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How do the Amish make their furniture?

Monday, May 16th

How Do the Amish Make Their Furniture?

Amish furniture is highly coveted throughout the United States and around the world. It is rightfully known for its beautiful style and its impressive quality. In a world where veneers, particleboard and other cheap materials are commonly used to make furniture, Amish furniture stands far apart as a superior option.

When you compare Amish furniture to other options on the market, however, you may notice that it has a higher price tag than many other pieces that you may be considering. Amish furniture is a true investment that can last a lifetime. In fact, many pieces become family heirlooms that are passed down from generation to generation. With this in mind, Amish furniture is instilled with true value. What makes Amish furniture a better option? The answer is rooted in how Amish furniture is made.

Hand-Crafted Style

Most furniture that you find in stores and online today has been mass-produced using manufactured materials, assembly lines and large machines. They are cookie-cutter pieces that lack the character that comes from individuality. The reality is that those furnishings may be found in hundreds or thousands of other homes. With their contemporary styling, they have a limited shelf-life and will quickly become undesired by their owners. Even when their style remains appealing, their durability and condition may be concerns.

Amish furniture is handcrafted, so you will be hard-pressed to find two pieces that are perfectly identical. In fact, many Amish craftsmen make made-to-order furniture that is prepared to the buyer's specifications. The specifications may include the furniture's design as well as the wood species, dimensions and stain. These are pieces that introduce individualized personality into a space because of their hand-crafted style.

The Amish are known for their simplistic designs. In fact, they are responsible for bringing Shaker and Missionary styles to the world. While each piece may be unique, you can expect all Amish furniture to have the classic elegance of these styles. This gives them timeless appeal.

Quality Materials

The Amish people believe that the earth gives them everything they need to provide for themselves and their families. They derive all of the wood they need for their crafts directly from the earth, so their pieces are entirely made out of solid wood. Usually, the wood is sustainably harvested in or near the Amish communities by the woodworker. There are Amish communities throughout the United States, so the woods used in Amish furnishings are those that are native to those areas.

Oak is one of the most common types of wood used in Amish furniture. It is a hard wood with deep graining, so it makes beautiful, durable pieces. However, there are many other types of wood that may be used. Some of these include hickory, maple, pine, walnut, cedar and other species.

Amish craftsmen are particular about the wood they use. They avoid using low-quality or flawed wood. Their effort to hand-select only the finest pieces of wood and their hard work results in stunning furniture that can be enjoyed for decades or longer. Because only hand-selected, solid wood is used to make Amish furnishings, the graining and striations are different for each piece. This is one of the reasons why each piece of Amish furniture has a unique and beautiful look.

Advanced Joinery Techniques

Today's Amish woodworkers continue to use many of the same techniques and types of tools that their ancestors did many generations ago. Generally, the craftsmen avoid using nails and screws. Instead, they use advanced joinery techniques that they learned from their predecessors. However, specific techniques may vary slightly from community to community based on the knowledge and skills that have been passed down. These various joinery techniques are one of the main reasons for the longevity and strength of Amish furniture. While these techniques vary slightly, they are all variations of joinery techniques that have been used hundreds or even thousands of years.

The mortise and tenon joints are incredibly strong and are commonly used to affix table and chair legs to the bodies of the furniture. A narrow stub, called a tenon, is crafted by hand or by using a pneumatic tool at one end of a wood piece. A hole is chiseled into another wood piece, and this is called the mortise. The tenon is fitted into the mortise. While the fitting is designed to be secure, Amish craftsmen may use non-toxic wood glue as well. This is food-grade glue that you may also find on butcher blocks and cutting boards, so it is safe in your home.

If you have ever looked at the interior of an antique drawer, you likely saw dovetail joints. This joint style is aptly named because it features interlocking fingers, and each finger fans out to look like a dove's tail. The adjoining piece that the tail fits in is called a pin, so you may also hear this type of joint referred to as a tail and pin joint. The pins and tails are often hand-carved, so they fit snugly together. As is the case with mortise and tenon joints, however, wood glue may be used in between the pins and tails to make a more secure connection. Amish craftsmen may use two different variations of dovetail joints. These include a single-lap dovetail joint and a half-blind dovetail joint.

A tongue and groove joint is the third type of wood joinery technique that Amish woodworkers may use. It is commonly used on furniture with long, flat surfaces that require two or more pieces of wood to join together. Examples may include a tabletop or the back of a dresser. The tongue on this type of joint is similar to a tenon. It is chiseled perfectly so that it fits snugly into a connecting groove on another piece of wood. While these joints are perfectly carved for a sure fit, wood glue is often used for an added layer of strength.

Hand-Selected Tools

Many people are aware that the Amish culture generally rejects modern conveniences like electricity, and the communities as a whole are off the grid. Because of this, you may assume that they do not use power tools. In reality, however, Amish craftsmen do embrace the use of some pneumatic tools so that they can work efficiently. They usually pull power for their tools through batteries. For example, they may use a pneumatic band saw for curvy, irregular or smooth cuts. A drill press may be used for precision when drilling holes. A sander, a buffer and a few other pneumatic tools may also be used.

Overwhelmingly, Amish woodworkers continue to use traditional hand tools for the majority of their efforts. For example, they use a hatchet rather than a chain saw to chop the hand-selected wood they use. A hand saw may be used to trim the wood to the desired dimensions. To ensure that the saw's cuts are precise, an awl may be used to create markings. Wood trimming and shaving are done with a hand plane. Amish craftsmen may strike a chisel with a hammer or mallet to shave and carve wood. These hand tools enable the woodworkers to add the handcrafted, fine details that Amish furniture is known for.

Quality and Craftsmanship

While you could purchase a cheaply-made piece of furniture that you will undoubtedly toss out in a few years, a better option is to take advantage of the quality and craftsmanship that is built into each piece of Amish furniture. You can find a wonderful selection of stunning pieces online and in local stores. Another idea is to work directly with a craftsman for the creation of a custom piece that is prepared specifically for your home. With so many beautiful possibilities, now is the perfect time to start your search.

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Amish Furniture Store FAQ

The Amish are a Christian group in North America whose roots go back to the late 17th century. Their church is a branch off of the Mennonite faith. Today, the largest groups of Amish people are mainly found in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Illinois, and Kansas. They believe in separating themselves from the world by wearing plain clothing, being slow to accept new technologies, and using bicycles or horse-and-buggies as their main source of transportation. The Amish are known for being excellent farmers, constructing their own tools, and being hard workers.
The level of craftsmanship that goes into Amish furniture is of higher quality than what you would find at a store that sells mass-manufactured items. Rather than lasting a few years, Amish furniture is such high quality that it can be passed down for generations and still look brand new if well cared for. Each item is handmade by an Amish woodworker, often on their own land. Amish furniture businesses are almost always family-owned and operated.
The Amish reject most modern machinery that requires operation by electricity. When making furniture, they often use handmade tools and alternative power sources like hydraulic pumps, propane gas, or compressed air. They make all their furniture by hand with real wood (i.e. no particle board or laminate), which is why it can take months for an order to be completed. It is not uncommon to see furniture made without nails, but rather using advanced joinery techniques that can last for generations.
Yes! When you're browsing Amish furniture online, you'll find that for any given piece you're interested in, you can usually pick the color of wood and sometimes add other details or engravings. Each piece of Amish furniture is made just for the buyer and no one else. Because of this, no two pieces are exactly alike and you get to request all of your specifications before the product is constructed.
You can get just about any type of furniture you want from an online Amish retailer. You'll find all the basics like bedroom sets, rocking chairs, tables, dining chairs, desks, and more. Some retailers also sell porch swings, outdoor playgrounds, patio sets, and office furniture. If you're wanting a timeless, long-lasting piece of furniture for any space in your house, you'll be able to find it Amish-made.
Amish furniture is always more expensive than mass-produced furniture because every piece is made of solid wood and crafted by hand. The quality of your furniture will far exceed anything you'll find elsewhere, making it well worth the cost. The price of any given item depends on the item and from what type of wood it is made. When shopping for Amish furniture, you can expect to spend hundreds to thousands of dollars for any given piece.
If you have an Amish community near you in the northern United States, you might be able to visit a showroom to get an idea of the quality and designs available. Some Amish retailers even work with other home furnishing stores throughout the US and supply them with some staple furniture products. However, most of the time when buying Amish furniture, you shop online: select the construction materials you want and any other customizable features and have it built for you. This is the most convenient and personalized way to buy Amish furniture.
Depending on the retailer, Amish furniture is sometimes returnable as long as it is not custom. Some retailers have a 25%+ restocking fee for anything returned, while others don't allow returns at all. Amish furniture is well-made piece-by-piece, so you won't need to worry about quality as much as you would if you were buying furniture from a traditional retailer. Because the pieces are typically made exactly to your specifications, most of the time there would be no need for returns. Read the return policy listed by the Amish furniture store you choose to buy from before placing an order so you know what to expect.
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