George’s legacy began in 1970, in a 8×12 ft shed in the back yard. A small collection of hand and powered tools along with raw lumber started the foundation that turned a hobby into a thriving business. While he worked at a local sawmill, he collected his own raw lumber by cutting some trees at a neighbor’s property, taking the logs to a sawmill, and drying the wood in a neighbor’s barn. Once the wood was dried properly, George took his natural talent and blessed his wife with handmade furniture.
First legacy furniture style
The first style of furniture George made depended on the small number of tools that were in his tool collection. The louvered doors and live edge shelves permeated the first furniture crafted. George used a 2×2 ft table saw to cut the slats for the louvered door panels and fit them into the door frame. A hand-held drill served as a hole maker for the 8 sized rungs. The table saw helped him made the 8-sided rungs. By turning his hand held belt sander upside down and wedging it into a vice grip he created a way to sand a taper into each rung end.
First woods used
Walnut and butternut wood were the first species of wood that George used for his furniture. Walnut wood contains a natural dark and light sections to the wood grain. The first 15 years of new growth is blond in color before it turns into a dark brown color. This is known as the sapwood and heart wood of a tree. Since Butternut wood naturally looks blond like walnut sapwood, George chose to use butternut wood for the shelves and the live edge of walnut for the rest of the furniture.
First piece created
In 1970, George designed and built a live edge bookcase with open shelves and storage below. Without the equipment to make raised panel doors, he utilized the antique louvered construction for doors and the back. Two thin rungs behind the doors provided a place to store vinyl records. On the bottom of the bookcase, we noticed that George used a yellow lumber crayon (tough, non-fade, water resistant crayon used in the forestry industry.) for signing his signature along with the date and place of construction. His typical signature included his first two initials and ended with his last name. The place was Lancaster county, PA. The written year finished the personal identification of authenticity.
After a fruitless search for a high-chair, George shocked Ava Lee by announcing his plan to make a high-chair for his young daughter. Chairs are one of the most difficult pieces of furniture to design and create for durability and longevity. Making the rungs, contouring the seat, designing the tray, drilling the precise angles, and assembling all the parts is quite an engineering feat. Georges presented the new highchair to their first daughter upon its completion. Later each child did their best to escape the grips of the highchair tray. Some even fell asleep.
Additional items in legacy collection
For Christmas of 1972, George designed a stereo cabinet to house the record player and stereo unit that he gifted to his wife, Ava Lee as a wedding present. The cabinet held the record player, two large speakers, and media storage. On the record player lid, it is inscribed, “To My Beloved Family for Christmas of 1972.” GBMartin, Lancaster County, PA, in lead pencil, protected by a water-resistant finish. Several other items in the original collection are live edge end tables, coffee table, and a small bench.
Next came tables and chairs
Once a highchair design was complete, the next step was dining chairs. Continuing the 8-sided rungs and contours seat, George built his first dining chair for Ava Lee, Christmas of 1971. He enlisted the services of Ebersole’s chair shop for steam bending of the chair backs. As a result of one completed chair the rest of the chair set arrived for Ava Lee’s birthday in January 1972. While their first daughter enjoyed the handmade highchair, she was pushed out by a second child. However, this created a problem because she could not comfortably sit on a regular chair and eat at the table. No problem, dad to the rescue. Soon a child’s chair arrived that was an intermediate height between a highchair and regular chair.
The second child also brought another want; a rocking chair. Good to his promise of providing for his family, George met another engineering challenge head on. He created not only a comfortable rocking chair with all its unique angles but also a rocker that does not tip over. The first rocker showed up on Valentines day for Ava Lee, 1972. The second rocking chair with arms was signed “To my beloved family 1972, GBMartin, Lancaster County, PA.” 1974 brought the creation of the first table, a 42 inch square walnut 4 legged table. However when the family needed a larger table, George converted the table into an extension table and donated it to Heartsease Home, a girls home in New York City.
Explore the museum
Our second showroom displays many of the original furniture designed and created by George Martin. Meet our Founder, George Martin as he talks (videos) about the different processes of making furniture. Visit our furniture store and wood shop soon for a personal look at the quality and craftsmanship that George passed onto his craftsmen.