Ruth.Niles

About Me

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 fabric shop where I gave lessons closed, I opened a small fabric shop in the front room of my house, gradually adding more fabric and trim.   I had an apartment upstairs in the house and had 5 rooms of fabric and needlecraft supplies downstairs.  After 5 years I sold the house and shop.  I've always loved antiques and starting going to estate auctions where I met Annette and soon we were stocking up to start an antique shop in her barn.  We built a small shelter for her miniature goat and pot-belly pig, insulated the barn and opened "Annette's Antiques".   We were passing up great antique furniture because a spindle or finial was missing and I decided to find out how to make these replacement parts.  I went to the library, read about turning table legs, it said I needed a lathe and turning tools so I went to Sears and said "I need a lathe and turning tools".   I took 2 turning books out of the library, 2 weeks at a time, and learned how to turn.

A few years later I attended the AAW Symposium in Providence, RI and was introduced to a whole new world of woodturning.

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 and 2 dozen coffee scoops for a gift shop they were starting in the museum.  I had never turned a bottle stopper but said "sure"....how hard can it be!  At that time the only stoppers 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.

The new design allowed my artwork to sit close to the top of the bottle and it looked  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 ordered 100 pieces for my own use.  I never thought about being in the stopper business.

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.  A year later when I went to pick up an order, the machinist told me they filed a patent on my stopper design.  About 3 years later I saw a stopper set in Walmart that could stand and gave the machine shop a picture and the standing SS-8000 (original #701) was produced.  Again the machine shop got the patent ..... I never thought to have a patent but it taught me a good lesson.  When using any machine shop, I first get a "non compete" agreement signed.

Glass blowers and fused glass workers found my website and asked about stoppers compatible with glass.  Being a woodturner, I knew nothing about glass.  They told me what they needed and I had it 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 hundreds of thousands of my stoppers since offering them at that first trade show in 2005.

When I designed that original tapered cone shape it was only to fill the commissioned order.  I didn't give a lot of thought to how efficiently it fit wine bottles.   Over the years customers complained the tapered stoppers didn't fit screw-top (whiskey or wine) and bottles imported from Italy or several Balsamic vinegar bottles.  I started really looking at my stopper design for ways to improve it. The inside of bottles don't taper so the tapered stopper had only 1 o-ring that can possibly make contact to seal.  It does seal many bottles very nicely but I wanted it to seal  better since a lot of people wanted to lay the bottle on its side and that cannot safely be done with the tapered style. I knew the cork shape was the only way to go, after all it has been used for thousands of years.

In order to get a superior fit, I went to all the taverns and restaurants in town (it is a college town so there are a lot of taverns!) and asked if they would save empty whiskey and wine bottles for one weekend.  Monday I collected all the bottles, saved one of each brand and style and put the rest out for recycling ...... my neighbors thought I had one heck of a party!  Then I cut the necks off of the bottles and sent them to my new machine shop where they perfected the slight taper and o-ring size that best fit every bottle neck.

 

These pictures show the difference and the superior seal of the SS-9000 cork-style stoppers.  I had this and every product that Paul, my main manufacturer and owner of Precision Crafted Products in MO, and I have designed and we (together) have patents on all my products.  *note: this is the first manufacturer (machine shop) I've used that 3 other large suppliers and a professional woodturner asked if they could have Paul make special products for them.  That assured me I found a superior shop to do my work!

A glass blower and good customer designed an exclusive glass breaking wave stopper top for PAU Vodka in Hawaii and we designed a custom stainless steel stopper for PAU's top-shelve brand (1st pic).  The PAU company signed the design over to me, it is patented.   Another customer who creates high-end men's jewelry needed an exclusive stopper for a solid gold lion decanter top he designed to fit a $4,000 decanter.  Together we designed the 'decanter' stopper, which is also patented (look at me with these patents!)(2nd pic).   The gold bottle stopper was designed for a 50th year in business Cosmetic company who use them as promotional gifts at the big trade shows. (3rd pic).  The last was a great an exclusive stopper and opener variation designed for Laserkeep who does all sorts of neat custom engraving.

decanter stainless steel bottle stopper            

Now it's 16 years later and I now have Bourbon and whiskey stoppers.  I am amazed at the number of people who use stoppers in their whiskey bottles.  Also there are a larger range of sizes in these bottles than wine.  Wine is basically 3 sizes and each is a small difference but with all the "spirits", there are many sizes.  The first one we offered is ok; those of you that know me, "ok" is not good enough, it has to be "perfect" or darn close.  The second one didn't thrill me but I needed my customer's opinion since you are the ones buying them and selling or gifting them.  It fit some bottles.  So we again got as many brands to check sizes and several customers sent diameter measurements and we created the 610, 620 and 630 Bourbon and whiskey stoppers.  I can now safely say No Bottle Left Behind!  Also due to the popularity and superior seal of all the new styles we now have, I've decided to drop the original tapered stoppers and design another, better sealing stopper to take its place for the customers that like a more slender stopper.

All my products are Made in America! I firmly believe we should keep OUR economy in OUR country.   Precision Crafted Products in MO has made all my products for many years.  Their honesty and attention to detail, fine quality machining and extra care in packing is impressive.  My stoppers are made from FDA 304 grade stainless, they have been tested by the FDA and I get mill certs with every order of stainless steel because if I say they are "304 18-8", they darn well better be!

Today I still do woodturning and The Village Artisans Gallery, in Boiling Springs, PA sells my work.   I am not just a supplier, I use my products.   I support and promote my customers' work on the customer  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.

*note: Privacy Policy: I do not collect names and addresses or contact information for any purpose other than to contact you regarding an order and it is kept confidental.  No picture is put on the Gallery page without the permission of the artist and they determine any links or contact information they want with their picture.  If someone wants to buy a piece and there is no contact or website, I forward that email to the artist: I never give out anyone's email address.

I like to say "I am not a real business, I am a happy woodturner sharing the products I like to turn and sell to the public."  I hope you enjoy my website.

If you have any comments or suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
E-mail: ruthniles@gmail.com or call 717-486-5232

Thank you,

Ruth Niles