Enos Gingerich’s Workshop: How the “Lowest-Tech Amish” Make Furniture

If you caught part 1 on Enos Gingerich’s furniture shop last week, here is the promised part 2 video, where Enos shows us his tools, his power setup and how he makes furniture.

This is about the plainest community you’ll find, and some of the solutions Enos uses wouldn’t be used by “higher” (more progressive) Amish, who would opt for more efficient ways to build furniture, as permitted by their church’s Ordnung. But that doesn’t stop Enos from running a viable business and supporting his family as an outdoor furniture maker.

In the video you’ll see:

  • Enos’ nifty ratchet screwdriver
  • The line shaft-and-pulley setup, which is used to power most of the equipment in his shop
  • The patterns he uses to make parts for his patio furniture
  • The jig he uses for assembly
  • The diesel engine which drives the line shaft, its fuel source and how he handles sawdust

In the video you’ll hear me mention “hydraulic” and “air” as alternative power sources (basically, standard power tools are retrofitted to operate on hydraulic or pneumatic power). These are used by more progressive Amish, but Swartzentruber Amish don’t permit those kinds of public-power alternatives. However, they have settled on permitting diesel engines which power the shaft-and-pulley setup.

Once again, we have a good time with Enos and get some laughs in. He had an order to fill that evening and so we couldn’t stay forever. But Enos kindly took the time to show us around the place, and give an idea of how he gets things done as a member of a tradition-minded Amish church. Here are the details for Enos’ shop if you’re in the market for some outdoor furniture (or soaps & lotions from his wife’s shop). No phone available, so you either have to stop by, or try snail mail:

Patio & Lawn Furniture
Enos J.K. Gingerich
2874 Hollis Road
Ellenboro, NC 28040
No Phone available

Runtime: 8:57.

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    1. Boyce Rensberger

      Very cool shop/factory

      Enos Gingerich’s “line shaft” method of powering his tools is a technique that goes back centuries before anybody had electricity. He uses a diesel engine to spin the shaft. Long ago people used water wheels. Pulleys and belts have done the same jobs of transferring the spinning force to power tools since the early days of the Industrial Revolution.

      I would love to own and use a racheting screwdriver like the one Enos showed. It’s a beautiful tool commonly used to drill holes, called a brace and bit.

      1. Boyce Rensberger

        By the way, I wouldn’t consider it the “lowest tech” method. Those are power tools in Gingerich’s shop. There are furniture makers who us only hand tools powered by their own muscles.

        1. The reference (“Lowest-Tech Amish”) is to the Amish group, not the method of furniture making.

          Swartzentruber Amish are generally considered to use the lowest level of tech of any significant Amish group.

          1. Boyce Rensberger

            Ah. Yes, you are right. I misunderstood.

            Thanks for giving us this. I hope you visit people of other ordnungs, if I can put it that way, and show us their forms of technology. I’ve been at an Amish home that uses solar panels to charge batteries that run electrical tools. There are also the various ways Amish farmers have adapted modern farm equipment to operate within the restrictions.

            1. Sure thing no worries. And that’s a good suggestion, will keep it in mind. I think the plainer ways are inherently more interesting given their greater distance from what we do now…but the hydraulic/pneumatic setups could also be quite interesting.

          2. DJ Stack

            How conservative are the Swartzentruber Amish near Williamstown, NY?

            Lots of cabinet and shed building going on this area which now has about 80 families broken into 4 church districts. Would like to know more about the Amish here.

      2. Nice mention of water wheels, on the video someone else brought that up as well. I said I’d never seen Amish using water power for such purposes, but can’t rule things like that out.

        However I wonder if you could generate enough torque to drive the types of tools Enos, for example, uses. To me it seems like “no”, but I’m admittedly very much a layman.

        1. Boyce Rensberger

          Torque and RPMs are all in the gearing.

    2. Conveyor Belts

      Very interesting. Looks like Enos would go through more than diesel fuel. I’ll bet he spends a dime or two on replacing conveyor belts.