How Amish Furniture is Made
In a world where so much is made of plastic and wood veneer, solid wood furniture is pleasantly distinct. The Amish are known for being experts at crafting quality, sturdy wood furniture using simple, beautiful designs. Amish-made furniture adds natural warmth and elegance to any style room, and neutral tones make it easy to mix and match pieces harmoniously.
If you’re interested in Amish furniture, you probably have a lot of questions about the furniture-making process. Many people know that the Amish do not rely on electricity, so how do they build marvelous pieces of solid wood furniture? In this guide, we’ll answer your top questions about Amish woodworking such as:
- How solid wood furniture is made
- How the Amish build furniture
- What kind of wood the Amish use
- If the Amish use power tools
We’ll also cover the following topics:
- Little known facts about Amish woodworking
- Types of Amish carpentry techniques
- Types of Amish furniture styles
- Amish furniture delivery process
By the end of this guide, you’ll have a better understanding of Amish woodworking traditions, techniques and values. That way, when you welcome a piece of Amish furniture into your home, you’ll think of its story as you feel the smooth, solid surface beneath your hand. We offer quality Amish-made furniture for every room in your home, from the living room and dining room to the bedroom and office — even for your outdoor spaces.
Chapter 1: Little-Known Facts About Amish Woodworking and Craftsmanship
Many people associate the Amish with a rural lifestyle free of electricity and technology. For this reason, it may be hard to imagine an Amish craftsman building a precise piece of furniture by hand. However, Amish woodworking is not as mysterious as it may seem. Before we jump into Amish woodworking techniques, let’s consider who the Amish are.
The Amish arrived in America in the 1700s to break away from the Mennonites in Europe. They brought with them a value of simplicity, hard work and harmony with nature, which is apparent in their craftsmanship. The Amish do not reject all technology. Rather, they use technology selectively and consider the tools that will serve their community rather than make a negative impact on their culture. It’s estimated that over 330,000 Amish adults and children live in North America today.
In this chapter, we’ll explore the history and the secrets of Amish woodworking as well as the meaning behind their techniques.
The History of Amish Furniture
Amish furniture has its roots in two different styles – original pieces dating from the 18th and 19th centuries. You can see examples of the styles from that era in folk art collections in museums across the country. By the beginning of the 20th century, a great deal of Amish furniture was made in the Shaker and Mission styles. These simple but elegant designs matched the skill sets of Amish craftsmen perfectly. The craftsmen learned and passed down their skills in small Amish communities across Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and built timeless, beautiful furniture built to last.
During much of that same period from the late 1800s through the 1920s, the Arts and Crafts movement developed in America. The movement was a direct reaction to the poor design quality and lower aesthetic value of mass-produced items offered by early factories. Americans craved creative designs and quality products, and it was only a matter of time before they would embrace Amish furniture’s handcrafted quality and beauty.
By the 1920s, an appreciation for simple, beautiful, well-crafted furniture grew from the Arts and Crafts movement in America. The movement made Amish furniture a popular choice for furniture buyers throughout the country, and it continues to be a popular option today.
Our contemporary Amish furniture is made using the same techniques that artisans have been using and passing on for many generations. It’s difficult to go wrong when choosing the traditional styles of handcrafted Amish furniture.
Do Amish Craftsmen Use Power Tools?
As a whole, the Amish are not completely against technology – they are cautious about using it and consider how it will impact their values and beliefs. Using compressor-powered tools in woodworking has helped Amish craftsmen maintain their high standards of precision and quality, and it saves them valuable time.
Depending on the shop and the project, Amish craftsmen may use a mix of hand tools and power tools. For example, a rip cut, which is a cut in the same direction as the grain, may require a power tool, while a hand saw may suffice for a cut across the grain. Similarly, a hand auger may work for a small job, but a power drill may make sense for putting a hole in a larger piece of wood.
Everyone can conjure the image of an Amish family riding a horse-drawn buggy or of an Amish farmer tilling the fields with a horse-drawn plow. It’s relatively common knowledge that they don’t use electricity, as their religious beliefs lead them to keep their customs separated from much of modern society. Staying off the electric grid helps them do just that.
However, when food safety laws required them to refrigerate the milk they were selling from their small dairy operations, they began using refrigerators powered by air compressors. They saw the value of using air compressors and how it helped their community without affecting their beliefs. As a result, the Amish use that same power to run some small appliances in the home as well as some of the tools used in furniture making.
Do the Amish Use Nails?
Many Amish carpenters do not use nails to build furniture. Instead, Amish woodworkers often join wood together using different joinery techniques and non-toxic adhesive. Joinery, which is the making of wooden joints, is fundamental in carpentry. Joinery techniques were perfected hundreds of years ago, and haven’t changed much since then.
Amish joinery techniques create sturdy solid wood furniture built to last for generations. Not using nails also reduces the need for power tools.
Do the Amish Mark Their Furniture?
It is unlikely you will find Amish furniture that had been marked by the craftsman. The Amish value humility and community over individualism. They are aware of the danger of pride and therefore try not to call attention to themselves. In general, they prefer to avoid taking credit for their achievements.
Despite not having a marking, you can still identify Amish furniture. To identify Amish furniture, look for hand-finished solid wood pieces with a traditional style. Each piece of furniture is created from hand-selected wood. Amish furniture is also put together with great care and skill so you will not see loose pieces or glue seepage.
Is Amish Furniture Sustainable?
One of the more interesting facts about Amish furniture is that it’s environmentally friendly. Here are some of the ways Amish furniture production maintains high conservation standards and a low carbon footprint:
- Sustainable harvesting: The lumber used in making Amish furniture is harvested sustainably, so there’s no clear-cutting of large swaths of hardwood forests, leaving large areas to erode away before the continuous growth comes in. Trees are cut selectively when they’re ready to be used for lumber.
- American-made: Because Amish furniture is made in America, there’s no need to burn fossil fuels to carry it across the ocean on a cargo ship.
- Less need for storage space: The Amish make furniture per custom order, so there’s no need to rent large warehouses for storage space. Nor is there a need to control the environment in those facilities.
- Long-lasting: Handcrafted Amish furniture lasts for years, so less material winds up in a landfill. Other furniture made from particle board or medium-density fiberboard (MDF) needs to be replaced often, and the resin used to make it will prevent it from biodegrading for a long time.
- Non-toxic: Amish furniture is made without toxic chemicals, so there is no off-gassing. Products made with particle board may off-gas some of the chemical components of resin or laminate, like formaldehyde, into your home.
Is Amish Furniture Really Amish?
Each piece of furniture we sell at AmishOutletStore.com is custom-made by skilled Amish crafters, brought to you from the heart of Ohio’s Amish country.Chapter 2: Types of Wood Used in Furniture