Archive for the ‘News’ Category

My Client Did Not Know What A Furniture Tenon Is…

Friday, August 21st, 2015

LOOK—My First YouTube Video!

I just got a GoPro camera for my hike on Mount Whitney two weeks ago, and decided to create my first woodworking video. It has taken a bit of study to learn the functions of the GoPro, and how to use iMovie.

Picking a subject for a video can be a hurdle, as there are so many things I could video about my work. Ironically, to learn how to use the GoPro, iMovie, and how to create an interesting video, is found on YouTube.

A repair and restoration project is currently ‘on-the-bench.’ I decided the best approach to my first online video is to educate. I explained to the client why her dining chairs fell apart. She could not understand my verbal explanation between dowels and tenons. So enjoy my first video on tenons! This video turned out like my first piece of furniture, so…

It Was A True Honor To Create The Carving For This Beautiful Marquetry Headboard

Saturday, August 8th, 2015

As Ken Stover a marquetry buddy of mine,  was creating a beautiful marquetry masterpiece, he approached me to see if I would be interested in doing the carving for the border of his headboard. Ken and Ronelle had previously referred me to a neighbor of theirs to build and Italian carved fireplace mantel and were so impressed with the outcome they knew I would be the perfect craftsman to compliment Ken’s marquetry.

Both Ken and I were one of the first handful of students to graduate the American School of French Marquetry.

Ken wanted to create a special headboard for his wife Ronelle. Ken designed this with marquetry from a table’s top by Jean-Henry Riesener in 1771. The table is located in the Petit Trianon at Versailles. This table is featured in Pierre Ramond’s book: Masterpieces of Marquetry (volume III) page,77: ISBN 0-89236-595-1.

This is the pattern Ken used to make full scale drawings for a queen-sized bed. Ken executed the marquetry using the ‘painting in wood’ technique, using sawn veneers imported from France.

I was truly honored to be a part of the piece and thoroughly enjoyed the collaboration of working with Ken.

marquetry packets

Ken’s marquetry packet of headboard.

carving curl

Aaron’s carving on air dried lumber.

carving at bench

Aaron’s carving on work bench.


Ken’s finished marquetry masterpiece being framed with Aaron’s French walnut carving.

Old Brown Glue – The liquid hide glue

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

This is a great video on Patrick Edwards explaining his liquid hide glue, Old Brown Glue. I used protein glues in my work exclusively as well.

What is Old Brown Glue? It’s Pat’s “boutique” version of hide glue, modified to give it better handling properties and a longer, yet variable, open time. It’s used by Brian Boggs, Kelly Mehler, and a host of antique repair people and chair makers who love the controlled open time, which can vary from 20 minutes to an hour merely by changing the temperature in the shop.

As is often the case, the glue was created to fill a need by its developer, who then concluded that others would also appreciate having it. To understand how it came about, we need to get a bit of background both on hide glue, and on the type of work it benefits. In Pat’s case, it’s marquetry and antique restoration.

A native of San Diego, Pat has owned and operated Antique Refinishers, Inc. in the same location for the past 35 years. After studying in Paris at Ecole Boulle under Pierre Ramon, he focused his business on restoring pre-industrial furniture, (18th and 19th century or earlier) and specializing in veneer and marquetry. Four years ago, he and Kristen started the American School of French Marquetry at the same location. It is the only school outside of Paris that teaches the French method of marquetry, which allows you to make multiple copies quickly and accurately using only hand tools . Veneers are cut on a curious device called a “chevalet,” or “marquetry donkey,” that looks like a cobbler’s bench on steroids. The school has been so successful that they are currently expanding the building.

“Originally, I started using a glue pot with hot hide glue. It did everything well. It was strong, transparent to stains, easy to clean up, reversible, economical, and the only adhesive which glues to itself both mechanically and chemically. That makes it ideal for repairing antique furniture, all of which, incidentally, was originally made with hide glue. If a joint breaks, you simply add more glue without having to clean off the old, and you get a perfectly strong joint.”
“One of the trends I see today is the use of non-reversible glues. Furniture that will last will eventually need to be repaired. In fact, sometimes, you need to repair during construction. In my restoration work, reversibility is essential. Hide glue is reversible, even after many decades.”

By manipulating heat and moisture, you can modify how hide glue behaves, affecting viscosity, open time, and cure time. This control is especially important with veneer work, chairs, and other complex assemblies. But hot hide glue requires almost constant attention, and sets too quickly for some veneer operations. “At times, you must overlap the veneer, because it can shrink and pull back from the joint while curing. Hence, you need a glue that takes a longer time to set, allowing the veneer to shrink before the seam is cut. Old Brown Glue does just that.”

visit to order your glue today!

J. Paul Getty Museum Invitation

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

When we start something we never know where, or what it may lead to.
Pictured below is my Certificate of Completion from the American School of French Marquetry,
dated: September 20, 2002.

In the fall of 2009 I was invited to photograph my two tables next to the original on display at the J. Paul Getty Museum. It was once said by Albert Einstein, on achieving nuclear fission, that it can be likened to: “shooting birds in the dark, in a country where there are very few birds.” Einstein felt he would not see it in his lifetime. That’s how I felt about the photo below, not in my lifetime. Was I wrong! I had no idea that a satellite school of ecole Boulle in North Park, California would ever lead me to having my work photographed in the J. Paul Getty museum. While spring cleaning I stumbled upon my Certificate of graduation from ASFM. Reminiscing I remembered my hesitation to go, I thought I wouldn’t be ‘talented’ enough to do marquetry.

Onward and upward, start building
After “graduating” I spent 2003 building my chevalet and a cabinet for housing the thousands of pieces that would make up the marquetry for the two tables. During the day I worked on client’s projects, in the evenings and weekends I worked on my marquetry stuff; tweaking and refining my tools, sawblade
selection, and doing as much research on the tables as humanly possible.

Approximately six years later they were complete.

We’re looking forward to seeing you — and your tables
I e-mailed my contact, a senior curator, several photographs of the finished tables. I enquired nervously if his offer still stood about photographing my pieces in the museum. He wrote back yes, and put me in contact with his secretary to pick a date and time. Of course, the first date selected was pushed back! I thought damn, they’re having second thoughts.
Someone from above smiled upon me and the second day and time was marked on the calendar. All the while, Heidi was reassuring me that they’re very busy, and that in business dates are constantly being rescheduled.

The Drive to Los Angeles and the Getty’s Loading Docks
Loading the tables was hectic enough, but driving to Los Angeles with these two pieces was at times heart stopping. Heidi and I drove her car because the windows have a heavy tint and we could keep the entire vehicle cool with the A/C. I can now appreciate what a driver for Brinks Security must go through. Seems as though when one drives with something valuable or, someone has a new expensive car, it appears that mayhem is jumping out from every corner.

Arriving safely at the south entrance, where all freight and artwork arrives to be inspected and unloaded, we stopped at the guard house to sign in. Through the gates was a long steep and winding drive to the loading docks. Our official greeted us and handed Heidi our security badges; the place was bustling with vendors, workers, and contractors or all types.

We loaded the tables onto a cart for the journey upstairs into the museum. Our curator arrived to escort us to the huge freight elevators, the type one would only see on an aircraft carrier. They’re huge! It was Monday. This is the one day of the week that the J. Paul Getty museum is closed to the public. Walking through the hallways and rooms one quickly is taken back in time and filled with the feeling of what it must have been like living and working in the King’s Court. A call went out disarm the security system and to remove a section of guard rail. We were then joined by a second curator. Our two curators placed the original on a section of the floor that we were allowed to walk on, I placed my tables flanking the original. I couldn’t believe it, it happened. There they stood in my disbelief, I wasn’t dreaming. We were then joined by a third curator.

Three Curators and Three Tables
I’ve met many people, many different personalities through my work: executives, lawyers, stockbrokers, doctors, all very smart. However, meeting a major museum curator is something quite different to be sure. They are extremely educated, intelligent, highly professional, and not easily impressed. They’ve seen the best of the best the world over for many decades. My little tables had somehow managed to captured the undivided attention of three senior museum curators, this to me was even more unbelievable than photographing my tables in that room. I had also given them something they had not seen before — the contre partye. If one works diligently and with passion, one has a damn good chance of shooting a bird in the dark, in a country where there are very few birds.

Out From the Ashes…

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

The Knox automobile company was founded in 1900, and had a short life building some very unique American automobiles; the company went defunct in 1914.

The photograph at left shows all that remains of an original “double porcupine” 1904 Knox, one of three known to exist. It’s owned by neighbor, friend, and craftsman extraordinaire, Alan Schmidt, owner of Horseless Carriage Restorations.

I was born in San Diego, California in 1969. Over the years I’ve noticed changes in the weather, specifically the Santa Ana winds. These winds have increased (in my opinion) over the last four decades. Unless you live in southern California, you most likely don’t understand what these winds represent. Santa Ana winds are strong and extremely dry desert winds (in layman’s terms). The RH (relative humidity) is usually below 10 percent. Temperatures vary, but most are very warm to hot (70 -110+ degrees). Being a furniture maker, I’m constantly monitoring the RH and temperature with a hygrometer; checking the moisture content of the air.

Southern California has been in the grip of a drought for what seems like an eternity.The result of this drought unfortunately is dry brush that covers millions of acres. On October 21, 2007 the above mentioned turned into a weapon of mass destruction. A taste of Judgement Day.

Where there’s smoke — there is fire!
The wind was gusting a recorded 120 mph. Ever seen horizontal fire? At night? Propane tanks, car fuel tanks, homeowner’s stores of ammunition and other garage stored flammables were exploding less than one-thousand yards away. I was scared, yet calm and focused. Thoughts flashed through my mind, I have a workshop full of tools, equipment, and valuable materials. This included my ivory Gole tables, along with customer’s expensive furniture pieces, and a 1907 Oldsmobile. My home is full of furniture I’ve made, and the items I have collected over the years (memories). Below: Tractor-trailer melted away (aluminum’s melting point is 1220 °F).

It is amazing how our atavistic hardwired survival mode kicks in, and nothing else matters but survival. Nothing. All things mentioned above (for me personally) had zero value at that moment. I only grabbed items that would insure the survival and safety of my family, friends, animals, etc.

The fire whipped through our area about 3:30 am. I’ll never forget one instance though, the worst sight and sound for me. A large stand of old eucalyptus trees, off Bandy Canyon Road, was going up in flames. If you’ve ever stood at the southeast end of Lindbergh Field were the jets power up for take off, throw in some loud cracking, and you now know what it was like to hear that burn. This was the moment I knew the schummer hit the fan for us.

From the ashes a Phoenix is born…
There is one thing to be said about fire versus any other natural disaster, it is cleansing. The old weathered fencing, the termite infested home, and old sick dying citrus grove, etc., all gone. It has taken some folks, if not more, until now to get their lives together, running smooth, and back on track. Then there are those that didn’t packed up and moved on. Of the things lost, it’s the ones that truly cannot be replaced such as family, pets, or the photographs or videos of children growing up. Almost everything else can be remade, or reacquired.

This is where I come in, well, for part of it anyway. We humans are given only so much time to walk this earth, some less, some more. So sometimes we need the assistance of others because we just can’t do it all, even though we would like to! Alan asked if I would like to build the coach for his Knox touring car. I said yes. We hashed out a deal and now I’m working to get her done. When she’s finished she’ll be good to go, and ready to bask in the sun at Pebble Beach. I’ll be posting photos of the progress, the rebirth…

Back to the Future, and it’s still here!

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

The photo on the left is of a digital veneer caliper measuring a thickness of 1.65 mm (0.0649”). The piece being measured is sawn French walnut veneer. Yes, I saw my own veneers, or purchase veneer from Patrick George in France (I have that URL on my links page).

When my clients step up to the plate and make the decision to invest in a piece of my art, (yes I wrote art) they want the damn thing to last. I hope they want it to last, this is what gives fine objects increasing value. A decorative art piece should be able to be handed down from one generation to the next.

Now your thinking: “What does this have to do with sawn veneers?” Lemme splain… For furniture pieces, and I mean furniture pieces, sawn veneers or antique veneers are what “should” be used in the construction, that’s my judgment.

If one is going to veneer wall paneling in a hotel lobby or an office, of course I recommend commercially sliced veneers. What’s the difference between sawn and sliced? Cost for one, nor will it ever be feasible to surface large areas with sawn veneer. The hotel or the office will be in a person’s lifetime gutted and dumped in the nearest landfill.

Let’s go back in time, about two-hundred-fifty years, to a furniture workshop in Stadt Neuweid, Germany. We’re at the workshop of David and Abraham Roentgen. From 1672 through 1760 the father and son worked together. Roentgen employed fifteen cabinet makers, this number swelled to an impressive two hundred at one point. These men created some of the worlds most sophisticated and mechanically complex pieces of furniture ever seen — for a very important clientele.

These exalted pieces of furniture were veneered with incredibly colorful marquetry, created with exotic wood veneers sawn to 1.5 to 2.5 mm thick. All woodworkers understand that wood changes color (fades or darkens) with exposure to ultraviolet light. The Roentgens knew this as well, for clients would call periodically to have a piece returned to the shop to have the faded marquetry scraped. By scraping only three or four thousands of an inch, all the brilliant colors would return. This process could be repeated many times throughout the life of the piece.

Back to the Future! One can see the Roentgen’s furniture in museums the world over. Why? Simply because the thickness of the sawn veneer propelled these pieces far into the future; our today, our children’s tomorrows.

The photo on the left shows a piece of commercial sliced veneer crumbled by my hand like a potato chip. The veneer’s thickness is 0.018” or 0.4572 mm straight from the mill. When glued to a substrate, it’s sanded, now it is even thinner. Imagine this piece somewhere in the future being refinished.

The probability of the veneer being sanded through to expose the substrate is really, really good. So, I try to find veneers that were sliced at least twenty or thirty years ago. Of course there are “certain” times that using sliced veneers is unavoidable, and I do use them — from time to time.

Making Swarf, sometimes…

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

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.

Jeux de Fond (playful ground)

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

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!

W Patrick Edwards Blog

Friday, November 5th, 2010

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:

A Silver Ghost Sets the Stage

Friday, November 5th, 2010

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…