Back to the elements

It all started when Peter Charnaud was nine years old and his father brought home a tonne of wooden scraps for his son to build things with. A few collapsed tables later and he had very much caught the bug. Now as an adult, Peter works for the family business selling wood working machinery to customers all over the world. However, in his spare time he still build things out of his beloved material and there’s one thing he loves to build above all others…

“I was in Italy and I saw a very crude bike made out of wood. I’d never even thought about making something like that, but I said to myself: "I’m going to have a go at that when I get home." That was four years ago and I’ve been making them ever since. You’re never going to see two wooden bikes that are the same. 

“The thing I really love about it is that you’re making something out of a material that was once growing. A bike is different to a piece of furniture. If I’m making a table or chair, it’s static; it just sits there on the floor, but a bicycle moves. They’re mobile and have a life of their own. It brings the wood back to life. My bikes were growing, they had their branches out in the wind and rain and I’ve now taken them back out into the elements.

“Certain woods are heavy and others are brittle, so by combining the two you get something that is tough but also lightweight. You have to consider the mechanical properties of each wood. You can take a piece of London plane and bend it into a u-shape over your knee and it won’t break. If you did that with a piece of cedar it would just snap, but cedar is incredibly light. So you can use cedar for the core of the bike and the London plane on the outside. You’ve then got something incredibly strong but also light. I’d like to get people making them themselves – it’s not that difficult.”

Words by contributing editor Duncan Haskell

To find out more about Peter’s bikes, or if you'd like guidance on how to get started building one of your own, visit