Amish furniture quality (vs. major brands)?

keyserOctober 11, 2006

We were about to order a kitchen table and chairs from Rose (where we have made all our previous major furniture purchases), but now are reevaluating thanks to their bankruptcy. We're now considering some Amish furniture that is sold through a store here in Texas. It seems well-made to a non-expert like me, and we can customize a lot of parts of it (though the overall styles are a bit more limited).

Obviously, there's a lot of variation in Amish furniture construction, but I'm wondering how people, in general, have found Amish-made furniture to compare to major brands. Specifically, we've previously considered both Canadel and Saloom (with Saloom seeming to be slightly higher quality). Are there particular things I could look for on the Amish furniture to determine how well-constructed it's likely to be, or how I could compare it with the major brands? Thanks for any advice.

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mactruck

The amish put there heart and soul into their furniture.
You will find no veneers and a solid wood story.

Saloom and Canadel may have some presswood (aka chipcore). I think you can't go wrong with the amish made stuff.

Just because it's not a major brand doesn't mean it's not a quality piece. I usually find the opposite is true. (major brand is of a lesser quality)

Just my 2 cents.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2006 at 10:55AM
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lauren17

I agree with Mactruck in that usually major brands are of lesser quality. I searched high and low for a farm table and was very disappointed by all the major furniture brands. I ended up finding a craftsman who makes only farmtables and also purchased a buffet hutch and chairs from his store that were Amish made. I couldn't be happier with my choices. That being said, just because something is made by the Amish, doesn't mean it is a quality piece - I am currently looking for more casegoods and have seen a lot of Amish made junk. I think the key is that you are looking for craftsmanship. BTW, the table, buffet and chairs were not outrageously priced - they were comparable to mid-level furniture brands (Thomasville), but the quality is so much better.

Here is a link that might be useful: Farmtable

    Bookmark   October 12, 2006 at 6:22PM
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moonshadow

I've been close to Amish communities all my life (Ohio and Indiana). When I was younger, on the farm in Ohio, I watched 3 local Amish men work on a barn my uncle hired them to build for him. They used no power tools (fascinating, their drill was hand cranked). That's one heckofa barn!

We have several Amish communities about a 90 minute drive from here (in north central Indiana). Shipshewana is a favorite day trip for those looking for Amish made. You can find everything from farmer's selling out of a shop next to their barn, to a huge 'high end' furniture store located in town. About 10 years ago I bought a little pine jelly cupboard from a farmer who had a shop on his property, it was for a store display. (Not common for pine to be used, but it was just the right size, with black hinges and latch handle.) Shop is gone, so cupboard is in my kitchen now and holds some of my antique crocks and pottery. The detail and construction is solid, and although it's pine (natural honey stain, not the unfinshed-look ashen brown finish that you used to see in 'crafty' places') it's going to hold up a long time. It's commom for people to go there (Shipshewana, Napanee) and order big $$ pieces (dining sets, etc.) but the wait can be long (months) if it's a well known, small craftsman's shop (typically advertised by word of mouth).

There's also a local store in our area that carries Amish made furniture. As mentioned, it depends on the craftmanship. Generally speaking, nearly all of what I've seen personally is very well made. But I have been disappointed in pieces at that local store. They used to carry nicer things. But now, so often, if you run your hand across certain pieces, it's rough. So it wasn't sanded well when it was bare wood, nor between coats of poly. (A huge pet peeve of mine.) Done well, it's smooth as glass. My mother bought a dining set from that local store years ago, when they had better quality and was definately Amish. Her table is solid oak, pedestal base, extends to a whopping size, windsor style chairs. The gears for the table leaves still glide like a warm knife through soft butter ;) On the whole, still good as new, and it's used daily and handles huge family gatherings.

As far as construction, you'll never see particle board or MDF on a good Amish piece, no rough surfaces, no staples. Pieces are joined via dowel pins, biscuit joinery, dovetailing, mortise and tenon. (That little local store I mentioned above, that's gone 'downhill' in quality on some pieces - that's another thing, pieces with particle board backs have begun to show up. I actually question whether some of their stock is truly "Amish made", it's more like mass produced made to look Amish.) Veneers are pretty rare as well. I've seen a few stores/sites that mention they occasionally use veneers on pieces, but from my own first-hand experience viewing pieces in the Amish communities, the good stuff is all 100% solid kiln dried northern hardwoods.

Here you go. I just found a good site, for you. I'm not familiar with this store (it's in the Indy area, but they use only Amish craftsmen.) Take a look at the video on their page, it's about 5 minutes long, walks you through how they craft their funiture. That should help :)

    Bookmark   October 13, 2006 at 11:06AM
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lazy_gardens

There are some schlock mass-producing factories that employ just enough Amish workers to stay on the good side of the Fair Trade laws.

Take someone who can evaluate construction with you when you shop.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2006 at 5:14PM
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mcgillicuddy

True Amish-made furniture is quite solid and well-made, but I don't know that it's "better" than any other well-made brand.

That said, I echo the other posters with a warning to carefully inspect any piece you plan to buy. I see a lot of "Amish" furniture that's screwed together or otherwise shoddily made.

It really depends on the individual piece.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2006 at 3:53PM
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keyser

Thanks for the replies so far - they have helped.

Unfortunately, I feel like my wife and I don't have much skill in evaluating tables and chairs, don't know anyone particularly skilled, and had little luck finding out information from the web (beyond this forum). The types of things I know to look for in other furniture (like dovetailing, corner blocking, backing, lack of MDF) don't really apply to these tables and chairs. Any guidance as to what to look for or ask about specifically would be appreciated.

I did notice that the chairs (and most parts of the tables) are screwed together. In fact, there were screws connecting the stretchers together that were easily visible and not countersunk (as opposed to the other screws) on one chair... Is all this necessarily a sign of poor quality? I believe the parts are also glued, but there are certainly screws at most connection points. The furniture feels very sturdy, for now, but is that something likely to change over time?

Again, thanks for any further advice.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2006 at 9:59PM
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western_pa_luann

We have been very happy with the Amish-made pieces we have purchased over the years. The chairs especially have been wonderful - as solid as new, even with kids (and their friends) and the fact that we are not small people (my 20 yo son is 6'7").

We have recommended this company to many friends. We have NO affiliation with this store - just praise for the quality of the Amish - made pieces. (not everything in the store is....)

(Hopefully this post will not vanish as my other one did....)

Here is a link that might be useful: Oak Country Peddler

    Bookmark   October 16, 2006 at 7:55PM
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mogator88

Amish is generally very high quality. The problem people have is with styling. There is definitely an Amish "style" and if you want a different look you'll have to go to a different factory. Canadel is OK, I have it in my home, but Saloom is much better. None of them use particleboard, all solid wood.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2006 at 6:49PM
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mytonytiger

Amish Furniture varies in quality from shop to shop. However, in my experience, most are going to be far superior to store bought furniture. For one thing, they will use solid wood panels and ply-wood. Ive never seen any particle board or similar materials used. Secondly, real joinery is used. You may see staples used for an application, but only if itÂs appropriate for the function. Generally youÂll pay only a little more than the cheap particle board varieties, but much less than the big-store furniture prices, and youÂll get a piece of furniture you can enjoy for years and years.

IÂm currently working on a site (not up and running yet) that will hopefully bring together some items from local Amish and Mennonite communities and make them available online. The site is www.TheAmishOutlet.com . Currently, there are only some word press articles to help with ranking. But, like I said, once I have the site developed IÂll push it out. IÂm hoping to have a little of everything.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2009 at 4:56PM
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