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Local craftsmen: Carpentry studio Roger & Sons

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Roger and Sons
Roger & Sons produces only bespoke pieces, production of the pieces usually take about a month, depending on the complexity. Photo: Roger & Sons

Roger & Sons sounds like a British menswear label but it is really a local woodworking company based in Woodlands.

It was started in 2014 by Morgan Yeo, now 28. He is joined by his younger brothers, Lincoln, 25, and Ryan, 21. They make up the &Sons part of the company name.

Roger refers to their late father, who passed away in 2014. The senior Mr Yeo was a carpenter who ran JR&P Industries, which made system office furniture by hand.

Morgan, a business graduate, had to take over the reins of the company earlier than expected when his father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. But he says it was always natural for him to want to take over the family business.

"My dad started the business 28 years ago and had been working really hard to put food on the table," says Morgan. "The business was his heart and soul." When his father was diagnosed with cancer, he wanted to take over the business so that his father could focus on fighting the disease.

"I promised my dad that no matter what happened, I would take care of the business and the family," he says. "The team supporting my dad were a bunch of loyal and great men and I really wanted to be able to take care of them the way my dad took care of me."

Morgan, however, realised that producing mass market office furniture did not allow the company to maximise its potential to include design elements and elevate the artistry of the trade. So together with his brothers and mother, who also works with them, they decided to rebrand the company to Roger&Sons, paying homage to their dad and offering bespoke carpentry work.

Today, Morgan handles business development and sales; Lincoln handles product development and marketing, while Ryan helps with production and operations.

Roger and Sons
Morgan, Lincoln and Ryan (above). Photo: Roger & Sons

"My brothers were not expected to join but they chose to," says Morgan. "All three of us really enjoy working and supporting each other."

Ever since they were young, the brothers were exposed to woodworking and helped their father in a few odd jobs.

"My brothers and I always enjoyed using our hands, tinkering with and making things," says Morgan. "I think it also has to do with how we were always breaking and destroying things in the house and we needed to fix them up before we got caught."

He adds that since they entered the woodworking industry, "we met a lot of uncles who were highly skilled with their hands. But it was a pity that they are viewed lowly in society. We wanted to be able to change this perception as well".

While woodworking is not foreign to the brothers, Morgan says he found the going tough when he took over the company. "The learning curve was very steep. I was struggling with running the company as well as learning how carpentry works," he explains. For example, he had to learn the limitations and strengths of materials, how to use the machinery, and how things are done by the different makers.

"I had to quickly grasp and be involved in production, operations, doing sales, delivery-all at once," he recalls. He counts himself lucky, that he could learn from the older colleagues. "They have been in the company for over 20 years supporting my dad and now they are supporting me. They have been very generous with their knowledge and skills," he says.

Roger&Sons produces only bespoke pieces, which includes dining tables, study desks, TV consoles, and even ladders. Production of the pieces usually take about a month, depending on the complexity. Prices vary according to the project and how it is designed and constructed. The types of wood used include solid wood and plywood, and finishes vary from laminates, to veneers and spray paint.

Roger and Sons
A dog cage made by Roger & Sons. Photo: Roger & Sons

While the company has a team of carpenters working for them, the brothers are involved in the production as well. "Whenever we spend too much time in the office, my brothers or myself would head out to the workshop and help with production. We do everything - such as cutting the wood, sanding it down and lamination. It is what we're passionate about," says Morgan.

He plans to collaborate with local designers to release bespoke furniture in limited quantities, and also hopes to work together with overseas carpenters. "We want to be able to invite these carpenters over and work with them on furniture and learn from them," he says.

He admits that carpentry is a dying trade in Singapore. One reason is most local carpenters are getting on in age, and not many youth are stepping up.

"It also doesn't help that carpentry does not get the recognition it deserves," says Morgan. "Not many parents, or Singaporeans for that matter, think that carpentry is a prestigious or glamourous job, simply because it involves using your hands."

But he is soldering on, because he sees carpentry as a craft. "Everyone thinks carpentry is just cutting a piece of wood and joining it together. But it is not," he says. It takes many years of training to have a certain level of skill. "It is a very long process and a lot of people these days do not have the patience to wait so long to hone their skills."

But there could be hope. He recently hired four Singaporeans, aged 24 to 30, who are training under Roger&Son's head carpenter. "These youths found us, and aspire to be carpenters," says Morgan.

He is encouraged by this. "Hopefully, we can inspire more youths to join this industry."

Ultimately, Morgan and his brothers plan to be in the woodworking trade for the long haul. "The business will always be part of the family and the family will always be part of this business," he says.


Written by Tay Suan Chiang for The Business Times