The Cameo Woodworking Company



In the mid-1890’s the firm acquired the liquidated business of The Cameo Woodworking Company, who owned the U.K. patent for manufacturing teak and oak cameo mouldings.

The process was originally patented by Bernard Ludwig of Vienna and introduced into the U.K. by Cornelius Radeke, a German national, who acquired the U.K. patents rights for the process known as Dalura Decoration. The process involved using a small machine, measuring about 3ft. 6in. in height, excluding an 18-inch stand, by 3ft. wide and 2ft. deep. Within the machine were two revolving steel rollers; the upper one heated by a gas flame carried the required pattern around its circumference; the lower roller was plain and smooth. The wood was passed between the two rollers, with the pattern from the upper rolling being pressed, in relief, into the top surface of the wood. Crude colouration, in the form of depth of colour, could be applied by regulating the temperature of the upper roller and the speed the wood travelled between the rollers; the raised design standing out in the natural colour of the wood.

In July 1889, a failed attempt was made to form The Dalura Wood Decoration (Ludwig Process) (Limited). The accompanying prospectus[1] tried to quantify the potential new profit for a single machine. Each machine, costing between £45 and £70, could process an estimated 400ft. of wood per day, resulting in a net profit of £7 per day: the daily cost of manufacture was estimated at £4 13s. 4d. based 400ft. of beech at 1¾d. per foot (£2 18s. 4d.) and £1 15s. to cover wages, fuel (gas) and the wear and tear of moulds and machine. It was estimated that if the decorated wood was sold at 1s. per foot would return £20. Assuming £8 6s. 8d. to cover rent, advertising, management, trade discounts etc., resulting in a daily net profit of £7. Based upon a 300-day working year and assuming only a £6 profit per day result in an annual net profit of £1,800.

The Delura Decoration had already been used on the new Burgtheater, Vienna, when it moved to the Ringstraße, opening in October 1888. It was also used by Messrs. James Schoolbred and Co., of Tottenham Court Road on the new Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, which opened in December 1888. The process was exhibited at the Architectural and Building Trades Exhibition in April 1889, where it had received a Gold Medal Star Certificate.

It appears that Cornelius Radeke probably went onto to create The Cameo Woodworking Company, as when the firm acquired the patent, Cornelius Radeke is reported to have joined the firm[2]. The Cameo Woodworking Company was incorporated within the firm and run as a separate department.

In March 1897, the firm attended the Building Trades Exhibition held in London, exhibiting both their horticultural products and their mouldings. Their exhibition was initially reviewed by The Building News and Engineering News, firstly on 19th March 1897:

In the whole exhibition there is no more deserving a display than that of the Cameo Wood Working Company, of 96a, Victoria-street, Westminster. We shall have something more to say about their exhibits next week; but would now especially direct attention to the Buffet and Overmantel in oak, walnut, and mahogany they exhibit. The capability of the process adopted by the Cameo Company is almost boundless. The variety and permanence of the shades of colour obtained, at the most moderate cost, is really wonderful, and there is scarcely any purpose to which it cannot be applied. Water-proof and weather-proof, the decoration attained defies accident or injury.

Secondly, a week later, on 26th March 1897:

Messrs. Messenger and Co., of the Midland Horticultural Works, Loughborough, Leicestershire, Victoria-street, Westminster, exhibit an open stove-house, fitted with their iron sill and iron imperishable stage, with rafters grooved for carrying away condensed moisture, which is conveyed from the glass by specially cut joints at the laps. The opening apparatus, shown in action, by which the side and upper lights are opened, we lately described. We have seen nothing so effective as the motion of the lever which actuate the sashes; long lengths of roof and side lights can be operated by this system. The iron sill is an excellent substitute for the perishable wooden sill.

Adjoining this stand, the Cameo Wood Working Co.’s exhibit ought specially to be noticed. The very effective and beautiful ornamentation which this company show deserves attention by all architects, builders, decorative artists, and the public. The pattern is pressed into the grain of the wood by rollers, and the surface slightly apparently burnt, so as to assume a rich brown colour, which gives the effect of a cameo-like relief to the ornament. We saw several panels of various shades of colour, friezes, dadoes, enriched mouldings, doors, and chimneypieces treated in this manner, which were very decorative in effect. For electric wire casings it is admirably adapted, as the covers can be enriched with ornament along ceilings and walls, and for the cuing of girders or beams no better decoration can be obtained. For picture-frames and rails, the cameo treatment is also inexpensive and effective.

The apparent intention of the firm was to use the mouldings as decoration and embellishment for their conservatories[3]. Unfortunately, despite the excellent nature of the mouldings, they were susceptible to the usual high humidity in such structures. Several other firms became interested in the product, but for one reason or another, none of them found the mouldings completely satisfactorily. The firm owned the business until at least 1903, but eventually disposed of it to Brush Company in Loughborough, who it is understood used it very successfully to decorate their tramcars[4].



  1. The Times, 8th July, 1889.

  2. A Century of Progress – A History of Messenger & Company, Limited. 1858-1958 (Unpublished).

  3. Ibid.

  4. Ibid.