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 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.

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.  This was an 'accidental' business.

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 over 425,000 (as of Jan. 2018) 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, it was to fill the commissioned order, I didn't want to be in the bottle stopper business. Silly me!  Over the years 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 of the o-rings can possibly make contact.  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 machine shop where they perfected the 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.  My patent for this new design was granted 2018, patent D807,114

A glass blower and good customer 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 it is patented.   Another customer and friend who creates high-end men's jewelry needed an exclusive stopper for a solid gold lion structure he designed for the top of a stopper to fit a $4,000 decanter and he loved our stainless cork style.   Together we designed the 'decanter' stopper, which is also patented.

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 who insisted I get a "better machine shop" and 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!

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.

If you have any comments or suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact me. E-mail: ruth@nilesbottlestoppers.com or call 717.486.5232.

Thank you,

Ruth Niles