From Forest To Fine Furniture
The weather isn’t looking so great for leaf peeping in Vermont this weekend. So if you’re traveling around the Green Mountain State and looking for indoor activities, try heading to Woodstock, VT for the Ninth Annual Vermont Fine Furniture and Woodworking Festival.
This year’s theme is “From Forest to Furniture: Take Home a Piece of Vermont”. It dovetails with our plans at Vermont Woods Studios for a showroom at Stonehurst in that the focus is to raise awareness about where your furniture comes from.
Much like the organic food movement, the organic furniture movement is catching on. Customers are realizing both the economic and health benefits to buying locally crafted furniture, handmade from real, solid, sustainably harvested wood.
Come visit with some of the regions (and world’s) most respected fine furniture makers in Woodstock this weekend. You’ll be able to see and feel their furniture creations and also learn about the well-managed forests where their wood is harvested. Free tours are available of the nearby Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. Here customers can experience the forest and learn about each of the many links in the chain from forest to trees to furniture.
Shown above: Brent Karner of ClearLake Furniture in Ludlow VT won first place for production furniture in the 2011 Vermont Fine Furniture Festival. Who is going to win this year?
We extend our thanks to journalist and woodworker, Jo-Ann Kaiser who featured Vermont Woods Studios Walnut Furniture in Woodworking Network magazine, a respected source of "information and inspiration for professional woodworkers". Jo-Ann's article titled, "American Black Walnut: A Bold & Beautiful Furniture Species" talked not only about the beauty of walnut wood and it's growing popularity but also discussed the danger that walnut trees have been facing over the last 10 years.
It's called "1000 Canker's disease" and it typically kills walnut trees within three years of infection. Similar to other tree-attacking diseases that wiped out the American Chestnut and Elm trees, the spread of this one is fueled by people moving logs, walnuts and any part of the tree from infested areas into disease-free areas. It's spreading from the West to East and has already been found in Pennsylvania.
The situation is alarming and I mention it here in hopes that you will pass this on to anyone who may have walnut trees on their property or who uses walnut for firewood, nuts or lumber. People should contact their state department of agriculture for more information.
It would be a shame to see another beautiful (and valuable) tree species slip into extinction. Perhaps there is something we can do to avoid that.
The other day I noted that a customer asked us for a definition of "fine furniture" and since we could find no real consensus out there I decided to put out– well– yet another opinion, actually. My first post was about the type of wood used for fine furniture. I think the next aspect ought to be about craftsmanship.
I found this video by Brent and Derek Karner and their craftspeople at Clear Lake Furniture in Ludlow, VT. It's really a great illustration of both the human and machine-driven craftsmanship that defines fine furniture. In the video Brent shows the process of how fine wood furniture starts as trees, sustainably harvested from well managed forests. Then he brings you into his workshop where to see his craftsmanship up close: wood is rough sawn, planed, shaped, prepared for joinery and assembled. He explains different types of joinery, like dovetails, mortise and tenon, splines and how they are created.
I like Brent's discussion of craftsmanship in terms of man versus machine. He concludes that, done properly, both methods can have excellent results although he shows that in many cases it's a blend of man and machine that's optimal.
In Vermont we have several woodworking purists who focus almost exclusively on the use of traditional hand tools, and their craftsmanship is exquisite. One of my favorite companies working to preserve traditional handwork traditions is Shackleton-Thomas. But the majority of Vermont's fine furniture makers do employ high precision modern machinery which not only brings the price of furniture down, but sometimes produces a more exacting result.
The next aspect of fine furniture craftsmanship I want to mention is finish. But let's do that another day.
In the meantime, if you're in Vermont (which after all IS the Fine Furniture Capital of America) and you're looking to get a better understanding of fine craftsmanship, there are hundreds of small furniture makers who would be happy to introduce you to their craft. Check out this great Vermont Forest Heritage brochure which lists furniture makers all around the state and provides a map showing where each one is and what their hours of operation are. Clearlake furniture is on the map and is on your way to Okemo Mountain. It's open almost every day but call ahead for an appointment if you want to get a tour of their workshop and see their fine craftsmanship in motion.
Kathleen Wanner of the Vermont Wood Manufacturers Association just called to let me know that as FEMA and the state of Vermont start to assess the needs of Vermonters, they are looking for input from those affected by Hurricane Irene and the floods, power outages, road closures and such that she brought.
If you have a VT business and have suffered loss due to the hurricane, you may be eliglble for assistance.
Contact Alex Ibey (802-828-5241) at ThinkVT.com or visit the Vermont Economic Development website to learn more.
Vermont Public TV has a great website with information for farmers, businesses and individuals.
One last note, our own Shannon Albritton who is stranded in Marlboro, VT where the roads have all been washed out, has developed a Facebook page for that community. Now residents can post their needs and offers to help each other. In just the last few hours over 120 people have signed on. I was noticing as I read through the postings that here, as in all the communities which were hardest hit, it's the generosity, kindness and perseverance of each other that's getting people through the disaster.