Archive for the Woodworking Category

Lotus Flower Pattern to a Sunburst Top

Posted in Artisanal, Furniture Making, Woodworking with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 30, 2012 by johnwiggers

We have just completed a custom Ellipse II dining table that is due for delivery next week.

The massive 72″ diameter top was made as a one piece sunburst, using flat cut natural Walnut.

I especially love how the radiating grain pattern of the top looks so much like the petals of a Lotus flower.

Aquaria Console – Curly Birds Eye Maple

Posted in Artisanal, Furniture Making, Woodworking with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 28, 2012 by johnwiggers

This example of an Aquaria Console was recently sold to a private collector.

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Measuring 42-1/2″ long x 10-1/2″ wide x 29-1/8″ high the apron and legs were constructed of Chestnut Curly Maple and fitted together using mortise and tenon construction. The single drawer at the end was made of dovetailed solid Maple.

Without question the focal point of this console is the spectacular grain pattern on the top, which has been crafted from a rare sampling of Curly Birds Eye Maple veneer that was stained and polished to a high sheen.

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Maple is a common species of North American tree, and in rare instances some of these trees will yield unusual grain patterns such as Birds Eye or Curly. Experts are generally baffled as to why certain trees will exhibit this kind of graining, although the prevailing wisdom seems to be that some kind of disease or fungus is the cause.

In reality there are two differing conditions which cause these types of grain patterns to occur.

Curly (or Fiddleback) is the result of tree ring compression, and this most often occurs in trees that are exposed to winds which cause them to sway. This motion, in turn, causes ring compression on the side of the tree opposite the wind, and this manifests as a distinctive crossfire figure to the grain. It makes sense that this type of figure is usually found near the crotch and roots of a tree, since these areas are the ones which experience the most movement due to wind.

Birds Eye, on the other hand, is caused by stunted growth and two primary conditions must exist in order for this type of graining to occur. Namely, a Maple must be growing on the north-east slope of a hill and be closely surrounded by a dense cluster of other trees which compete with it for essential nutrients, moisture and sunlight.

About 15 years ago, during a visit to one of my vendors, I was shown an unusual log of Maple that had both Curly and Birds Eye grain patterns melded together. Although the graining looked spectacular my supplier felt bewildered as to how to sell the log, since it was too Curly to be sold as Birds Eye, and had too much Birds Eye to be sold as Curly.

Needless to say I bought the log without hesitation, since it was too unusual and beautiful to be left behind. Although I had no current project for which to use this wood, I decided to squirrel it away in my core stash of rare woods for use on a select pieces down the road.

To this day this log of Curly Birds Eye is the only example of this type of grain pattern I have ever seen.

It’s unlikely that a log of this calibre and scarcity will ever appear again.

Florence Side Table

Posted in Artisanal, Furniture Making, Woodworking with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2012 by johnwiggers

Recently we were commissioned by Shaver/Melahn Studios to make a custom version of their Florence Side Table.

The standard table (shown above) was designed by Rick Shaver and is made from Cerused Natural Quartersawn Oak. It is typically available in either 26″ or 42″ diameters.

The custom table (shown below) measures 36″ dia. x 29″ high.

Crafted from Cerused Chocolate Quartersawn Oak the top of this table has a 3-way reverse diamond matched grain pattern and solid quartersawn oak edges with undercut bevel. The concave 3 sided pedestal rests on a triangular plinth base.

After wrapping in tissue and foam the completed table is placed in a protective crate.

The crated table ready for shipping.

Ellipse II Table – The Story Behind Its Creation

Posted in Artisanal, FSC, Furniture Making, Woodworking with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 11, 2012 by johnwiggers

In 2002 I began to experiment with ideas on how to bend wood across complex three dimensional planes. In the course of doing this I inadvertently created a tapered elliptical cone shape that, at first glance, looked ideal for a dining table base.

After building a prototype of the cone my next challenge was making the top. After heeding advice to “keep it simple” I settled on a pure elliptical oval shape with bookmatched grain and flat edge apron. A 1″ high stainless steel plinth was added to the underside of the base. The resulting table was finished in Tobacco Mahogany, and named the Ellipse Dining Table.

Although the resulting table looked OK, there was something about it that was just plain missing. What bothered me most was the finish – which was a basic chocolate/mocha/expresso brown. At the time this was a safe finish to use, because just about every professional in the interior design industry was using it in one form or another since it “went with everything”.

One could probably credit Holly Hunt and Christian Liaigre with first introducing this look to the high end of the market in the 1990s. By the early 2000s, however, the finish was everywhere and I soon realized that to be the main problem. Namely, because of the finish this table was looking like everything else out there – even the cheap dross knock-offs that were now beginning to flood the market by the containerload from offshore.

By 2006 I decided to refine the design with some subtle changes. I began by using a wood called Nero Chaquiro, which is a lesser known species that comes from an FSC certified forest in Brazil. In addition to being certified as sustainably harvested the use of this wood also helps support an indigenous community living along the banks of the Amazon River by providing a tangible incentive for the peoples living there to manage their surrounding forest responsibly.

The main structure of the table was crafted out of FSC certified ply, which was also NAUF and CARB2 compliant due to the fact that there were no added urea formaldehydes in the glues and binders. To minimize the heaviness of the top the grain pattern was changed to sunburst and the edge profile became a deep undercut bevel. The stainless steel plinth was removed in lieu of a small convex inlay of Narra being added as a subtle detail. The resulting table was finished in a low-VOC water based urethane, and renamed the Ellipse II Table.

Taken together these changes created a more sculptural look to the design, and the response from the design community was tremendously positive. Our ability to custom tailor this design to meet the requirements of each individual client has since resulted in the Ellipse II Table becoming one of our most popular offerings today.

In October 2008 a custom commission of this table for interior designer Wendy Blount was even published in an issue of Metropolitan Home magazine.

Thanks to the positive response this article received, the table photo was subsequently republished in the book “Glamour: Making it Modern” by Michael Lassell.

Sustainable, Environmental, Eco Lifestyles, Healthy, All Natural, Home and Garden, Interior Design, Eco Friendly, Green Furniture, Green Furnishings, Green Designs, FSC Certified, Reclaimed Materials. Organic, LEED compliant, NAUF. CARB2, Bamboo, Natural Fibers. Non-Toxic, low-VOC, Non VOC, Natural Finishes.

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.

Custom Furniture for an Executive Office – Case Study (Part 1) – Introduction

Posted in Artisanal, Furniture Making, Woodworking with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 25, 2011 by johnwiggers

In 2005 we displayed our Gentleman’s Valet Stand in the “Studio North” area of the Interior Design Show in Toronto.


At one point the inlay work on this cabinet caught the attention of a visitor from the United States, and before long he and I were engaged in a lengthy discussion about design and the works of Art Deco masters such as Jules Leleu and Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann.

Given this fellow’s extensive knowledge of furniture design and craftsmanship, I assumed he was either an architect or a designer. It turns out he was neither.

Instead, this fellow turned out to be an entrepreneur who owns a mid sized company located in a major American city. He said he was shopping for ideas on having custom furniture made for his executive office, although he was in no particular rush to have anything done.

In the ensuing years we stayed in touch, until last year when things finally progressed to the point where we were able to move forward with a tangible proposal.

This will be the first post of several that will become a case study of the creative process behind the designing and making of custom furniture for the executive office of our client – who will be referred to from this point forward as JLT.

Next: Custom Furniture for an Executive Office – Case Study (Part 2) – The Initial Site Meeting