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Luthier makes bar top a work of musical art

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James Ringelspaugh, a luthier from Raleigh, North Carolina, designed these bar tops for a local bar, Ruby Deluxe. <!–
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A local guitar maker’s musical illusions have come to life at a Raleigh bar.

Ruby Deluxe, a soon-to-open nightspot on Raleigh’s Fayetteville Street, seems like a pretty standard downtown watering hole. Until you walk up to the bar and look down to see a startlingly cool piece of art-installation decor.

Under the bar top’s clear surface is a series of seemingly real guitars and ukuleles, all mounted with bridges and strings. They’re not actual instruments, but the details are realistic enough to draw how’d-they-do-that doubletakes from almost everyone who sees them.

“The first thing people do,” says managing partner Van Alston, “is look under the bar to see how thick it is, and if the bottoms of the guitars are down there.”

These highly convincing illusions are the work of James “Ringo” Ringelspaugh, a local luthier. And even though this was a pro bono project, he put as much (and possibly even more) effort into it as the acoustic guitars he custom-builds. See a full gallery of his work here.

“It was a lot of the same stuff as guitar-building, hammering in the bridges and tightening the strings, making all the angles work out,” Ringelspaugh says. “Everything’s anatomically correct, so to speak, and I wanted to design these so they’d look real. In a lot of ways, they are. The strings aren’t really tuned, but they are under tension. Although …”

He pauses to laugh before continuing.

“As far as you know, they’re perfectly in tune. So let’s say they are.”

Ruby Deluxe’s bar top runs parallel to Davie Street outside, and it has patterns of six Fender electric guitars and four smaller ukuleles. Ringelspaugh custom-labeled the neck of one of the Fender patterns as a “Ruby Deluxe Barcaster.”

“That one is made of birdseye maple, which is probably the only local wood in here,” Ringelspaugh says, identifying some of the other exotic woods he used – Mexican ziricote, sipo mahogany from Africa, macassar ebony from Indonesia. In addition to building instruments, Ringelspaugh also sells wood.

“Selling wood is actually what pays the bills, pretty much,” he says. “Everything else I do is just gravy. Sort of like the only way for an artist to make a living is to sell paints and brushes, I sell wood. Put all the pieces together and it’s a living.”

Making the Ruby Deluxe guitars was a painstaking process that took about four months. Ringelspaugh cut guitar-shaped templates and used those and a router to gouge out matching gaps in the bar-top wood. Then he mounted the pieces and strings. Multiple resin coats encased the whole thing in a half-inch clear layer.

But what launched the whole thing was a more modest idea. Ringelspaugh was a regular at one of Alston’s other bars, Slim’s, and Alston had commissioned him to custom build a few guitars over the years – paid for one 12-ounce bottle at a time.

“We’ve never exchanged a dime of actual money,” Alston says. “We do it in trade and whenever we get to where Ringo is level on beer, he’ll let me know: ‘It’s time for you to come up with another project for me to do.’”

That next project came up this past spring, when Alston was starting up Ruby Deluxe with majority owner Timothy Lemuel. Alston was at Ringelspaugh’s house, saw a pile of scrap-guitar parts and asked if they could use them for bar-top decoration.

Ringelspaugh agreed and set to tinkering and pondering. There was no deadline and he kept at it until deciding to try a grand experiment.

“Basically, I had too much time to think about it,” he says. “Very seldom do I go nuts, do something way over the top. The more I thought about it, the more I realized this was a rare opportunity to have something really big and ambitious in a public space.”

The first one took about three weeks. When summoned to Ringelspaugh’s workshop for a look, Alston and Lemuel were astonished at what he’d come up with.

“It was so far beyond anything I’d imagined, I was tickled pink with actual goosebumps,” Alston says. “I thought, ‘Damn, we are gonna be the coolest-looking bar top in town.’ So I gave him a deadline and he finished two weeks early.”

Once the bar-top sections were on the Ruby Deluxe premises, local industrial artist Nate Sheaffer (who also did the bicycle-themed artwork for Raleigh’s Crank Arm Brewery) poured the resin to seal up each piece.

“You don’t want to pour resin too deep at a time because you have an exothermic reaction,” says Sheaffer. “It puts out a fair amount of heat. We did it slowly so as not to warp or crack any of the material.”

It took four one-eighth-inch pourings over two days, followed by several more days of curing, before the work was ready for display.

“They’re amazing,” says Lemuel. “A good thing to stare at while having a drink.”

As usual, no money changed hands. But Ringelspaugh has a hefty credit at Ruby Deluxe.

“There’s absolutely no telling how much this would have cost if he’d charged us,” says Alston. “My guess would be 25 to $30,000. I don’t see $1,000 a foot as being too far off, given how much time and effort it took.”

Ringelspaugh plans to do some hanging around the bar to see people’s reactions (“without being too creepy about it”). And even he will probably stare at them a bit himself. They are kind of mesmerizing.

“I hope I’ve raised the bar a little bit,” he says. “I never paid much attention to the actual bars in bars. But I have a feeling it will be tough to ignore this one.”

See the full News Observer story here:

Written by cabinettrends

August 28, 2015 at 7:00 am

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AWI to hold veneering and laminating seminar at Madison College

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A seminar on veneering and laminating will take place at Madison College in Wisconsin on February 19. The event will be sponsored by the Architectural Woodwork Institute (AWI) Wisconsin Chapter.

The seminar is free for students, WCA EDUcation, and AWI-WI members. For non-members, the fee is $15. Space is limited. The deadline to sign up is February 12th.

The Architectural Woodwork Standards (AWS Edition 2) will be used as a reference during the seminar. If possible, those attending should bring Edition 2. Complimentary copies of Edition 1 will be available. The newer edition can purchased at the seminar for $25.

Register by contacting Patrick Molzahn by email at or by phone 608.246.6842

Written by cabinettrends

January 21, 2015 at 7:00 am

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Hi Tech Veneer names Jason Crapo sole proprietor

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Hi Tech Veneer (HTV),, announces Jason Crapo is now the sole proprietor of the company. After seven successful years, previous partner Jeff Cox will remain as an asset to HTV. Crapo, CEO, has been in the industry for 25 years, with experience in all aspects of the veneer industry, including log resourcing, preparation and slicing, and veneer manufacturing, installation and finishing.

Immediate plans include adding new employees, purchasing six additional pieces of equipment, updating computer systems, providing competitive pricing, offering 3-5 days standard lead time, and adding high-end domestic and exotic veneer to our inventory.

Written by cabinettrends

November 26, 2014 at 7:00 am

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Experts share veneer advice

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CabinetMaker+FDM sponsored a daylong Veneer Symposium that featured a panel of industry experts sharing technical and business advice on all aspects of veneer.

Featured speakers were Alan Hubbard of Veneer Technologies, Ang Schramm of Columbia Forest Products, Paul Schurch of Schurch Woodwork, and Frank Pollaro of Pollaro Custom Furniture Inc. CabinetMaker+FDM’s Will Sampson moderated the event, which included lively interaction between presenters and audience.

Alan Hubbard, sales manager in the sliced hardwood face veneer manufacturing arena at Veneer Technologies Inc., discussed veneer production from the log yard to log processing. He provided an overview of veneer basics, including information about terms, production and profitability that included types of veneer slicing, matching, drying and grading.

Communication is key for customers to get what they want from veneer suppliers, according to Ang Schramm, currently director of Columbia Forest Products University, an education program for the trade.

Schramm, author of the book “A Complete Guide to Hardwood Plywood and Face Veneer,” emphasized communication for both customers and suppliers of veneer. The better the customer can show the color and appearance they want, the more likely they will be satisfied, he said.

Paul Schurch, who operates Schurch Woodwork, a custom furniture studio in Santa Barbara, California, provided examples of all kinds of applications for veneer. In addition to applications, he covered veneer pressing techniques and equipment, layup and types of glue and delivering more value for customers.

Schurch also provided a history and methods of marquetry, inlay and laser cutting, with many examples.

Custom furniture maker Frank Pollaro led a discussion on advanced veneer techniques, especially veneering curved surfaces. He also talked about finishing veneered surfaces, and characteristics of different adhesives. Pollaro showed examples of high-end, high profile projects, but emphasized the importance of business considerations and not pursuing projects that will not be profitable.

Written by cabinettrends

September 16, 2014 at 7:00 am

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Spectacular veneer workmanship wins

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The Grand Prize winner in the 2013 Veneer Tech Craftsman’s Challenge might have all sorts of hidden doors and drawers, but what wasn’t hidden was the masterful craftsmanship and design. Awards were officially announced July 25 at the AWFS Fair in Las Vegas.

Craig Thibodeau’s Art Deco Table with Trompe l’Oeil Interior took the Grand Prize in the annual competition for fine work in veneer. The piece features several doors and drawers cleverly hidden by the eye-popping and vision-bending veneer work.

“We began with Pau Ferro veneer for the exterior layed up in a waterfall pattern flowing down the table sides and bookmatched around the entire table,” says Thibodeau of the piece. “To add interest to the top of the table we added a book-matched panel of quilted maple veneer bordered with Gabon ebony inlay. The use of straight grained Pau Ferro veneer made hiding the primary secret door a bit easier as the dark grain lines hide the door seam.”

Sam Parisette-Herzog of Herzog Veneers, which supplied veneer for the Grand Prize winner, commented, “Please let the folks at Veneer Tech know that we greatly appreciate them for their sponsorship and all the hard work it takes to do a Challenge like this. They have consistently supported the creators, the suppliers and the sales people in the veneer industries for what is a love of a fine natural material. When it comes to beautiful wood and beautiful workmanship, they have continually led the way.”

Cabinetry afloat

Jarrett Bay Boatworks captured the cabinetry crown with a yacht interior all done in high gloss cherry veneer. “Just like our boats, wood veneer’s seamless rich look is timeless and helps our boats to hold their value,” says Randy Ramsey, president, Jarrett Bay Boatworks. “The added bonus of repairability, given the rough course some of our vessels can take, allow our craftsmen to ensure our boats maintain their distinguished style for the generations that may come to use them.”

One of the unique features of the Veneer Tech Craftsman’s Challenge is that it not only awards the woodworkers, but it also gives prices to the veneer suppliers, even when they are competitors with Veneer Tech.

Winning wine cellar

Darryl Hogeback of Savante Wine Cellars took home the top price in Architectural Millwork with a beautiful wine cellar project. “The goal of this project was to create a wine room that would resemble a small quant wine store/wine bar you might find strolling down the promenade of an Italian village,” Hogeback says. He accomplished that with the columns of the white oak racking and walnut hutch in burl white oak veneer with a shellac finish to pop the color contrast and burl. The hutch includes walnut burl veneer accents on the drawer fronts and upper front raised panels.

More tricks of the eye

Top furniture honors went to another piece feature ample use of veneer trompe l’oeil effects. The round table by Michael McDunn of Greenville, S.C., features amboyna burl, ebony, satinwood and holly veneers.

1308CMFvtech2.jpgThis spectacular wine room project was done by Darryl Hogeback of Savante Wine Cellars, Denver, Colo. The White Oak racking, which is mirrored on the left and right of the hutch, includes horizontal racking with dowel rods for bottle supports, steam bent curved corners, laser in numbers under bottle necks and at each diamond bin for collection management and custom veneer columns.

“My goal in designing and building this table was to satisfy my client, who loves art deco and Biedermeier furniture, and to push my design skills to a new level, says McDunn. “This is the most complex piece of furniture that I have executed out of veneer and the opportunity to make a project like this has opened up a whole new thought process as far as making three-dimensional designs executed in veneer.”

Student honored

One of the important categories in the annual contest has always been the student division in an effort to encourage those just starting out in woodworking to consider veneer options. This year’s student winner was a table called “Widowink” done by Matthew Stoltz, a student at the College of the Redwoods in Ft. Bragg, Calif. Done in Gabon and Macassar ebony veneer, the piece could have only been created with veneer, says Stoltz. “Solid wood would have been impossible for a desktop, especially out of ebony.”

Golden specialty winner

The glint of ornate gold leaf highlighted the winner in the Specialty Items category. Titled “Memories of Russia,” the wall-hung curio cabinet was done by Colin Smith of Long Beach, Calif. Marquetry roses add a floral touch to the piece.

A Special Honorable Mention prize was also given to Chuck Sharbaugh for his aviation themed cabinet titled “Up.”

Judges impressed

All three of the expert judges for the contest noted how difficult it was to select winners from among the many qualified entries in each category.

Dale Broholm, who himself designs and makes custom furniture out of his Boston area studio and has taught at the Rhode Island School of Design since 1999, commented, “I was deeply impressed by the overall quality of the submissions to the 2013 Craftsman’s Challenge. The variety, technical mastery of the art of veneering and demonstrated professionalism of the entrants was compelling.”

Tim Fixmer, publisher of CabinetMakerFDM, a co-sponsor of the contest, noted “I have to say that this year’s judging challenge was significant. The quality of the entries was superb. We observed unique, stellar achievements in design, craftsmanship, and technique. The entries represent the very best of our industry, from the students to the time tested pros. In the final analysis, the winners in each category were chosen by only fractions of a point separating them from the majority of the other entrants.”

Thomas Tuck, who graduated from the award-winning wood program Cedar Ridge High School in Hillsborough, N.C., and currently works as product and distribution manager with Casadei-Busellato, discussed how the judges evaluated the work. “Judges’ decisions in the Craftsman’s Challenge are in large part based on the quality of execution, and the greatest optimization of material,” he says. “Technique is important, as is the originality of the workpiece. Really, we look for functional design that is unusual and bends the boundaries, expressing something that hasn’t been done before.”

Written by cabinettrends

July 29, 2013 at 8:49 am

Columbia Forest Products opens new veneer mill in Oregon

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Columbia Forest Products’ leaders Brad Thompson, CEO, and Arnold Curtis, chairman of the board, welcomed more than 100 employees, customers and partners to the grand opening of its new Boardman, Ore., veneer mill at the Boardman Tree Farm on June 19.

Situated in the middle of 6 million Poplar trees on 23,000 acres in the Columbia River Valley, the new mill is producing poplar veneer for plywood production used in cabinets, furniture, fixtures and millwork. The company also unveiled its new corporate brand identity at the mill ceremony, including a new company logo, mission statement and tagline.

Written by cabinettrends

June 28, 2013 at 7:00 am

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Use of natural wood veneer trending up

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The use of paper-backed wood veneer is up and growing, reports.

For those who know the industry, this makes sense.  In the past, plastic laminates were most often used on store fixtures and for other commercial and residential projects. But in the last twenty or so years, interior designers and architects have been adding backed natural wood veneers into their design options, according to the site.

Now you can not only use the classics such as red oak, maple, walnut and cherry veneer, but new favorites are popping up around the globe, such as African bubinga, South American rosewood, and Russian birch, just to name a few.

Many consumers now would rather have natural wood than plastic laminates, leather rather than vinyl, and so forth. Now the world is shrinking and wood veneers from all over the planet are available wherever you live and work.

Add to this the fact that wood veneer can be altered by adding different color stains or a variety of matte or glossy finishes, and you have an incredible array of choices to make each project unique and spectacular, the site reports. So it is no wonder that the use of wood veneer is up, and that the trend continues to grow as more and more people see all the alluring options available.

Written by cabinettrends

May 23, 2013 at 7:00 am

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