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SBIO Grad Cole Burch (‘13) Wins in Vegas


The winning Shaker blanket chest The winning Shaker blanket chest

Oct. 23, 2013 – Recent Wood Science/Sustainable Biomaterials graduate Cole Burch took home second place honors in the national Association of Woodworking and Furnishings Suppliers (AWFS) 2013 Fresh Wood Student Competition in Las Vegas. Cole’s entry, a hand-crafted Shaker blanket chest, was the final result of an independent study project. This project involved research about the design, quality, and construction aspects of Shaker furniture and an analysis of the similarities and differences of materials, tools, and methods available today vs. those originally used. 


Cole Burch and project advisors Cole Burch (left) with winning chest and project advisors David Jones (center) and Dr. Earl Kline (right).

Cole used his research from literature, magazines, and observation to test both modern manufacturing methods as well as traditional craft methods to determine which would perform best in terms of function, quality, and aesthetics observed during the Shaker period. Ultimately, a balance of both modern and traditional methods were combined to complete the winning blanket chest. For Cole to achieve the distinguishing “custom” look of the chest required hand cutting of the dovetail construction. “Having never hand-cut dovetails of this magnitude, the four dovetailed corners presented a challenge in both layout and execution. I spent many hours gathering information and then testing methods to make sure high quality cuts could be repeated consistently before making the final corner pieces,” Cole stated.


Cole's and blanket chest Tommy Mac unsuccessfully making an offer to buy Cole’s blanket chest.

The AWFS 2013 Fresh Wood Student Competition is the largest of its kind, and highlights exemplary design and construction achievements by students. Students must complete a rigorous application process to submit information that concisely documents the project. From this information, Cole was one of 41 finalists selected from over 130 entries to showcase his work in Vegas. His work was reviewed and judged by a panel of internationally acclaimed design and woodworking professionals. While Cole was personally honored by his Fresh Wood Competition win, a surprise honor came later when Thomas MacDonald, host of Rough Cut – Woodworking with Tommy Mac, made an offer to purchase the blanket Chest. Congratulations Cole!



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