Making Swarf, sometimes…

Posted on January 23rd, 2011
Categories: Other Blogs

We’ve all heard the cliché “One door closes, another door opens.” The door closing was that of Sony in Rancho Bernardo, CA. Sony had a liquidation sale of machinery, tools, metals, and the kitchen sink. My friend Alan picked up just a “few” items.
One such item Alan acquired was a “newer” Bridgeport type vertical knee milling machine.

I have known Alan Schmidt for about ten years. Alan and his wife Beth own Horseless Carriage Restorations and Restoration Supply Company; where Alan keeps the automotive past alive. He’s had me work on a few of his client’s projects; the wooden parts of course.

I love metals though, always have. Clamping a dull piece of metal to a milling machine’s table, flipping a switch, watching the swarf flying off to expose a new and bright surface — I love it.

Over the last ten years I have visited Alan’s shop many times, it’s just down the road. Under his watchful eye, he’s allowed me to use his milling machine. There have been enough times over the years where I had to, or wanted to, make something that I couldn’t create with my drill press, I required a mill.

Surfacing 4340 steel with a fly cutter.

Alan would periodically encourage me to get a milling machine and retire my drill press. He would tell me of all the things that I could accomplish on a mill, and I knew it. My response was always the same: “I don’t have the room.” This went on for years, then Sony closed their doors here in Rancho Bernardo.

Alan owned two milling machines and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse on the one he was replacing. Moving this 3200 pound beast into place took some doing, and ruined my back for six weeks; it was all worth
it to be sure.

The main reason for getting this machine running was to turn cow horn into veneer, it makes the job much easier than what I’ve done in the past. However, making veneer from cow horn plates is still a smelly, dirty and laborious job. I may have some horn veneer on the website as a product, ready for antique restorers and furniture makers to use. More on this later…

My new machine has seen better days and I didn’t expect to achieve excellent results. I surfaced a piece of 4340 steel with a fly cutter over a twelve inch length by three inches wide. To my amazement, surface deviation was only about +0.0001” from one end to the other. So it’s safe to say it does an awesome job on cow horn.

You may be wondering what the heck swarf is. Swarf is the chips, shavings, turnings, or filings produced by the process of machining metal, as seen above. Swarf is metal debris, and only metal.

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Jeux de Fond (playful ground)

Posted on November 9th, 2010
Categories: Other Blogs

Aaron Radelow marquetry

The loose translation for juex de fond is playful ground. A decorated surface creating some type of illusion, forcing the viewer to do a double-take or to mesmerize them. The photograph above is an example of jeux de fond marquetry I made from 2 mm thick sawn satinwood veneer.

By simply flipping the lozenges every other row, I create the above pattern, which works best on a vertical surface.

Along with the above pattern, I have also created numerous table tops with a cube pattern. Visually speaking, everything we see (in this world) boils down to two things: shape and color.

Take a look around you, anything you focus on is a shape, and color(s). Of course, we see shapes and colors due to light — so a light direction, or source, is the integral component.

Light is creating the above allusion by how the wood grain is reflecting the light back to our eyes. Furthermore, a faux light source can be created with carefully arranged woods and or wood grains, as with the cubes.

Aaron Radelow marquetry cubes

Cubes are made by placing three lozenges (cut 60 degrees) together to create a 3-D effect, in one dimension. A cube’s top consists of the lightest color of the three. The two lozenges that makeup the sides are slightly darker, one more so than the other.

It is this that gives the allusion that there is a light source coming from the upper left or right, historically the light is from the above left.

Jean-Henri Riesener was born near Essen on July 4, 1734. At a young age he moved to France and there began his schooling; he became a furniture making icon. The reason I bring him up is because of his heavy use of jeux de fond.

Many of his complex pieces incorporate cubes or the alternating lozenge pattern. One other visual trick he used, which is simple, was to give a panel the allusion of being recessed.

Imagine a slab-type cabinet door. Three or four inches in from the door’s edge is an inlay, say about 1/8” wide. The left and top inlays are black — ebony; the bottom and right inlays are very light — holly. This gives the impression that there is a light source emanating from the top left, creating the allusion that the infield is dropping back into the door; especially when the frame and field veneers are different species.

So sky’s the limit here. Different color woods, different grains, and design patterns can be incorporated into new furniture pieces for a unique and striking look. Furthermore, the above can be applied to an existing furniture piece to change or upgrade it without building something entirely from scratch; a fresh finish, some marquetry, and you have a new showpiece!

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W Patrick Edwards Blog

Posted on November 5th, 2010
Categories: Other Blogs

A traditional furniture conservator, restorer and maker discusses his life experiences and his philosophy of work. If you love marquetry this is another place to discuss it.

Visit blog:

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A Silver Ghost Sets the Stage

Posted on November 5th, 2010
Categories: Other Blogs

In 1906, Rolls-Royce sought to achieve greatness. The engineer and manufacturer was Henry Royce; Charles Rolls was a racing driver. Often referred to as the hyphen between “Rolls-Royce” was Mr. Claude Johnson.
Mr. Johnson was General Managing Director at Rolls-Royce. In this position he made a landmark decision that would keep Rolls-Royce from becoming a ghost — by building one.

Around the turn of the century there were thousands of automobile manufactures. Yes, thousands! In order for a company to survive, it had to create or do something that would place them head-and-shoulders above the rest. In good or bad times, the companies that did this stayed afloat. The same philosophy applies today (for the most part).

In the years following 1906, Rolls-Royce presented to the world an automobile that was extremely unique: The Rolls-Royce chassis No. 60551, registered AX-201, was the first to bear the name Silver Ghost. The “silver” is for the aluminum-silver paint and silver-plated hardware. The “ghost” in the name is for the extremely quiet and smooth ride.

Anyway, the aim of all their hard work was to raise public awareness of the fledgling company, i.e.-to stand out. They wanted to show automobile enthusiasts the quality, reliability, and quiet performance of this advanced machine, to say — This is what we’re capable of creating. It is considered the most valuable car in the world, today’s value for chassis No. 60551 is $57 million.

So. What does this have to do with furniture making? Everything. We should all strive to create (in our own way) a Silver Ghost at some point in our lives. If I have, great! If I haven’t, I’m very much looking forward to doing so. Now roll up your sleeves and get started on creating yours…

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Patience… Oh Really?

Posted on October 20th, 2010
Categories: Other Blogs

patience -noun 1. the quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.

If I had a dollar for every time (over the years) I’ve heard someone say: “Gee, you must have a lot of patience.” Or: “Wow, you possess tons of patience to sit there and do that.” I’d be rich. To be fair, I have also been told (much to my delight) how rewarding and fulfilling my type of work must be. For myself and others like me the creation process is very rewarding.

We craftsmen love what we do. Therefore “patience” has nothing to do with passion. The fact is, no one requires patience to do what they love; it is the observer that most often requires patience.

In 2001, I enrolled into the American School of French Marquetry here in San Diego. The only thing I knew about marquetry was, I knew nothing about marquetry. It’s that simple, I knew zero about the art.

My teacher was Patrick Edwards, a graduate of Ecole Boulle in Paris. Patrick assured me that I was his ideal candidate for becoming a student; after inquiring about any prerequisites.

I mailed in my tuition and eagerly awaited to arrive on the scheduled day. Monday. I showed up to be the only student in this class! The school was in its infancy and I was fine with that. I found myself being lectured, one on one, about the fundamentals straight away. I was off, hiking briskly into undiscovered country.

For years I wondered how complex marquetry was executed. Patrick introduced me to the infamous book by Pierre Ramond: MARQUETRY. He then demonstrated the workings of the chevalet de marquetery, the French tool for cutting marquetry. In the first couple hours I found myself quickly building my first marquetry packet, stuffed with three different species of veneer, and then gluing a design to the face.

Patrick showed me where in the design to drill the hole for inserting the jeweler’s blade, and how to secure the blade into the saw-frame’s jaws. If memory serves, from the time I walked through the door, to the time I sat down at the tool was about four hours.

I was now sitting on a chevalet, ready to start sawing! I spent the rest of that day cutting out my very first marquetry packet. On day two, while assembling the marquetry picture, I remember thinking to myself: “Wait a second, I just drilled a hole in a stack of veneer, and cut out the design. THAT’S IT?! THIS IS THE BIG SECRET?”

I felt like “the guy” wondering the desert dying of thirst while searching for an oasis, and then I found it! That feeling was to be short lived. Over the next few days I came to realize my first etude (study) was simply a miniscule and insignificant scratch on the surface. I was undeterred, for I had discovered my wellspring of passion.

The term “ fine woodworking” is an embodiment of many facets: carving, marquetry, turning, hand-cut joinery, finishing, etc. Every woodworker becomes passionate for doing one or two of the above mentioned. He or she really loves to do only that; the passion. Patience, on the other hand, may be required for work such as glue ups, or finishing; for many of us it is the latter.

So, the lesson is: try not to get irritated with someone else’s passions. Show a little patience will ya?

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When Furniture Becomes Art. The Decorative Arts, a Cut Above the Rest.

Posted on October 6th, 2010
Categories: News

Escher Birds

I was born an artist. My grandfathers were artists. One was head of the graphic arts department at SanDiego State University, the other was Konzertmeister of the Hamburg symphony.

My maternal grandfather could take pen in hand, and with a single stroke, draw a perfect circle. Checked with a dividing compass, it was no more out of circumference than the thickness of the drawn line.
Amazing! Yes. He really could do it.

Not to be left out, my mother is a classically trained oil artist; specializing in equine portraiture. My girlfriend and her mother are also artists. So, I’m surrounded. Birds of a feather

As a young child I distinctly remember having the adroitness to color within the lines. At least in comparison to most other children; decades before this had any meaning for me. All I remember caring about was being careful and precise. Decades later this hardwired trait of mine has only intensified.

In the “good ol’ days” prior to the Industrial Revolution, children exhibiting artistic talent were sent to art trade schools to study under Masters, producing the King’s next army of skilled artisans: blacksmiths, jewelers, painters, stone carvers, poets, horse trainers, foundry workers, armorers, engravers, ebenistes, and marqueters. All would be employed by the Monarchs and the very wealthy of Europe, England, and a young place called America.

One need only open a history book to realize that the greatest civilizations in history drenched themselves in spellbinding architecture, art, literature, music, et cetera. This is what made them into cultural superpowers. (Ironically and unfortunately much of this was funded by conquests.) Today we find museums in America and Europe filled with amazingly beautiful Decorative Art.

So then, when does “furniture” become art? My favorite furniture is of the Craftsman style, in quartersawn(ammonia-fumed) white oak. It is rugged, timeless, and I love it; but it is far from being considered art. A piece of furniture transcends into the realm of decorative art (at least for me) when a furniture carcass is decorated with – art. Marquetry is artwork. The birth of of marquetry originates in medieval Italy by furniture makers with the desire and necessity to “paint” in the wood medium. The spark originated in Italy, but the inferno later arose in France under Louis XIV and XVI.

When expertly schooled artists graduate Master Craftsmen, and then go on to create exalted carvings,bronze mounts, and marquetry, and bring them together, they (we) turn furniture into Art.

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Ligné Agency is honored to announce the addition of Aaron Radelow to their agency site!

Posted on July 11th, 2010
Categories: News

Ligné Agency is honored to announce the addition of Aaron Radelow, a craftsman who specializes in wood work and inlay that has not been seen since the days of Boulle and Pierre Gole. To visit the Ligné Agency click the image below.

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Million Dollar Man

Posted on February 8th, 2010
Categories: News

Now I just need to find the buyer of the 104 Million-Dollar Man and let him know my tables are on sale!

104 Million-Dollar Man: Sculpture sets auction record

A life-size bronze sculpture of a man by Alberto Giacometti was sold in London Wednesday night to an unknown bidder for $104.3 million, breaking the record for a work of art purchased at auction.

Seattle Times article

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Check me out on Fine Woodworking Magazine!

Posted on February 8th, 2010
Categories: News

Here is a slide show of my Gole tables on called “Making the King’s Furniture.”

video Length: 6:46
Produced by: Produced by Ed Pirnik and Mark Schofield

Making the King’s Furniture – Fine Woodworking
Join furniture maker Aaron Radelow on a journey through some of the most precise, intricate, and beautiful marquetry work you’re every likely to see.

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Posted on September 14th, 2009
Categories: News

“If the day ever comes when my work may be categorized, that will be the day I start in search of something more challenging, for my ultimate goal is to be constantly evolving as an artist and by so doing bringing life to unique and emotive creations.”

Aaron K. Radelow has dedicated himself to becoming one of the most dynamic and versatile custom furniture makers in America today. For the past fifteen years, Aaron has been hand producing original designs and masterful re-creations in his native San Diego, California. His diverse portfolio of work includes everything from Queen Anne dressing tables and Byzantine hand-carved gates, to rustic Morris chairs. Unlike many of his contemporaries, outsourcing of process steps, such as metalwork is limited to ensure that the style and method of design and construction is held to the very highest standards of quality – an aspect of his ethic that establishes him not only as a master craftsman, but also as an artist.

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