Handmade furniture is not the only type of American furniture sold under that name. There are fundamentally three types of home furniture offered by American furniture stores:
Furniture manufactured out of the USA, and offered for sale by American furniture retailers. These can be high quality pieces, handmade in the UK to exacting standards or cheaply put together in the Far East and of relatively low quality. Not all Far Eastern furniture is of poor quality, and much of the stuff coming out of China is very good, but it is not made in America.
Constructed in the USA
Furniture assembled in the USA, but from foreign parts or wood. The parts have been pre-manufactured outside America, like much of America’s car industry uses parts made in Japan or Korea. It might be easier to find spares for recliners and other functional furniture than items made and constructed outside the USA, but not necessarily.
Made in America
This handmade furniture is manufactured entirely in America from American wood and home-made parts. You will not find it as easy to find this type of furniture as you might think, since not all screws, nails and other metallic parts might have been sourced in the USA. However, the item is fundamentally American, made in the USA for principally U.S. manufactured parts and certainly from American wood. Parts are easy to get if your recliner stops reclining!
None of this suggests that the furniture concerned is not handmade, although much foreign furniture, and some American furniture, is made by robots. True handmade American furniture is offered by a number of well-known traditional firms such as Stickley, Sherrill, Southwood, The Custom Shoppe, Simply Amish and American Craftsman.
Handmade Amish Furniture
In fact, most Amish furniture is handcrafted by Amish people living in individual communities whose work is marketed by local or national furniture stores or distributors. Take Simply Amish, for example. This firm is located in Arcola Illinois, and most of the furniture they offer is handmade by craftsmen and women within 20 miles of their distribution center. They use wood from sustainable forests located no further than 500 miles away.
This an example of local men and women handcrafting beautiful solid wood furniture, and able to sell it through a central retail outlet such as Simply Amish, which in turn markets the furniture through local furniture distributors and retailers. That’s what Made in America is supposed to mean!
Benefits of Handmade Furniture
There are many benefits of buying handmade American furniture. A major benefit is quality: sure, some furniture made by hand can be of very poor quality, but firms such as Simply Amish do not market poor quality goods, and such products would be returned as ‘unsellable.’ It is not the individual ‘craftsman’ predominantly at risk, but the retailers and their suppliers.
That is why the more respected American furniture retailers will market only the very best handmade furniture alongside their mass-produced standard stock. Handmade American furniture is constructed using traditional carpentry standards as used by the master cabinet makers of years gone by: men such as Thomas Sheraton, Gustav Stickley and Duncan Phyfe.
Wood and How it is Jointed
Choosing the correct wood is an art in itself, and fashioning an elegant piece of furniture using traditional carpentry joints that is as sturdy and strong as you require it to be is a sign of a master-craftsman. This is the quality only attainable with handmade furniture, no matter where it is crafted.
Britain, the USA and Scandinavia are noted for the high quality of their craftsmanship, and France, Germany and Holland have all had their moments in furniture history. Today it is predominantly the first mentioned three that provide most of the higher-end handmade furniture. It is difficult to beat the craftsmanship of American furniture firms such The Custom Shoppe, American Craftsman and Stickley, while Southwood are without doubt the premier producer of reproduction furniture in the USA.
There are many Amish furniture retailers that market products that have been handmade by individual craftsmen, using the traditional techniques passed down from father to son. The old jointing techniques are the best because they have been devised over time to provide the strongest and most enduring joint between two or more pieces of wood.