Bob Miller: Gives intarsia gifts to school 2010.05.05

Written by David Green.

bob.miller.jpgBy DAVID GREEN

Bob Miller’s relationship with the scroll saw started on rocky ground. The two just didn’t get along all that well.

It started a couple of years ago with a visit to Woodcrafts, a store in Toledo. Bob bought a couple of books, one about puzzle making and the other about intarsia—the art of inlaying pieces of contrasting wood to form three-dimensional patterns.

He also laid out $500 for a good scroll saw, an essential tool for making the fine cuts required.

“I made a puzzle and it looked like junk,” Bob said.

He returned the saw to the store for a refund, but that wasn’t the end of it.

His wife, Brenda, looked through the intarsia book and commented on how good the creations looked. Bob agreed, so he drove back to Toledo and bought the saw once again.

Intarsia artists use a variety of wood species to give the work more texture and definition.

Bob visited Tervols Wood Products near North Adams and bought a variety of boards. Sassafras, willow, catalpa, cherry, walnut, gray elm, spalted maple, blue pine, red cedar, western cedar, pink dogwood...so many  choices.

“It’s almost like being in a candy store when you go down to these places,” he said—an expensive candy store.

That was two years and many intarsia pieces ago.intrasia.jpg

“I’ve done an awful lot,” he said. “There’s a lot of trial and error to it. The more you do it, the better you get.”

Learning to use the scroll saw is an art in itself, Bob said. The saw uses a very thin blade.

“It’s all about having the right amount of tension and the way you feed the wood in,” he said.

If it’s not done right, the pieces aren’t going to fit when it comes time to assemble the design. The pieces are glued together on a backing board.

Bob buys the patterns for his intarsia work, figuring he would just be wasting his time trying to come up with something better. The two bulldogs given to Morenci Area High School were made from patterns created by the well-known designer Kathy Wise of Yale, Mich.

Once he has the design, then the fun begins—choosing among the various species of wood to represent the components of the piece.

For example, the studs of the bulldog’s collar are made of gray elm. European holly is the purest white and he used it for the glint in the eye.

“Some of the wood is just unbelievable,” Bob said—and unbelievably expensive.

He used ebony for the dark of the eyes and the dark section under the mouth. It costs more than $100 a foot—a fact his wife probably didn’t know until she read it here.

“I almost save the sawdust,” Bob said, and he makes very careful cuts.

He gives a lot of pieces away, but he also sells a few. He figures his profits come close to matching what he spends on wood.

Bob has lived in the Britton area for years, but he was pleased to create a pair of bulldogs for his Morenci relatives. Morenci sophomore Lucas Hollstein is Bob’s grandson. Lucas’s father, Curt, and his grandfather, George, both went to school in Morenci.

The Hollsteins are the ones who donated the bulldog images to the school.

Bob feels fortunate he was a student back when shop class was still part of the school day.

“There were only two classes I got A’s in,” he said, “phys ed and shop.”

Shop class led to a continuing interest in working with wood. He spent years carving detailed duck decoys before intarsia took over to fill his spare time.

“There are so many people without hobbies, they have nothing to do,” Bob said. “This is my avenue of keeping busy.”

• Examples of intarsia work, including some of Bob Miller’s, can be found at thehandsomewoodman.com. Look for the “Customer’s Artwork” link on the left.

  • Front.bridge Cross
    STEP BY STEP—Wyatt Stevens of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge Sunday during the Michigan DNR’s Great Outdoors Jamboree at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The Tecumseh Boy Scout Troop constructed the bridge again this year after taking a break in 2016. The Jamboree offered a variety of activities for a wide range of age groups. Morenci’s Stair District Library set up activities again this year and had visits with dozens of kids. See the back page for additional photos.
  • Front.bridge.17
    LEADING THE WAY—The Morenci Area High School marching band led the way across the pedestrian bridge on Morenci’s south side for the annual Labor Day Bridge Walk. The Band Boosters shared profits from the sale of T-shirts with the walk’s sponsor, the Morenci Area Chamber of Commerce. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.eclipse
    LOOKING UP—More than 200 people showed up at Stair District Library Monday afternoon to view the big celestial event with free glasses provided by a grant from the Space Science Institute. The library offered craft activities from noon to 1 p.m., refreshments including Cosmic Cake from Zingerman’s Bakehouse and a live viewing of the eclipse from NASA on a large screen. As the sky darkened slightly, more and more people moved outside to the sidewalk to take a look at the shrinking sun. If you missed it, hang on for the next total eclipse in 2024 as the path comes even closer to this area.
  • Cecil
    THE MAYOR—Cecil Schoonover poses with a collection of garden gnomes that mysteriously arrive and disappear from his property. Along with the gnomes, someone created the sign stating that he is the Mayor of Gnomesville. He hasn’t yet tracked down the people involved in the prank, but he’s having a good time with the mystery.
  • Front.rest
    TAKE A BREAK—Last Wednesday’s session of Stair District Library’s Summer Reading Program ended with a quiet period in a class presented by yoga instructor Melany Gladieux of Toledo. Children learned a variety of yoga poses in the main room at the library, then finished off the session relaxing. Additional photos are on page 7. Area children are invited to visit the library today when the Michigan Science Center presents a flight program at 11 a.m. and roller coasters at 1 p.m.
  • Front.batter
    THE DERBY—Tyler “Smallpox” Flakne of Minnesota’s Home Run League All-Stars goes for the fence Friday night during the National Wiffle League Association’s home run derby in Morenci. This year the wiffleball national tournament moved from Dublin, Ohio, to Morenci’s Wakefield Park. During the derby, competitors had two minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. The winner this year finished with 21. See page 6 and 7 for additional photos.
  • Front.green Screen
    OUT OF THIS WORLD—Elizabeth McFadden and Elise Christle pose in front of the green screen as VolunTeen Noah Gilson makes them appear as though they are standing on the Moon. More photos from the Stair District Library’s NASA @ My Library program are on page 12.
  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.
  • Front.batter

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2017