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designing and building with wood channels my creativity and challenges my mind.
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Monday, November 28, 2011

Vicco Von Voss: Mastering Fine Furniture

Vicco and Jacqui's timberframed home

See more of Vicco's work at the Massoni Gallery Website.

Achieving truly fine furniture is as much about talent and experience as it is about relationships.  

On a recent return home to Baltimore, Maryland, for Thanksgiving, we got the chance to visit with our friends Jacqui and Vicco Von Voss, who live and work in Centerville on the Eastern Shore. Jacqui and Vicco live in idyllic splendor amid vast forests of maple, oak, and walnut trees. On their property are several structures Vicco built himself, including an award-winning timber-framed home and a large workshop where Vicco creates unique custom furniture of unparalleled quality.

My friendship with Vicco began only a few years ago, when I
met him as my wife's friend's new husband. It was during that visit that I began to countenance a life as a furniture maker. Since then, Vicco has imparted crucial wisdom on the art of design and construction, and also provided me with some of his personal stash of amazing old-growth walnut and cherry lumber.

I'm normally opposed to the use of black walnut, since the trees are over-harvested and now rare in the wild. Most walnut available at lumber yards is grown on a farm, and steamed to darken from blonde to brown. Old-growth wild walnut is richer in color, with bands of chocolate and purple, and often with great swathes of swirling grain where trunks have split, or branches grown. But cutting down wild walnuts is, in my mind, sacrilege.

look at those crotches!
Vicco doesn't cut down trees. His respect for the woods in which he and his family reside is too great for such foul play. Instead, Vicco is the go-to man for clearing fallen trunks from his neighbors' properties. These naturally-felled trees make up the vast bulk of Vicco's furniture stock, with a rare board foot coming from premium lumber mills such as Hearne Hardwoods.

Vicco mills his find on an old Wood Mizer chainsaw mill. From there, the slabs are air dried over the course of (sometimes) a decade or more. This grants each stick the best possible conditions for transformation into workable wood, far superior to the rushed kiln drying method used by commercial mills.

vicco's shop
I took photos of some of Vicco's air-drying lumber racks, and his shop, to give you an idea of the way Vicco cares for his lumber, and the vast assortment of super-premium lumber from which he selects for his custom creations.

I am lucky to have met Vicco.  Not only has he taught me a great deal about fine furniture making, he has also graciously offered to provide me with the lumber I need for my most important furniture pieces, which I now offer to select clients looking for something really special for their custom heirloom.  

Vicco - here's to you!  Your furniture is amazing, and I am so thankful I got to have an inside look at one of the many reasons why your work (and, because of your generosity, my own work) stands apart from the rest.

For more about Vicco and his work, check out the videos embedded here, and also this article about Vicco from American Style Magazine.

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