Old growth lumber is among the finest wood available to craftsmen and artisans. The enormous canopies of foliage of old growth forests allow the trees to grow very slowly over centuries. Slow growth produces tight growth rings and results in dense, heavy, strong and extraordinarily beautiful wood grains. The protection of old growth trees and forests in the United States means that this kind of wood is very difficult – if not impossible – to find commercially. For example, the pine that one might find at the local lumberyard is harvested from much younger trees and hasn’t had the advantages that come from hundreds of years of slow growth. Today’s commercially available pine is much softer and lighter than dense old growth pine.
Staples Cabinet Makers reclaims lumber from razed homes, barns and mills throughout New England. These structures were originally constructed from old growth lumber in the 18th and 19th centuries. This magnificently aged wood develops a rich patina that cannot be recreated artificially, and Stephen Staples preserves its beauty in each table or cabinet he creates.
The Source of the Wood
People continually ask Stephen Staples were he finds the wood and other accessories he uses in his work. His reply is that, more often than not, the material actually finds him. He says, "It is interesting how the universe has a way of sending things along to those who will most care for them. We are all just caretakers of our possessions for a period of time. With our heirlooms, we lovingly leave them to our heirs or an institution that we know will treasure them. With most reclaimed building artifacts, however, we stay just ahead of the wrecking ball and ultimately a pulverizer that turns an entire house to pulp in just a few minutes. It's a sad sight indeed to watch a magnificent dwelling turned to rubble. I will continue to strive to save and repurpose these materials as long as I am able."
The finishing techniques that Stephen Staples employs have been used by shipbuilders for centuries. Staples Cabinet Makers tabletops are finished with multiple coats of a specialized blend that includes marine spar varnish and boiled linseed oil. Each coat penetrates the wood producing an embedded luster and depth that cannot be achieved with any other method. Stephen developed his finishing blend to enhance the aged colors, patinas, tones and character of the wood grain. Stephen often says that “time is the greatest craftsman,” and his pieces preserve what history has already accomplished.
Stephen is fascinated by and understands the importance of "texture" in his work. It is a concept introduced to him by a sculptor friend, and one that he continues to study and explore. Stephen applies these sculpting principles and techniques, and years of study and practice of hand finishing to all of the furniture he produces. He understands that the finest creation can be destroyed by an inadequate finish, and his methods add a rich dimension to an already much-admired vision and sense of style.
Marine varnish is flexible and can be easily maintained and rejuvenated with additional coats. Stephen advises owners to, once a year, wash their tables with paint thinner or mineral spirits to remove any grease and dirt, and recoat the tabletop with a blend of 35% marine spar varnish and 65% mineral spirits. After applying a liberal coat, let set for 2 minutes and then use a clean soft cloth to wipe off the excess leaving a thin film of the varnish.