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Women in Woodworking - Meet Silvana Ralphs
By Char Miller-King
Atlanta, GA

Blending a unique style of modern and rustic furniture with geometric design at the forefront, Silvana Ralphs adds a humble artistic touch to the world of simplistic creativity with wood. Born and raised in Brazil, Silvana relocated to the states four years ago, where she currently lives in California and works as a full-time maker of Sil Ralphs Designs.

Her passion for making began years ago when she created a TV panel for her mother with only a hammer, nails, and a handsaw. She recalls there being a number of challenges beyond using the rudimentary tools that were at her disposal. There was also the component of being the only woman she knew who was into woodworking and the lack of resources and encouragement provided at that time. Nevertheless, she forged ahead and continued her journey. Drawing inspiration from the birth of her daughter over a decade ago, while in the process of designing her nursery, Silvana wanted to create heirloom pieces that would last for generations to come. This was the true spark that lit her passion for making.

Fast-forward to present day, you can see her making one of a kind pieces from her home workshop; creating a variety of tables from scrap wood, oak, and ash. Oak is a great choice as its open pores allow it to accept stain readily, which can bring out the unique color variations, whereas Ash is known for its strength and durability. Silvana embraces the half lap joint and pulling ideas from places most of us would not consider, like movies. One of my personal favorites is her gaming-dining table she made for a client. At first glance you are imagining enjoying a meal at a shaker-esque table with a classic white base and solid oak top. Until you take a closer look and realize that the top is removable and underneath you can play a full on game of air hockey. The gaming table even includes wood strikers and a puck to slide into the custom made goals.

Among all the commissions she has done, one of her favorites was a modern-style grey king-sized bedroom set complete with nightstands. She rarely makes beds so this was a true treat for her. However, her latest obsession derives from a set of four counter height chairs with angled legs and backs, not only did she design and build them, but also upholstered them. Now, she enjoys coming up with functional designs to suit the seating needs of her clients.

Silvana's resilience and ability to persevere only adds to the quality of her work. She recalls a YouTube video that gave instructions on how to build a couch with pentagon-shaped sides. After finishing the build she decided the project wasn't good enough. She completely dismantled it and converted it to a coffee table and two benches. Silvana proudly stated, "The coffee table I made ended up being one of my best builds. I sold it right away and my client loved it. I suppose the lesson learned was, if you don't like the piece, it doesn't mean you have to keep it, just take it apart and retry, wood is resilient."

When it comes to racking up the tools, Silvana is winning. She has come a long way with the use of a few hand tools. Her arsenal includes a host of every Ryobi power tool you can imagine, as well as a trusty Rigid table saw, Rikon bandsaw, and Grizzly planer. You name it, she's got it. Her go to is the table saw. Many woodworkers say this is the one tool that allows them to grow their skill set and it's the one tool they use for almost every project.

She also has plenty of clamps and has developed some great ways that work for her when cutting multiple pieces, such as stacking boards that need the same exact measurements and clamping them.

Best of all, sometimes she uses her legs to hold her boards steady. Her make-it-work persona lends itself to starting BIG! For those who are fretful of taking on a new large project because of potential mistakes, she says, "an error of a few millimeters is not even noticeable in a big project, whereas in a small project, it may ruin the whole piece.

Silvana is different is so many great ways. Many of us have a YouTube channel, but she has TWO! One in her native Portuguese langauge, which she has had for about a year and one in English which she just started. She hopes to grow her English language channel and grow her business base in Monterey and Santa Cruz, California. She believes her clients homes will feel a bit cozier with a classic piece from Sil Ralph Designs.

You can learn more about Silvana's journey and her work, by following her on Instagram. You can also watch her on her YouTube channel, which is also available in Portugese.

You can check out Char's website at https://www.thewoodenmaven.com/ and follow her on Instagram.

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