Welcome to my website. I started turning wood in Dec. 1990. Since I had to support myself and a couple of kids, the first 5 years I did mostly architectural turning; porch and stair spindles, etc. for contractors and turning chair spindles, table legs, etc. for antique dealers. Before learning how to turn wood, I was a seamstress and along with sewing custom clothing and wedding gowns I did artistic fabric wall hangings with fabrics. When the small fabric shop where I gave lessons closed, I opened a small fabric shop in the front room of my house. After 4 years I sold the house and shop then a friend, Annette, and I opened an antique shop in her barn. We built a small shelter for her miniature goat and pot-belly pig, insulated the small barn and opened the shop. That was when I learned spindle turning and caning chair seats.
I can relate to my customers that sell their artwork. I understand creating, producing, marketing and sitting for 2 to 4 days in a booth at a craft fair trying to make a living; which only half worked so, in addition, I waitressed 4 days a week.
When I started doing artistic turning, in Feb. 2005, Tina LeCoff at "The Center for Art in Wood" commissioned me to make two dozen bottle stoppers for a gift shop they were starting in the museum. At that time the only style available for woodturners were the long chrome-plated style shown below. I made two and definitely did not care for the style nor the quality. I put one of those chrome stoppers on my son's metal lathe, cut it down to a shape I liked. The first picture below shows the shaping cuts of the chrome stopper where I removed most of the height and before I shortened and softly rounded the nose. I had these pictures and my drawings notarized to prove I am "the original designer".
The new design allowed my artwork to sit close to the top of the bottle where I felt it looked so much more comfortable. I took the prototype chrome stopper to a small machine shop in town and asked about having them made. They were not interested and it took me 3 or 4 weeks to get them to give me a price. They figured it was a waste of their time and I understood; after all here is this little old lady asking for bottle stoppers! I got a lot of different brands of bottles (wine, liquor, oil) from the local recycling center and perfected the stopper shape so it fit the vast majority of the bottles. I ordered 100 pieces for my own use. I was pleased with the results, everything was in proportion and I had so many more design possibilities with the lower profile stainless bottom.
Woodturning friends saw the stoppers and wanted them, they showed their friends and club members and thus was created the SS Niles Bottle Stoppers! I presented them at a woodturning symposium in Gainsville, GA. in April, 2005 and started selling to the public on my website in July, 2005. This was an 'accidental' business. The machine shop and I applied for a patent for my (then) style 301 and it was granted in 2008: patent D575,639.. Then in 2014, I saw stoppers that had a flat bottom and sent the picture below to the machine shop and said I wanted to put that on my stoppers, too. We numbered these 701 and they became more popular than the cone (301) style and in 2014 we were granted patent D758,853 These are "design" patents which were granted because of our total design with the 3 o-rings and specific taper of the working part.
Glass blowers and fused glass workers found my website and asked about stoppers compatible with glass. I told them I was a woodturner, I knew nothing about glass but if they told me what they needed, it could be made. Next stone workers, bead workers, porcelain, door knobs, granite and lava rocks. Each dictated what they wanted or needed so the stoppers for that particular craft were designed by the artists themselves. By this time I needed to find a larger, more professional machine shop to handle the orders. I have sold over 400,000 of my stoppers since offering them at that first trade show in 2005. Because of competitor confusion, I changed my product numbers to be thousands (thousands are better than hundreds!) so the 301 is now my SS-6000 and the 701 is now SS-8000.
When I designed the original taper cone shape, I was only going to fill the commissioned order, I didn't want to be in the bottle stopper business. Silly me! A number of customers complained the stoppers didn't fit screw-top (whiskey or wine) and bottles imported from Italy, etc. I started really looking at my stopper design for ways to improve it. The inside of bottles don't taper so with the tapered stopper shape, only 1 o-ring made contact. In a lot of bottles it sealed very nicely but I wanted it to seal more bottles and seal better since a lot of people wanted to lay the bottle on its side and that cannot safely be done with the tapered. I knew the cork shape was the only way to go. These pictures show the difference and the superior seal of my SS-9000 cork-style stoppers. My patent for this new design was granted 2018, patent D807,114
One of my customers who is a glass blower designed an exclusive stopper for PAU Vodka in Hawaii and we designed a custom cork-style stainless steel stopper for PAU's top-shelve brand (1st pic below). The PAU company signed the design over to me exclusively and it is SS-6500 and there is a patent pending. Another customer who does high-end jewelry was commissioned to create a solid gold and sterling silver lion structure for the top of a stopper for a $4,000 decanter and they loved our stainless cork style. Picture on right has a patent pending, also. This will be for larger top-shelf liquor bottles and decanters.
All my products are Made in America! I firmly believe we should keep OUR economy in OUR country. Woodturners who remember Stubby lathes, knew Bill Rubenstein and Bill introduced me to Precision Crafted Products in MO. Their honesty and attention to detail, fine quality machining and extra care in packing was impressive; since 2014 they have been manufacturing all my stoppers and mandrels. My stoppers are made from FDA 304 grade stainless, they have been tested by the FDA and I make sure I have all the mill certs to back that up because if I say they are "304", they darn well better be! Please beware of knock-offs of my stoppers and mandrels and just about everything I have to offer.
Today I still sell my woodturning work through artisan galleries so I am not just a supplier, I use my products. I support and promote my customers' work on the Artists' Gallery page where I put links to their websites or where their work can be purchased. I enjoy and am proud to have their work displayed.
I hope you enjoy my website.