Whether it was furniture, cabinets, architectural woodwork, marquetry, special products or student work, more than 120 entries showed spectacular veneer work in the 2019 Veneer Tech Craftsman’s Challenge.
Competition was particularly tight in the furniture category, and it was from that category that the eventual grand prize winner came. Kirk Coryn of Kirk Kreations captured that prize with an Art Nouveau-style bed that featured incredible detail in veneer marquetry and elegant design. Called “Life and Death in the Garden,” the bed featured a variety of veneers and techniques to depict flowers, a butterfly, and a spider (done in stone) with web.
 
“This project includes 12/4 solid African sapele for the framework and trims around the platform. The spider was cut from single chiqua jasper slab. The spider web was made from 22 gauge square sterling silver wire,” said Coryn. “The main background veneer used is by far my favorite, pomelle imbuya. The border is zebrawood with a 3/32 wide maple fillet. The center crest is amboyna burl. The butterfly is died black and orange veneer with white holly dots. The flowers were made using natural colored maple, holly, and sycamore veneers. The stems are sapele veneer. Leaves are two different colors of dyed green veneer.”
 
For grand prize, Coryn won $3,000, but that wasn’t the only prize for his stunning work. Since the primary goal of the contest is to promote superlatively achievement in veneer, the contest also recognizes distributors and sales people who suppy veneer for winning entries. The grand prize project distributor, Certainly Wood, received $2,000 and the distributor salesman, Greg Engle, received $1,000 for supplying veneer products used.
 
Here is a rundown on the other category winners.
First prize in Architectural Woodwork went to Andrew Dillon of HW Woodwork for a sweeping curved reception security desk in the Chicago Mercantile Exchange complex.
Architectural Woodwork – First prize went to Andrew Dillon of HW Woodwork for a sweeping curved reception security desk in the Chicago Mercantile Exchange complex. The 17-month project included a 3D printed scale model. There was no straight line in the piece, which involved 61 feet of curving, angling, undulating wall to be built, covering an area 26 feet wide and 12 feet deep. The wall varies from 36 to 99 inches high with 39 feet of wall cantilevered above the floor as much as 18 inches. The veneer used was European rift-cut white oak, supplied by Certainly Wood. “It was very unique with widths near 12 inches, length over 10 feet and an unusually even tone across width and length,” said Dillon. “This fit very well with our goal to slip match the veneer in a continuous veneer slip top butting to a veneer slip bottom continuously repeating around the desk.”
 
Honorable mention went to Wes Brewer of BenchCraft Custom Woodwork Inc. for an entry called “The Bunker.” This custom veneered project transformed a downstairs entertainment room into a bunk room for kids that can easily sleep 12 with pullout trundles below upper bunks.
Top prize in cabinetry went to Richard Gady of Rich Gady Woodworking for a tour-de-force veneered kitchen that features a landscape scene in marquetry spanning the entire kitchen.
Cabinetry – Top prize in this category went to Richard Gady of Rich Gady Woodworking for a tour-de-force veneered kitchen that features a landscape scene in marquetry spanning the entire kitchen. “I had always wanted to make a panoramic landscape scene in marquetry on kitchen cabinets,” said Gady. “So when I built our new house in 2016 through 2018, I designed this continuous mountain scene similar to the foothills of the Rockies west of our location in Lakewood, Colorado.” The scene makes use of contrasting colors of walnut heartwood and sapwood veneer with some butternut. Veneer was supplied by Certainly Wood.
Honorable mention in cabinetry went to Dan MacPherson of MacPherson for a walnut veneered custom range hood. The project was done in American black walnut, and MacPherson said it required 37 book-matched joints to achieve correct symmetry for the project. 
 
First place in furniture went to Owain Harris of O.H. Harris Cabinetmaker for a table he calls “Powers of Nine.”
 
Furniture – First place in this category went to Owain Harris of O.H. Harris Cabinetmaker for a table he calls “Powers of Nine.” The piece features a nine-way match in Macassar ebony veneer paired with camphor burl, arranged in a slip-matched pattern to evoke an undulating nebula or star cluster, said Harris. “The inspiration for this piece began with the classic Charles and Ray Eames film “Powers of Ten” that started an inquiry into the ideas of scale, and the repetition of certain motifs in nature,” he said. “This is definitely a design that is built around the creative possibilities of using veneer.”
 
Honorable mention for furniture went to Joseph Mendel for his “Hepplewhite Bow Front Sideboard.” It was based on original Hepplewhite piece made in Massachusetts between 1780 and 1800. Mendel noted that he benefitted from modern supplies and techniques that the original craftsman did not have. “I was able to accomplish my commission under more convenient circumstances than the original craftsman,” he said. “All my veneer was properly prepared before it ever made its way to my shop. With ease I found suitably dried, exceptionally stable, crotch mahogany of consistent thickness from each sheet of the flitch. I have a tremendous appreciation for the designs of Hepplewhite, Sheraton, Chippendale and others centuries preceding me; I equally admire how they made their work under rudimentary shop conditions. I meet the criteria of their masterpieces with skill, modern tools, indoor lighting, and the ease of which I can find virtually any type of quality wood product.”
 
First-time entrant – The special prize for a first-time entrant also went to a furniture category entry. Ken Irish of D’Ireys Cabinetmakers won for his “Walnut Dining Table.” Designed to expand from seating for 10 to seating for 16, the table features a tree motif. The marquetry involved used figured anigre, koa, red gum, ebony, sapele, eastern maple, zebra wood, lyptus, sapele pomele, teak, redwood burl, maple burl and fiddleback maple, all suppled by DRC Veneer.
 
Kerin Lifland won in Marquetry for the “Orpheus Armoire.” This incredibly detailed piece featured a classical tableau covering a cabinet designed to house an audiophile’s multi-component stereo system.
 
Marquetry – Kerin Lifland won in this category for the “Orpheus Armoire.” This incredibly detailed piece featured a classical tableau covering a cabinet designed to house an audiophile’s multi-component stereo system. “As the client is a noted collector of classical antiquities,” said Lifland, “I chose to represent the story of the musician Orpheus, the artist hero of Greek mythology, as the theme of the piece. Musical references are present not only in the myth’s depiction, but in the rhythmic elements and composition of the entire cabinet.” 
 
Lifland said the list of veneer species used in the project “ranges into the dozens,” but key species included dark and sap walnut, quilted maple, Jatoba, Iroko, Brazilian satinwood and curly English sycamore, all supplied by Certainly Wood.
 
Honorable mention in marquetry went to Cindy Goldman for her project “Three of Hearts.” The art deco library doors were based on the elevator doors in the Chrysler Building in New York City. Veneers used included English gray harewood, Oriental walnut, plum pudding mahogany, and Tamo Japanese ash, supplied by Certainly Wood and Veneer Specialists.
 
 
First prize in specialty items went to Paul Miller for his “Jean Francois Oeben Inspired Collectors Boxes.”
 
Specialty Items – First prize in this category went to Paul Miller for his “Jean Francois Oeben Inspired Collectors Boxes.” The 22 x 11 x 8-inch boxes were designed to house a collection of more than two hundred balls of embroidery yarn with marquetry decoration based on 18th century master J.F. Oeben. Veneer used included purpleheart, tulipwood, ribbon bloodwood, kingwood, barberry, pink peroba, holly, curly maple, Espinelle, ebony, and shop-stained poplar.
 
Honorable mention for specialty items went to Paul Schurch for “Palm 1.” This wall art project was made with just two species, koa and sen (island ash) within a mahogany shadow box frame. “I am exploring the technique of making marquetry images using only two different woods, with sand shading edges of the veneer (burning with hot sand) for accents giving the image depth,” said Schurch. “Cutting this image out with a small scroll saw requires careful planning, and the result was better than expected.”
 
 
Katja Peereboom, a student at Cedar Ridge High School in North Carolina, captured the top prize for student work with her “Mid-Century Modern Coffee Table.”
 
Student work – Katja Peereboom, a student at Cedar Ridge High School in North Carolina, captured the top prize for student work with her “Mid-Century Modern Coffee Table.” Peereboom said of her table, “Veneer helped me to complete this project because it allowed me to add an element of creativity and originality to an otherwise relatively simple and common mid-century style table. The veneer in this project adds visual interest and allowed me to cover up a small mistake that I had made in a more appealing way than other options.”
 
Honorable mention for student work went to Mitchell Dart, also from Cedar Ridge High School, for his project “Dream Seeker.” The project is a bed headboard featuring a veneer inlay of a compass rose.
Judging a challenge
 
This year’s judges were Scott Grove, Rob Roszell, and Will Sampson. Grove is a four-time winner of the contest, including capturing the grand prize. Roszell recently retired as a longtime marketing manager for CCI Media LLC, which owns the Woodworking Network, FDMC magazine, and last year took over ownership of the Craftsman’s Challenge contest from Veneer Tech, which started it 16 years ago.
Follow this link to read about what Grove thinks about the judging process and what advice he offers for woodworkers entering this and other contests.
 
“There was a whopping 56-percent increase in entries this year for the Challenge and the quality of the work was excellent for all 125 who submitted their creations,” noted Roszell. “It was tough to make the choices with so much wonderful creativity, but we have some excellent winning entries. In 16 years of the Challenge, this is one of our strongest fields. This respected competition has real momentum and will grow significantly in the future with Woodworking Network.”
 
Sampson, who has been covering woodworking for more than 27 years, editing such publications as Fine Woodworking, WoodshopBusiness, CabinetMaker, and FDMC, has judged this contest twice previously, but he said he was particularly impressed by this year’s entries. 
 
“So many of the projects were simply eye-popping with outstanding veneers and workmanship,” he said. “Overall, the level of quality and design suggests a real depth of craftsmanship across all levels of woodworking.”
 
 

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