Jutras Woodworking landed the top prize in the annual Veneer Tech Craftsman’s Challenge for 2012 with an architectural millwork project styled after a classic yacht interior. The top prize and category winners in cabinetry, furniture, specialty projects and student design were officially announced in a ceremony at the International Woodworking Fair in Atlanta. The competition was co-sponsored by Veneer Technologies and CabinetMaker+FDM of CCI Media.

One of the features of the contest that makes it unique is that prizes are not only awarded to the woodworkers involved but also to the veneer suppliers and salesmen regardless of what company the veneer was sourced from.

"A key purpose of the Craftsman’s Challenge is to recognize all the people in the veneer distribution chain as well as the designer,” says John Varner, Veneer Tech vice president. "This promotes industry creativity and strengthens supply relationships.”

Grand Prize winner 

Sumptuous crotch mahogany veneer sourced from Indiana Architectural Plywood, Trafalgar, Ind., provides a rich feel for the Grand Prize winning project done by Jutras Woodworking, Greenville, R.I. An architectural millwork firm that frequently does real boat interiors, Jutras was well equipped to handle this project, which was designed by Langan Design Partners to make a residence in Newport, R.I., “look like the interior of a classic high end old wooden sailing yacht.”

Jutras received a prize check of $3,000. An additional $2,000 prize went to Architectural Plywood, and veneer sales representative John Wright won $1,000.

Furniture winner 

Top prize in the furniture category went to Ricardo Vasquez of Ricardo Vasquez Custom Furniture in Haiku, Hi. Featuring highly figured Hawaiian koa wood veneer, his elegant sideboard features lava rocks elevating its top and wenge legs supporting the body of the piece. Two types of koa veneer were used and dark pheasant wood trims the top, leading your eye to hand-crafted pulls.

The veneer was sourced from Certainly Wood, East Aurora, N.Y., and the sales representative was Jim Carroll.

Cabinet winner 

Wes Brewer of BenchCraft Custom Woodwork Inc., Fort Collins, Colo., captured the cabinetry prize with a project involving high end residential cabinetry and millwork in an Aspen, Colo., penthouse. Featuring two full logs of camphor wood burl veneer, the project involved a hallway that covers 52 linear feet with seven built-in passage doors on concealed hinges and ¾-inch reveals that are all perfectly matched. Brewer dubbed the project “Burled to Perfection.”

Veneer for the project was supplied by Indiana Architectural Plywood, and the sales representative was Mark Dvorak.

Specialty Items winner 

Self-taught woodworker Scott Grove captured the Specialty Items prize with “Melissa,” a sculpture of a female form completely covered in veneer. Grove said he designed the project to test the limits of compound veneering technique. Grove, who has a degree from the Rochester Institute of Technology in environmental design, also highlighted the environmental value of veneer.

“I am dedicated to sustainability and using veneer adds an ecological consciousness to my work,” he says. “Veneer vendors receive the best figured woods, and combined with a 42:1 yield over solid hardwoods, using veneer is dramatically more effective, efficient and environmentally-friendly.”

Certainly Wood supplied the veneer for his project, and the sales representative was Greg Ingel.

Student Design winner 

Cale Caboth of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, captured the Student Design category with a striking cantilevered desk he he built while studying at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship, Rockport, Me. The piece features an ebony veneer top, which he noted would have been cost prohibitive if attempted in solid wood.

Judges weigh in 

Judges for the 2012 contest were Michael Bell, president elect of the Architectural Woodwork Institute and a senior manager with Allegheny Millwork; Tim Fixmer, member of the WoodLINKS USA board of directors and publisher of CabinetMaker+FDM; and studio furniture maker, Alfred Sharp, current president of The Furniture Society.

“With well over 200 entries, the task to pick a limited number of winners was daunting at best,” says Bell. “Mixing the sheer quantity with the high level of quality exhibited in every category made picking the winners a true ‘craftsman's challenge.’ As far as I am concerned, the majority of the entries deserve tribute. The high level of creativity and workmanship represented was truly amazing.”

Fixmer echoed Bell’s remarks about the challenge of judging such a large field of quality entries. “There can be no doubt that craftsmanship and creativity abound in today's woodworking industry,” he says. “This exercise has renewed a deep sense of pride in being part of this creative industry. As a WoodLINKS board member, one of the delightful surprises in the judging experience was to discover that the student entries far exceeded my expectations. It thrills me to think that we have young people with skills of that magnitude preparing to make careers in woodworking and furniture making.”

Sharp also commented about how the caliber entries bodes well for the future of the industry. “As one involved in the early re-invigorating of interest in the realm of fine custom furniture, I’m gratified and amazed at the quantity and quality of work being created today,” he says. “Whether using traditional techniques and designs, or striking out in innovative uses for veneer, each of the winners has created work to be marveled at.”

For more information about this and next year’s Veneer Tech Craftsman’s Challenge, visit www.veneertech.com. 

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