Archive for July, 2011

Spalting Maple – The Horse Poo Experiment

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 21, 2011 by johnwiggers

In recent months Kevin has made considerable effort to purchase some figured wood that is commonly known as Spalted Maple.

Given the difficulty he has had finding quality examples of this wood, he has started to explore ways of spalting his own Maple.

What is Spalting?

When most woodworkers refer to spalting, they are usually describing the introduction of dramatic color or black into specific grain lines of wood. This is sometimes produced by mold growth in live or cut wood, or various types of wood disease or rot. Spalting can include myriad forms and colors, depending on the wood, the cause, the chemical elements introduced, etc.

When different types of mold of fungi are present in a piece of wood, black lines are often formed as an interaction zone where different fungi have erected barriers to protect their resources.

Somewhere along the way Kevin found a do-it-yourself recipe that claims that Maple can be spalted by smearing yogurt over chunks of the wood. The wood is then wrapped in plastic and buried it in the ground for 2 months. Kevin gathered up a variety of 6/4 Maple scraps from around the shop and used them to conduct his experiment.

While it makes sense that the bacteria naturally found in yogurt should have the ability to spalt Maple, I question whether kiln dried solids are wet enough for the spalting process to work. Given that he buried the wood in early June, we’ll find out in a couple of weeks time how well the experiment worked.

In the meantime some relatives ended up cutting down a small Maple tree at their cottage recently, and they asked whether I’d be interested in the logs. I saw this as a perfect opportunity to explore a different theory of spalting.

For this experiment I used a recipe found online at a site called WoodCentral. It calls for a mixture of 3 parts dried leaves, 1 part water, 2 scoops Miracle-Gro, 1 part fresh horse manure, and 1 bottle of beer (in this case an Upper Canada Dark Ale).

The photo above shows the ingredients ready for mixing. The dried leaves are already in the pail with the water.

The brew is stirred and ready.

To better expose the wet ends of the logs it was necessary to cut 3″ off each end. My father came by with his chainsaw to do the deed. For a 79-year-old he continues to be quite limber and adept with handling tools.

Applying the “poo brew” to the ends of the logs.

The remaining mixture of manure and leaves was placed on top of the bark.

The logs were then wrapped and sealed in plastic, where they’ll remain in the Sun for about 2 months. The skid below keeps them elevated, so ground rot doesn’t set in.

Check back in 2 months time to see what happened.

Mosaic Inlay Keepsake Box

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on July 15, 2011 by johnwiggers

Last year Kevin decided to apply some of his mosaic veneer inlay work to smaller items such as boxes. One of the first things to come out of this experiment is the following keepsake box.

Measuring 10-1/4″ long x 7-1/2″ deep x 3″ high the main body is crafted out of Walnut Burl with 1/4″ bead of solid Walnut in the corners. The background of the mosaic is Birds Eye Maple which has been inlaid with Cherry, Walnut and Carpathian Elm Burl.

I was especially impressed with the fact that Kevin created the mosaic pattern completely free hand and without drawings, and the flawless execution of the joinery is certainly a testament to his patience and his love for what he’s doing.

The solid brass stop hinges are from Brusso, and the interior is felt lined.

This box will be on display at The Guild Shop for the “My Grain” Exhibition, which opens July 16th.

Kidney Shaped Desk at the “My Grain” Exhibition

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 13, 2011 by johnwiggers

This Kidney Shaped Desk measures 75″ long x 35″ wide x 29″ high.

It has been crafted from FSC certified Ebony which has been hand cut to create a radiating pattern around an FSC certified plywood core.

The glue used to apply the Ebony is non-UF (urea formaldehyde), and the finish is low-VOC polyurethane.

The inset top has a subtle bevel edge, and is clad in black Tuscany leather.

A total of 3 drawers have been built into the apron, with each one being made from solid Cherry and fitted using sliding dovetail joinery.

In addition to using FSC certified woods to build the main body of the desk, several lesser known species of wood have also been incorporated into the design to communicate a more comprehensive story about sustainable wood use.


In the very centre of the pencil drawer a small compartment has been carved into a block of rare wood known as Hawthorn. Hawthorn is a traditional healing wood that has been used in medicinal practice for a considerable period of time. It was well known to the ancient Greek herbalists, and records indicate that it has been used in Ayurvedic medicine dating back almost 5,000 years.

Hawthorn is considered an aroma-therapeutic healing wood since it produces an aerosol of complex compounds – all of which are medicinal. The primary benefit of the aroma-therapeutic properties of the Hawthorn is to help alleviate stress and strengthen the heart.

On either side of the Hawthorn compartment is a pair of pencil trays made of a wood called Sassafras. Sassafras carries within it oil based complex of compounds that are naturally saturated within the wood itself – both as a wax and as oil. Through handling and the bumping action of contents against the fibers of this wood, the oils contained within this wood are released as an aerosol each time the drawer is opened.

This aerosol is considered to be a tonic to the human body, since it helps to promote an overall feeling of well-being. This state increases the ability of the deep centers of the brain to promote increased and clearer thinking.

The oil of the Sassafras is related to Myrrh, one of the legendary woods of the ancient world. Sassafras is also the wood used for spiritual cleansing by many tribes of North American Indians, in their traditional sweat lodge ceremony.

On the underside of the drawer fronts are inlaid finger pulls that have been crafted from wood that comes from the Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) family of trees. Native American medicine women discovered through many generations of trial, error and observation that this wood has medicinal properties that are useful in the prevention and treatment of disease. It is believed that simply touching this wood will release the active molecules to the surface of one’s skin, where they can be naturally absorbed into the pores.

In recent years a scientific basis has been discovered that supports this traditional wisdom, and the active molecules (known scientifically as ellagitannins) are currently at the leading edge of research into finding a cure for cancer.

Please note that the inclusion of traditional holistic woods such as Hawthorn, Sassafras and Black Walnut into the design of this desk does not promise any particular holistic or therapeutic benefit to the user. This information has been shared to give others a broader understanding and appreciation for trees, by helping to see them as being more than mere sources of raw material.

Additional information on the Kidney Shaped Desk, and the story behind its creation, can be found at the following link. This link also gives background information on a botanist and scientist by the name of Diana Beresford-Kroeger, who played an instrumental role in providing the information for the holistic woods used on this desk.

This Kidney Shaped Desk is currently on display at The Guild Shop in Toronto, where it will be part of the “My Grain” Exhibition, which opens on Saturday July 16.

Desk-Zilla

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on July 13, 2011 by johnwiggers

About a year ago we received a request for quotation for a number of furniture pieces going into a large custom project. One of the pieces quoted was for a custom desk.

At the time I remembered feeling just a little bit nervous about the prospect of making a massive one piece curved top that would measure almost 14′ corner to corner. Not knowing whether the quote would actually materialize as an order, I didn’t end up spending too much time figuring out how, exactly, we’d do it.

Well, the order did materialize, and we did figure out how to make the top.

This is the credenza that will be located on the left side of the desk. There are a total of 6 box drawers over 3 files drawers. The drawer boxes will all be dovetailed solid maple running on Blumotion self closing linear ball bearing slides.

This image shows the addition of the side cabinet for CPU storage. There will be a removeable angled back added to this cabinet to allow for wiring access.

The curved modesty panel is bolted to the CPU cabinet.

The end gable is added to the far side of the modesty panel. The removable panel for the CPU cabinet can be seen on the right.

The massive flight deck a.k.a. top is added to Desk-Zilla. It goes without saying that putting an undercut bevel edge around all 3 sides was more than a little challenging.

This view shows the inside of the desk, including the knee space.

I’m not certain whether this is the biggest desk we’ve ever made, but this is definitely the biggest desk we’ve ever made for a home office.

This piece has now been disassembled for sanding and finishing.

Road Trip Delivery of Eco-Furniture to Orlando, Florida

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 13, 2011 by johnwiggers

In an earlier post I described a road trip to Hollywood, Florida during which we delivered custom furniture to a luxury condominium at the Trump Hollywood. This trip reminded me of another project we delivered to Orlando, Florida in May of last year.

My son Kevin accompanied me on this delivery and along the way we took a few hours break to catch an MLB baseball game at Turner Field, between the Atlanta Braves and the Cincinnati Reds.


Kevin is clearly looking forward to seeing the game.


After an 8 run 2nd inning by the Reds, including a grand slam by Joey Votto, it looked like the rout was on.


This guy is probably the most avid Braves fan around. He claims to have been to EVERY single Atlanta Braves home game (in the same seat at Turner Field) stretching back over 1000+ games. He’s also a walking encyclopedia on baseball facts and trivia.


Expect the unexpected. In the bottom of the 9th the Braves rallied back from a 9-3 deficit with 7 runs, including a walk-off grand slam by Brooks Conrad to win the game 10-9. The place went nuts. It turns out this was only the 24th time in MLB history that this has happened, so we truly witnessed some history in the making.


Kevin with the Braves superfan, moments after the incredible come-from-behind victory. (Incidentally, at the end of the 8th I told Kevin that we couldn’t leave yet because the Braves were going to come back and win via walk-off grand slam. Good call, Dad!)


The reason for the road trip: overseeing delivery of custom made eco-furniture to a home near Orlando, Florida. This bedroom furniture includes an Irenic Bed and Inamorata casegoods made of FSC certified wood (that is also NAUF and CARB2 compliant), non-UF glue and low-VOC water based finish that is doctor recommended even for those with chemical sensitivities. The mattress is made of natural latex. The finish on the furniture is glazed maple.


This natural cherry finished furniture is for the guest bedroom. Consisting of an Irenic Bed and Inamorata casegoods it is also made of FSC certified wood (that is also NAUF and CARB2 compliant), non-UF glue and low-VOC water based finish that is doctor recommended even for those with chemical sensitivities.


The custom Inamorata Boxer Chest is made of natural cherry with the drawer fronts being made of Curly Birds Eye Maple from my Core Stash. All drawer boxers are dovetailed solid maple (FSC certified) running on Blumotion self-closing linear ball bearing slides. The drawer pulls are satin nickel.


This set of 3 custom made Island Tables is made of Louro Preto. The inset of river stones on the Cayman Table has been covered with a custom tempered glass top, to keep the cat from using it as a litter box.


This Ellipse II Table has been custom made in bamboo. The top features a radiating sunburst pattern and the finish is a low-VOC water based urethane.

All in all I was highly impressed by the level of research the client put into this project to verify that every aspect of our work was as environmentally responsible as possible.


Celebrating a delivery gone well….fresh ingredients + stainless steel bowl + liquid nitrogen = best ice cream ever. This shameless plug is for a hidden gem called the Pure Magic Ice Cream company. It’s located in Kissimmee, Florida.


When your kid is too old for Disney World, the next best thing is a ‘ghetto ride’ in downtown Orlando.


‘The Boy’ is stoked.


With some time to ourselves we checked out a street festival in downtown Orlando. While walking around we stumbled into this custom chopper with its own built-in humidor and port bar. The chopper lured me inside the Corona Cigar Company, which turns out to be North America’s largest walk-in humidor…boasting an inventory of 2,000,000 +/- cigars. It turns out that we inadvertently discovered the cigar afficionado’s motherlode of Arturo Fuente’s, Hemingways, Ashtons, and Diamond Crowns.


The obligatory photo of me with the chopper.


The Diamond Crown Cigar Lounge. Stocked with pre-embargo Cuban cigars and Prohibition-era rum, not to mention ice cold beer. With the outside temperature hovering around 92 degrees it made sense to chill out with a beer and a stogie in air conditioned comfort. We returned later to catch game 3 of the NBA Eastern Conference Final although, unfortunately, the Magic failed to show to play the Celtics that night. It was an enjoyable experience nonetheless – downtown Orlando is definitely a happening place on a Saturday night.

Tekendoos Keepsake Boxes

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on July 12, 2011 by johnwiggers

The inspiration for these keepsake boxes comes from a “Tekendoos” (a Dutch word for “drawing box”) that was given to me by my Grandfather when I was a small boy.

I have cherished this gift for almost 50 years, and it still sits on my desk to this day.

The boxes shown here have been constructed from mitre folded Baltic Birch ply, with exteriors clad in various species of exotic wood that have been inlaid with veneer banding. The hinges are solid brass, and the interiors are felt lined.

The overall dimensions of each box is 10” by 5” by 2-5/8” high

The box shown above has been crafted from Karellian Birch Burl and inlaid with Mahogany, Maple and Indian Ebony.

The above box is made from Zebrawood inlaid with Mahogany, Maple and Indian Ebony.

This box is made of Kevazingo inlaid with Tulipwood, Maple and Indian Ebony.

The above box is made of Pommelle Sapele inlaid with Mahogany, Maple and Indian Ebony.

The keepsake box shown above is made of Bubinga inlaid with Tulipwood, Maple and Indian Ebony.

Several of these Tekendoos Keepsake Boxes will be on display at The Guild Shop in Toronto, as part of the “My Grain” exhibition which opens on July 16th.

Aquaria Console

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 12, 2011 by johnwiggers

The Aquaria Console measures 42-1/2″ long by 10-1/2″ deep by 29-1/2″ high. The high gloss figured wood top appears to float over the base since it rests on concealed cross ribs that are set between the long curving aprons.

The aprons are attached to the curved legs by means of mortise and tenon construction. An optional drawer extends from one end on Blumotion linear ball bearing slides. The drawer box itself is made of dovetailed solid maple.

The console above is shown with a solid Walnut base that has been stained Dark Chocolate. The top is figured Crotch Walnut which has been center butt matched, and stained to complement the base – albeit with a high gloss finish.

The legs and aprons on the console above are made out of solid natural Bubinga. The figured wood top is rotary cut Bubinga, which is sometimes called Kevazingo.

The apron and legs on the console above have been made out of Curly Maple that has been stained a medium Chestnut colour. The figured wood top comes from a rare sampling of Curly Birds Eye Maple that has been stained Chestnut to match.

The console below has legs and apron made out of natural solid walnut, with a natural Crotch Walnut top.

The latter two consoles are currently on display at The Guild Shop in Toronto – ready for the “My Grain” exhibition which opens on July 16th.