Fundi Not Frank

Sandra Cisneros writes in The House on Mango Street: “Not a flat. Not an apartment in back. Not a man’s house. Not a daddy’s. A house all my own. With my porch and my pillow, my pretty purple petunias. My books and my stories. My two shoes waiting beside the bed. Nobody to shake a stick at. Nobody’s garbage to pick up after. Only a house as quiet as snow, a space for myself to go, clean as paper before a poem.”

I don’t have a porch and pretty purple petunias just yet but I do have a little space of my own. One where that chapter opening cheers me on from my fridge door. This home is filled with many things that I love.

My books and my stories sit in wooden crates that hold magazines, family portraits and prop up my projector. There’s a creaky secondhand sofa, a fluffy carpet and rectangular blackboard patches on the kitchen and bedroom walls where my dodgy calligraphy and drawing skills are on display. Currently, what’s supposed to pass for eggs in a frying pan has the caption, “you are eggcellent”.

Last year I decided to add a dining table to the mix. It needed it to be flexible enough to sit two people and the hotpot riot of a larger gathering. It struck me that the ideal table would need to fold in half and have detachable legs. That way, one side could serve as the top as the other portion (with one set of legs unscrewed) would provide the balance required. It would fold out and stand on all four legs.

Granted, this was an ambitious project but I imagined that all I had to do was find a good fundi and walk him through the idea.

There was a workshop close to my bus stop and the items on display looked pretty good.

I approached the fundi one afternoon and discussed the table design. He seemed to get it, nodding along as I described how it needed to work two ways. I even showed him images I’d found online (thanks, pinterest!) of what some of the pieces were to look like. I was assured the table would be ready in a week’s time.

Week 1
I passed by the shop and work hadn’t yet began. Apparently he’d been called away on an emergency.

Week 2
The table top was ready but the two segments were of differing lengths. The fundi didn’t cut the piece exactly in half. We argued back and forth and it’s obvious this guy hadn’t jotted down any of the measurements and instructions we’d previously discussed. I asked him to do so and although he assured me that he understood my instructions, I got home and sketched out my dream table. I slipped this drawing under the shop door the next day.

Week 3
The fundi informed me that the table is ready. At this stage, I was hopeful but don’t know what to expect. It’s Friday mid-morning and since the guy would be away for the weekend he delivered the table to a kiosk close to my place. I arrived to find one side had been replaced but the resulting table top was misaligned and very heavy.

Once in my house I attempted to assemble the whole thing but it was a disaster. It didn’t stand up even once. The legs were uneven. In full distress mode, I loaded up data on my phone and turned to Twitter to express my woes.

Sharing our stories helps us gain new perspectives. For instance, I learnt that not only was this all faulty workmanship but the choice of wood was also questionable.

Table ting 2

I confronted the fundi and pointed out all the obvious faults but he didn’t care. He promised to atleast level out the legs but the table only gathered dust in his workshop for another week. He kept lying to me over and over again about when I could collect it and what progress he’d made. Frustrated, I went by when he was out and collected the pieces.

I pass by his workshop every day and he never meets my gaze. Would you if you’d made this nonsense?



Here’s to finding a frank fundi some day.

9 responses to “Fundi Not Frank”

  1. Oh dear, a lovely read but what a sad tale of bad customer service. I must say it is guys like Frank who give fundis a bad name. There are many wonderful artisans who do some beautiful work and I am full of admiration for them and for people who support local businesses.. This man clearly was not a qualified carpenter. He did not want to admit that and so took on a job which he had no hope of ever completing to the customer’s satisfaction.

    In my experience it pays to shop around, see several suppliers, check out projects that they have completed and also see what works they have in progress. I think a genuine artisan would be proud to show off their works.

    The fold -away table is an ‘eggsellent’ idea for making use of the available space and I hope you managed to sort it.

    1. Wanjeri

      This experience has taught me that I must be more involved and firmer with fundis besides thoroughly vetting them. If ever I design custom furniture again, that is.

  2. @FM

    Hello. I notice I inferred the wood used as blue gum whereas I actually meant silky oak (Mukima). Blue gum’s good wood. As is cypress, pine.
    I wish you all the best in your future furniture adventures 🙂

    1. Wanjeri

      Ha! No worries. Thanks all the same.

  3. Cathy

    I love the story but about the poor workmanship of the table. That fundi is just fake.

    1. Cathy

      *sorry about the poor…..

    2. Wanjeri

      Thanks Catherine. *sigh*

  4. Jules

    You mean this is a true story ????. Oh my God!!! What nonsense has this fundi created. My dear sister..soo sorry to hear this.

    1. Wanjeri

      It is a harrowing true story. Juliet! Machozi tupu.

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