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Ben Riskey's Profile

About

Welcome to my ETSY store. I’m Ben. I live and work in Traverse City, Michigan. If you like what you see here, more of my work can be found at Art & Soul Gallery, on Front Street, in beautiful downtown T.C. All of my work (well, mostly all) is functional. At Art & Soul, you can find the mugs and cutting boards, wacky wood coasters, sushi boards, letter openers, and other useable items that are meant to delight the eye. The WackyWood idea came about through my extreme fondness and appreciation for the beautiful wood grains of the world. Even my furniture SCRAP was so wondrous to me that I couldn’t bear to throw it out! I began gluing those pretty pieces together to get something big enough to use, and WackyWood was born. Well, more on that later.

The Mugs…………
They resemble those turned on a lathe, but they're actually glued up in eight or ten flat segments, like the staves…

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  • Male
  • Born on August 24
  • Joined January 16, 2009

About

Welcome to my ETSY store. I’m Ben. I live and work in Traverse City, Michigan. If you like what you see here, more of my work can be found at Art & Soul Gallery, on Front Street, in beautiful downtown T.C. All of my work (well, mostly all) is functional. At Art & Soul, you can find the mugs and cutting boards, wacky wood coasters, sushi boards, letter openers, and other useable items that are meant to delight the eye. The WackyWood idea came about through my extreme fondness and appreciation for the beautiful wood grains of the world. Even my furniture SCRAP was so wondrous to me that I couldn’t bear to throw it out! I began gluing those pretty pieces together to get something big enough to use, and WackyWood was born. Well, more on that later.

The Mugs…………
They resemble those turned on a lathe, but they're actually glued up in eight or ten flat segments, like the staves of a barrel, then sanded kind of round (or not). They take whatever shape the wood suggests, then they get a handle, which is always less than perfectly fit. That's because I insist on leaving a slight gap, so that the finish, which is an incredibly stout glue, can seep in there to contribute to "foreverness". The handles also get a small wood dowel, right through the mug itself, so they can't wiggle or loosen. Finally,the mug is drenched in a two part epoxy finish, and signed on the bottom.
*The finish* meets FDA regulations for such uses as making fiberglass, and lining the inside of tanks for potable water. It's a food safe finish which is crystal clear, resistant to abrasion, thermal shock, moisture, and many nasty chemicals (including alcohol). It protects them from moisture, and makes ’em shine! Mugs get 4 coats, with hard sanding between, but it’s a fiberglass type resin - not a polyurethane wood finish - so it won’t ever get completely smooth. You can drink just about anything from these mugs - Hot or cold. Since wood is a far better insulator than ceramic, glass, plastic, or metal, your coffee will stay hot longer and your ice cubes won't melt too fast!
CARING FOR YOUR MUG
Care for them like friends, because they'll soon become your favorite cups. *Wash them by hand*. Bouncing them around in the dishwasher is overkill - like taking your paintings off the wall and scrubbing them with a wire brush. *No microwave* either - they're made of WOOD - it burns.

The Boards………..
Cutting boards, cheese boards, sushi boards, and many of the mugs and tankards are done in "WackyWood" style. "WackyWood" has a distinctive appearance, and it's found only here! These boards are either “end grain”(looking straight down at the stump) or “face grain”(looking at the side of the tree). For the brightest colors and most interesting wood patterns - opt for a face grain board. The colors show best on the "face grain", while the traditional "end grain" boards are known to be kinder to cutlery. Knives drawn across the end of a board tend to separate the wood fibers, which then close back up when the blade is withdrawn. On the face of the board, knives cut the fibers, leaving more scratches and dulling the blade faster.
*The finish* on the boards is paraffin. It's the same stuff Grandma uses for sealing the lids when she's canning. Boards are heated to slightly above the melting point of paraffin, then saturated with it. As they cool, the molten wax is drawn in - sealing out moisture, the mortal enemy of wood.
CARING FOR YOUR BOARD
The surface wax wears thin with use and a few washings *(hand wash, and towel or air dry)* Then, care for them like any cutting board, with an occasional rub of *mineral oil* when they start to look dried out.
And hey - don't be afraid to cut on them. There's nothing you can do to these boards to make them un-beautiful!

The Woods……………
What is “WackyWood”? It’s just a name I use to avoid listing all, some, or most of the species below, on each piece. The distinctive appearance is achieved by gluing together strips of wood in what appears to be random widths, then ripping the resultant block into random width pieces and gluing them together again. The process requires about 3 times as much glue as traditional butcher block assembly, and obviously quite a bit more time, but wow! - Look at the explosion of color and grain that results!

Here’s a list of woods that I frequently work with;

Black Walnut
Sycamore
Bloodwood
Wenge
Maple
Curly Maple (Tiger Maple)
Bird’s-eye Maple
Lacewood
Leopardwood
Brazilian Satinwood (Yellowheart)
White Ash
Red Oak
Poplar
Willow
Mountain Laurel
Zebrawood
Sumac
Mahogany
Purpleheart
Fava Tepeche
Padauk
Bubinga
California Redwood
Cocobolo

Each of my pieces may contain one, some, many, or most of these woods. You see why I call them, collectively, “WackyWood”.
Many of these species are straight from the Amazon rain forest, so I was hesitant to use them until I learned that my local supplier has his own property in Brazil, where he uses sustainable forestry practices. 2000 acres of Amazon jungle is harvested on a 30 year schedule. Only the average size trees are removed and re-planted, leaving the “grand-daddy” trees untouched. This operation is so kind to our planet that it’s been designated “Green” by the Brazilian Government, and has been given the “Top of Environmental Quality” award directly from the Brazilian Parliament. Given that this 2000 acres, if not privately owned and managed, would almost certainly be denuded for agricultural purposes, I believe that the use of these rain forest products actually helps to preserve and protect a very important part of our planet. And OMG, is this stuff beautiful!

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