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The beauty of solid hardwood is much
more than “skin deep.” Neither synthetic
nor engineered, it comes from nature – the
simplest and most reliable of origins.
The history of the lumber industry in the United States spans from the precolonial period of British timber speculation, subsequent British colonization, and American development into the twenty-first century. The easily available timber proved an incredible resource to early settlers, with both domestic consumption and overseas trade fueling demand. The industry expanded rapidly as Americans logged their way across the country.
Presently there is a healthy lumber economy in the United States, directly employing about 500,000 people in three industries: Logging, Sawmill, and Panel. Today, more than ever, many more workers rely on the industry for employment. Annual production in the U.S. is more than 30 billion board feet making the U.S. the largest producer and consumer of lumber.
Challenges in today’s market persist. Due to federal and provincial subsidies issued in Canada, Canadian lumber firms in several ways have successfully wrestled jobs and market share from the United States. Recently there has been a resurgence in logging towns in the United States. This has been due in large part to the housing recovery.
During the second half of the 19th century, Grand Rapids became a major lumbering center, processing timber harvested in the region. By the end of the century, it was established as the premier furniture-manufacturing city of the United States. For this reason it was nicknamed “Furniture City”. After an international exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876, Grand Rapids became recognized worldwide as a leader in the production of fine furniture.
A furniture-makers’ guild was established in 1931 to improve the design and craftsmanship of Grand Rapids furniture. National home furnishing markets were held in Grand Rapids for about 75 years, concluding in the 1960s. By that time, the furniture-making industry shifted to North Carolina.
Much of Grand Rapids furniture has now be outsourced to Asia. In that time, Amish builders have acquired much of the old machinery once used. However, because Amish beliefs prevent the use of electricity, many woodworking tools in Amish shops are powered by hydraulic and pneumatic power that is run on diesel compressors.
Great attention is paid to the details of the wood in the furniture-making process. Each piece of wood is hand-selected to match the specific furniture in mind. Attention is paid to the grain of the wood, both in gluing pieces together and in achieving the desired look of the finished piece. Amish furniture is also valued for its sustainability and is considered a green product. The Amish woodworkers pride themselves in their work and view their products as both a pieces of art and furnishings to be used and lived in for generations.