Making quality furniture since 1868
Francis Johnson Butterfield was Born in Hobart in 1838. Leaving school at the age of 13, he went in search of his fortune to the Goldfields of California, where he joined around 300,000 others, as a booming Gold Rush (1848–1855) was under way. Over time the dream of making his fortune fell away and he returned to Australia and took up a cabinetmaking apprenticeship in Hobart. When qualified he worked his trade in Sydney for a couple of years.
Landing in Dunedin
Francis decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and went to sea, firstly on a whaling boat, then later a ship, that carried timber between Australia & New Zealand. In the 1860's his ship docked in Dunedin, which at the time was flourishing but suffered from a shortage of builders. Francis paused one day to watch work on a building site, was noticed by a foreman and quickly snapped up, which resulted in him working for some time as a carpenter in Dunedin.
A Vision / A Building / A Furniture Business
In 1868 Francis and a Mr Drinkwater set up a small furniture business. They rented premises in George Street (where Starbucks is now) where both a retail shop and a factory were sited. Mr Drinkwater returned to Australia after a few years. Francis continued the business, working out of several premises. By 1880 the business was big enough to rent premises at 92, Saint Andrew Street, however continued growth allowed the purchase of his own buildings in Cumberland Street.
The Otago Chair Company
In 1911 the business was formalised as the Otago Chair Company. A thriving trade was to be had, from making chairs and shipping them. Not as traditional assembled furniture but instead knock-down furniture, delivered to New Zealander's throughout the country. Very progressive and pretty amazing to think that this was going on at the beginning of the 20th Century.
Retailing and the beginning of the Butterfields Ltd shops
In 1924 the family purchased F&F Martin Ltd in the Octagon and for 65 years, Butterfields Ltd traded from there. The premises grew and changed quite organically to meet the needs of the time. Some of those needs included being a one-stop shop for returning serviceman, needing to buy and finance furniture for their homes.
In 1925 the Timaru store was opened, followed by Oamaru in 1938, Invercargill 1939 and Christchurch in 1956. The Butterfields' Department Stores were one of the earliest companies to offer customer's Hire Purchase. It didn't stop there either, package deals were offered for lounge, dining and bedroom suites. The whole package - Manufacturing - Retailing - Financing - Leading the way for that time period.
Chairs On Show - To the World
South Seas International Exhibition - 1925
In 1925 we got down to business, after securing a contract for the New Zealand South Seas International Exhibition here in Dunedin. It was to supply dining chairs for the Banquet Hall. The Exhibition Organising Committee realised very late in the piece, that no tender had been let. Our company was approached about making dining chairs but we were already committed with a full order book.
After discussions with the team, a strategy was formulated on how we could get the contract 'over the line' and to completion, for what would have seemed an impossible task.
We made the decision to go for it. The guys would ‘go to work’ on the banquet chairs after 'clocking-off' each day and work long into the night. Simple enough strategy but a big ask and it needed everyone on the same - a team effort.
The incentive? Each of the team would be paid 1/- a chair. The last chair was delivered an hour before the Exhibition opening! All done in a Machine Shop that resembled more of a lean-to than a workshop; open to the elements, dirt floor and candlelit.
Different time and circumstances but that same attitude is in Otago Furniture's DNA - WE'RE OPEN FOR BUSINESS -
- MORE HISTORY ON THE WAY -
SCM tech Z5 Machine Centre
5-axis CNC Router
A 5-axis CNC head - 18 vertical / 8 horizontal spindles. Multiple operations thanks to a 26-slot tool changer, auto-move support bars/suction pods and 8 zones means 8 independent jobs at any one time.
Tungsten-tipped profile cutters & saw blades.
Highly accurate machining technology.
We use the latest tooling tech, which produces highly accurate end product. We have un-limited profile options, opening up a world of options for our customers.
Fast, precise, efficient, and no set-up. Creates precise 90° right angled, dimensionally accurate, straight work-pieces in a single pass for further processing at other work centres..
JUKI Sewing Machine
Electronic assisted stitching
Long Arm, with a walking foot. Single Needle, with electronic assistance.
SCM SI 400E Saw
Sliding Table Saw
Accuracy all the way with its digital adjustment, taking out all the guess work. Quick, safe set-ups and use, keeps production flowing and down-stream machine centres busy throughout the factory.
Kremlin Rexson Spray Guns
We use the latest high volume low pressure spray-gun technology. The guns deliver high finish quality and transfer efficiency, bringing our the best that timber has to offer.
HOLZ HER Eco-Master
3-axis CNC Router
Regular health checks for all of our machinery, including electronics keeps product running smoothly through our factory.
Southland Beech colour varies as heartwood is pinkish brown and sapwood is light pinkish grey. The colour of Southland Beech varies with location and age.
American White Oak
American White Oak heartwood is pale yellow-brown, sometimes with a pinkish tint. Mostly straight grained with medium to coarse texture. Sapwood is white coloured.
American Ash heartwood is creamy white to light brown with white coloured sapwood, straight grained with uniform texture.
Radiata is the most readily available timber in New Zealand. The heartwood is light brown to yellow and sapwood white to pale yellow with wide distinguishable growth rings.
Otago Furniture sources only the finest timber for our furniture. We are renowned for our deep knowledge of timber, particularly New Zealand Southland Beech, which we've been working with since 1868.
We have continually invested in new machine technology and the training to match. Adopted new technology is underpinned by generations of knowledge passed down to our apprentices, a continual process.
We have a highly skilled team with a shared passion for making. Our craftsmen care deeply about the entire making process.
Polishing timber is a juggling act that requires a consistency without loss of individuality, where Art and Science are matched with years of experience and skill.
Heading up our upholstery team is a craftsman who has spent 47 years mastering his craft and passing it down. This is the caliber of experience we have and nurture in-house.