it very safe.

Can you hang art on an entire wall mirror?
Yes, we would agree on a location for the hooks or rail in advance and then make the holes in the mirror during production.

Do you have any pointers in using lighting in combination with these large expanses of mirror?
Wall sconces look beautiful on antiqued mirror walls. Our own installation in our showroom provides a lovely example!

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Understanding Materials Part II: Metalwork and Patination

Metals are a wonderfully versatile material to work with. They can be cast, wrought, sculpted, welded, turned into elegant hardware, inset as marquetry, used as trim/beading, or as cladding for walls, joinery or furniture.

Here at Rupert Bevan we love incorporating patinated metalwork into our designs. By changing the surface appearance of the metal one can dramatically alter the effect and atmosphere it evokes, and the extent to which it can be coordinated with the colour scheme of the piece or the interior setting.

Techniques of patination can also be used to create innovative new finishes with decorative qualities. This is something we have been exploring at Rupert Bevan Ltd for several years now, and we have produced many exceptional and original interior finishes.

These are our favourites…

Blackened Steel

Steel is an excellent structural material, and has been used in construction for centuries to provide the most solid and durable support in architecture and infrastructure. In furniture it works very well for the frames of tables, desks, bedsides and more. Giving steel a blackened finish endows it with an antique chic and a similar look to wrought iron, softening the finish so it also works well for contemporary pieces as an alternative to the more utilitarian/industrial feel of raw, polished or brushed steel. It can even be a decorative finish for panelling in its own right.

Patinated Brass

Brass is a metal alloy made from copper and zinc in varying proportions. It is durable and relatively malleable, so is a great material for hardware and for decorative metalwork with its gold-like appearance. The copper content gives it antimicrobial properties, so it is hygienic for kitchen surfaces and fittings like taps as the material itself destroys germs. Over time the surface of brass develops a darker surface patina. This natural antiquing can be imitated using techniques of patination to achieve a vast range of different surface effects. We think it is the perfect material to complement our antiqued mirror glass, and frequently recommend it for framing our mirrors. Often brass is confused with bronze, which is an alloy of copper and tin, and is similar in appearance to brass which has a darker surface patina. Often when people refer to bronze they actually mean dark patinated brass, which is usually a more suitable material to work with.

Patinated Copper

Copper is an element in the periodic table which shares similar attributes with silver and gold. It was the first metal put to use by humans at around 8,000 BC. Its durability and resistance to atmospheric corrosion, which it protects itself from by forming a verdigris layer of surface patina, has made it an excellent architectural material for hundreds and thousands of years, giving it a rich heritage and history of use. Its antimicrobial properties make it a hygienic surface, and it was commonly used for water pipes for this reason. Due to its efficiency as an electrical conductor it is invaluable in electrical devices and wiring, and can offer protection to electronic equipment and digital records.  With a naturally beautiful surface finish it can also be patinated in different tones to great effect for use as a decorative interior finish.

Patinated Zinc

Zinc is another element with historical use, though this does not date back quite as far as that of copper. It was used in the Middle East from the 10th century BC, but was unknown to Europe until the end of the 16th century. Like brass and copper the surface tarnishes naturally under normal atmospheric conditions, which creates a protective layer over the metal beneath. Similar in appearance to pewter, it is a better material to work with due to greater strength and durability. We created this unusual Zinc panelled wall finish, offset with studded trim in patinated brass, and inspired by the ‘Nautilus’ submarine in Jules Verne’s famous novel, which we are delighted has been nominated for the wall coverings category in the 2016 International Product Design Awards.

Care and Maintenance of Patinated Metal Surfaces

There are two different options for the final finish on our patinated metal surfaces. One is to leave them ‘live’ which involves lightly waxing the surface to give it a soft sheen and a degree of protection, but otherwise allowing it to continue to interact with the atmospheric conditions it is exposed to. This means it will very gradually continue to antique naturally over time, and also allows the patination to be altered/adjusted and restored more effectively. However it also means that the metal surface will react with other substances it is exposed to, including water or oils (even those naturally occurring in the skin) and cleaning products, which are often corrosive and can remove the patination from the surface. Often the best solution is wiping gently with a dry non-abrasive cloth – because brass is naturally antimicrobial there is no need to use harsh antibacterial products.

The other option is to completely seal the finish, in a lacquer or a nano-coating. At Rupert Bevan we prefer to avoid lacquer coatings as these detract from the beauty of the surface finish and can give a plastic-like sheen instead of the lovely iridescent hues of the metal. The nano-coatings are a new technology, designed to protect the appearance of metals from atmospheric or substance corrosion. These preserve the surface finish as it is, but also prevent it from continuing to naturally antique over time. Once it has been applied the surface patination can no longer be altered.

The Rupert Bevan team are always willing to work with our clients to help find the most suitable materials and finishes for their projects, and we are very happy to advise on the most appropriate finishes to meet requirements. We also provide advice and support for maintaining and caring for the bespoke furniture and finishes we create. If you have any questions or would like to discuss your ideas please do get in touch.

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Understanding Materials Part I: Solid Wood and Timber Veneer

Different materials have been regarded as more or less valuable throughout history – often relating to how rare or readily available they are, and how costly or labour intensive they are to process or transport.

But changing fashions also play a key role; what is fashionable can be completely removed from the practical side of supply and production, yet nonetheless inform people’s choices and perceptions just as much in determining what is worth more.

When buying or commissioning a piece of furniture, the question as to whether it is made with solid or veneered timber is often one of the first things people ask. Both types of materials and techniques for making have been in use for centuries, but with the modern assumption that solid timber furniture is superior many people might be surprised to discover that veneered furniture was generally valued more highly historically, and seen as more of a luxury.

So which is ‘better’?

Contrary to popular belief in the present day that solid timber furniture is higher quality, and the historical view of veneered furniture as more desirable, neither material can be seen as preferable for construction in itself. Often a combination of the two materials will be most suitable.


Both choices of materials have advantages and disadvantages – in terms of practicality, functionality and longevity as well as appearance. Several different factors need to be considered to decide what will work best in the interior environment the piece of furniture will be placed in, and what is required from the piece in the longer term.

What needs to be considered?

  • How much, and what type of use/wear will it be subject to (for example a kitchen table will get much more wear than a dining table that only gets used on special occasions!)
  • What the piece will look like in terms of design/construction
  • What type of wood, grain, colour and surface finish it will have
  • Is it being purchased more as an investment or to be used
  • The heating and humidity of the room the piece will be going into

Solid Timber

Furniture made with solid timber has a reputation as being sturdier, stronger and lasting longer. Traditionally it was used for more simple rustic pieces, fitted joinery, or statement pieces with elaborate carving. It is associated with traditional construction methods such as dovetail joints, and there are many finishes such as liming, staining, waxing, ebonising and polishing which can be applied. Up until the 20th century most houses did not have central heating, but in the modern day when almost everyone lives in centrally heated houses using only solid timber is not always a better choice. This is because wood expands or contracts with changes to heat and humidity, so if the piece is not made properly there is a chance of it ‘moving’. Regulations on forestry mean that trees are often harvested younger, so the grain is less tight and can be more susceptible to atmospheric change. Different types of woods, and different ways of cutting it also affect how it will respond to relative humidity – for example quarter sawn wood moves less than flat sawn, and cedar will move less than oak. So it is very important that you maker knows exactly what they are doing when it comes to selecting the timber to be used, the design of the piece and the best techniques for construction, which will ensure that the piece remains stable and can last for decades or even centuries.

So for a finely crafted piece of furniture for a modern house it is not necessary to use only solid timber to ensure it will be stronger or last longer. To restore surface damage it can be seen as preferable as unlike with veneer the surface can be sanded down more effectively. The suitability of using solid timber largely depends on the design of the piece itself. This is something to consider from the beginning of the commissioning process, and the Rupert Bevan team are happy to advise on the best way meet your requirements and the most appropriate materials to use.

Veneered Timber

Use of veneers is not a modern phenomenon. Their use actually dates all the way back to ancient Egypt, then they were later used in Roman times! Many highly valued antiquities are made with veneers of precious and rare timbers; beautiful burr woods and marquetry inlays. The finest specimens of timber from all around the world are sourced by veneer companies, as there is greater potential for appreciation of exceptional grain and character in the wood when it is turned into veneer – each log can be used on many more pieces of furniture, dividing up the value of the precious timber to make it more accessible to makers.  Techniques such as ‘book-matching’ to create a symmetrical mirrored effect with the grain are associated with veneers, and there are even more options for the colour, tone and texture of the surface finish due to the greater variety of veneers readily available than solid wood, which can be harder to source to exact specification.

Because of the artistic potential, veneered furniture was historically viewed as a luxury, not a cheaper alternative. It is only since the later part of the 20th C that it became regarded as inferior to solid wood. This was due to the mass production of cheap veneered furniture which used poor quality substrates and careless machine manufacturing, and gave it a bad name – often the veneer would separate or deteriorate, revealing an ugly substrate underneath. However when a skilled cabinet maker or joiner uses veneers along with other materials of consistently high quality, providing it is looked after by the owners the piece of furniture will have as much chance of lasting as long as a solid timber piece and could well become an antique of the future. While it will not withstand as much heavy surface wear and damage as solid timber, for a finer more decorative piece it can be a more suitable choice.

Using a Combination of Solid and Veneered Timbers

This is often the best choice for construction, as it allows both materials to be used to their potential most effectively for both appearance and functionality. Many modern cabinet makers take a pragmatic approach and use a combination of solid and veneered timber. They select the most appropriate technique to use depending on what is most suitable for the design and use of the piece.

The designers and makers at Rupert Bevan Ltd are experts in understanding both materials and methods of construction. They will guide you through the process from the very outset, advising and informing at every stage and providing samples of all the materials and finishes, to create a unique bespoke piece of furniture which is sure to stand the test of time.

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