black-friday
(Black Friday Sale runs Nov. 21-Nov. 28 2015)

Vermont Woods Studios is having an extended Black Friday Furniture Sale!

Ever wonder how Black Friday started? As someone who has never really participated in this massive day of shopping, I was curious this year to find out how it all began and how it got to be so big.

We all know how Thanksgiving started-Pilgrims and Native Americans came together in Plymouth, MA to celebrate a successful harvest after the harsh winters had claimed many of the unprepared colonial settlers lives. It wasn’t until 1863 and the end of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving Day a national holiday.

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Clearlake-rockerA couple weeks ago I attempted to work through a definition of "fine wood furniture" at the request of one of our customers.  I couldn't find any type of universally (or even generally) agreed-upon definition, so I thought I'd try to make one up.  But as I waded into it, I realized how difficult even that is. 

There's just so much ground to cover in "fine wood furniture" such as style, type of wood used, craftsmanship, type of joinery used, finishing products and techniques, the use of hand tools versus precision machinery, the use of veneers versus solid wood, and of course durability and longevity. 

So I've been opining my way through each area– well just to generate some discussion really, because I think that would be more valuable than an attempted definition of "fine wood furniture".

 

Today I wanted to talk about where "fine wood furniture" comes from and how it makes it's way to your bedroom or kitchen.  Would you believe that most of the so called "fine wood furniture" that's sold in America today is made in China or VietNam from wood that was logged unsustainably (and often illegally) from the rainforests of South America, Africa, Siberia and Asia?  I know it sounds like extremist rhetoric, but it's really not.  Kendall just published a page on sustainable furniture today, reminding us about the environmental damage that comes from rainforest destruction.

So my point is, if you're going to define fine wood furniture, you probably do need to address where it comes from.  Furniture from small companies like Vermont Woods Studios that use American-grown, sustainably-harvested wood and local craftspeople is different than furniture that's made overseas with illegal wood by people paid 25 cents/hour.  It feels different.  It has better "karma".  It makes you feel proud to own it.  You find yourself telling people all about where you got it and how long it took to make and how the joinery is designed, right? 

Another note– most American fine wood furniture comes with a lifetime guarantee— an important indication of sustainability.

Next post, I'd like to share some sustainable practices I've been impressed with at Copeland Furniture and Clearlake Furniture, both Vermont companies.  After looking at the green practices Vermont furniture makers have been famous for over many generations, you may find youself agreeing with me that Vermont is the Fine Furniture Capital of America.

Thanks to Clearlake Furniture for the photo of their Rocking Chair

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Fine-wood-furnitureSimilar to the term American Made Furniture, there's no standard definition for "fine furniture".  But a customer brought this up yesterday so I thought I'd take a shot at it.  At Vermont Woods Studios we specialize in fine wood furniture, rather than upholstered furniture so I'll keep the discussion confined to that. 

This may seem odd, but I'm going to put style aside for another subject because I think each creative woodworker has his or her own ideas about style.  Naturally there has to be a strategic blending of form and function, but making a judgement about that is personal and subjective– you could write a library of books about it and still not reach a conclusion.  I'm not sure style belongs in a definition for fine furniture.

So for now I'll stick to tangible perameters like craftsmanship, uniqueness, joinery, type of wood, type of finish, sustainability and durability– plus one intangible which I'll call karma.  Today let's look at the type of wood a piece of furniture is made with first– then we can consider the other characteristics in the next few posts.

Fine-wood-custom-furnitureFine wood furniture starts with hardwood (like cherry, maple, walnut and oak) as opposed to soft wood (like pine and other coniferous woods).  Furthermore, in today's world (by my definition anyway) those hardwoods are grown sustainably in America as opposed to imported woods that are clear cut from the world's rapidly disappearing rainforests (like ipe, rubberwood, mahogany, jatoba and teak–this ties into a karma discussion).  You can learn more about American hardwood species here:  cherry wood, maple wood, walnut wood, oak wood.

It's not just the wood species that sets fine wood furniture apart.  Once a species is selected, fine woodworkers go to greath lengths to carefully select each board that goes into a piece of furniture, depending on where the board is being placed (like in a drawer front, part of a table top, an accent piece or part of the frame). 

Woodworkers select boards based on things like grain, color, texture, shape, character and whether it's part of the tree's heartwood (inner circles of the tree and dark in color) or sapwood (outer circles of the tree and light in color).  There are different levels of attention to detail in wood selection and they are reflected in the price of a piece of furniture. Many of our woodworkers in Vermont are aligned with the philosophy of George Nakishima who felt that wood selection is an almost sacred art that honors The Soul of a Tree. Others are more practical but both philosophies on wood selection can be the foundation of a great piece of "fine furniture" depending on what the customer is looking for.

Later we'll talk about how craftsmanship, origin and sustainability add to the definition of fine furniture.

 

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This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.