Preserving Heirloom Wooden Furniture Through Generations

Preserving Heirloom Wooden Furniture Through Generations

The Timeless Art of Chair Making

As a passionate chair maker, I’ve always been fascinated by the rich history and enduring legacy of wooden furniture. Growing up, I vividly remember my father’s sage advice to “use it up, wear it out, or do without.” Those words have stuck with me, shaping my approach to craftsmanship and my deep appreciation for the longevity of well-made pieces.

It was in 1982 that I built my first rocking chair, and since then, I’ve been on a relentless journey to refine my design, joinery, and finishing skills. For me, chair making is the most satisfying form of furniture making, not just because of the inherent challenges, but because I get to use and enjoy the fruits of my labor every single day.

Timber Building has been my canvas, where I strive to apply the precision, tradition, and sense of artistry that I admire in the work of Japanese woodworkers. While I take some creative liberties with my designs, I remain steadfastly committed to preserving the skills and techniques passed down by the Appalachian Ladder Back and Colonial Windsor chair makers of old.

The Art of Heirloom Preservation

As a woodworker, chair maker, and all-around renaissance man, I’ve had the privilege of wearing many hats. I’m a sailor, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a great-grandfather, a friend, a mentor, and a teacher. But above all, I consider myself a steward of our natural resources, a guardian of the traditions that have shaped our craft.

In a world where our natural resources are being consumed and wasted at an unprecedented rate, I’ve made it my mission to work in a way that minimizes waste and pollution. I believe that the pieces I create today will be the heirlooms of tomorrow, and I take great pride in ensuring that they are built to withstand the test of time.

The Science of Wood Movement

Preserving the beauty and functionality of heirloom wooden furniture requires a deep understanding of the science behind wood movement. As humidity levels fluctuate, wood expands and contracts, and if the joinery isn’t designed to accommodate these changes, the integrity of the piece can be compromised.

That’s why I’ve spent countless hours perfecting my techniques, mastering the art of precise joinery and applying the latest research on wood movement. By anticipating and accounting for these natural changes, I can create furniture that not only looks stunning but also remains sturdy and functional for generations to come.

Craftsmanship as an Artform

Craftsmanship, in my eyes, is the ability to transform raw materials into beautiful, comfortable, and functional products. It’s a meticulous process that involves the use of both the simplest of tools and the latest in modern technology.

As a craftsman, I’m driven by a deep desire to teach and keep the skills and discoveries of our forefathers alive. I believe that the process of making something, whether it’s a rocking chair or a dining table, is infinitely more fulfilling than the mere act of consuming.

Passing the Torch

One of my greatest joys is sharing what I’ve learned with others. I teach these skills in my shop, and I’m honored to donate chairs to the Carter Center and Good Samaritan Boys Ranch near Springfield, Missouri, for their fundraising auctions each year. It’s my way of giving back, of ensuring that the art of heirloom furniture making continues to thrive.

Russ Filbeck, a fellow woodworker, shares my passion for preserving the traditions of the craft. He eloquently captures the essence of what it means to be a craftsman: “I believe in conserving and protecting our natural resources. I now appreciate my father telling me as a boy to use it up, wear it out, or do without. I know trees are one of the most important renewable natural resources on the planet.”

Restoring the Splendor of Wood Furniture

While the art of heirloom furniture making is crucial, the task of preserving and restoring existing wooden treasures is equally important. G Michaels Furniture Restoration, a renowned company in Fort Collins, Colorado, specializes in this delicate work.

Their skilled craftsmen possess a wealth of knowledge and experience in working with various wood types, finishes, and furniture styles. Through meticulous techniques like wood filling, sanding, and refinishing, they can breathe new life into aged and damaged pieces, ensuring that their beauty and functionality are maintained for years to come.

Mumford Restoration, a trusted name in the Raleigh-Durham area, is another shining example of the art of furniture restoration. With more than 150 years of combined experience, their third-generation craftsmen are renowned for their ability to restore sentimental, fine-furniture, and family heirlooms to their former glory.

The Enduring Legacy of Wooden Furniture

Wooden furniture is not just a functional item; it carries with it a sense of warmth, elegance, and timelessness. Whether it’s an antique heirloom passed down through generations or a vintage find that has captured your heart, these wooden treasures deserve to be cherished and preserved.

As I look around my workshop, I’m surrounded by the fruits of my labor – chairs, tables, and other pieces that will outlive me and continue to inspire and delight future generations. It’s a humbling thought, but one that fills me with a deep sense of purpose and pride.

In a world that often values convenience and disposability, I take solace in the fact that there are still those of us who believe in the power of craftsmanship, in the preservation of tradition, and in the enduring legacy of wooden furniture. So, let us continue to “use it up, wear it out, or do without” – and in doing so, ensure that the beauty and function of these heirlooms are passed down through the ages.


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