Most works include several hundred extremely thin strips or small segments of wood from many different species such as koa, redwood, teak, poplar, padauk, wenge, pine, walnut, butternut, mahogany, and maple. Occasionally, he will inlay a small sliver of stone (such as turquoise) or shell (such as abalone, mother of pearl, or a single seashell) as an understated, yet exquisitely detailed, custom touch.
Michael uses the strip-build technique along with his proprietary system of steaming, strapping, clamping, glue-up, and multiple stages of rough sanding through finish sanding to achieve his desired design and shape for each piece. The strip-build technique involves placing a single strip of wood – one strip at a time – over a hollow wood or chambered frame. Similar to the construction of an airplane wing, the hollow or chambered interior frame has a spar and ribs to provide shape and strength – without adding weight.
The final step in the process is the application of the finish involving either traditional ‘glassing’ (fiberglass cloth and resin polished to a high-gloss shine) or a more modern clear varnish or epoxy resin to achieve a matte (satin) finish. The finish is dependent upon both client preference and materials used in the piece. For example, while the salvaged mango wood flooring accepted the traditional fiberglass and resin process, the reclaimed wine tank lumber reacted unfavorably, most likely because of the red wine tannins within the wood. Thus, all future pieces comprised primarily of the tannin-rich wood require a more modern varnish or epoxy.
Interestingly, when applied to the old-growth redwood or other reclaimed lumber, these more modern finishes create a juxtaposition most collectors find appealing.