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According to my father (Donald B. Johnson), his uncle Edward W. Miller began doing inlaid wood pieces during the Depression and continued it afterwards as a hobby. I'm hoping to learn more about this from Great Uncle Edward's daughter Ruth Miller Collings. I sent a preview of this article and photos to my first cousin Sandra Knowles Schaefer, as well. She sent a photo of an ornate inlaid wood serving tray given to her mother many years ago by her Uncle Edward. Sandy didn't know exactly where it had come from until she saw the pictures (early 1930s?) below.
His Idea Of Rest Is To Work Hard At Tedious Task
Cabinet Maker's Hobby Results in Creations of Beauty from Wood
Reprinted from the Ontario Daily Report, Ontario, CA (December 20, year unknown)
An Ontario cabinet maker who possesses remarkable skill and a penchant for intense work has demonstrated what leisure time will yield by fashioning a group of tables, each intricately designed in inlay and overlay with thousands of tiny pieces of wood.
The cabinet maker is E. W. Miller, proprietor of the Blue Ribbon Builders, 517 East A Street. Miller has several examples of his handiwork on display there, each one of them the result of more than six months of engrossing and difficult labor.
Miller has two davenport tables, each of them containing 20,000 sections of rare and ordinary woods cut and pieced together to form complicated geometric designs. He also had a card table, with a checker board in the center, similarly built up.
THREE OTHER TABLES
In addition to those on hand, Miller has made three other tables in the two years since he first took up this work as a hobby. What started as a means for mental relaxation turned into an art as Miller's proficiency increase, until now he constructs perfect examples in wood mosaic. But to the average person who looks and marvels, the cabinet maker's original idea of seeking relaxation in the task of fitting a genuine jig-saw puzzle by making the pieces as he goes along, is a bit remote.
Miller's davenport tables, for instance, each contain more than 50 different kinds of wood -- some of them so ordinary that the average person never thought they would prove decorative or workable, others so rare they are seldom seen. A few of the woods he used in these tables are umbrella tree, olive, apple, purple heart, ebony, walnut, cocobolo, tulip, zebra, cedar, rosewood (in four shades), peach, cherry, lemon, mesquite, jujube, ironwood, carob, apricot, fig, orange.
KEEPS HIS EYES OPEN
Some of these woods Miller buys, some he trades for; many of the others he picks up here and there, watching for instances when a resident is forced to cut down some dying tree he had purchased perhaps for its exotic character. He makes frequent forays into the hills to gather different varieties of pine, oak and mesquite.
All his wood stock must be thoroughly kiln-dried before he may use it, to prevent shrinkage. And he must be careful not to place too soft a wood next to an exceptionally hard one, for the softer will work down more under the sandpaper finishing, leaving his surface wavy. Turned portions, such as the legs, are built up in squares from several woods, and worked cross-grain on a lathe, so that the different colors will show side by side.
The work requires infinite patience and accuracy, but Miller says it not only has proved restful but definitely a cure for "the economic blues," when one's mind is apt to prey rather too much on business troubles. And now that he is well versed in the art, his hobby products are finding a market of their own.