Beginning in 1969 and for many years after that, George and I had a booth at Springs Folk Festival. We sold our wooden lamps with woven veneer shades and lathe-turned candle holders. Cross-cut stools made from a log with the bark still on the edge added to the collection. However the most popular item were the engraved signs and nameplates. Each sign was made for the customer while they waited. Ray and Gloria Becker assisted with the many customers. Ray sanded and attached chain hangers to the plaques while George did the engraving. Later, as George and his craftsman started making furniture, the collection included tables, chairs, dry sinks, hutches. George’s famous non-tip rocking chairs caught a lot of attention.
The Springs Folk Festival Craft show
The town of Springs, PA is located in the tri-state area of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Maryland. The first weekend in October was the peak for beautiful fall foliage in the area. The stand holders demonstrated their craft which added authenticity to the event. Bus loads of people from Baltimore, Washington DC and Pittsburgh came. On a beautiful Saturday, cars lined up from nearby Grantsville, MD, waiting to find parking in the grass fields around the festival. On rainy days, cars got stuck in the fields and young car parkers needed to push them out of the mud.
Food brings crowds
Several other attractions were the food made by the Amish and Mennonite cooks. Homemade bread baked in an old-time beehive-shaped bake oven. Then covered with a generous helping of apple butter, made in a large copper kettle over a fire. Special “festival sausage” made with the “whole pig”, hams and all kinds of other local favorites. As business grew, George focused his attention more at home. In recent years, the next generation owners decided to attend the Sugarloaf Craft Festivals near cities like Philadelphia, New York, Washington DC and Baltimore.
David and Angela loved getting away from the stress of the office and the hustle and bustle of life in New Jersey. They enjoyed traveling to Lancaster County to the peace and tranquility of Amish and Mennonite farmland. Their favorite place to stay was the Cameron Estate Inn and Restaurant, Mount Joy, PA. The inn keepers, Abe and Betty Groff, were a delight to talk to which is the main reason why David and Angela’s return year after year.
Hand Engraved Road Signs
Traveling the Lancaster country roads, they often found hand-engraved road signs – George’s Woodcrafts- during their sight-seeing. David and Angela would pass by wooden signs thinking they did not need any birdhouses or small wood crafts. Finally one day they picked up an AAA travel guide and decided to check out George’s Woodcrafts. Were they surprised? George’s did not make birdhouses at all. Beautifully hand-crafted beds, dressers, long extension tables, smaller breakfast tables, tall tables were on display. Desks, bookcases, chairs, rocking chairs, benches, anything one could imagine greeted them-all specially designed to their special dimensions.
Small space challenge solved
Special dimensions were the challenge David and Angela faced. Their small house presented many problems for finding furniture that fit within the space. The search was over. They remember George Martin’s love for design and sharing of his unique designed rocker that did not tip over. He quickly pushed himself way back and it stopped. They could not forget this amazing design. Later a rocking chair found its way into their home. After sharing the history of the rocking chair, George proceeded to begin designing a small shelf that would mount to the side of the Finnegan’s bed.
Natural skill in designing
George’s did not need a picture of design from. He would listen to the customer’s needs and space requirements, then design and draw out a sketch of what was in his mind. David was embarrassed about how much time George devoted to them, designing their little bed side shelf, even this other customers around. The genuine desire to created and solve needs was why the Finnegan’s continued kept coming back for many more pieces of furniture over the years. Each room of their homes has at least one piece of furniture-except the bathroom.
Even though George has passed away, his daughter, son-in-law and skilled craftsmen carry the legacy of listening to customers’ needs and creating signed, dated, made by one craftsman, cherished hardwood heirlooms for over 50 years. Visit George’s showroom and see for yourself the Lancaster County quality of that drew David and Angela and captured their hearts.
What do you love about your antique furniture? Sentimentality & nostalgia. Those nostalgic feelings probably trigger wonderful memories with your family. Maybe it reminds you of visiting for Christmas as a child or bringing your children over to play baseball in the yard with their grandparents. That is why it is so important to craft furniture that can withstand the years, the memories, the horseplay so you & your families can have visible mementos of those experiences. (Plus, it helps that our furniture is also super comfortable & durable!)
Even though antique furniture lasts longer than low quality furniture it also deteriorates. Some of the biggest causes of weakness in antique furniture include poor adjustability to extremes in humidity, weak joints or low-quality workmanship. In fact, today I want to share with you 3 of the biggest issues we see in antique furniture & how we design our furniture differently to avoid those problems.
Challenge 1: Humidity
One of the most common issues you may see in wood antique furniture is wear & tear due to changing humidity. Dry Forced Air heat will dry out furniture in the winter while damp summer weather provides extra moisture. Considering these two extremes, we specifically craft our wood furniture to handle changing humidity levels.
Because solid wood furniture is always expanding and contracting to adjust to the humidity levels of the environment, all joints are constructed with movement in mind. Wood is dried in George’s kilns and furniture is constructed in a humidity-controlled environment similar to most homes. This helps the furniture expand and contract as one unit with the seasonal changes of the environment. When the furniture can respond to humidity as one unit, it is more protected from warping or weakness.
Challenge 2: Weak joints
Let’s talk about rung joints. Maybe not a typical topic of conversation unless you have ever tried to pick up a chair where the back comes off in your hand or sat in a chair and the rung pops out leaving your chair in pieces. Aside from the frustration & inconvenience, this can become an expensive situation when your only solution is gluing the rungs for the rest of its life or replacing the chair. We avoid this situation from the beginning with our method of attaching rung joints.
On chairs where it is necessary to use glue rather than screws to keep joints together, each rung is hand-sanded to fit tightly in its hole. The joints are so tight that the chair can hold the weight of an adult even before any glue is applied to the joints. The glue is applied to the hole with a small paintbrush and the chair is clamped tightly together, forcing the glue throughout the pores of the wood.
George’s chairs do not need to be treated with special care to maintain their strength. They have held up over years of workmen leaning back on them during break time and children using the back of them for makeshift sliding boards. On the few occasions over the years when chairs have needed repair, it typically is due to a damaged rung rather than a loose joint.
Challenge 3: Warped wood
One final way we see weakness in antique furniture is simply due to thickness and the support of the wood. We have broken down our process of selecting & preparing the wood in this blog about our complete handcrafted method. The thicker the board the better however anything over 12 inches in width needs to be supported by a table skirt, wooden batten or toeboard. Learn about solid wood bottoms of the dresser drawers, the strength of a dining room table, & even in the durability of our non-tip rockers.
George’s commitment to solid wood construction has always included solid wood drawer bottoms. As a result, you don’t have to worry about drawer bottoms coming apart due to the weight of the contents in the drawers. In fact, George’s creative grandchildren have even used drawers as hiding places without harming the furniture!
Strong construction extends into the tables – even when fully extended to 21 feet. The strength of George’s extension tables was tested. The first idea of placing a small vehicle on top of the extension table was considered. The logistics of how to get a vehicle on the table was abandoned for a new idea of standing people on the table. The final result of the strength test placed 14 people (1887 lbs.) on top of the table and the table stood strong. The center leg supports the center of the table without interfering with your guest’s legs. The Pentagon even commissioned one of our extension tables for their conference room!
You can especially see the strength of high-quality wood in our non-tip rockers. When George was small, he was having so much fun rocking in his rocking chair that he tipped it right over. After recovering from the fall, he promised his mother that he would build a rocker that would not tip over. George built that rocker and now there are 7 different sizes from a child’s rocker to a rocker for the large people (300-400 lbs.) Large or small, tall or short, there is a rocker designed for you that does not tip over.
Ready for strong, heirloom furniture that does not wear with age or bad construction?
George’s unwavering commitment to building strong, hardwood, heirloom furniture continues with each new design. Each piece is signed and dated by its maker and finished with a water-resistant finish. Bring your ideas and desires for functional furniture and George’s craftsmen will make those dreams come true. And the best place to start when you are dreaming up your perfect dining set is knowing what to look out for. Start with our “Guide on How To Spot Quality Furniture” & give us a call as soon as you are ready to jump in to designing your own high-quality furniture.
Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Indiana are home to the largest Amish Communities in the United States. The Amish lifestyle consists of plain clothes, horse and buggy, no electricity, one-room schoolhouses, and farming. Over the years they developed a reputation for their quality quilts, furniture, baked goods, and produce. In fact, in 2015, about 8.34 million visitors to Lancaster County directly spent $1.97 billion, creating a total tourism impact of $2.64 billion in the county.
Over time, marketing replaced craftsmanship. While a few Amish craftsmen are still producing quality furniture, many stores market Amish furniture devoid of the quality buyers expect. As the perception of the quality Amish furniture increases, the natural result is an increase in demand. This increase brought new systems and processes which dropped the quality of the product. They compromised when materials such as cheaper stains, protective coatings, glue, or hardware. They left the old process of construction behind while newer methods of cheap assembly take over. These newer methods, which use assembly lines and computerized machines, compromise excellence for the convenience of efficiency. Consequently, the quality of hardwood furniture is lost along with the buyers ability to customize their product.
Furniture experts pinpoint pieces displaying true quality, handmade Amish furniture. The untrained eye, however, sees little or no distinction. While Amish craftsmen are talented, rarely is the resulting piece considered by furniture experts as constructed by a Master Craftsman. Why does this matter? Furniture crafted by a Master Craftsman ultimately become heirlooms.
Heirlooms are pieces constructed to withstand the test of time and passed down to the next generation. Furniture designed, crafted, and assembled by master craftsmen endure the normal wear and tear of daily life. While George’s craftsmen are not Amish furniture makers, we are Master Craftsmen. George’s master craftsmen build each piece to suit the needs of the buyer now and in the future. Forever cherished assets.
At George’s Furniture, one craftsman uniquely crafted each piece – signed and dated. 100% Pennsylvania hardwood construction—no plywood here! Each item is built-to-order, custom made to your specifications. Visit our showrooms and see the furniture manufacturing! Time-tested construction for over 50 years…that’s the George’s difference.
We pride ourselves on our efficient and quality crafting process, bringing an artisan touch to every single piece that goes through our shop. We provide an unwavering commitment to delivering superior quality to all of our customers. Let’s walk through our crafting process to see how our talented craftsmen achieve those elegant styles for each piece.
Drying the Lumber
We slow dry the rough-sawn lumber in our kiln video (which is heated using wood trimmings from projects) to reduce stress cracks that may occur in the grain if it dries too quickly. Over time, the moisture in the wood can lead to loose joints, splits and even warping. Some lumber will even dry for several years before it is ready to be crafted into furniture. Our lumber is then stored in a climate-controlled building until it is needed to retain the integrity of the lumber.
Each and every piece has a craftsman that is chosen to handcraft that piece from start to finish. Our craftsman will review the plans, select the boards and processes the boards (Video) through our joiners, planers and table saws until the pieces are ready to be glued. The craftsman will then carefully cut, turn and sand each piece to the exact customer specifications. Each table leg and bed finial is then individually hand turned on a lathe. Precise hand sanding throughout the assembly process ensures proper fit and finish.
After the piece of furniture is assembled, it is taken to the staining station where the craftsmen will hand rub the color-specified stain into the wood. After the stain has thoroughly dried, the piece will be taken into the dust-filtering spray booth where two coats of a premium-quality clear, water-resistant finish are applied (video) to the entire piece to protect it from moisture. The first coat of finish is dried and sanded and after the second coat, the piece is closely inspected for smoothness and coverage.
Each piece is very carefully inspected to make sure it exceeds George’s Furniture quality standards. The furniture is then dated and signed by the craftsmen to show pride in the artisanship of the piece.