Archive for Macassar Ebony

Custom Furniture Sample Sale – Ovale Jewelry Chest

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on January 12, 2012 by johnwiggers

Depending on whether you’re American, British or Canadian the correct spelling of the following chest can be either Jewelry, Jewellry or Jewellery. That aside, the fact remains that every so often I’ll receive an inquiry to make a hand crafted Jewelry Chest. Usually this is intended as a gift for a special occasion such as a birthday, wedding anniversary, or Valentine’s Day.

Invariably the lead time to design and make one of these is less than a few weeks time, which means that it becomes near impossible to hand craft something exquisite in time to meet a deadline. That being said, I usually have to turn down these commissions due to the impossibly of doing high quality work in a short timeframe.

To remedy this I decided to build a custom Jewelry Chest on spec, so that I could have something readily available for the next time an inquiry like this came along.

The Ovale Jewelry Chest shown here measures 24-3/16″ wide x 18-3/8″ deep x 30-7/8″ high. Crafted from a rare sampling of Macassar Ebony the exterior shell of this cabinet has been vacuum formed into a elliptical oval shape.

The top has been seamlessly fitted to the interior and exterior contours of the elliptical oval shell, with the sculpted back apron cascading gracefully until it disappears into the horizontal plane of the top.

Note the subtle detail of how the grain pattern of the doors aligns perfectly with the grain of the top apron.

The doors on the front of the chest are secured with ball catches and a fully mortised privacy lock.

Five generous drawers are located inside the chest, with each gliding effortlessly on concealed ball bearing slides.

The two top drawers are each fitted with two layers of removable trays. Each tray has compartments for organizing miscellaneous items of jewelry.

The bottom of each drawer is lined with alligator embossed black leather, which was specially made by Spinneybeck .

The removable trays have been hand crafted from solid maple, and are felt lined on the underside.

Provision has been made for an engraved plate to be inlaid on the inside of the chest, which can be personalized with a special message.

List price on the Ovale Jewelry Chest is $13,000.00.

Special discounts are available during our Sample Sale.

Custom Furniture Sample Sale – San Francisco

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

Recently the showroom representing our work in San Francisco closed its doors due to the retirement of its owner, Enid Ford.

Enid’s former showroom manager Johanna Spilman has since decided to open her own showroom offering the same high standards of fine quality furnishings.

To help facilitate this move we are offering special pricing on the following three floor samples currently being showcased there.

This Ellipse II Table is without doubt one of our best selling designs. Measuring 84″ long x 42″ wide x 29″ high this table is crafted from a rare sampling of Nero Chaquiro, which comes from an FSC certified forest in Brazil. The top has a custom diamond matched grain pattern, and the finish is a low-VOC high gloss.

List price on this Ellipse II Table is $12,540.00.

This Atherton Chest has 3 drawers and measures 32″ wide x 19″ deep x 28-1/2″ high. It is crafted from a dark South American FSC certified wood known as Louro Preto. The finish is low-VOC high gloss and the handles and feet are satin stainless steel.

List price on this Atherton Chest is $10,295.00.

A custom version of the Kidney Shaped Desk is also on display in Johanna’s showroom, which was made from a spectacular flitch of reclaimed vintage Macassar Ebony veneer. The desk measures 75″ long x 35″ deep x 30″ oah. The top was made without the leather inset shown in the photo, so it has an all Macassar Ebony top surface finished in low-VOC high gloss. Three dovetailed drawers are fitted into the apron, with the center pencil drawer containing trays. The plinths below the Macassar Ebony legs are satin stainless steel.

List price of this custom Kidney Shaped Desk is $16,305.00.

For more information and specifics on discounts for these samples, please contact:

Johanna Spilman
Johanna Spilman Inc.
195 Rhode Island
San Francisco, California 94103

415-255-1777
415-255-2777 (f)

johanna@johannaspilman.com

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.

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.

Custom Furniture for an Executive Office – Case Study (Part 15) – Accessories

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 1, 2011 by johnwiggers

On the custom office project for JLT I ended up becoming involved in many aspects of the interior design, from the creation of the furniture itself to the layout of the ceiling and lighting grid and, to a lesser degree, the selection of wall coverings, carpet and upholstered furniture from Herman Miller.

Admittedly, this participation on my part was motivated in part by my desire to create a thoroughly complete office environment that would help show off the actual furniture when it came time for photography.

My intense focus on the design of the furniture inadvertently spilled over into the creation of some accessories as well, specifically a wine stopper and an ice bucket for the scotch bar.

Given that JLT is an aficionado of fine wines I wanted to create a high quality stopper that would surpass the quality level of any other wine stopper currently on the market.

The stopper itself was milled from a solid billet of FDA food grade 304 stainless steel. Triple seals of FDA food grade nitrile were then inlaid into precision milled grooves. The handle portion was turned from a rare block of solid Macassar Ebony, which is one of the hardest woods in the world.

Sharp tools and considerable patience is required when working with woods such as Ebony. Because of its extreme density this wood must be slowly air dried, lest hairline cracks develop over time.

On this particular stopper the biggest challenge came from placing the inlay of a decorative cabachon into the end. A thin walled pocket was carefully turned with a parting tool to create the recess necessary to receive the inlay of fossilized coral.

The ice bucket ended up being the bigger undertaking, and I have to admit that I spent a great deal of time agonizing over the design.

In an earlier post I described the process of evaluating JLT’s office from a Feng Shui perspective. At the time it worked out that the proposed layout and design was conducive with 13 of the 14 recommended “DO’s” and “DON’T’s” for a balanced office from a Feng Shui perspective. The only element missing was a small aquarium containing a single Arowana fish.

As much as I aspired to achieve perfection with this project I wasn’t about to suggest something as contrived as plunking an aquarium in the middle of the office decor. But given that the Scotch Bar was already located in a most auspicious part of the office, and knowing that JLT also has a taste for single malt scotch and Grey Goose vodka, I came up with the idea of creating a functional ice bucket that could do double duty as a proverbial water feature. Instead of using a live fish I would substitute an image of an Arowana etched into the face of the glass.

Working with Eva Milinkovic of Tsunami Glassworks we selected a colour of blue that would not only become a symbolic representation of water but do so in a way that would also complement the colours found on a Grey Goose bottle.

The most difficult part was coming up with an image of an Arowana fish that was subtle enough not to be overpowering. I didn’t want this thing to look like it had Charlie the Tuna tattooed onto the side.

Once the concept was finalized I left it to Eva to work her magic with the glass.

It’s no surprise that I was quite pleased with the result.

Next: Custom Furniture for an Executive Office – Case Study (Part 16) – Final Photography

Custom Furniture for an Executive Office – Case Study (Part 3) – The Renovation Begins

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

In my previous post I described the initial site meeting with JLT to discuss the parameters of the furniture designs for his office.

Shortly after this meeting took place the actual renovation work began.

In the photo above you can see the aluminum studs in place for the extended wall section going in. The big screen television will back onto this wall.


JLT and I both agreed that the desk and credenza should be set into the far back corner of the space – between the windows. There is a funky piece of wall angle bridging that corner which seems to be hiding a conduit of some kind. This will be integrated into the final design so that it all but disappears from view.

At the opposite end of the space a private washroom (with shower) is being installed. To achieve this the concrete floors had to be cut to allow for the necessary plumbing to be brought in. To the right of this photo you can see a small niche space that has been created to house a built-in cabinet for storage. In addition to general storage this cabinet will also be the “brain centre” that holds all the electronics for audio, video and lighting control systems.

By this stage the overall dimension of the room were mostly determined, which made it possible to clarify the approximate size, location and shape of the desk, credenza, storage cabinet and motorized television cabinet. The inclusion of a Scotch Bar was not yet a certainty, since a suitable location for it had yet to be determined.

As the details of the furniture designs were being clarified, JLT worked with his interior designer to finalize the selection of carpet and wallpaper for the office. Based on these samples we narrowed our range of wood finish options to Chestnut Ribbon Sapele, Macassar Ebony, Madagascar Rosewood, Ipe and East Indian Rosewood.

Although JLT really liked the Chestnut Ribbon Sapele sample we showed him, I cautioned against it because of how the Chestnut stain would likely “bleed” into any inlays such as mother-of-pearl we might use. Macassar Ebony was deemed to be too dark, and the flitch sizes too small, to work successfully on large surfaces such as a desk top.

Madagascar Rosewood was rejected because the colour and grain texture simply didn’t work.

The Ipe looked magnificent, but I was concerned about a random “splotch” that appeared in the actual test samples we made. While this discolouration may have been a natural element of the wood itself, it would end up looking ugly if it appeared unexpectedly on the top of the desk. Therefore, I decided to err on the side of caution by insisting that we not use that species.

Of all the woods under consideration the East Indian Rosewood looked best of all. In its raw state it almost seemed too purple in colour, but once a finish was applied to the test panels a depth and richness appeared that worked perfectly with the carpet and wallpaper samples.

JLT concurred with this assessment, so based on his approval we decided to go with this for the furniture.

The design of the furniture was now starting to gel, and in my mind’s eye I could actually see what the finished office was going to look like.

We were now at the defining moment of the design of this space, and it is here that someone like JLT actually becomes a dream client for a studio furniture maker such as myself. Although he was always very clear on what he liked and disliked, JLT always managed to curb his veto power enough so it didn’t smother the creative process. In fact, it would be appropriate to say that he actually participates in the creative process enough so that collectively the ideas end up manifesting in a manner that was not only effortless but almost intuitive in some cases.

Although this last part is difficult to articulate, hopefully I can illustrate it better in the next post. That post will evaluate the resulting furniture designs and office layout from the standpoint of Feng Shui , which is an ancient Chinese system of aesthetic that is growing in popularity in North America and around the world.

Feng shui is ultimately about flow and balance, and I was pleasantly surprised at how well the final design of the office melded almost perfectly with those principles – especially since very little conscious effort was made to do so.

Next: Custom Furniture for an Executive Office – Case Study (Part 4) – Applying Feng Shui to the Design.

Ovale Jewelry Chest

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

Depending on whether you’re American, British or Canadian the correct spelling of the following chest can be either Jewelry, Jewellry or Jewellery. That aside, the fact remains that every so often I’ll receive an inquiry to make a hand crafted Jewelry Chest. Usually this is intended as a gift for a special occasion such as a birthday, wedding anniversary, or Valentine’s Day.

Invariably the lead time to design and make one of these is less than a few weeks time, which means that it becomes near impossible to hand craft something exquisite in time to meet a deadline. That being said, I usually have to turn down these commissions due to the impossibly of doing high quality work in a short timeframe.

To remedy this I decided to build a custom Jewelry Chest on spec, so that I could have something readily available for the next time an inquiry like this comes along.

The Ovale Jewelry Chest shown here measures 24-3/16″ wide x 18-3/8″ deep x 30-7/8″ high. Crafted from a rare sampling of Macassar Ebony the exterior shell of this cabinet has been vacuum formed into a elliptical oval shape.

The top has been seamlessly fitted to the interior and exterior contours of the elliptical oval shell, with the sculpted back apron cascading gracefully until it disappears into the horizontal plane of the top.

Note  the subtle detail of how the grain pattern of the doors aligns perfectly with the grain of the top apron.

The doors on the front of the chest are secured with ball catches and a fully mortised privacy lock.

Five generous drawers are located inside the chest, with each gliding effortlessly on concealed ball bearing slides.

The two top drawers are each fitted with two layers of removable trays. Each tray has compartments for organizing miscellaneous items of  jewelry.

The bottom of each drawer is lined with alligator embossed black leather, which was specially made by Spinneybeck .

The removable trays have been hand crafted from solid maple, and are felt lined on the underside.

Provision has been made for an engraved plate to be inlaid on the inside of the chest, which can be personalized with a special message.