Q&A with CEO Knud Erik Hansen
Knud Erik Hansen, CEO and third generation owner of Carl Hansen & Søn.
THE LAB is an apprentice workshop in Carl Hansen & Søn’s furniture factory, which aims to train more
Carl Hansen & Søn’s furniture factory in Gelsted, Denmark, which has 60,000 m2 of floor space and 600 employees.
The factory is the most modern furniture production center in Northern Europe, with a focus on craftsmanship and sustainability. Each piece of furniture requires hours of handcraft before it leaves the factory.
Why did you decide to set up THE LAB apprentice workshop?
Quality craftsmanship is the foundation of Carl Hansen & Søn, which is one of the reasons why we established THE
LAB apprentice workshop.
Having an apprentice workshop is in our own interest, because we need skilled cabinetmakers. We are one of very
few furniture manufacturers still producing in Denmark, thereby creating jobs and growth, and the global demand for
our furniture is high. It is therefore extremely important that our production can keep up, by having skilled employees
who can deliver the quality and finish that Carl Hansen & Søn produces. But they are hard to find. Training new
cabinetmakers is therefore crucial to fulfilling our future growth aims.
Secondly, the trade is the beating heart of the company. By training our own cabinetmakers we are helping to
preserve and carry on the trade and design tradition that Denmark has become so well known for. Machines take
care of the heavy work in our production, so the cabinetmakers can focus on the details and ensure the wood has
soul. The human element of a piece of furniture is very important in my opinion. Where you can see that it was
created by a human being. This is the essence of what we want to train our apprentices in.
What is taught?
When you start as an apprentice at Carl Hansen & Søn, you spend the first three weeks in THE LAB apprentice
workshop. Our apprentices work in workshops here, where they are taught the craftsmen methods that have been
part of Danish cabinetmaking for over a hundred years. For example, it might be the characteristic dovetail joint –
one of the cabinetmaker’s best known signatures, which requires an incredible amount of practice before you can
master it. They also receive tool training, where they learn to sharpen their chisels and plane, and are instructed
about machines and safety.
After the first three weeks at THE LAB apprentice workshop, the apprentices go to production, where they rotate for
eight weeks between different workshops: the joinery, the table department and the machine shop. Our apprentices
also get acquainted with weaving and surface treatments. During the training, apprentices also attend technical
college six times, for a total of 30 weeks.
After completing their training, our apprentices do a journeyman’s exam, and it is very satisfying to see them master
their craft to perfection. After that, we naturally hope that our newly fledged cabinetmakers will continue to work with
us and help add soul to our large collection of iconic design furniture.