Duane Kriebel has spent most of his life learning about wood.
Duane Kriebel, owner and operator of Spheramid Woodworks and Richmond Renovations and Restorations in Waco, Kentucky got the idea of making wooden snowflakes over 20 years ago from a magazine article. He modified the process, and began the journey to what he says became almost an obsession to come up with new and striking designs within the parameters of the medium. Wood has always been his favorite thing to create with, but Duane relates that it can also be quite contrary in what it will allow one to accomplish.
Having worked at a variety of wood related jobs over the last 30 years, from pallets to pipe organs, guitars and custom furniture, and homes, the ornament and woodworking artist used his skills and learned “seat of the pants” engineering to make his shop a productive snow flake environment. He also credits a wonderful group of mentors over the years for his success.
The flakes are a combination of additive wood work and subtractive wood work. The beginning is removing choice areas of 6 individual “rails” and then gluing the 6 rails into a “Log”, of which the flakes are sliced off and finish sanded and sprayed. Much like a sculptor, Duane doesn’t always know just what the final flake will look like, nor if it will even stay together through the process of machining and finishing.
The 6 pointed star or hexagon is true to the crystalline structure of frozen water, and the 100’s of designs assure most folks never get 2 alike, just like real snow! The Spheramid Woodworks ornaments are real wood, made with real hands, and each flake is inspected and handled many times before it is passed along to the buyer.
Kriebel tells us that he always had a fascination with spheres and the work of Buckminster Fuller, and that the hexagons and triangles of a geodesic dome are inspiring. The company name Spheramid is a marriage of a Sphere, which is implosion proof and the most economical use of space in the universe and the pyramid, which represents a strong, long lasting base or rigidity. These are the unique properties Duane says that he strives for in his life and in his work.
The species of wood used for the ornaments are local to the central Kentucky area and include poplar, sycamore, gingko, maple, white oak, pine, Kentucky coffee tree, and most any wood that Duane can find that is strong, glues well, and machines well. There is very little area to glue and 50% of it is what wood workers call “end grain” that is a difficult way to glue up things due to the porosity of the end grain acting like a handful of soda straws, wicking up the glue. All non-toxic, and no rain forest wood, makes the wooden ornaments fit well with the environment.
Duane says that it is always a great feeling to see the looks on the faces of those who receive a flake for the first time. Every year brings new ideas, new production methods, improvements and quite a bit of fodder for the woodstove. He used to shovel the scraps into the shop woodstove when things weren’t working out. Many, many hours of milling and sanding, spraying lacquer out doors in winter, playing with pearl finish and trying to make wood look more “icy” gets him very involved in the Christmas Spirit.
Perfect ornaments for decorating the Christmas tree, year round uses are also plentiful. Buyers and family members always come up with new uses for the flakes, such as refrigerator magnets, earrings, attached to a ceiling fan pull chain, placed on a screen door to keep people from walking though the closed screen ( or even a glass door), coasters, window shade pulls. You name it, someone has mentioned it. Many folks like to paint them with the kids for the tree trimming adventure.
Article & images used with permission from Duane Kriebel-Spheramid Woodworks.