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Thread: The Myth of Amish-Made Furniture

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Alexandria VA
    Posts
    14,914

    Default The Myth of Amish-Made Furniture

    In my store, I have handmade furniture done by master cabinetmakers such as John Buchanan and am frequently asked by customers if its 'made by the Amish?' to which I reply "Good Heavens no - this is true bench-made furniture, not mass production pieces". Not a one of them ever believes me! So imaging my delight today when thumbing through the most recent issue of FURNITURE TODAY (a trade journal) and I come across this article about one of the better Amish furniture makers out there. And it even comes with a photo, which is great. Now I have a little proof.....

    I think we all appreciate the 'quaintness' that comes with the Amish Lifestyle, but make no mistake - they are perhaps some of the most shrewd businessmen I've ever come across and they work that quaint angle for all its worth. You may envision a scene out of the movie 'Witness' with an Amish woodworker working by candlelight in a pole barn creating a piece for you with a jackplane and spokeshave, and he either walked their barefoot across the field or came in his black, horse-drawn buggy. And since he's Amish, with dedicated values - he's (in your mind) going to go slow, patient and make sure it will last for generations.

    The truth is he probably arrived via an air-condtioned Ford F-350 pickup with several of his co-workers, and they simply hire drivers (since they don't drive themselves). When you get inside the workshop, its thoroughly modern with state-of-the-art machinery powered by a pair of honking huge Caterpillar Diesel Engines out back belching smoke running the generators. They don't hook up to the power grid, but they are not adverse to electricity so they make their own.

    I have found Amish made wood furniture to be solid, but completely production in all aspects, using high speed machinery such as this CNC Router and Timesaver Sanders. Most Amish wood shops I come across would not know how to hand-carve a Ball and Claw foot or finish in shellac and aniline dyes. You're not going to get a 'bad' piece, but neither are you buying a collectible heirloom made by hand. I'm not bashing Amish-made, they are Americans after all and I've all for anything USA-made instead of imported, but I am trying to dispel a myth that if its 'made by the Amish' you have something really special. Most the shops I use for the pieces in my store couldn't afford or have room for the CNC Router you see here, nor do they have the skills to computer program it!

    Duane Collie
    Straight answers from thirty-six years in the business.
    My Private Messages are Disabled - Please ask questions here in the forum.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Southeast Michigan
    Posts
    52

    Default Re: The Myth of Amish-Made Furniture

    I had the Amish come down and build my 14'x14' shed on a prepared concrete slab a few years ago. I ordered two side windows along with a gable window, a skylight, a 14 foot workbench and roofing with a ridge vent. They made the trusses at their place and brought everything down on a trailer. They had a hired driver. They used a generator and chainsaws. The surprising thing is that it was a one day job. And the price even beat those horrible shed kits that contain nothing but warped and damaged wood. But I didn't see anything that would make me want to buy furniture from them!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2015
    Posts
    54

    Default Re: The Myth of Amish-Made Furniture

    I just bought an Amish dining room set. An Amish retailer in Ohio. Yes, I checked before I bought it. It does have screws. Keeps the price down. Even so, after looking at big box stores, the quality was much more impressive. It has four leaves to extend the 66 inch length to about 10 ft. Chairs are heavy and comfortable. All oak. Will go nicely next to my Stickley oak mission chair. I was tempted by the set next it it. Absolutely awesome design that looked like it was cut out of a single tree. The problem. The chairs had no lumber support and were the most uncomfortable chairs I ever tried. Bought in stock. A four to five month wait to custom order any pieces.

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