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First thing’s first. A woodworking contest is never fair. You build things out of wood usually to make your home (or someone else’s home) beautiful and unique, not to get a prize. So it takes a lot of courage for people to take a project they’ve built, hand it over to us to display, and let strangers come look at it and form an opinion. That ain’t easy! Everyone who entered deserves to be commended for marshaling the spirit to put their hard work out there. So browse through all the pictures here, and hopefully you’ll be inspired by the works.

“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.”
– Aristotle

What was this contest about?

The theme was simply “Wall Art,” and from there it was left up to interpretation so long as it fit within a 36″ x 36″ x 12″ space. We enjoy holding a competition mainly just to see what our customers are making and how they’re bringing a touch of beauty to the world. With that, we were floored by the astonishing amount of creativity. In the images below you’ll find everything from abstract sculpture to straight-forward furniture. There’s even a paper towel holder – and it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

How did the judging work?

Voting was open to the public, so anyone was welcome to cast a ballot. We didn’t ask for critiques, just a selection of 5 favorite pieces. If you voted, you had to choose 5 projects, no more and no less. So while you could, of course, vote for your own project or for the project of someone you know, I didn’t want the pool of ballots to get bombed unfairly. So pick five to keep the playing field level. As one entrant said, “I voted for the four I loved, and mine.” The voting was open for 3 days, and 207 people logged a vote.

Enough of that business! Here’s how it all added up.


1st Place: “Bees” by Barry Richardson

PRIZE: 14″ Oliver Bandsaw (value $1499)

Size: 21″ x 32″ x 8″

Woods: Eucalyptus, desert ironwood, bubinga, ash, walnut, poplar, sugar pine, African mahogany

Finish: Lacquer

Barry’s fascination with bees led him to create this impressively sized wall hanging that incorporates, sculpting, turning and flat work. In the end his 3-dimensional exploded  rendering of a real life small scene caught the eye of nearly every person who came to the show.

2nd Place: “Loving Us” by Charles Taube

PRIZE: Festool CXS Li Drill

Size: 34″ x 34″ x 7″

Woods: Mesquite

Finish: Varathane floor finish

This sculpture by Charles Taube exhibits extraordinary patience and skill. He laminated a blank from numerous pieces of desert mesquite and simply shaped, scraped, sanded and polished it flawlessly.


3rd Place: “Harrison Clock” by Gary Tricka

PRIZE: Kreg Large Toolboxx Filled with Goodies

Size: 28″ x 16″ x 7″

Woods: Baltic Birch & aircraft grade plywood

Finish: Polyurethane

Gary cut the working gears and parts using a scroll saw. Considering the level or precision necessary to make the gearing operate correctly, Gary put in a lot of time and energy into this project.

4th Place: “Chess Set & Frame” by Richard Switzer

Size: 35″ x 28″ x 7″

Woods: Mahogany, walnut, hard maple, olive

Finish: Tung oil & paste wax (board and frame); gloss lacquer (chess pieces)

What a challenging piece! Rick’s anniversary gift to his daughter and son-in-law was this immaculate wall hanging that first serves as a large magnetic chess board – hidden magnets allow the game to be played while hanging on the wall. He included several nice detail such as a drop down tray to hold the pieces as they’re removed from play, and a sliding “turn indicator” so a game can be played   Or, special hardware lets the chess board to be detached from the frame and set down on a table.

Not to be left with an empty frame on the wall, removing the chess board also reveals a fantastic family portrait. Fourth place in this contest, but easily first place in this family.

5th Place: “Japanese Lantern Wall Sconce” by Jason Musso

Size: 16″ x 9″ x12″

Woods: African ribbon stripe sapele, Peruvian walnut, mappa burl veneer, black walnut

Finish: Mineral oil, Tried & True Original Wood Finish

True to traditional Japanese woodworking techniques, this light sconce is held together only by the integrity of its joinery with wedges and dowels. It’s even impressive by the numbers: 48 lap joints, 24 bridle joints, 24 miter joints, 4 mortise and through-tenons, and 10 dowel plugs and wedges. The bulb inside produces a gentle warm glow from behind the mappa burl veneer, and the wiring is entirely concealed within the mounting bracket.

6th Place: “Soaring Eagle” by James Butler

Size: 31″ x 20″ x 2″

Woods: Hard maple

Finish: Lemon oil, spray lacquer

This comes from a custom made pattern, so you’ll never see another piece exactly like this one. The parts are cut out with a scroll saw, then just a selection is pulled out and stained one at a time and glued back into place to create the nuanced colors in eagle feathers.

7th Place: “Butterfly” by Bill Barrand

Size: 16″ x 22″ x 3″

Woods: Quilted makore

Finish: Pre-catalyzed lacquer

Bill’s project looks amazing thanks first to the 3-dimensional appearance of the wild figure found in makore, and second to his ability to apply an absolutely perfect clear finish. His project is creative and beautiful.

8th Place: “The Carpenter Ant” by Dale Schmitt

Size: 36″ x 36″ x 12″

Woods: Poplar, maple, MDF, mahogany, walnut shells

Finish: Paint, lacquer & shellac

Here’s a project that will make you smile. It’s like an a still image snagged from an animated Pixar short. Six hand carved ants (wearing painted walnut shells as hard hats!) are busy cranking out what might become a remodel project for This Old House. Dale crafted little hammers, saws, a wheelbarrow, even cups of coffee and sprinkle donuts for the crew. His project isn’t just creative and funny, it’s also extremely well executed.Time to get to work!

9th Place: “Owl Eyes” by Mike Davis

Size: 17″ x 17″ x 3/4″

Woods: Black limba, teak, wenge

Finish: Tung oil

It takes a lot of precision and patience to craft a mosaic like this one. Mike did one amazing job keeping it all together and looking good.

10th Place: “Untitled” by Brian Pliska

Size: 36″ x 16″ x 2″

Woods: Cherry, walnut, maple, canarywood, purple heart, poplar, sirari, osage orange

Finish: Semi-gloss lacquer

Angled cuts and a pattern of color creates a 3-dimensional optical illusion in this abstract art. Brian gave this project a virtually perfect semi-gloss finish, too.


If you’ve made it this far, you need to check out all the projects too. Take a look, these are in no particular order:

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