Buying Amish furniture is very different from buying furniture in a big box store. There’s a lot more involved in the building of the furniture, and customers are offered a lot more options than what you’d find in store. Exactly how does it work? What goes into the building of Amish furniture that makes it so special? That’s what we’re covering on today’s episode: How Amish Furniture is Made.
The Amish Furniture Building Process
So, you make your decisions and order your furniture. What’s next?
Part 1: Processing
- Your order is processed and verified by your store before being faxed or mailed to an Amish woodshop.
- The woodshop receives the order, adds it to their list (complete with all details on customization), and begins working on it when able.
Part 2: Initial Wood Crafting
- Your shop will select the proper wood type from their lumber pile and set to work with initial steps.
- Starting to build: The building process will vary based on the type of furniture and style of furniture you’re ordering. The furniture building process can include:
- Glue-up Panels. Solid tabletops (one that don’t have leaves), storage pieces, bed headboards, and more, are made by glue-ups, in which lumber with consistent coloring and grain patterns are selected and glued together into a solid panel.
- Other parts, such as table legs, may be made from just a single piece of lumber. Sometimes these are turned on a lathe and fashioned into round legs. Other times they’ll simply be cut to shape.
- Chair legs and backs, among other parts, will sometimes require steam bending—a process in which the lumber is put in a steamer that softens the wood and allows it to be bent into a curved shape. This is most visible on Windsor chairs, which often feature arm rests and a back arch that are made of a single, steam-bent piece of wood.
- After the initial preparation of a part for furniture, they’ll be cut into shape. Some shops will use machines specially designed to replicate certain shapes. Others rely more heavily on wooden templates and measurement tools that help define and replicate the angle of a cut or the curve of a piece. Sometimes routers are used at this stage to round off sharp corners. Details like ebony inlays are added at this stage of construction.
- These pieces are individually sanded after construction to smooth out the woodgrain and flatten any rough patches in the wood.
Part 3: Furniture Assembly
- Now it’s time for assembly. Each piece of this furniture will be brought together and assembled. Sometimes this merely means sliding pieces together and gluing. Sometimes the assembly process will include screws or nails. But it nearly always includes some element of trial and error: fitting it together, pulling apart and re-sanding or re-shaping, and trying again until it fits just right.
- After assembly is complete, some pieces need to be partially disassembled for finishing and delivery.
- The furniture is then either moved to the finishing portion of that woodworker’s shop or transferred by truck to a separate finishing shop.
Part 4: Finishing the Furniture
- At the finishing shop, the details of the job are verified, and, when it’s your furniture’s turn, it’s time to finish.
- The first step, if applicable, is distressing. Many distressing options are available, including hand planing, sandblasting, wirebrushing, or other methods of manual distressing with tools. This task is truly an art form and wood furniture finishes are the artisans.
- After initial distressing, the furniture will generally be sanded and sent to painting or staining. Stains are generally wiped or sprayed on and then wiped off by hand soon afterward.
- The stain or paint is left to dry, and specialty finishes may require hand-rubbed glazes or distressing and a second coat of finish.
- After stain has dried, a catalyzed conversion varnish is sprayed on to protect the wood and give it a subtle sheen.
- Finally, doors are installed and hardware such as drawer and door handles are added. Your furniture is ready for delivery!
Part 5: Furniture Delivery!
A delivery driver will arrive, carefully wrap and pack your furniture in their truck or trailer, and depart for your part of the country.
Making Amish Furniture: The Full Process
All-in-all, this process generally takes anywhere from 6 to 16 weeks.
It can feel like a long wait but considering all that goes into a new piece of custom, solid wood furniture, they’re really pretty efficient to get it done that quickly.
- You heard about Windsor chair construction in this episode. Learn much more in The Windsor Chair blog series, part 1.
- See some of this process in Beth’s blog post, My First Walk Through an Amish Woodshop.
- Read about several wood shops in the blog Highlights from Ohio Amish Country.
- And, watch a woodshop tour video in The Millcraft Tour.
Talk to Us at The Amish Furniture Podcast
If you have any comments or questions about the Amish Furniture building process, or perhaps you’ve purchased Amish furniture and would like to share your experience–we would love to hear from you! Please send your stories, comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org so we may share them with your fellow listeners in a future episode. If you enjoyed today’s episode, don’t forget to like or leave a review, and hit that subscribe button so you don’t miss any episodes.