Silas Kopf: Majoring in Marquetry

Jon Binzen

Originally published September 26, 2012, updated October 19, 2018

Silas Kopf got out of college in the early 1970s and thought he would retreat to the woods of northern Maine and make simple, solid-wood furniture, perhaps with a Shaker flavor. He never made it to the woods, and certainly veered from the Shaker aesthetic. Over the past four decades he has specialized in building furniture decorated with marquetry.

He is self-taught in marquetry, learning mostly from a book and through trial and error. But ten years into his career he was deeply influenced by Italian Renaissance intarsia, a combination of inlay and marquetry practiced in the 15th century. Kopf traveled to Italy to see the work in person, which features convincing optical illusions. Kopf is now well known for his own trompe l’oeil, or fool-the-eye compositions.

Kopf later traveled to France to study marquetry for several months at the Ecole Boule, a school that teaches traditional furniture making skills. While there, Kopf was introduced to the work of Abraham and David Roentgen, German father and son cabinetmakers who built furniture for monarchs and the aristocracy in the 18th century. The Roentgens embellished their furniture with superb marquetry, but they were also known for the structural complexity of their case pieces, which incorporated hidden compartments and mechanisms that enabled the pieces to be reconfigured. Kopf’s cabinet on the back cover of the current issue, with its many secret drawers, is a tribute to the Roentgens.

Kopf has written a book about his work and his influences, and has also produced a dvd describing his techniques for doing marquetry. Both are available through his website, www.silaskopf.com

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Introducing Fine Woodworking UNLIMITED

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For more than 43 years Fine Woodworking has been teaching and inspiring woodworkers to do their best work. But we also want to connect with our audience so that we can build a strong community of education and inspiration that will last generations. Today we are announcing a relaunch of our membership program to help us do just that.

We’ve been asking a lot of questions of the Fine Woodworking community so that we can better serve your needs. Here’s what we heard…

All of you are on a journey, but you are in many different places of that journey. You have different skill levels, woodworking interests, design aesthetics, makers you admire, and workshops, tools, and projects unique to you. The aspects that join this community together are a shared love of the craft, the smell of the workshop, the challenge of perfection, and the chance to create something beautiful. We are a community that appreciates precision, creativity, and problem solving.

We also heard that…

Sometimes you need to be inspired… by beautiful workmanship, an amazing workshop, or by the makers themselves.

Sometimes you need specific help… like how to get out of a jam on a project, or insight on how to execute a technique or perfect your sharpening skills.

Sometimes you need direction… on the best tools to use for a particular task or how to set up your workspace or workshop. What’s the best approach for the project you’re tackling next?

You told us that there are lots of ways we can help — but the best help would be to provide solutions for all of it right at your fingertips. So, that’s exactly what we are going to do. Today we are launching Fine Woodworking UNLIMITED, our new membership that gives you access to over 43 years of our content designed to help with all of your tasks, questions, and desires.

I am particularly excited about the launch of UNLIMITED because now members have access to everything, including our searchable digital libraries, 55+ video workshops, our iconic magazine filled with gorgeous aspirational projects and plans, and so much more. I know, no matter where you are on your journey today, UNLIMITED has something to inspire your next step.

To learn more about UNLIMITED go to finewoodworking.com/unlimited.

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Bending a Component in SketchUp

This is the SketchUp model I drew when I created the plans for Michael Robbins’s Contemporary Desk which is featured in the current issue of Fine Woodworking Magazine. In the plans there’s an exploded view of the desk. To represent the leather on the blotter surface, I created a component that is curled up at one corner.

This morning I had an e-mail from someone wanting to know how I did that. It’s actually quite simple thanks to the Radial Bend tool in the FredoScale extension. You can see how that works in the short video. If you don’t already have this extension, you can get it free from Sketchucation’s Plugin Store. Also make sure you install the current version of LibFredo6 which contains files on which FredoScale depends. If you don’t already have the Sketchucation Extension Store installed, I would recommend installing it first and then use it to install Fredo’s extensions.

Dave

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Marketing For Woodworkers: Social Media and SEO

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This is part of a series about different marketing tools for woodworkers. The others are linked below.

To be in business, you have to respond to demand; you can’t just do what you want. Part of the trick is to cultivate a demand for what you love to do. This is especially important for a business such as Greg Pilotti Furniture Makers that has employees; the pressure to meet payroll and overhead costs is unrelenting.

Pilotti started his business in 2013 as a part-time venture while training at Thaddeus Stevens College, then went full-time in 2015. Since then he has grown the business from a solo venture to one that also employs nine others. Pilotti specializes in commercial, not residential, work, so his marketing is a little different from that of many woodworkers, but the lessons he’s learned have broad relevance. Here are some key pieces of advice from Pilotti regarding online marketing.

Target your audience and tailor your posts accordingly

Pilotti uses Instagram primarily for networking with the kinds of people likely to want to work with him—architects and designers. “I don’t heavily target the how-to audience, because I mainly do commercial work,” he says. “I’m pretty happy in our world of commercial interiors. People just want you to hit deadline, and there’s a lot less emotion than with residential work.”

On Instagram, he focuses on finished pieces to indicate the type of work his business does. Still, he gives just enough behind-the-scenes perspective to remind followers that Greg Pilotti Furniture Makers really do make the things they sell—and that they’re people, not machines.

Pilotti recognizes that marketing is not just about pieces of furniture; it’s also about conveying to people who you are. “Instagram is great,” he says, “because it has evergreen content”—in other words, people can access all of your posts, going back to your very first one. If you’re thoughtful about what you post, he says, you can show where you came from, what you believe in, who your people are. “It’s a lot cheaper than a 45-minute phone call or spending a day meeting people and taking them out to lunch.”

Don’t ignore search engine optimization, and do be specific.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is critical to online marketing, says Pilotti, especially for a company like his that sells a niche product. “My product is an inch wide and a mile deep. You can’t just get in the car and start driving and find what we make. Getting Google to recognize a niche item is much easier than a broad topic; it’s not an item that has ten different names. Everybody knows what it’s called.”

Pilotti outsourced this back-end work. “When someone Googles our products, we come up in that search. What I don’t do is target raw terms such as “custom furniture maker.” There are thousands and thousands of them. I would have to spend too much to compete with them. We build a lot of stuff—we’re a custom shop, we’ll build anything—but my marketing is aimed at one product, because we know that product makes money, we know how to build it, and we know people are looking for it.”

Get in touch

Pilotti isn’t passive in his use of social media. He uses Instagram and Facebook to build relationships, then picks up the phone or writes an email to start a conversation. “I like their photos, then eventually introduce myself and say ‘I want to work with you,’ or ‘I want to be one of your suppliers.’”

Online tools can generate leads, but you still have to make the sale in house. Pilotti stresses the importance of having a plan for what to do when prospective clients get in touch. “What matters is to seal the deal. One of my biggest tactics is just being myself,” he says— “not ‘selling,’ but understanding what people are looking for. I don’t hit people over the head; I need to make deals work, and that means respecting peoples’ budgets.”

Keep in touch

Because Pilotti can stay busy working for a limited number of firms, he nurtures those relationships. He keeps in touch, because he’s genuinely interested in how they’re doing—for their sake and his. His clients have to be successful for him to stay in business.

Leverage your contacts through upselling

Pilotti credits The 1-Page Marketing Plan with enhancing his take on marketing. “McDonald’s has made millions on ‘would you like fries with that?’ upselling.” Pilotti’s version: “’Is there anything else you’re getting for your office/bedroom/kitchen? We do credenzas/bedside tables/rolling work tables.’ 50% of the time people ask us to bid on other items.”

Broadening the conversation in this way also helps keep advertising and marketing costs affordable. “If you try to advertise everything you do on your website, every product has to have its own ad campaign. If it costs you $25,000 a year to advertise your particular product, you have to think about multiplying your budget if you’re going to advertise other kinds of furniture as well. Then you have to sell more to have the money to pay for that advertising.”

Be judicious with what you reveal

“Instagram is a very powerful tool, but it doesn’t directly make me money. It’s a discovery tool and an authenticity tool. It’s also a slippery slope. I will tag a customer, but I will not share how I came to be working for that customer, because I would be throwing away all the work I’ve put into this” by giving away those contacts.

Also beware of how you come across. If you’re constantly complaining, “Hey, this is hard. We had a tough day, a tough break,” you may appear less capable than you are. We all have bad days; it’s fine to share that dimension of your reality. But as Pilotti puts it, “A client is looking for someone who’s on their game and able to solve their problem. My income is coming from my reputation for being knowledgeable, calm, innovative, production trained, and ‘we get it done,’ whereas in reality I’ve worn through the carpet in the hallway between my offices because of walking back and forth while freaking out. The reality is, we always get it done. We honor what we’ve agreed to do.”

Try different methods.

Don’t just assume that one kind of marketing doesn’t work. What doesn’t work for others may well work for you.

Be flexible

If you’re beating your head against the wall, switch to Plan B. If Plan B doesn’t work, switch to Plan C.

When Pilotti started his business, he was interested in doing traditional work—the kind of period, heirloom work he learned at Thaddeus Stevens College. The reality? Getting people to pay you for that kind of work is hard. His first website looked nothing like what it does today. “I learned the hard way that to make a living and employ people, I needed to make some branding changes. If you brand a company and try to stay in that mold, you’re not letting yourself breathe.”

-Nancy Hiller

Nancy Hiller is a professional cabinetmaker who has operated NR Hiller Design, Inc. since 1995. Her most recent books are English Arts & Crafts Furniture and Making Things Work, both available at Nancy’s website.

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STL 174: The power of the spring joint

This episode is sponsored by Varathane:
From furniture and cabinets to floors and crafts, professionals and DIYers alike have trusted the color and protection of Varathane since 1958. Varathane Wood Stain gives rich, true color in one coat. And Varathane Triple Thick Polyurethane has the durability of three coats in one. Visit varathanemasters.com for details.

Leave a comment below to enter to win a copy of Peter Nicholson’s Mechanic’s Companion published by Rude Mechanicals Press! We’ll pick a winner October 12th, 2018. Special thanks to Megan Fitzpatrick for making this happen!

Question 1:

From Bill:
I have done a large number of glue ups in my day, and typically utilize my 8″ jointer to create a flat, 90-degree surface to insure a good joint for gluing and have never had any issues.   I have seen and heard often about creating a spring joint to help with the glue up. My question is this. What is the value of creating the spring joint, and how to create it (i.e. how long, how far from the ends, etc.)?  It’s a tricky leap of faith to take that perfect edge that you’ve created on a jointer and create a gap, so would like to understand the value of it.

I currently am making a large chest of drawers and am in the process of gluing up long and wide sections to make the case.  To get the width I am gluing up 3 boards at 8″ each. The length is 7 feet long, so it is a pretty big glue up.

Question 2:

From Mike:
I am planning to build a desk out of walnut.  The top is going to be approximately 2′ x 5′. I would like to use a double particle board core with veneer on all six sides.  I do not have a vacuum bag, but have seen some articles where people used a contact adhesive to secure the veneer, similar to securing laminate.  Is this a viable option? As much as I would love to have a vacuum bag, I cannot justify the expense. I do not want to make the top out of solid stock, but I am a little scared of veneering.  Any tips or suggestions?

 Segment: All Time Favorite Tool

Mike: His 17-in. Grizzly Bandsaw
Ben: A router mat, for sanding
Bob: Small bevel gauge made by Chris Vesper after a fake out to his #4 Stanley Smoothing plane



Question 3:

From Dave:
I recently made a box, using hidden splines, because I had heard they were strong. Sure enough, they seem kinda strong, but I’m wondering where that strength comes from? There’s no long grain to long grain join here – at best it’s a 45° short-grain to long grain – not hugely better that the two 45° surfaces on the miter itself… or is the one long grain surface enough to give it this extra strength? Or am I being dumb and missing something obvious?


Every two weeks, a team of Fine Woodworking staffers answers questions from readers on Shop Talk Live, Fine Woodworking‘s biweekly podcast. Send your woodworking questions to shoptalk@taunton.com for consideration in the regular broadcast! Our continued existence relies upon listener support. So if you enjoy the show, be sure to leave us a five-star rating and maybe even a nice comment on our iTunes page.

 

 

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Stiles Welcomes Local Students for Manufacturing Day Event

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On Friday, October 5th, 2018, Stiles Machinery opened its doors to students from three local area high schools in celebration of Manufacturing Day, an annual nationwide event designed to inspire the next generation and offer them insights into what manufacturing looks like today and the many different career opportunities within the industry.

With a shortage of skilled workers entering into careers in manufacturing, Stiles sees this as an important opportunity to engage with the future generation to dispel the stigma that is often attached to the woodworking industry.

The event, which was hosted at Stiles headquarters and HOMAG Machinery North America in Grand Rapids, MI, was a huge success, with nearly 100 students attending from local high schools including Forest Hills Northern, East Kentwood, and Unity Alternative.

For more information about this event, please see the press release.

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How To Remove Iron Stains from Wood

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Whether you found an old nail lodged in the side of a board, had your metal-banded S2S lumber or plywood order delivered in the rain, or accidentally left a tool on your workpiece in a cool, humid shop, you’ve probably had to deal with black rust stains in wood. Fear not! While these dark stains look bad, they’re actually pretty easy to remove, even from finished wood, using a common household cleaner, and without removing any material.

As mentioned, the black stain is a type of low-oxygen rust (iron oxide) that forms when moisture gets trapped between a piece of metal and another surface (like wood). The rust travels to the other surface through the moisture, leaving a black deposit once the moisture is allowed to evaporate. In this article, I’ll be using Bar Keeper’s Friend, an oxalic acid based metal cleaner, to transform the black iron oxide into a colorless compound without needing to remove any material.

You’ll need:

  • powdered Bar Keeper’s Friend metal cleanser
  • an old toothbrush
  • water in a small container
  • clean rags or paper towel

If you have sensitive skin or are cleaning a large area, the Bar Keeper’s Friend packaging recommends that you wear gloves while using it. You should also avoid getting it in your eyes, or inhaling it. If you’re using this process on a finished piece, I’d recommend testing it in an inconspicuous area to make sure there aren’t any ill effects between the oxalic acid and the finish you’re using. In this article, I’m testing it on wipe-on poly, unfinished wood, and Danish oil.

Start by sprinkling the oxalic acid powder over the stained area.

Then use the toothbrush dipped in water to turn the powder into a paste. Scrub the paste gently over the stained areas.

Let the paste sit on the wood for 30 minutes or so, until most of the water has evaporated and the paste has turned into a white crust. You should notice the black stain has significantly lightened through the paste.

Rewet the powder with the toothbrush, then wipe off as much as you can with a clean rag. Repeat this process, wetting the paste and then wiping it off, several times to remove as much powder from the surface as you can. We’ll remove the powder that gets stuck down in the pores in a later step.

Let the wood dry completely. If there is any remaining black stain visible at this point, repeat the whole process from the beginning with more powdered oxalic acid. As you can see below, I removed 95% of the discoloration with one application.

If you’re trying to remove a stain from unfinished lumber or plywood, you can now proceed with your normal sanding and finishing process. Any remaining white powder that’s stuck in the pores will disappear when you finish the piece.

White powder stuck in the pores

If your piece has finish on it, you may need to sand it lightly to knock down any raised grain, and then apply a fresh coat of finish. If your piece doesn’t need any sanding, a little mineral oil was enough to make the rest of the powder completely disappear for me.

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Press Release: New RIKON Smart DVR Control & Motor, Model 13-926

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RIKON Power Tools, a leading manufacturer of woodworking machinery in partnership with Striatech, experts in motor control and design, announce the launch their New Smart DVR Control with 1.75HP Motor for 14” Bandsaws which features variable speeds for dialing in the best sawing speeds for any material.

It’s been almost 200 years since the bandsaw was first produced. In that time, the technology has barely changed… until now.

By adding Striatech’s smart switched reluctance motor, RIKON’s 14” bandsaw series is better than ever before.

Unlike conventional bandsaw motors, the Striatech motor is infinitely variable, and offers continuous torque. This

means you get a consistent and beautiful finish cut on your workpiece, and a much easier user experience. Improved energy efficiency and quiet, vibration-free operation are added bonuses when upgrading your bandsaw with this new high-tech and innovative motor control system. With an easy-to-read screen and DVR controller, this technology adds much-needed features to the bandsaw.

Features of the NEW RIKON 13-926 Smart DVR Control with 1.75HP Motor include: 

  • Motor – 1.75 HP motor provides ample power for any sawing job. Operates on 110V or 220V
  • Blade Speed – Variable from 100 RPM (45 SFPM) to 2,375 RPM (4400 SFPM)
  • Continuous Torque – 1.75 HP motor will never slow down producing a beautiful/smooth cut
  • Safer Operation – Fast electronic braking and load spike detection
  • Effortless Cutting – Fifteen suggested speed settings for wood/metal/plastic plus one custom range
  • Easy-to-Use – One-touch speed selection

Smart DVR Control and Motor Upgrade will fit these 14” RIKON models: 10-320, 10-321, 10-324, 10-325, 10-326, and RK14CS.

MSRP: $629.99.  Available for distribution Q4 2018.

RIKON Power Tools is dedicated to designing and manufacturing woodworking machinery of the highest quality that enhances the woodworking experience. RIKON offers an extensive line of woodworking machinery and accessories for: sawing, cutting, drilling, sanding, jointing, grinding, sharpening and turning.  RIKON has built its reputation on valuing its customers and their woodworking experience, as well as striving for excellent quality products at a reasonable price.

Full 2-year warranty.  For more information on the products RIKON offers, please contact RIKON Power Tools at 877-884-5167 or at www.rikontools.com.

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It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s …

One of the staff members here at Woodworker’s Journal has an unhealthy interest in really bad movies — prime example, Sharknado. This (series of!) movie(s) features a plethora of rubbery sharks falling from the sky onto a host of actors long past their career zenith and whose on-screen sobriety is questionable.

Still, you can imagine his excitement when I mentioned that one of my newsfeeds featured a photo of an octopus falling through the sky in China, with the headline attached: “Sea Creatures and Giant Hailstones Rain Down on Chinese Cities!” Alas, the photo of the octopus proved to be a fake (this may be an Internet first), but the rest of the story was true. So, this has nothing to do with woodworking, but the point I am making is that here at the Weekly, both the stories and the photos will not be fake news. (Except perhaps in early April …)

So, kick back and click on some great woodworking content, and keep your eyes peeled for flying sea creatures … and sawdust.

Rob Johnstone, Woodworker’s Journal

Louis Noborini: Woodturning for Instant Gratification

Louis Noborini: Woodturning for Instant Gratification

Louis Noborini, now a woodturner, got his love for woodworking when he was in his seventh grade woodworking class at the Woodward School in Southborough, Massachusetts. After making a bowl, his fascination turned into a passion.

Years later, his son came home with a handmade wooden pen, and that stirred Louis’s emotions to get back into this craft. Shortly after, his wife Marcia bought him his first lathe, a full-size Delta, at Christmas. These machines help create and mold beautiful wood and acrylic pieces.

As Louis said, “I have a tremendous love affair with wood, and I want it to be fun. But, I also want to have instant gratification as well. The grains of wood intrigue me, and I can make stunning objects, which creates fascinating finishes.”

He gets this fulfillment from a hobby he considers, in and of itself, basically inexpensive, unless you make high-end pieces. “I can usually make a pen in less than an hour,” said Louis. For finishing purposes, Louis will often use cyanoacrylate “super glue” to give the pens some texture.

The tools that Louis employs are various skews, chisels and detailers, some made out of carbide steel. His wood choices include cocobolo; olive wood from Bethlehem, Israel; and snakewood (Brosimum guianense), which comes from a small tree in the forests of Central and South America. It is also known as one of the world’s most expensive woods in the world. For example, a one inch by nine inch piece of snake wood can cost anywhere from 30 to 40 dollars.

Some of the items that Louis has created are: flatware, pepper mills, cheese slicers, pens, bowls, toothbrush handles, oil lamps, wine glasses and many other items. He enjoys giving these items to family and friends as gifts.