Exquisite art of marquetry


(To view our January/February 2019 issue of ClubWEST online, click here.)

60 Years in the making

By Joanne McDonald

Scratch the veneer from John Sedgwick and you’ll find a man who loves wood.

His Grimsby home is a showcase of award-winning marquetry created on furniture that he has made, a testament to both the ancient art of exquisitely worked veneers and his skill and passion for the work.

His woodworking shop out back is a place of mindfulness where the world disappears in the focus of the wood. Lines of clamps hang from the shop walls with a precision that speaks to his profession as a mechanical engineer.

It appears there are clamps enough to lock down a fort, yet says Sedgwick, gleefully sharing the woodworkers’ universal lament, you can never have too many clamps.

“He who dies with the most clamps wins.”

In the corner sits the piece de resistance – a carousel – 20 years of intricate marquetry in the making and now just eight months short of completion. It is a masterpiece.

Constructed on a mechanically engineered rotating circular platform and expertly overlaid with artful figures and patterns made of gorgeous wood veneers, the carousel now awaits Sedgwick’s eight hand carved Roman soldiers driving horse-drawn chariots to complete the labour of love.

Researched and themed around the ancient Romans, Sedgwick started carving the horses and making the chariots two years ago. He is now working on the tack to drive the teams.

Marquetry is an intricate and labour-intensive technique where different natural colours of wood veneers are carefully cut to fit precisely together, creating a spectacular design in a single sheet or picture.

“Think of paint by numbers with no numbers and no paint, just naturally coloured wood fitted together like a jigsaw puzzle to create a design or pattern,” he says.

Sedgwick is a fine gentleman.

He speaks with the authority of decades dedicated to the art and his enthusiasm retains the delight of the youngster who received his first hobby veneer kit, a Christmas gift from his father when he was 12 years old.

He was born in England, the Village of Kent where everybody knew everybody and “everybody had a hobby that didn’t plug in.”

His father, Harold had the foresight to introduce his son to the fine art, but could hardly have known the enduring joy it would bring.

There was a company in the UK that sold veneers to the

furniture industry. Large sheets were custom supplied and the discarded bits would end up in a dumpster.

An industrious employee saw an opportunity to use the leftover pieces and he developed a kit with all the ingredients to complete a small craft project.

One of the popular hobbies at the time was paint by number kits.

The employee took the paint by number pattern and thought, “what if I cut the veneers and put numbers on them.”

He took small pieces of veneer, stamped numbers according the paint by numbers pattern and packaged them with a scalpel, a bit of sandpaper, and a few basic instructions to make the kits that are still sold to this day.

“The concept of the kit was to show that you can paint any design and any pattern with wood.”

By the age of 16, Sedgwick was fascinated by the process. He would ‘dumpster dive’ behind cabinet shops to glean small pieces of discarded veneer.

He studied and learned and began making his own

The focus on marquetry would go into hiatus for the next few years as Sedgwick, at the age of 18, went into the British Army and served for two years before emigrating to Canada.

He married his wife Maria and together they raised a family while Sedgwick worked on building his own manufacturing company designing automated equipment.

Eventually he found a few extra hours and returning to the fine art in 1982 he turned his focus to finding others who shared his passion. “I thought there must be more people
doing this.”

There was a founding society in the UK and France and as it was the days before the internet, he wrote to England and asked if there were any members in Canada and the US.

He received the names of eight people attached to the British society.

They lived far and wide from Kingston and Niagara through to Detroit and the US. He wrote each one a letter.

Four were actively doing marquetry, two were older cabinet makers by then in their late 70s and two were hobbyists. They formed the Marquetry Society of Canada in 1983.

“I had never met anyone elsr and wanted to see what others were doing,” Sedgwick said.

He started going to wood shows and meeting people with the shared passion and found the woodworkers’ mecca at Lee Valley Tools where he regularly teaches seminars at locations across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA.)

Students spend a day creating their own projects and learning techniques, some of which come from practices used by the Egyptians more than 3,000 years ago.

Much of Sedgwick’s work has involved repairs of marquetry, including music boxes dating from the 1880s.

Through the process and by necessity he has also honed skills in furniture making, furniture repair, wood carving and turning. And each time he moves on to a new project, of course, he needs more tools – a need to which every woodworker will attest.

His work has earned best of show and best of class awards at juried competitions in Canada, the United States and the U.K.

He has contributed to two books and written many articles. His work has graced the covers of two Lee Valley cataloguemagazines and a catalogue.  But always, Sedgwick says modestly, just when you think you’re great, you’re only good.

He finds others, highly skilled, who share his passion and he continues to learn.

Closer to home, Sedgwick was invited last month to exhibit a collection of his work at the Christmas meeting of the Grimsby Probus Club, a sagacious social group by definition, that meets strictly to enjoy the camaraderie of networking with old friends who share decades of professional and life experiences.

For more information about marquetry and photos of Sedgwick’s work visit:

Avro story anything but straight as an arrow


(To view our November/December 2018 issue of ClubWEST online, click here.)

By Mike Williscraft

What is one of Canada’s most legendary mysteries is a vivid memory for Grimsby’s Bill Logan.

The Avro Arrow – infamous for its seemingly arbitrary cancellation by then-Prime Minister John Diefenbaker in February 1959 – is still looked at as an engineering marvel.

This although Diefenbaker ordered every plan, every blueprint, every complete Arrow and all materials related to testing destroyed. Simply, he ordered that every aspect of the project be shredded, burned and/or eliminated.

For Bill, now 96 years old, was fulfilling a lifelong interest in planes and aeronautical engineering when he took a job at Avro Canada, based in Malton, Ont., at the end of WWII.

Avro – with its parent company in England – on its own was a mercurial Canadian success story which opened its doors in 1945 and, at its peak, employed more than 50,000 people with 15,000 of those employees working at the Malton plant and fellow subsidiary Orenda Engines.

Previous to the engineering work on the Arrow, Avro had gained a top-drawer reputation with planes such as the Avro Lancaster Bomber as evidence of their efforts and expertise.

With dedicated employees like Bill in their fold, success was almost guaranteed.

Bill, a Niagara Falls native, adored planes from the time he was a toddler.

“It was all I thought about when I was a youngster,” said Bill with a smile, adding, “you can put the P.Eng. after my name because I am still an engineer.”

“I built more than 100 model planes. I was interested in aircrafts right from the start.

With aeronautics as his sole goal, a university degree in engineering was his immediate goal as a youth.

“I checked out Toronto and Montreal but they didn’t have degrees, I wanted the degree as well, so I went to University of Michigan.

Crossing the border for studies or socializing was much more simple in that era.

“Growing up in Niagara Falls it was nothing to hop across the river for a coffee or entertainment,” Bill recalled.

As a side note Bill noted that he is likely the only living person left who would have seen the collapse of the border bridge in Niagara Falls in 1940.

“It collapsed due to ice build up. I was right there,” said Bill.

Bill got two years in at UofM before WWII broke out, at which time he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Much of his time in the RCAF was spent at the airbase in Dunnville.

Bill Logan with a model of the Arrow and a photo on the wall from the jet’s first flight, March 25, 1958. The photo is signed by Arrow pilot Janusz Zurakowski. Williscraft – Photo

“Because of my stature, they wanted me to be a gunner on a bomber,” said Bill.

“But I had red/green blindness, so I could not do it.”

Because of his knowledge, it made sense to keep Bill involved with pilots and flying so he began his stint training air crew on how the aircrafts work – all phases.

“I got them trained, then the fellas left here for England to join the war effort,” said Bill.

War time in Niagara was a pretty simple time as resources were scarce, something many today would find hard to believe.

“I had an old Chevy so I could get back and forth to Niagara Falls. You couldn’t get tires, so mine had a lot of patches. If you had a problem, you patched it and kept going,” recalled Bill.

“And that was if you could get gas. It was not unusual for a gas station to have a ‘no gas’ sign up.”

So when he had no gas but had to get some place, he used his thumb.

“Hitchhiking was not a problem back then. If you had a uniform on, somebody would pick you up right away,” he said.

“One time in Niagara Falls, I got picked up by a snow plow in a big storm. He needed help working the wing, so I rode with him all the way to Dunnville working that wing.

With the end of the war, soldiers returned home on a “first in, first out” basis. This meant Bill would be released towards the end of the process. This would have compromised his return to UofM to complete his engineering studies, so he wrote a letter asking for permission for early release so he could get to school in time for the semester start.

“The granted my request, so I was one of the first soldiers to return to civilian life. The other fellas weren’t back for another six months or so,” Bill recalled.

“They gave us $150 and told us we could wear our uniforms for one month after we got out. For some, those were the only clothes they had. I was a bit of a celebrity. I got invited everywhere. It was great. I told them I was Canadian but they said that did not matter.. It was a fun time.”

And part of his fun at UofM was extra-curricular activities. Bill was a champion badminton player for Big Blue.

When his second stint at UofM wrapped up, he had a summer work placement and then it was time to job hunt. Post-war, it was not much of a hunt.

“It was really easy to get a job. You didn’t need any experience. When I was done with school, I went to Avro to apply. I got in right away. My first job was just drawing different designs, like wings. Gradually, you worked your way through different aspects of design and eventually I was moved into electrics and hydraulics,” said Bill.

For Bill, who knew what he wanted to do with his life right from the moment he gave it a first thought was now living his dream.

The first major project he worked on for Avro was the Canuck fighter. He spent about 10 years on that project. In 1957, he started working on the Arrow.

Bill Logan, 96, of Grimsby with a set of Avro Arrow drawings. Williscraft – Photo

For an aeronautical engineer, working on the Avro Arrow was the Super Bowl of jobs. There was nothing in the world at that time which was more dynamic, more cutting edge and more challenging than working on a jet fighter which had the world talking. The Arrow was about to make Canada a world power when it came to developing and manufacturing fighter jets.

“We were far ahead of everyone, especially the U.S.,” said Bill with great pride.

“It was the hermetic seals on our electrics and our hydraulics which set us apart. No other plane had what we had.”

The Arrow was developed to combat Soviet spy planes which were regularly invading air space over Alaska and Canada’s northwest.

The Arrow had a wingspan of 50 ft and was 77 ft in length. Its loaded weight was 68,605 lbs.

While there are a lot of other specs to go with those, the major feature of the jet was its speed – maximum Mach 1.98 (1,307 mph) – and its ceiling altitude was 53,000 ft.

The highest altitude passenger plane in use today, 60 years later, is the Gulfstream G650 which has a cruise ceiling of 51,000 ft.

Bill explained that the hermetic seals and hydraulics that had been developed were what allowed the Arrow magic to happen.

“We needed to have our electrics in hermetic seals to keep the air pressure consistent around them. When the plane was at altitude, we had to ensure everything would work,” he said.

During this part of his tenure, Bill said his team had a lot of meeting with U.S. representatives who were seeking to understand how the Canadians were doing what they were doing.

“We had a lot of meetings with U.S. officials. Each time they came around, my boss would say run off of a copy of that design and give it to them. That bothered me,” recalled Bill.

“Why would we give them our technology. I asked a couple of times, ‘Are you sure you want to give that to them?’ I was told, ‘Why not? They are our ally’.”

The key to that situation, said Bill, was the U.S. was not interested and never would be interested in buying fighter planes from any other country. If it was not U.S. made, they were not interested.

“The U.S. wanted our plans and theory, not our jets. I didn’t like giving away our work for free,” said Bill.

Despite the advances in technology which made the Arrow the fastest jet at that time, there were issues.

It was not until some research was assessed from firing eight test models out over Lake Ontario did designers realize that the “steady plane” of the wing’s front edge was “no good”.

“The break in the front edge of the wing solved the in-flight problem,” said Bill.

“The tests really did it.”

And with that, the Arrow was on the edge of making history.


With the U.S. feted with all the information it needed, and England an interested customer, but one which did not have enough financial resources to be a serious bidder, the days of the Arrow came to a screeching halt with an edict from then Prime Minister John Diefenbaker to kill the project.

In keeping with much of the lore of the ill-fated Avro Arrow, its, although sad as far as Canadian history goes, somehow fits its meteoric rise to infamy.

“The day it was cancelled was like any other day. I was sitting at my desk and an announcement came on, “As of now, the Avro Arrow has been cancelled. You are all fired. The security people will see you out of the building,” recalled Bill.

“It was horrifying: thousands out of work just like that.”

Bill was one of the lucky ones. He got two more years of work, shifting over to the CF-100, but most were not so lucky.

“Most of the people I know went to the U.S. to work,” he said.

The end was brutal. Everything was ordered destroyed.

“They came in and cut up the actual jets right in the hangar with blow torches: brand new planes. It didn’t make an ounce of sense. All the investment was done. It was ready,” said Bill.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

But with the Avro Arrow it seems very much to be a living history as there are several conspiracy theories about what would lead Diefenbaker to not only scuttle the project, but to wipe it from the face of the earth, especially given its stature as a source of national pride.

As much as the lack of a customer to buy the jets was part of the mix, Bill says there were other complicating factors.

“The fact we gave the U.S. drawing after drawing, they didn’t have to buy anything. The Canadian Air Force wanted it, but the government didn’t want to pay for it,” he said.

“And aside from that, two of the key people involved just didn’t get along. Our manager at Avro and key government representative had what you would call a personality clash. They just didn’t like each other.”

Michener’s Upper Thirty School rings in new era


(To view our July/August 2018 issue of ClubWEST online, click here.)

By Joanne McDonald

It took 40 years, but Evelyn and Mark Michener have finally graduated from North Grimsby S.S.
No. 6.

They’ve been industrious students of architecture, engineering, construction, planning and plumbing.

And through the decades, the drywall and the dust, they created a magnificent and unique home, raising a family under the bell tower that for many years summoned the Upper Thirty community kids to class.

The ringing of a school bell will always call them to home. Cherished memories, kindred ties and lots of hard work – the Micheners have lived life to the fullest under the slate roof of the school house they’ve called home.

Now 40 years later another epic brick has been added to the school’s rich history. The house has been sold and the Micheners are moving on, taking their memories, but leaving a big part of their hearts, family history and the dedicated labour that has allowed the beautiful historic building to be preserved for the next chapter and a new generation.

Before packing up for the move, the Micheners extended an open invitation to the entire community to tour the house – former students, historians, neighbours, everyone was invited to visit during an open house held Sunday, June 24.

“We wanted people to come and share their connections, memories and memorabilia,” said Evelyn. There is more information on the Facebook page – The Upper Thirty School Centennial North Grimsby. S.S.6

Next year, 2019, marks the centennial of the Upper Thirty School, located at 498 Elm Tree Road East, Grimsby (corner of Thirty Road) and the family wanted to celebrate this landmark before they move.

It was a hard decision to pull up roots, but the three Michener boys, Andrew, James and Stephen are grown, and Evelyn and Mark reached a point where they no longer needed so much space.

“In our hearts we wanted to drive by and see kids playing out in the yard again. It was a beautiful place to raise a family in the country on an acre,” said Evelyn. The family buying the school house have two youngsters and undoubtedly, they will take great glee in sliding down the school’s original iron banister handrails.

Much has been written about the school’s history, an inheritance which the Micheners have treasured and respected throughout the renovations, restoration and years raising their family.

First came Andrew, born in 1980, then James in 1984 and Stephen in 1988. Mark and Evelyn were kids themselves, 23 and 22, when they purchased the school house at the corner of Thirty Road and Elm Tree Road E., Grimsby.

“You really should look at it,” said Mark’s father Lavern Michener when the property came up for sale by the school board in 1978. “It was a project my dad always dreamed of,” said Mark and they worked together every night after supper and weekends.

Moving from their home in Beamsville, the young couple lived with Mark’s parents Lavern and Nell Michener in

Beamsville for four months. Mark was an electrician working with his dad at the time. Evelyn had just become a dental hygienist and graduated that same year.

“It was boarded up with grills on every window in the basement, one large room with 13-foot ceilings and a basement,” said Evelyn, adding that her only condition to purchase the school house was that the glorious huge windows that open to the east in the kitchen would stay.

The school house was still structurally sound and the original slate roof has been repaired and maintained, but inside, they stripped the school to the walls. It was lathe and plaster and had no insulation. They insulated, put in false ceilings, built partition walls, added plumbing and rewired the house. Indoor/outdoor carpet was pulled up revealing original maple floors, which today still bear the screw holes where the desks were placed. They replaced the old

Lincoln furnace with an electric furnace.

Walls went up, dividing the school’s one room into living room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom.

The boys’ and girls’ cloakroom was extended to become a bedroom. The teachers’ office was the nursery. The door has since been removed and the space serves as a nook off the kitchen.

The basement renovations were started in 1983 and an addition, built by Hendriks, was added in 1993. While Hendriks constructed the exterior, Mark did the interior work from drywall to electrical and plumbing, and installed maple flooring to match the original school. By then Mark was working as an electrician at West Lincoln Memorial Hospital and would later become head of maintenance.

The original bell tower was returned to the house in the 80s. “We got the bell tower back, the new owners can find the bell,” Evelyn said.

A newspaper clipping dated July 2, 1988, written by David Cuthill, and information shared by Bill Sobye in his news column Around the Kitchen Table, recorded that Goldie and Harold Aston, who lived in the white frame house at the corner of Ridge Road and the Thirty were the keepers of much of the school’s history.

“Perhaps it was because she boarded the teachers that taught at the U.S.S. #6 that created her interest in the history of the school,” Sobye said of the local historian in his article. Goldie preserved many priceless photos and documents about the community and the school. According to the article the first Upper Thirty school was built around 1800. It was constructed of logs and lumber was supplied by John Beam, who had a sawmill on the Thirty. “In the late 1850s there was a squabble in the community about the location. A vote was taken and those wanting it moved to the corner of Elm Tree and Thirty road, north of the cemetery, won. There are bitter feelings, but the move proceeded. The school was left on the side of the road when night set in and during the night it was burnt, no doubt by the sore losers,” Sobye wrote.

A new frame school was build at the corner of Elm Tree and Thirty road and was opened in 1859. This school served the community until 1919, when the new brick school was built right behind the old frame school. The school closed in 1965 and after being used by Community Living and the local cadet corps, it was boarded up. “The Michener family rescued it and turned it into a beautiful and comfortable home Sobye said, thanking Mark and Evelyn in his article.

Like any busy family, the years passed swiftly, each day beginning with the light pouring through the beautiful kitchen windows where the three boys sat around the table for breakfast.

“We didn’t notice the architecture,” said James, now living in Toronto. But it was unique to live in a school and local landmark and all the brothers credited childhood adventures for their adult appreciation of history and preservation of the past.

“The windows broke just the same as in any house,” recalled Andrew, now a father of two and living in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

As youngsters they slid down the school’s iron banister handrail and as young adults, memorized every creak in the floors for safe landing after curfew.

When someone asked where he lived, Stephen, who now lives in Fulton, only had to say, “the old school house on Thirty.”

Evelyn can still see three little boys, standing on tiptoe on three turned-around chairs to see out the classroom windows and watch the traffic go by.

“The old ‘abc’ school house, the cradle of the mind, at least where it first awakes to a consciousness of its powers and its responsibility of improving them, is hardly less dear than the mother’s cradle where its infant body was rocked,” noted an academic writing in 1859 in the North-Carolina Journal of Education in his plea to build a school for local children of the era.

“Build….. a comfortable school house. Let it crown a gently rising eminence with an ample play ground, first trees to catch the first breezes of Heaven and convey them to the fevered brows of the studying children in summer,” said ‘Professor Owen.’

Close to a century later, it could’ve been written for the Upper Thirty which crowns a hill and catches the summer breeze.