Entries sought for world’s greatest contest for veneer craftsmanship
May 11, 2021 | 8:02 pm CDT

Patrice Lejeune captured the Grand Prize in the 2020 Craftsman’s Challenge with his “Treasure Box III,” which features spectacular marquetry on the outside with intricate interior drawers and secret compartments.

Time is running out to enter the world’s most prestigious competition for woodworking in veneer. The 2021 Veneer Tech Craftsman’s Challenge offers thousands of dollars in prize money in a wide range of categories to honor the best work in veneer in the world.

Grand Prize is $3,000 and other category winners earn $1,000 each. Categories include furniture, cabinets, architectural woodwork, marquetry, specialty products, and student work. There is also a special prize for first-time entrants.

Since the goal of the contest is to promote the use of veneer, there are also special prizes to honor suppliers who provide the winning materials. In addition to the Grand Prize award of $3,000, the distributor for the veneer used in that entry receives $2,000 and the distributor salesman receives $1,000 for supplying the veneer products or wood product application used.
The contest was created and continues to be sponsored by Veneer Technologies, but it the competition is now owned and run by CCI Media LLC, the parent of Woodworking Network and FDMC magazine.

It is easy to enter, but don’t delay because entries close June 7. The 2021 entry form is now available: https://www.judgify.me/2021-craftsmans-challenge.

Scores of entries showed spectacular veneer work in the 2020 Veneer Tech Craftsman’s Challenge.

Top prize of $3,000 went to Patrice Lejeune, a furniture maker and marquetry expert who is adept in traditional French marquetry as practiced during the 17th and 18th centuries. His piece, “Treasure Box III,” featured eye-popping marquetry tableaus on all sides using 40 different species of wood selected for their historical pertinence. Species include boxwood, espanilla, walnut, cherry, holy, pink ivory, yew, olive, pear, mahoganies, hornbeam, and dyed wood.

But not all the winning entries feature historic or traditional themes.

David Lamb four seasons of Acadia
“Four Seasons of Acadia” by David Lamb won first prize in the 2020 furniture category, featuring not only impeccable veneer work but also intricate carving.

David Lamb, a cabinetmaker in Canterbury, New Hampshire, won top honors and $1,000 in the highly contested Furniture category with his piece called “Four Seasons of Acadia.” 

“The goals of this project were to create a piece that contains visual aspects that celebrate the four seasons of New England, specifically Acadia National Park in Maine to celebrate its 100th year in 2016,” said Lamb. “The primary focus was a display of ‘black ice’ veneer work. The interior carving contains imagery for the other three seasons.”

John Harper of EMC Woodworking in Phoenix, Arizona, won the $1,000 prize for the Cabinetry category for his humidor cabinet. Designed to pick up some of the details of a nearby pool table, the wall mounted cabinet features Spanish cedar (both veneer and hardwood), plain sliced olive veneer, gold mother of pearl, ebony, and poplar. 

James Moore student design winner
James Moore won the 2020 Student Design award for this curved cabinet with tambour doors.

An important feature of the contest is the Student Design division. The 2020 student award went to James Moore, a student at Northern Vermont University. His winning “Curved Cabinet” is a wall hung cabinet inspired by the work of Rchard Scott Newman. 
Moore used quilted big leaf maple veneer, gaboon ebony, and figured sugar maple. “Veneer was the only way to ensure the piece could be glued up tightly to allow the door to slide and to precisely place the rays along the top and bottom arcs,” he said. “Without veneer, the movement of the wood would shift the inlay and the alignment of the tambour door track.”

Dusan Rakic Helena
“Helena,” a veneer painting by Dusan Rakic, won first place in the 2020 Specialty Products category.

Some modern veneer projects escape the bounds of classification, so the contest features a category for Specialty Products. Last year, the winner was Dusan Rakic, a resident of Serbia who entered a veneer painting titled “Helena –Summer Theme – The beauty of youth.” The piece was made with approximately 250 marquetry wood details in veneer from cherry, Indian apple, madrone, maple, spalted maple, maple burl, and walnut.

“It was a great challenge to show the sentiment through the wood media through the marquetry technique,” he said. “The most important aspect of making the piece was a diverse selection of natural veneers.”

In the hotly contested Marquetry category, Paul Schurch of Schurch Woodwork in Santa Barbara, California, a previous multi-time winner of the Veneer Tech Craftsman’s Challenge, struck again, capturing the Marquetry category with “Waldo’s Coffee,” a wall-hung tableau of coffee beans. The piece is 34 inches tall and 84 inches wide, but it also features a tiny micro-marquetry Waldo character hidden among the coffee beans.

“I wanted to make an interesting image from natural wood that would look somewhat non-descript from 15 feet away, yet draw the viewer in closer to discover the depth of coffee bean patters to yet maybe even further in to discover the micro marquetry, maybe Waldo, and wonder what’s the story on this little guy,” said Schurch.

The piece features thousands of beans, toasted edges to give depth and uses mango veneer with a koa border.
Besides cash prices, winners earn recognition throughout the industry as a true craftsperson for their use of natural veneer.

To learn more about the contest, this year’s judges, and how to enter, go to https://www.woodworkingnetwork.com/events-contests/veneer-tech-craftsmans-challenge.

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About the author
William Sampson

William Sampson is a lifelong woodworker, and he has been an advocate for small-scale entrepreneurs and lean manufacturing since the 1980s. He was the editor of Fine Woodworking magazine in the early 1990s and founded WoodshopBusiness magazine, which he eventually sold and merged with CabinetMaker magazine. He helped found the Cabinet Makers Association in 1998 and was its first executive director. Today, as editor of FDMC magazine he has more than 20 years experience covering the professional woodworking industry. His popular "In the Shop" tool reviews and videos appear monthly in FDMC.