Archive for December, 2011

Interview with Howard Green on BNN

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 26, 2011 by johnwiggers

A few weeks ago a producer from Business News Network (BNN) called asking me to participate in an interview entitled “The Business of Craftmanship”.

The focus of the segment was to discover how people can turn the craft of making things into an actual business, and in addition to me discussing the craft of fine furniture making there were also interviews with custom guitar maker William “Grit” Laskin, and shoemaker-to-the-stars John Fluevog.

The interview took place last Tuesday at a gallery in Toronto called Industrial Storm, and it would be an understatement to say that I was incredibly nervous going in.

Thankfully the show’s host Howard Green was incredibly professional and easy going, and his friendly, relaxed demeanor worked wonders setting me at ease before the interview began.

Howard’s interview with me can be seen at the following link:

Meanwhile Howard’s interview with William “Grit” Laskin is here, and the interview with John Fluevog is here.

Custom Ellipse Dining Table

Posted in Artisanal, FSC, Furniture Making, Woodworking with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 14, 2011 by johnwiggers

Last month we made a custom Ellipse II Dining Table measuring 123″ long x 47″ wide x 29″ high.

Crafted from silver dyed anigre veneer, the grain pattern of the top was configured in a custom sunburst pattern.

The tapered elliptical cone base has internal counterweights for support.

The inlay medallion is stainless steel.

This table was delivered to the Trump Hollywood in Florida in time for Thanksgiving supper.

Live Edge Dining Table

Posted in Artisanal, Furniture Making, Woodworking with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 12, 2011 by johnwiggers

Recently we were commissioned to make a live edge dining table for a custom residence in Muskoka, north of Toronto.

For those of you who do not know what it means, “live edge” is a style of furniture that was inspired by the late George Nakashima in the 1940s as an extension of the Arts and Crafts movement. The term is derived from the incorporation of the natural edge of a wood slab into the design of a piece of furniture.

For this particular project our client was looking for a dining table that would seat 14 people, and measure approximately 144″ long by 44″ wide. Black Walnut was the original wood of choice, but it soon became apparent that available walnut slabs were far from suitable for a table of this size.

As can be seen in the following images, walnut is notorious for having interior voids and rot – especially in older trees. In addition it is rare to find reasonably clean slabs in excess of 132″ in length. Therefore, walnut was deemed to be unsuitable for this particular project.

After a great deal of effort a magnificent slab of African Bubinga was finally procured.

Based on the width of the slab and the concentration of growth rings it is estimated that the tree yielding this slab was roughly 2 meters in diameter and over 300 years of age before it fell.

The live edge slab arrives in our shop.

The rough surface of the bark is still on the edge.

An air drill with nylon wheel was most effective for cleaning the edge.

Cutting the slab to length. This was a very challenging task, considering that this piece of lumber weighed almost 700 lbs and needed to be counterbalanced at the opposite end for stability.

The sanded top ready for finishing looked like the flight deck of an aircraft carrier.

Sanding the sealer coats and thoroughly inspecting the surface before final finish.

Applying the precatalyzed lacquer finish as a protective coat.

The steel legs arrive from the platers.

The unwrapped legs showing antique bronze finish. Given the extreme weight of the top we decided to fabricate the legs out of 1/2″ x 4″ cold rolled steel. Welded corner gussets were added for additional stability. Given the asymmetrical taper of the wood top the legs were made in proportional widths to maintain a visual balance.

Recessed holes in underside of legs to receive acrylic feet.

Inserting the acrylic feet.

Antique bronze legs ready for mounting.

The finished wood top, ready to receive legs.

Mounting the legs to the underside of the wood top.

The finished table.

Detail of live edge.

Another view of table.

Corner detail of wood top.

Long Time, No Blog

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on December 10, 2011 by johnwiggers

It has been months since my last blog post. In fact, since my return from summer vacation over 4 months ago I have only posted the one time – and even then it was to talk about my time away.

That vacation resulted in an epiphany of sorts for me. By strange coincidence the daily walks through the woods that has become a routine over the years ended up resulting in three very close encounters with deer.

On one of those occasions we ended up standing almost motionless for the better part of an hour watching two does and a fawn calmly grazing nearby. My wife even managed to take some incredible close-up photographs, including the one below.

Standing there in the silence of the woods, watching the deer, gave me pause to do a great deal of thinking. In particular I noted how the day to day life of a deer was relatively simple, when compared to the complexity of my own daily rituals.

In the ensuing weeks I ended up spending a great deal of time reflecting on the last 30+ years of my life, starting from the time I graduated university and began working full time. It sounds like a cliche to say that those decades have passed almost as a blur.

First I worked alongside my father for a couple of years in the family woodworking business, then bought my first car, got married, bought a house, started a family, and by the age of 28 was running a 15 man shop pretty much on my own following the sudden decision of both of my parents to retire early.

After surviving the crushing recession of the early 1990s my life then began to ramp into overdrive, both as a father to 3 active kids and as a studio furniture maker doing high quality work for some of the finest furniture collections in the world.

At each step of the way I did everything I was supposed to doing as a small business owner, namely working hard, collecting and remitting my taxes, and doing whatever marketing and investment was necessary to make sure that each year’s sales exceeded the previous year’s sales.

And it always puzzled me as to why the primary measure of “success” of my business was measured almost exclusively in quantitative terms (i.e. sales and growth) and not qualitative terms (i.e. happiness).

This very question was in my mind on the night of October 5th of this year when news broke that Steven Jobs of Apple Computers had passed away. I came across the following post on someone’s Facebook wall which, as it turns out, was exactly what I needed to hear in that moment.

That said, the wheels of great change are now in motion.