Questions about Amish cabinets

jill314August 9, 2013

We live in a rural area with lots of Amish. At the Amish store today I saw two business cards for men who apparently make cabinets. Neither has a phone (not to mention a website), so at some point I'll be making a trek out to their shops to see what I can find out. Any input as far as what to expect and what questions to ask would be lovely! Thanks so much!

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I used a Mennonite cabmaker, and they're more liberal - they have phones and computers. The one thing that does seem to be universal is that Amish and Mennonites make only framed cabs, not frameless. I wanted frameless for my little kitchen, but I gave that up to get the quality and price from my cabmaker.

My cabmaker had a man with a truck who drove for him. You need to make sure they deliver and install if that's what you want; some Amish don't.

Just because they're not on the internet, doesn't mean their customers aren't. If you don't have personal recs, it's work checking Angie's List, Yelp, Yahoo, whatever, to see if there are any reviews.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2013 at 9:31PM
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Thanks, Ginny! I have been unable to find anything about either place online, so maybe I should ask if there are previous customers I can talk to. That is interesting about the framed vs frameless. And I will ask about installation, that is definitely the kind of question that I was hoping people would chime in with. :)

    Bookmark   August 9, 2013 at 10:04PM
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Connie K

I also live in an area with lots of Amish. In my experience, any business that promotes itself as an "AMISH" cabinet maker is inferior to the Amishman who builds cabinets but doesn't capitalize on his culture. The "AMISH" cabinets frequently have a more rustic, outdated look that appeal to those who think they are getting a bit of the Amish culture in their home.

Our kitchen was built by an Amishman, but there's no way you would know he is Amish unless you saw him. His kitchens are highly regarded in my area, and are installed in high end homes. He keeps up with the latest trends, so anything you want, he can do. His business name is HIS name. There is no use of AMISH attached to his business in any way shape or form.

You have to decide what you want. These Amish cabinet makers might be want you want.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2013 at 10:31PM
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I used Amish cabinet makers and it was a very positive experience. If it is not too far you are probably welcome to drop in but sometimes they might not be available. When we first used them for our laundry room, we drove 80 miles to their shop only to find that it was closed because they were at a funeral. It was quite the sight to look across the fields and see about 100 horse and buggy wagons at the farm were the funeral activities were taking place. Their shop was open and we went inside and left them a note that we would be returning the next week.
For our kitchen remodel, we wrote them a letter to request an appointment and they wrote back to us giving us a couple of times that would be best to come.
When we went, we had detailed kitchen plans.We discussed door styles, options, wood species, finishes etc. We left the set of plans with them and they figured out a cost estimate and mailed it to us. They gave us a probable completion date.
After getting the estimate, we signed and returned it with a small deposit to get on their schedule. They are a small shop and were scheduled out about 5 months before they could do our order. We knew it was worth the wait.
Approximately 6 weeks before the scheduled completion/install the shop owner hired a driver and came to my house to measure my kitchen for himself. All the walls had to be in place and the old cabinets removed. I was able to keep my stove and refrigerator in my kitchen. The shop owner measured and drew out the cabinets on floor with a pencil. We discussed details and any changes from the plans. It took him a couple hours to do all this. At the time of this measuring, I gave him a 40% deposit to start building the cabinets.
The cabinets were ready to be installed 5 weeks from the date of measuring. They hired a driver with a truck and large trailer. The shop owner along with 3 carpenters, arrived at my house at 6 a.m. They worked non stop except for a lunch break and finished around 5:30 p.m. The installation charge was $1,400. Considering that with travel time the installers worked more than 14 hours with their driver waited for them the whole time, I think I got a real bargain. I had to pay the remaining balance when the install was completed. They used a couple of our power tools and wanted to give me a credit for using them and for some pizzas I got for them. I assured them no credit was necessary.
My cabinet makers did have my phone number and borrowed a phone to call me once or twice with questions. I gave them copies of the specs for my wall ovens, dishwasher and cooktop.
Everything fit perfectly and the cabinets were exceptional. The countertop installers couldn't believe how perfectly level everything was. They said it was the best install they had ever seen.
If you would like to see my cabinets, I have linked my reveal below

Here is a link that might be useful: natural cherry Amish cabinets

    Bookmark   August 9, 2013 at 10:48PM
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Digginginthedirt - both of these men are definitely not marketing themselves as Amish per se - the lack of phone number (and their surnames) are pretty much the biggest clues. But thanks for the heads up. :) We do have some AMISH stuff around here and it's definitely like you are describing.

badgergal - thank you so much for your detailed response, it is extremely helpful. I looked at the link with your kitchen and it is gorgeous. (And actually when I read the thread and saw that your cabinet maker shop is Miller Cabinet Company, I had to laugh because one of the cabinet makers who I plan to visit is Miller Cabinet Shop. Miller is definitely a very common Amish name around here! The other guy is also a Miller.) I can't believe all the curved cabinets! We're not planning anything that creative! :)

    Bookmark   August 9, 2013 at 11:30PM
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Please do not fall for the myth of Amish quality. It is merely a reflection of the integrity of the person claiming it.

My woodworker doesn't use a phone, and he borrows my electricity and tools. He produces reliable results, and he's not Amish. You have to check references, observe workmanship and get things in writing, just like you would any other cabinetmaker.

Good luck with your project!

    Bookmark   August 10, 2013 at 1:21AM
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I've been to the shop where Badger got her cabs and they do build beautiful things there. I'm trying to finalize my bedroom wardrobe built-in with the same outfit.

The only downside to dealing with Amish IMO is the difficulty with communication.

I probably like more communication than the average person, but I've sent now 3 letters and gotten one estimate and one phone call message asking me to write them a letter. I drove over there on the 22nd and met with the very nice man who said he'd get me another estimate in 2 weeks. Now going on 3 weeks.

I'm finding this particular Amish guy kind of frustrating in this regard, actually.

This post was edited by deedles on Sat, Aug 10, 13 at 1:54

    Bookmark   August 10, 2013 at 1:53AM
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deedles, sorry to hear that you are having some problems with the cabinet shop and your bedroom wardrobe project. It sounds like the new owner doesn't manage the shop as well as Calvin (person I dealt with) did. I received quick responses to my letters and my cabinets were done when they promised them. Hope things are taken care of soon.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2013 at 7:39AM
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Just as in all other cases, there are "good" Amish cabinet makers and there are "not-so-good"...the word itself doesn't denote quality, even if it is a true Amish person, so definitely brush up on what you're looking for quality wise.

We almost went with an Amish cabinet maker. But, we really wanted frameless cabinets, which just wasn't a possibility with them. We discussed the idea of minimizing the frame, which both were agreeable to, but in the end, they still weren't frameless and we decided to go with another cabinet maker (who isn't Amish) and does lovely work...he's as busy as the Amish (meaning that we have a waiting period with him too) and works almost entirely via word-of-mouth.

Be prepared that communications are a little less immediate than what we are used to. Not good or bad, just's easy to overlook what an "immediate society" we've become until it stares you right in the face. The one Amish man we were considering used a phone at one of the local businesses to return phone calls and checked his messages once a week or so. If you missed his call, you were out of luck because you couldn't call him back and talk with him. Sending mail was faster usually! But, that worked at snail mail, it was around a week or so to get questions out and get a response.

Because it isn't as easy to have lines of communication, it's more important to be organized, know what you want, and communicate it clearly.

One of the Amish cabinetmakers we talked to constructed the cabinets and another person installed them. The other Amish cabinetmaker hired a driver and came to install the cabinets himself.

One thing to be aware of is that they probably don't have insurance...not saying that's good or bad, it's just something that we found to be the case with the ones we talked with and you would need to make your decisions on that as best suits you.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2013 at 8:07AM
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I'm with the posters who said just because a cabinetmaker is Amish doesn't mean he is good, or will provide you with what you need for a kitchen. And furthermore, don't expect to get the latest cabinet innovations, like soft-close Blum hinges, Super Susans, full-extension drawers, or, more importantly, as Ginny brought up, frameless cabinets.

But really, I am compelled to mention that the Amish and Mennonite communities are filled with puppy mills that are literally hell-on-earth. Whether it be in Ohio, Pennsylvania, or Missouri, they commit hellish evil acts against dogs (and cats). I'll link one article, but warning, only read and look at the photos and videos if you have the stomach for it. I can't believe it when people admire their "old-fashioned" way of life, or think that their carpentry skills are any better than a good local carpenter who isn't living in the dark ages and torturing imprisoned animals to make money.

I know I've raised some hackles here, but I would rather starve (the way they do the puppy mommas) than not say anything about this. Maybe my point of view is not popular among the Gardenweb's Amish cabinetry lovers but keeping quiet about this subject is impossible for me.

Article Called Puppy Mills: A Side of the Amish You Never Knew

Article Called The Amish and Puppy Mills

    Bookmark   August 10, 2013 at 9:00AM
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I personally would not have the Amish do work in or on my house. There is an imagined ideal but they sometimes do shoddy work and it can be hard to get follow through to fix things. Don't get me wrong, they often do wonderful work too.

As the poster above me mentions, there is a dark side to their lives and way of living. We live very close to a heavily Amish area.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2013 at 10:13AM
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I personally would not have the Amish do work in or on my house. There is an imagined ideal but they sometimes do shoddy work and it can be hard to get follow through to fix things. Don't get me wrong, they often do wonderful work too.

As the poster above me mentions, there is a dark side to their lives and way of living. We live very close to a heavily Amish area.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2013 at 10:14AM
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Okay...gotta step in here again. Puppy mills have NOTHING to do with cabinetry. Nothing. And there's also incorrect info about some of the "newer technology".

Puppy mills are run by many, many, many people other than Amish...and not all Amish who raise animals run puppy mills. Some do - but not all by any means. I've lived in central Pennsylvania and western Pennsylvania almost my entire life and I've seen a lot of Amish. I am an animal lover through and through - I come from a family who raised animals throughout my childhood, and I've seen animals raised well and raised poorly. And it's not just some Amish who raise animals in puppy mills. I'll venture that they are actually a small percentage of the puppy mills. I will also say that one of our best animals actually came to us from a puppy mill...he was a Shepard who had much better hips (hip displaysia is a common issue) than many of the "careful breeders" who breed for "show quality"...and many of his offspring went on to serve the community as highly regarded K9 units and loyal household, hate puppy mills if you want...but, there are "good breeders" out there who turn out garbage too...ask me to tell you about my Giant Schnauzer sometime. say that you wouldn't use an Amish cabinet maker because some Amish people run puppy mills is absolutely rediculous to me. The two have nothing to do with one another. We really need to separate that some people do good things and some people do bad things in all walks of life, no matter their beliefs and to condemn a whole community due to the actions of a few within that community isn't right.

In regard to "And furthermore, don't expect to get the latest cabinet innovations, like soft-close Blum hinges, Super Susans, full-extension drawers"...both of the Amish that we talked with were using Blum soft close full-extension drawer slides and hinges. They had full access to Rev-a-Shelf and Hafele interior fittings (super susans, Magic Corners, LeMans units, garbage units, etc.) and in fact had catalogs for both. So, that is absolutely incorrect. Maybe some don't do that, but there are a fair number who do. I also believe that Ginny (whose cabinets are Mennonite made) had full access to all the "fancy trimmings".

It is true that in my experience and as has been documented by others who have had Amish/Mennonite made cabinets that at least the vast majority of them do not do, if that's a priority for you, it might be a non-starter issue. But, as I mentioned, ours were willing to entertain the idea of minimizing the frame which might work for some.

edited because part of my initial response didn't paste over when I copied it in.

This post was edited by andreak100 on Sat, Aug 10, 13 at 11:06

    Bookmark   August 10, 2013 at 10:48AM
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To answer the OP's question, my cabinets were made by Amish cabinet-makers. A local kitchen store has a relationship with them and acted as the go-between. I was able to view them in the showroom to verify the quality. I did frameless full overlay on the base cabinets and framed inset for the wall cabinets. They have all the "latest" like Blum and Rev-a-Shelf. My builder installed them and he liked them a lot because they were very square and easy to install. I got custom cabinets for a reasonable price, and I am very happy with them.

I remember icfgreen had Amish-built cabinets last year, and she posted about visiting the shop while the cabinets were being built. I googled it, and I'll link it below.

Here is a link that might be useful: icfgreen's Amish cabinet visit

    Bookmark   August 10, 2013 at 11:55AM
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The Amish are human beings and not magical cabinet gods. Where the Amish excel is their ability to install for a lot less. Their cabinets, I'm sure, are fine....but not any better than a lot of semicustom lines.

The word Amish is so over used and taken advantage of in the's almost a joke anymore. Have you seen the commercials on TV for Amish made fireplaces? Turns out they're made in China but assembled by some Amish people. Really? There's a cabinet company here in Ohio that claim to be Amish made....yet they have stores all over and their cabinets don't even look custom. For goodness sakes, KRAFTMAID could CLAIM to be Amish-built if they wanted to. Ever been to the KM factory? 25% of their workforce is Amish probably. They even have barns for the horses. I agree with the previous poster...sickening how some people/companies try to capitalize off the word, AMISH.

I'm sure there are some awesome Amish cabinetmakers out there....but don't fall for the hype of this word. Look at the finish, the hardware, get reviews.....just like you would with anyone else.

I once did a painted KraftMaid kitchen for a woman. After 3 years I emailed to see how her kitchen was holding up. When she ordered, she was concerned about doing a painted cabinet with 3 little kids and a dog. She said they still looked perfect! She had recommended me to her neighbor who decided to go with Amish built cabinets. My neighbor said that her neighbors white painted cabinets looked terrible already after 3 years.

And remember....factory cabinets have the baked finish in a dust free environment with top of the line machinery. And MOST cabinet makers today, some Amish included....actually buy doors/drawers from Connestoga and other door companies. Nothing wrong with that....just don't think bearded men are chiseling your cabinet doors out of lumber with antique tools. That's not how it usually is.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2013 at 12:03PM
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Thanks to all of you for weighing in. :)

Peony - thanks for the advice, those will be good things to keep in mind with all of the cabinet makers that I visit.

Deedless and andrea - good point about communication. That is certainly something to keep in mind. One of these guys lives only about 5 minutes from our house, so that might be a plus as far as that goes!

Alwaysfixin - I’m not entirely sure what puppy mills have to do with cabinets, but I guess I’ll be on the lookout to see if one of these guys also runs a puppy mill… I'm certainly not going to boycott all Amish because some of them run puppy mills.

Mpagmom - I didn’t realize that there might be kitchen stores that would act as a go-between, so thanks for mentioning that about your experience. I’ll definitely ask about that, as it might help to mitigate the communication concern. Thanks also for the link!

Kompy - thanks for the advice and insight.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2013 at 9:32PM
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Jill - I understand from your comment that you feel the issue of puppy mills and the Amish does not pertain to your Amish cabinet search. That's your prerogative. But my input about puppy mills did not deserve your flippancy. For the animals in these horrible places, death is a welcome release for them. They never know a kind word or a gentle touch.

My best wishes that your Amish kitchen turns out to be all you've dreamed it to be, and your Amish cabinetmaker has no involvement in his community with these horrific places.

The Pennsylvania Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement cites that 98% of puppy mills in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania are owned by Amish. Holmes County, Ohio which has the highest percentage of Amish of any U.S. county, has 470 known puppy mills - more than any other county in the nation.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2013 at 12:19AM
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Here is a post I read recently on another forum that puts it like it is:

by Duane Collie
Alexandria VA

Default The Truth Behind Amish Furniture

It never ceases to amaze me how much 'buzz' the term "Made by the Amish" generates among consumers looking for quality, durable goods. Perhaps because we all remember the movie "Witness", with Harrison Ford and Kelly McGillis!

Amish-made furniture products are decent enough for the most part, but they are not 'hand-made' in the true sense, and certainly not done in the manner of a master craftsman. Amish woodworking shops are the same as most any other woodworking shop in the USA except they are not tied to the electrical grid (forbidden by their culture). Instead, they usually have one of two huge Caterpillar diesel engines out back roaring at full speed to supply power to their shop, and many of the modern tools they use are hydraulic rather than electric. Other than that, the approach to furniture-making is largely the same as any other shop. With those huge diesels out back running full steam and belching out black smoke, they're not very 'green' shops if that matters to anyone.

Amish culture forbids driving for example, so you'll never see anyone Amish behind the wheel of a car or truck. However, they don't all go to work in a horse drawn buggy. Typically they will purchase and own a truck and then hire someone non-Amish to drive it to the work destination, and they ride in the back! Look in any paper in an Amish community and you will see ads for drivers all the time.

I have one Amish-made line in my store, and its actually the lowest end line I carry (Canal Dover brand). Its nothing exceptional, but its sturdy, well-constructed, and made of quality materials to a price point. It is definitely not heirloom quality, however - nor is it meant to be. So if you're shopping furniture, my advice is to not pay attention to the phrase 'Made by the Amish" because it adds nothing to the item. I know of no Amish woodworkers that I would consider Master Cabinentmakers though there is a Mennonite shop outside Chambersburg PA that comes pretty close to doing high-grade work.

Buy 'Amish-made' furniture as you would any other piece, on its own merits as furniture and don't get caught up in the "quaintness" of the marketing.
Duane Collie

Here is a link that might be useful: Furniture Forum

    Bookmark   August 14, 2013 at 11:51AM
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    Bookmark   August 15, 2013 at 2:30PM
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Thanks for the bump, kompy. I am definitely considering lots of options at this point, not just Amish cabinet makers. Basically I will go with whoever can give me the best quality of the cabinets that I want at the most reasonable price. :)

alwaysfixin - we do not live in either of the counties whose puppy mill statistics you quoted, but at any rate, it sounds as though you are in favor of boycotting all Amish products because some Amish run puppy mills. I do not understand this position in the least. I will decide whether or not to patronize an Amish business person based on his/her own merits, not what other people of his/her religion have done. I hope for the same consideration from them (and from all people).

    Bookmark   August 15, 2013 at 2:37PM
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Alwaysfixin -- Jill was far from flippant. She simply doesn't agree with you, and neither do I. That is, I agree about puppy mills in general, but not about boycotting an entire people group (and profiling this group as universally abusive) and another industry too based on that issue.

I have known a few folks who used local Mennonite cabinetmakers and their work was exemplary with beautiful finishes.

Kompy has a good point about the finish, you would have to decide if that is what you need. I know that I have seen several posters here who specifically did not want a factory smooth and hard finish to their paint.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2013 at 2:57PM
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