Craig Thibideau is well known for his wizardry with veneer and has won multiple awards in the prestigious Veneer Tech Craftsman’s Challenge. But what fewer people know is he is also a master of intricate mechanical furniture features. Two of his latest creations showcase those skills.
Both of the pieces are puzzle cabinets, so named because they employ ingenious methods to lock and conceal doors, drawers, and numerous hidden recesses throughout the pieces. Both of these cabinets were designed in collaboration with Robert Yarger of Stickman Puzzle Boxes (stickmanpuzzlebox.com). Yarger is best known for his mechanical puzzles, that frequently incorporate wooden gears, levers, cams, and interlocking moving parts. All of those features can be found in these two puzzle cabinets.
Yarger describes the collaborative process this way: "We work seamlessly together. Craig takes care of the crafting and design of the furniture, while I address sequential movements and puzzle elements/mechanisms. All finished pieces would display both the Stickman and Craig Thibodeau hallmarks, so you get the talent of two artists in one.”
Measuring 42 inches wide, 26 inches deep and 46 inches high, the Spinning Cabinet is made primarily from walnut, figured anigre and Sitka spruce, with a variety of marquetry woods added to the mix.
Designed for a puzzle-collecting client, the cabinet has a variety of mechanical and puzzle features that work together to create a highly interactive piece of furniture. Once you solve the initial puzzle, the cabinet can easily be rotated 360 degrees. As it rotates, drawers begin to open and close automatically around the perimeter.
“At each stage of rotation, additional puzzles need to be solved to access other areas of the cabinet,” said Thibideau. “There are a variety of mechanically moving components and puzzle mechanisms built into the exterior of the cabinet: everything from spring-loaded panels, touch-opening mechanisms, magnetic locks, and many more to be found by the owner.”
The Wisteria Cabinet, named for the distinctive wisteria flower marquetry that decorates it, measures 36 inches wide, 20 inches deep and stands 70 inches tall. It is made of Honduran mahogany, maple burl, Amboyna burl, walnut burl, walnut, sycamore, olive ash and various marquetry woods. “It may be obvious that the client is a fan of burl woods,” said Thibideau, “and we used a variety of them in the piece both on the outside and in several areas on the inside. It was a challenge to use such a wide variety of materials in a manner that didn’t seem overwhelming in the final piece.”
This cabinet was designed for a puzzle collector who was interested in a large cabinet with a sequentially solved puzzle system and a few forms of mechanical movement.
“The mechanical work I do is inspired by the work of Abraham and David Roentgen, who specialized in highly complex mechanical furniture over a quarter millennia ago (1760-1790) for clientele that included Marie Antoinette, Empress Catherine II, and King Frederick William II,” said Thibideau. “As different parts of the puzzle system are solved, two moving components automatically open, revealing a variety of additional small puzzles to be solved, the most complex of which is the magnetically activated clock mechanism that unlocks a series of drawers.”
To get a better idea of the full experience, you can watch a video of the piece below. To learn more about Craig Thibideau’s work, visit ctfinefurniture.com.
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