What makes Amish furniture different from factory-made furniture? I mean, what makes the real difference in your life when you’re shopping for new furniture and considering real wood, hand-crafted furniture that costs more than some alternatives? Aren’t all dining chairs pretty much the same? No, all dining chairs are not the same, and the uniqueness of Amish dining chairs starts in the forest.
Basically, it all starts with the particular trees selected and harvested by the Amish involved in timber and lumber management. Only certain types of trees are suitable for the careful milling process preferred by Amish craftsmen, chiefly maple, oak, cherry, hickory and walnut. These trees are called “hardwoods” because the wood is denser and makes stronger furniture than soft wood such as pine, spruce, cedar, redwood, fir and hemlock. Forests of hardwood trees generally take much longer to grow to maturity for harvesting, which results in higher prices.
Once a hardwood tree has reached the proper size for harvest, various types of logging procedures may be used, depending on where the trees are growing, but logging has become more and more mechanized, even computerized to aid in selection and transportation of felled trees to lumber or sawmills for cutting.
There is an art to cutting a huge tree into dimensional boards, and Amish craftsmen prefer methods that result in the most beautiful grain. Following a trip through the lumber mill, the wood must be cured slowly, at a constant temperature to prevent warping and splitting. Professionally selected and cured hardwood is part of what makes Amish furniture a superior product.
Of course the superb craftsmanship applied to the superior raw lumber is just as important. Some Amish craftsman choose to complete one piece of furniture from start to finish, while others may be part of a team of furniture makers, each specializing in his own particular skill, and bringing his unique style and excellence together with others.
Over the years in geographic areas where the Amish have established communities characteristic furniture styles have developed. Some of these are well-known, classic styles such as Mission, Shaker, or Arts and Crafts. Others are named after the Amish furniture makers themselves, including painted furniture that was popular in previous centuries.
Anyone who has lived with the quality and style of Amish furniture will tell you that it looks good and works well. The same cannot be said of much of the furniture on the market today. Other furniture might look good, but the construction techniques, the hardware and the upholstery used in its manufacturing process cannot compare to the consistent quality that Amish furniture makers produce year after year. Compare for yourself and you’ll see the difference.