Archive for John Wiggers

Custom Woodwork in the Bentley Mulsanne

Posted in Artisanal, Woodwork with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2012 by johnwiggers

In 2010 Bentley Motors reintroduced the luxury Mulsanne to their collection.

The interior of each Mulsanne has a total of 33 hand crafted panels of Walnut Burl veneer that have each been exquisitely fitted into place.

It takes an average of 7 hours to craft each panel, largely because Bentley’s quality standards are such that the grain pattern of the entire car is perfectly center matched. In other words, the grain pattern on the door panel on the left side of the car will be the exact mirror opposite to the corresponding panel on the right.

One of the things I enjoyed most about the following video is the way in which Bentley has integrated advanced manufacturing technologies (i.e. CNC and laser) with many traditional Old World techniques of hand craftsmanship.

In many ways this emulates what Philippe Dufour is also doing with respect to his hand crafted watches, although in Dufour‘s case he limits his use of technology to the CAD (computer aided design) end of the spectrum.

Please enjoy the following video:

Ultimate Factories – BENTLEY MULSANNE – by National Geographic TV. from Colaps T on Vimeo.

Happy Birthday, Wiggers Custom Furniture Ltd.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on January 13, 2012 by johnwiggers

Wiggers Custom Furniture Ltd. turns 45-years-old today.

The company was founded on January 13, 1967 by my parents Ann and Johan Wiggers. Just like today that day also happened to be a Friday the 13th.

Although some consider Friday the 13th to be unlucky, I guess it doesn’t work that way for everyone.

When I was very small I spent a great deal of time playing on my father’s workbench, while he was still working out of the basement of his home.

The first actual workshop wasn’t built until 1968. (Notice the Ford Econoline van parked on the side. Years later that was the first vehicle I learned to drive, complete with standard transmission and three-on-the-tree.)


This is the shop today. It is now approx. 12,000 sq. ft. in size, but still has a number of original tools and machines being used each day.

Although he’s now retired my father keeps himself active which, in turn, keeps him young.

This coming year will also mark my 31st year as a full time furniture maker, and I am amazed at how quickly the time has flown. (I know that it’s a cliche to say that, but it’s true).

My son Kevin is now working with me as well.

Although he’s only 21-years-old he’s already far more skilled and experienced than I was at the same age. What parent wouldn’t be happy to admit that?

It’s great having my father around to teach Kevin things like wood turning and marquetry. Kevin is patient and shows great respect listening to his grandfather.

As an interesting historical footnote it was also 45 years ago today that Time Magazine published the following cover:

Times have certainly changed, because in recent years China has transformed from being an agrarian Communist society into what is now a manufacturing juggernaut – becoming so wealthy in the process that it is now the holder of millions of jobs and trillions of dollars formerly earned in the West.

This certainly wasn’t the playing field that confronted my father and grandfather during their respective eras. Then again, they had Great Depressions and World Wars to deal with. Regardless, I remain hopeful that we as a small business can continue to find ways to navigate forward during these uncertain times.

In the meantime Happy Birthday, Wiggers Custom Furniture Ltd. !

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 Furniture Sample Sale – Pedestal Jewel Box

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 11, 2012 by johnwiggers

In 2006 The Guild Shop in Toronto showcased some examples of my work at an exhibition called “Boxed Jewels”. The following Pedestal Jewel Box was one of the pieces on display.




This Pedestal Jewel Box measures 12-5/8″ wide x 11-1/8″ deep x 49-1/2″ overall height. When open it measures 16-3/8″ wide. The pedestal is made of FSC certified Nero Vermelho which has been sculpted into an entasis shape using the same geometric proportions that the ancient Greeks used to construct the columns on the Parthenon in Athens.

The exterior of the split shell box is crafted out of some of my core stash of rare veneers – in this case the last of my spectacular Amboyna Cluster Burl that was first used to make the Amboyna Bed back in 1998.


The box interior is made of African Padauk, with the 5 undulating drawer fronts sculpted from solid stock. The drawer boxes are solid mahogany fitted with sliding dovetails. The drawer bottoms are lined in black Tuscany leather.

This Pedestal Jewel Box was most recently on display at the “My Grain” Exhibition at The Guild Shop in Toronto, which ran July through August, 2011.

List price: $2500.00

Special pricing available for sample sale.

Custom Commission – Kidney Shaped Desk

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 11, 2012 by johnwiggers

What follows is a series of photos of a recently completed custom commission for a Kidney Shaped Desk.

The inspiration behind the original design was explained in an earlier post.

Perhaps the most unusual feature of this particular desk is the incorporation of inlays made of copper, silver and 18K gold.

This post will begin with the inlays, which were crafted by local artisans Joe and Sonja Sanders of Jewellery by Sanders in Oshawa.

This is the initial walnut blank with recesses cut to receive the gold, copper and silver inlays. After the inlay work is complete this piece will become the lid of the box located inside the pencil drawer.

The gold and silver inlays were cast using a lost wax process. This image shows the mold and wax casting for the silver Turtle inlay.

The mold and wax casting for the Eagle inlay, which ended up being made of gold.

Benchwork on the Turtle inlay.

Benchwork on Eagle inlay.

Cleaning the casting of the Eagle inlay.

Polishing the Eagle inlay.

Handscraping the copper Tree inlay. Since it is not practical to cast copper, this inlay was made of bar stock that was seamlessly soldered together.

Preparing to fit the inlay into the wood.

After much polishing and finessing by hand, the final fit is achieved.

The wood lid can now be sanded in preparation for gluing the inlay into place.

A protective Lanolin finish is carefully applied by hand to the Black Walnut lid and sculpted inlay pieces that will function as finger pulls under the drawers.

The finished lid and finger pulls, ready to be fitted into desk.

Front view of the completed desk.

A closer view of the end detail of the desk.

Detail view of top, showing Macassar Ebony top apron and inset of black Tuscany leather.

Detail view of side drawer.

Pencil drawer – closed.

Pencil drawer – open.

Interior of pencil drawer, showing inlaid lid of Black Walnut. The trays on either side are made of Sassafras, which is a holistic wood traditionally known for its aromatherapeutic properties.

The box portion below the inlaid lid has been crafted from a wood called Hawthorn, which was known to ancient Greek herbalists and has been used in Ayurvedic practice for over 5,000 years.

Detail view of inlaid finger pull below one of the side drawers.

Custom Elliptical Oval Credenza

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 6, 2012 by johnwiggers

In my recent television interview with Howard Green of BNN (Business News Network) I was asked to describe a favorite furniture piece made over the past 30 years.

My answer was the Virginian Credenza, which was designed by J. Wade Beam and has been made by us exclusively for a company called Brueton for almost 2 decades.

Recently we completed a custom variation of this credenza.

Measuring 96″ long x 19″ deep x 29″ high this piece was carefully crafted from a spectacular bundle of silver dyed figured Sycamore veneer.

The solid maple bullnose edge was stained and toned to match.

On top of the credenza a special enclosure was made to conceal a flat screen television.

The finished credenza was specially crated for shipment via ocean container to an installation in Moscow.

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.