Sophisticated elegance marks veneer winners
August 20, 2014 | 7:00 pm CDT

A tour-de-force work of spectacular veneer in cabinetry captured the top honors in the 2014 Veneer Tech Craftsman’s Challenge. This marks the 10th year of the annual competition honoring top work in veneer.

“Transitional Cabinets” by Keith Morgan and Aaron Nash of Bespoke Minneapolis, Larchwood, Iowa, won the grand prize. The work features herringbone parquetry on the lower deck and ceiling, curved interior corners, perpendicular veneer door edges flanked by walnut piping, teak micro reeding on both the vertical and horizontal matching of the ziricote exteriors, and Burmese teak interiors.

One of the things that makes the Veneer Tech Craftsman’s Challenge a unique competition is that prizes are awarded not only to the makers but also to the materials suppliers and sales representatives, so that the competition encourages better use of veneer throughout the entire supply chain. Consequently, Bespoke went home with a $3,000 check, but Certainly Wood received $2,000 as the winning supplier, and Greg Engle was awarded $1,000 as the winning sales representative.

Here’s a look at the category winners:

Architectural Woodworking: Kirk Coryn of Kirk Kreations in Sapulpa, Oklahoma, won for “Master Closet.” The cabinetry is 12 feet tall with 9-foot-tall bypass doors. The shop bought an entire sapele pommelle veneer log to do the woodwork. There was also Macassar ebony veneer used on the uppers. All was finished in high-gloss polyester.

Cabinetry: The same shop that won the grand prize also won this category. Keith Morgan and Aaron Nash of Bespoke Minneapolis in Larchwood, Iowa, won for “Royal Crescent Kitchen.” Built for a home that was the former retreat of Queen Mary, the cabinetry features hand-crafted marquetry and veneer work. Materials used included figured walnut, English sycamore, wenge, Karelian burl, and herringbone braided leather.

Furniture: Richard Hubbs of Richard Hubbs Furniture and Design in Ferdinand, Indiana, won for “Jewelry Armoire.” The freestanding piece features holly flower marquetry and veneered compound curves. Veneers used included walnut, holly, and zebrawood.

Specialty items: Spider Johnson and Lora Hunt of Mason, Texas won for a marquetry painting called “Bringer of Peace.” The piece features a picture of a white buffalo and references the Lakota Sioux legend of the white buffalo and prophecy of its portent of coming time of peace.

Student Design: Olof Jondelius, a student at the University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, won for a chair titled simply “Frank.” The chair is made out of curved laminations of white oak veneer, showing off the versatility and strength of the material.

Wearable Veneer: Arc-Iris, Pocatello, Idaho, captured this category with “Solar Eyewear, Buckeye/Maple Burl Split.” Featuring maple burl veneer, buckeye burl, select koa, and aircraft plywood, these glasses are part of a new line of eyewear.

Judges for the competition included Tim Fixmer of CCI Media, publisher of CabinetMaker+FDM magazine and co-sponsor of the Craftsman’s Challenge with Veneer Tech; Wave Oglesby, vice president, sales and marketing, for Columbia Forest Products; and Alfred Sharp, whose period furniture has been featured in many publications, including, Antiques, Colonial Homes, Custom Woodworking, Fine Woodworking, Woodwork, and Woodshop News.
Sharp commented on the grand prize and cabinetry winner, “When I look at these entries, I’m envious of the level of design and even more of the quality of execution that went into this work.”

The Craftsman’s Challenge wasn’t only a challenge for woodworkers, as the judges faced a challenge, too, to select winners from the more than 100 entries in this year’s contest. “This year’s competition was filled with high quality entrants,” said Fixmer. “We had some very difficult decisions to make in many categories, and we created an ad hoc category ‘Wearable Veneers,’ to recognize three veneer eyeglass frame designs.”

In addition to the top winners, 19 pieces were recognized by the judges for honorable mention:

Architectural Woodworking: Fetzer Architectural Woodwork, Salt Lake City, Utah, for “Kirton & McConkie” and for “Business School”; and Thomas M. Daniels, Wood Interiors Unlimited, Osceola, Wisconsin, for “Rustic Urban Living Room.”

Furniture: Richard Hubbs, Richard Hubbs Furniture and Design, Ferdinand, Indiana, for “Lamp Table”; Joel Shepard, Joel Shepard Furniture, Seattle, Washington, for “Pedestal Dining Table”; Alfons Laicher, Alfons Custom Furniture and Woodwork, Victoria, B.C., for “Fine Line Hall Table”; Tony smith, Tony smith Fine Furniture and Conservation, Berkeley, California, for “Chapel Altar”; and Kirk Coryn, Kirk Kreations, Sapulpa, Oklahoma, for “King Bed.”

Specialty Items: Robert Bodzan, Just Marquetry Studio, Mississauga, Ontario, for “Morning Contemplation”; Jeff Cruzan, Sharon, Massachusetts, for “Pidium”; Danny Birnbaum, Saco Birnbaum Fine Woodworking, East Orange, New Jersey, for “Mechanics Tool Box”; Ray Jones, Ray Jones Woodcraft, Asheville, North Carolina, for Inner Sanctum”; and Rodney Pike, Pike Design, Wendouree, Victoria, Australia, for “Gorilla.”

Student Design: Kristopher Chan, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, for “Alfred Bar Cabinet”; Erik Lutz, Cedar Ridge High School, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, for “Contemporary Desk”; and Abigail Smith, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina, for “Pare.”

Wearable Veneer (judges’ special category): Altare Design, Kankakee, Illinois, for “The Garter Sunglasses”; and Coby Unger, Philadelphia University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for “Arborglass 2014 Designs.”

Entries open for the 2015 Veneer Tech Craftsman’s Challenge beginning January 1, 2015. Winners will be announced at AWFS Las Vegas. Veneer Technologies, creator and lead sponsor of the competition, is located in Newport, North Carolina, and is one of the industry’s largest manufacturers of high quality face veneer, sheet veneer and edgebanding. All the entries can be viewed at the Veneer Technologies website,

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About the author
William Sampson

William Sampson is a lifelong woodworker, and he has been an advocate for small-scale entrepreneurs and lean manufacturing since the 1980s. He was the editor of Fine Woodworking magazine in the early 1990s and founded WoodshopBusiness magazine, which he eventually sold and merged with CabinetMaker magazine. He helped found the Cabinet Makers Association in 1998 and was its first executive director. Today, as editor of FDMC magazine he has more than 20 years experience covering the professional woodworking industry. His popular "In the Shop" tool reviews and videos appear monthly in FDMC.