Archive for The Guild Shop

A Late, Great Source for Silk Tassels

Posted in Artisanal, Canadian Woodworking, Furniture Making, Interior Design, Studio Furniture, Vintage, Woodwork with tags , , , , , on March 21, 2014 by johnwiggers

Images of our recently completed Aquaria Desk are due to be published in a magazine at some point later this year.

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One detail that we were looking to feature is this beautifully crafted silk tassel by Theodore Merwitz Textiles, Inc. of Chicago, Illinois.

The Merwitz company was founded in 1953 and is well regarded in the interior design trade for its ability to turn out elegant, one-of-a-kind trimmings using high quality yarns, Old-world looms and traditional hand-tying techniques. Amongst the many commissions that it has received over the years Merwitz was involved in the restoration of Carnegie Hall and they also supplied trimmings for various renovations at the White House.

Sadly, we have recently learned that Theodore Merwitz Textiles has closed it’s doors and is no more.

Our remaining inventory of vintage Merwitz tassels will be used judiciously on select upcoming projects, including a recently commissioned Diego Humidor for a cigar aficionado in Tennessee.

Stack Laminated Walnut Console

Posted in Artisanal, Furniture Making, Interior Design, Studio Furniture with tags , , , , , , , , on March 11, 2014 by johnwiggers

Sometimes we find design inspiration in places we least expect.

This winter has been one of the coldest we have had in several decades. Because of this frigid air most of the snow that has fallen has managed to stay loose and powdery, making it prone to drifting with even the slightest of wind. This has resulted in many snowdrifts being created, including some very unusual sculptural shapes.

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A few weeks ago I was walking outside when I noticed this formation over a raised garden bed. Right away I began to think about possible shapes for some stacked laminated designs I have been pondering for a while. Before long I was off to the lumberyard to buy the necessary Walnut.

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What you are looking at is roughly 100 board feet of 8/4 solid Walnut. This should be enough material to make a wall hung console and a table base.

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Kevin rough cuts the planks and prepares the edges for glue.

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Gluing the boards together.

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Planing the segments down to a consistent thickness.

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The boards ready to be marked for bandsaw.

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Aligning the templates to mark the boards.

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Marking the boards.

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Gluing the stacked layers together.

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The stack lamination in the bench vise, ready for shaping.

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Shaping with an angle grinder.

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Sanding the final shape.

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Applying the oil finish.

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Wiping down the finished console.

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Console shown mounted on wall.

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Corner detail, showing the layers of stacked lamination.

Artisanal Furniture Making Has Become Cool

Posted in Artisanal, Furniture Making, Interior Design, Studio Furniture, Woodworking with tags , , , , , , , on February 15, 2014 by johnwiggers

Although designing and making custom furniture is one of the more challenging ways to earn a living in today’s world, one of the upsides is that artisanal furniture making has now become cool.

On the television series Sex and the City Carrie’s long term boyfriend Aiden Shaw was portrayed as a sweet and good natured furniture designer.

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Channing Tatum, in the movie Magic Mike, plays a male stripper whose biggest dream is to become a custom furniture maker.

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The real life Brad Pitt actually designs and makes his own line of custom furniture out of a studio in New Jersey.

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And finally there is Nick Offerman, who portrays Ron Swanson – the manliest man amongst manly men – in the television series Parks and Recreation. When not on the set the real life Offerman makes custom furniture out of his own woodworking studio, located near Los Angeles.

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A few weeks ago I attended the Interior Design Show (IDS14) in Toronto. For all intents and purposes the IDS has become an upscale version of a home show. Although corporate mega-exhibitors such as Ikea have become behemoths at these events, one has to admit that these brands are doing an effective job of marketing their wares to the mainstream audience that enjoys watching home improvement and DIY interior desecrator shows on television.

But to be fair I have to admit that when comes to design Ikea has come a long way from the days of the Allen key.

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For me, the best part of the IDS is Studio North and Prototype, which is a tiny display of micro booths that is usually tucked away in one corner of the main show.

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Studio North and Prototype is where student work and the wares of emerging makers gets displayed, and in my book this is the coolest and most inspirational part of the show.

At this year’s show, however, I noticed something unusual. There were all kinds of skinny jeans and an abundance of plaid shirts milling about, but the attire looked more American Apparel than proletarian Mark’s Work Wearhouse. It was only when I noticed the odd handlebar moustache and numerous well combed gnarly beards under a sea of carefully coiffed bedheads that I fully understood where I was. Studio North had become Hipster Central, and Hipsters were everywhere checking out the latest artisanal stuff.

Hipsters have become the butt of many jokes and parodies in recent years, but as a small scale furniture maker I actually appreciate the fact that they exist.

What I like most about Hipsters is their intense dislike for commercialization, mass production and mainstream brands. This, I believe, is one of the prime drivers behind the reemergence of craft in America, with the ‘Maker Movement‘ and the embracing of All Things Artisanal making it cool to be making things here again.

Of course, when it comes to making things, embracing the artisan and being the artisan can be two totally different things.

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.

Custom Furniture Sample Sale – Gentleman’s Valet Stand

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

In 2003 I was invited by The Guild Shop in Toronto to participate in their “Turning Traditions” exhibition. Wanting to build something new for this event I designed a custom valet stand specifically to meet the needs of today’s man.

This Gentleman’s Valet Stand measures 25″ wide x 25″ deep x 52-3/4″ high in the closed position. When the split shell opens the dimensions increase to 39″ wide x 26-3/4″ deep.

The exterior is crafted from a rare sampling of Curly Birds Eye Maple, which has been an integral part of my core stash of for many years. A purfling of Mahogany and Ebony is interwoven as inlay on all 4 sides, plus top.

The exterior finish is high gloss polyester.

The cabinet interior is crafted from quarter cut Makore, with 7 drawers stacked over a pair of lower doors.

The upper drawer is fitted with compartments for wrist watches, cuff links, billfolds and fountain pens.

The image inlaid into the top of the chest is that of a turtle, and its form was inspired by an ancient aboriginal rock glyph.

Turtles are symbolic of patience and protection.

List price for the Gentleman’s Valet Stand is $14,750.00

Special discounts are available during our Sample Sale.

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.

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.