Inside an Amish Furniture Shop
This summer in Ashland County, Ohio, enticed by a sign advertising “Cashew Crunch Candy”, I paid a visit to a random Amish farm. While, sadly, the candy seller was unavailable, the resident farmer and I ended up having a nice chat.
The fellow had just moved on to his new property; the previous owner had left for an Amish settlement in New York. Ashland County has seen a lot of Amish turnover recently (you might also remember the Ashland folks for their unusual buggy triangles).
I learned that the new owner makes furniture on the side, something you sometimes see with busier Amish farmers. The shop wasn’t operational yet, but he invited me inside and let me take a few snaps.
Pretty much all the Amish furniture shops I’d visited were already up and running at the time. I had never seen one in this state of being set up before.
So it was an interesting look at the “innards” of a furniture workshop operated by a member of a relatively conservative Amish branch. Have a look-see:
The sign that caught my eye. I passed on the bunnies.
Inside the shop. As you can see, things were in a state of general disarray.
Can’t miss that saw. Not sure what the pitchfork was doing in there.
Notice the long drive shaft in the floor. The shaft is powered by a diesel engine; the various belts will be rigged up to run the saws, planers, and other equipment in the shop.
A closer look at the shaft. More progressive Amish would rely more on hydraulic and pneumatic power. “Lower” Amish shops are going to be set up similar to this.
When operational the shaft will be covered up by flooring and all you’ll see are the bands rising up to the individual pieces of equipment.
On my way out the side lane, post-visit. The shop is the building with the chimney, in the middle of the photo (the one that looks like it’s tilting over–I think that’s more my pro camera-work than building design).
Hope you enjoyed this brief look inside an Amish furniture shop in progress. If you’ve got photos of other Amish businesses you’d like to share, feel free to email them in and maybe we’ll get them up in a future post.
The drive shaft and belt system is an old one; even 60 years ago many mills were driven that way, here in the northeast. My father remembers the woolen mill on the Caribou Stream over in northern Maine being powered by a water turbine with belt take-offs from a central shaft. It gives me an idea that a wool-carding mill on a smaller scale could be powered that way, saving quite a bit in overall energy costs. I suppose it could even be done from a wind-driven shaft. It is quite basic physics, although the application can be complex. Obviously, an engineering degree isn’t required.
Incidentally, Erik, you can use a photo-handling programme like Corell Photoshop to crop, level, and even improve your photos with just a little work. I use it in my blogs. I haven’t tried to use Picasa yet, but even professional digital photographers use it.
Thanks Magdalena, I do use good old Paint.net for photo work, which is pretty handy for basic use. I typically correct photos for odd angles but kind of liked the way this last one sat, with the road being straight but the buildings not.
I sometimes touch things up lightly but am often reluctant to do so–for instance here I could have lightened the in-shop photos, but then it wouldn’t reflect the way it actually is in an unlit Amish shop.
I would enjoy some images of animal-powered stationary Amish equipment. Or anything with water (milk cooling even). Don’t have any of those.
Very interesting photos Erik. Thanks for sharing!! I was wondering about the opening in the floor so I am glad you explained it and that it would not be left that way.
Recently I have been wondering how to come up with a way to power my electric kilns for my ceramics short of buying new gas fired ones. Lots to think about, LOL.
Alice, let us know if you do. Maybe there is an Amish solution here 🙂
Erik, if not before then definitely once I am in my own place. I am wondering if I can generate enough power through solar or wind or a combination of the two? Lots of research to do. I might just have to buy a gas fired kiln as I will need a new one at some point any how. But I have only worked with the electric ones so that would be a learning experience too.
If/when I get to Arthur I might pick Ernie’s brain a bit on the subject too. I was hoping to have gotten down there last month but with all that has been going on and still is, I am not sure when I will make it. 🙁
Alternative power for kiln.
My husband and I lived off grid with solar and wind for 20 years. The Amish moved in around us many use the old style windmills to pump water. Small solar panels are used on some farms. Anything that produces heat…draws so much power. It would never be possible.
Erik, I have some pictures from my trip to PA of a Black smith shop. If you’d like me to send them let me know how to email them to you.
Sounds great Beth, you can email them to me at ewesner (at) gmail.com.
I used to work at a museum of industry and we had a belt driven machine shop portion of the museum tour that we turned on and demonstrated. Our belt system went to the ceiling rather than under the floor, but it’s the same concept. It would have been run off of a steam engine (which brought us to another phase of the tour then).
Outsourcing - but not to India
I have 2 acquaintances who have a furniture shop and a cabinet shop in or near New Wilmington, PA, and have talked with many other furniture shop owners. It was surprising to me to learn how much work they outsource to Holmes County in particular, and in the case of the cabinet shop, Middlefield, OH. Except for bent hickory rockers, it would seem nearly all chairs come from Holmes County, I guess because it takes special equipment that a small shop is not likely to have or want to invest in. It’s neat to order from a small shop where you might know the owner, but can be a disappointment of sorts to find out only the staining was done at his shop.
Amish furniture and parts from other states
Very good point Rick. If you peruse websites of Amish furniture sellers, you often find the furniture comes from Ohio or Indiana–even if there are Amish and furniture makers in the state.
And you also see this when it comes to the parts as you rightly point out. A result of specialization among Amish and leveraging efficiencies. But not quite as nice as knowing it was fully built in a single shop.
Relocating within the Amish world
Nice set of pictures. I have no knowledge on this topic though.
When a business owner or family in the Amish community wants to make a move to another community locally or in another region to they do this transaction with real estate agents or do they spread word among themselves and find someone to “trade” with. How does that work?
Shom I’d say more the latter especially in smaller settlements (if you’re talking about buying a place–I’m not sure how much “home-swapping” might go on) but Amish do deal with real estate people especially in the bigger communities.
Do the Amish produce the bunnies for food? This is not the first picture I have seen of bunnies being advertised by an Amish farm.
I wonder how long...
…it takes to build a chest of drawers, for example on diesel-run machinery vs hydraulic/pneumatic power, and each of those against animal power? I’m thinking more percentages (50% longer, 22% less, etc.)
Now that I’ve asked a furniture question, can I ask you, Erik (or anyone else) if you’ve come across any of those “moveable interior walls” the Amish are known to use in their homes? (I think of this with the holidays in mind…:) Any photos (especially in increments, opening or closing) would sure be interesting to me! (We have a “folding wall” at work that divides our community room into two separate rooms, and I refuse to use it—too heavy, and you literally have to straddle it with your knees to budge sections of it…nope! Ain’t gonna do it!). I wonder how much heavier/lighter/easier Amish walls are to “open”?
It took me a while to get to this post—had some medical “procedures” done this week—so far, so good (I’m still here!)
And about the “crooked” photo, Erik—is the road REALLY straight? Hmm? (Perhaps it’s an Amish optical illusion?)
Looks like a shop I saw last summer
This shop looks very much like a woodworking workshop my son and I visited in Conewango Valley, NY, where a large number of Amish live and work. We visit with my dear, lifelong friend, Elsie, who has been close friends with the Amish family who live there and operate this woodshop. We were invited in and visited for quite a while, looking at photos of their work, which was gorgeous! Afterward, we visited in the house with the family matriarch who recently lost her husband. Before me left, the wife of the woodworker (and daughter of the elder Amish woman) gave us some of her homemade cottage cheese. So rich and smooth and so much better than what we find in stores! Thanks for posting the article and pictures. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Sorry for all the typos!