Al Ladd  Fine Edge Woodworking


All of my work on display in this site, and the vast majority of my professional output, involves the lamination of blocks of wood with a geometric pattern running through and through, which are then cut thinner for use, like a loaf of bread, or sushi. I use only naturally colored woods, and contrasting tones and colors form much of the substance of my work. I have been exploring these techniques since my days as a college student over twenty years ago, and I make every effort to venture into new territory every year. The horizon remains limitless. Now that I have a CNC router, my lamination techniques compete against the possibilities opened up by the speed and precision of CNC work, but both have their place.

 For many years all the blocks I worked with ran long grain, and the patterned surface was thus end grain, resulting in a striking crispness in the finished surface, but also constraining how the panels could be used. As these panels can’t be glued down to a substrate, they must free float; easy for a cutting board, difficult for a box. They also cannot be too large in any one dimension, limiting the canvas size of any piece featuring single end grain panels. Because of these difficulties this method of construction has been little explored for decorative use, and I have been something of a pioneer. My end grain jewelry boxes and small boxes are instantly recognized as the work of Al Ladd by connoisseurs of contemporary American craft .

 Used as cutting boards the pieces have the obvious advantage of endgrain’s extreme hardness –about twelve times that of the corresponding face grain. This is how professional-use butcher’s blocks are made. My cutting boards have been a staple at many of the county's finest craft galleries since 1985, combining extreme beauty with the height of functionality, a contemporary craft classic.

If the block is constructed such that the patterned surface is face grain, using the width of the board as the block’s length, then it can be sliced thin (1/16") and used as veneer. This allows for the exploration of figured wood’s chatoyancy, or light reflecting qualities, and a lighter hued palette. It is more difficult to make the pieces used to make these blocks, as one is usually cutting against the grain, or quite strangely, across face grain. The resulting slices off these blocks are commonly known as inlay bandings, and they have a long and glorious history in fine woodworking. Almost all recent commercial inlay bandings use inferior materials, usually dyed softwoods stack laminated to mimic figured wood, with dubious results. A French firm, Buffard Freres, made exquisite inlay bandings in the first half of the last century, and my current work with inlay bandings owes much to the spirit of theirs.

For many years I sold most of my work through galleries that specialize in American craft, attending a yearly national wholesale craft show. This allowed me to work on pieces I’d already sold, and so I have developed the solid work and business habits necessary to maintain decades-long professional relationships with gallery owners. As the techniques I work with are inherently those for creating multiples, production work suits it well, yet my work is of at least comparable quality to the finest one-of-a-kind pieces from trained furniture masters. Indeed, since I have specialized in two types of accessories, jewelry boxes and cutting boards, constantly innovating, refining, and innovating again, my work is without peer. I have constructed to make it easier for a broader audience to view and purchase my work, and the ability to sell direct to the consumer has allowed me to work in smaller batches, and pursue new ideas with speed and alacrity. Thanks for looking at my work!