Wood & Wood Inc. created a wood display ribbon that simulates fabric realistically.


Wood & Wood Inc.

Waitsfield, VT


Project: American Girl Display Ribbon

Year Established: 1972

# of Employees: 10

Shop Size: approximately 5,000 square feet

Specialty: Design and fabrication of custom sign systems, displays, decorative art and home interiors.

Project Notes: A prototype was first carved in sign foam to prove that the project was possible.

The winner in this year’s Specialty category shows how truly manipulative wood can be.

Wood & Wood Inc., located in Vermont, designs and fabricates custom sign systems, displays, decorative arts and home interiors. Shown above is a display ribbon that the company fabricated for The American Girl Place store. The goal of the project was to simulate a fabric ribbon.

Sparky Potter, owner/president, says that the art director at American Girl came up with the concept.

“He did a drawing and some rough sketches and those were passed around to us to see if it was feasible,” he says. “We scratched our heads and said ‘It’s doable, somehow, some way.”

A meeting was held in Vermont with the American Girl executives from Chicago and the project architect from New York.

“We had this fabulous rendezvous talking about the feasibility of this project,” Potter says. “Before they came, we whittled a model together just to get a sense of where we were going and from that model we supposed that [the project] was possible.”

After the design was agreed upon, a full-size model was fabricated in sign foam so that they could see if the ribbon texture was going to work at that scale.

Approximately 80 hours were spent sanding and carving and putting the mockup together. “Then everyone flew back to the shop about three months after we first met to view the final mockup, and they loved it,” says Potter.

The original ribbon was made for the Chicago store and it was maple. Wood & Wood’s winning entry was fabricated for two showroom character display ribbons for the American Girl Place in New York, and it was created from white oak.

The ribbon display unit consists of a hand-carved character oval frame for a scotch print character doll image to be inserted by the client; a smaller hand-carved American Girl character doll name plate ribbon, approximately 18-1/8 inches by 21 inches; and a hand carved 7-3/4-inch by 3-3/4-inch oval date plate.

Sanding was an essential process in fabricating the ribbon. A Porter-Cable right angle random orbit sander and a Dewalt random orbit palm sander were used going from 60-grit to 220-grit sand paper.

“We basically had to sand every piece with a belt sander and a grinding sander,” Potter says. “It was somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 to 50 hours to sand the ribbon portions of the display, to say nothing of the ovals and the carved lettering sections.”

White oak was planed and joined to 1 foot, 1/8 inches wide by 6 feet, 1/2 inches wide and glued with Type III Titebond. Five pieces were cut to shape for each half of the ribbon. The two end pieces and center piece were beveled on each side, using a Porter-Cable 3-1/4-hp plunge router sled to create an angle. All pieces from each half were screwed together from the backside. The shape and folds of the 3/8-inch-thick ribbon were drawn on the edge of each piece, and then a Dewalt grinder with Tungston carbide wheel was used to shape indents and hollows, as well as the feathered edge, to the 3/8-inch mark.

The pieces were then glued together and sanded a final time. Each half was placed in a crosscut sled to join the center together. A Porter-Cable router sled flattened the backside in the center section, and the halves were attached using blocks screwed and glued to the back. The display ribbon was finished with Epifane satin varnish.

According to Potter, what he found most interesting about this project is the fact that, “Wood is so manipulative that it would allow you to have this fantasy. It is a material that you can actually pull this off with. Not every material would allow you to manipulate it like that without falling apart or looking bad. It allowed us to do this and make it look like fabric.”

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