David Glenn takes a look around Auckland-based superyacht interior company 8/3/06
Stuart Robinson used to build commercial furniture but being a Kiwi he wanted to do something with boats. So five years ago he teamed up with neighbour Richard Fogarty, who had spent 20 years in the yacht re-fit business in Auckland, and set up Robinson Marine Interiors in a suburb of the city called Onehunga. They have tapped into the lucrative and high value superyacht interior industry, one in which precision and final, hand finishing skills are the crucial ingredients.
I took a look round their remarkable wood working facility this morning and ran my hand over some truly beautifully worked furniture. It was strange to think that in a few days it would be carefully packed into an air-conditioned container, sent to New Orleans and fitted into a 164ft superyacht, the shell of which is being built by Trinity Yachts.
Built with tolerances of less than 0.1mm, the custom-built furniture should slot straight into the four-decked yacht. First time fit is what Robinson aim to achieve. A team of technicians travels with the furniture to install it – it’s all part of the service.
Precision is the name of the game. Robinson are sent files electronically from interior designers and from these they create computer generated models using sophisticated 3d software called Autocad Inventor.
Each part of the interior, be it a double bed, dining room sideboard or an audio-visual cabinet is broken down into separate components each with its precise dimensions, number and detailing for drilling, rebating and edge design.
Drawings are then sent to the shop floor where teams forming the 83-strong workforce assemble each intricate piece of furniture. Richard Fogarty said that the key to the process lay in the planning. “Spending a minute in the workshop will save an hour on site,” said Richard.
As he demonstrated a machine which can cut, route, drill and edge a piece of plywood in a matter of seconds and another which will plane, straighten and sand a piece of timber in a three-in-one process, he emphasised the importance of skilful hand finishing. “No matter how many machines you have it is that final touch, that final piece of skilled human input which probably matters most,” said Richard.
Robinson Marine Interiors have won more than a dozen contracts and are currently working with Trinity Yachts on three 160ft plus projects. “Trinity are aiming to raise their game in the superyacht industry and we are aiming to be part of that,” said Fogarty. He also said Robinson were determined to break into the European market where interior finishing companies have traditionally been based.