New Technology and Artist Work in Harmony

Photo courtesy of Mark Scheller.

Mark Scheller, president of Scheller Hardwood Floors Inc. in Lemoyne, Pennsylvania, is renowned for his unique designs, innovative installation methods, and uncanny attention to detail. In fact, over the course of his more than 25-year career, he has been recognized with eight NWFA Wood Floor of the Year Awards, including two Members’ Choice Awards.

On this particular floor, the introduction of new technology, the Origin by Shaper Tools, allowed Scheller to finally create a musical masterpiece that had been on his to-do list for more than three years. The installation took place at the home of one of Scheller’s existing clients, a married couple consisting of a harpist for the Hershey Symphony and music teacher, and a lawyer who works from home. The duo, who prides themselves on transforming their home into a retreat, had a vision of a floor that resembled a piece of paper with music written on it.

“I would run into them at social events, particularly fundraisers for the symphony every year, and they would ask when I was going to do the floor,” said Scheller. “When I got the Origin, I realized that this tool would finally make this project a reality. Previously, I could have done it, but it would have required a ton of jigs and patterns, and would have had limited accuracy. I knew that I wouldn’t be fully satisfied with the outcome.”

The project began with a graphic designer who created the artwork using Adobe Illustrator. “There’s a tremendous amount of constraint with the way music is written,” said Scheller. “The way the notes are placed and the spacing within the measures, he was diligent about getting all that correct.”

Scheller then spent two days meticulously racking the floor out to ensure that he had the perfect canvas. The product was 5” engineered maple. He first matched the boards with more color together, and then progressed into the lighter colored boards. He also tried to match up the grain at the butt joints so that even though the boards were already long, it made them appear longer and gave the floor an even appearance. The floor was sanded before starting the inlay to 80 grit to ensure flatness and that the router wouldn’t catch on anything.

Next, Scheller set about placing the design within the floor using the Origin, a hand-held CNC machine. The user can transfer files to their tool using WiFi or USB. The system also relies upon a built-in camera and a special graphic tape for guidance, a visual positioning pattern the system references to orient position and path in real time.

Photo courtesy of Kiley McEvoy.

“Origin uses a camera and specialized tape adhered to your material to build a digital version of your workspace. You can then create designs on the tool or import ones you created on the computer,” said Kiley McEvoy, Vice President of Product, Shaper Tools. “When cutting, Origin will not only guide you where to cut, but will also auto-correct to keep the cutter exactly on your design path.”

Sam Cuttriss, Product Specialist at Shaper Tools, worked with Scheller in finalizing the design process. Something that McEvoy says is one of the many resources the company offers to its users. “We’re working more and more with artists and contractors who need help with their designs. We’re helping them achieve their full vision.”

Cuttriss also flew in to see the project come together. “I came to help, but Mark had his process nailed pretty quickly. He is the ideal artist for a tool like Origin – he’s always looking for novel approaches to problems, and it was exciting to watch him adapt to the tool,” said Cuttriss.

Together, the team spent a day-and-a-half inlaying the first nine bars of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor in a 22-foot-long ribbon made from Gaboon ebony. The musical note inlays were 3/16” thick, and the staff was 1/4” thick.

“This tool is so precise; the inlays are cut a few thousands of an inch smaller than the opening in the floor to ensure an exact fit,” said Scheller. “Once it was finished, it did, in fact, look like the floor was a piece of paper and somebody with a nice pen had written the notes on it. You couldn’t see any seams, which was what the client wanted.”

The floor was then resanded to 80 grit, and then 100 grit and polished with the Satellite. Scheller also tried a unique sanding process to achieve his desired results. “Because I wanted it flat, I tried something new. When I do handwork, I always favor sanding with a cork block with sandpaper wrapped around it. So I took a piece of cork flooring, and I backed up a 100 grit sanding screen,” said Scheller. “You could not feel where the notes started; it was perfectly flat. The ebony is much harder than the maple, so it’s difficult to sand evenly.”

In the end, the client expressed that Scheller had more than exceeded their expectations. And Scheller credits Shaper’s innovation for helping him achieve his vision.

“Projects like this show what can happen when a flooring installer is able to keep a project entirely within their own hands. We’ve seen a lot of cases where somebody has a vision and they are reluctant to pass it off to a CNC shop due to cost or loss of control. They don’t get to see the entire project end-to-end,” said McEvoy. “Origin gives these artists the power to take the visions they have had in their minds and bring them into reality. We are really looking forward to seeing more and more projects like Mark’s floor.”

More information on the Origin can be found at

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