Mike and Ruth Stanik
As a second generation woodworker, I learned many of my skills by working with my father. The craft has been passed from father to son in my family, and in the same way I am passing the craft on to my three sons. As with many family businesses, our boys have helped from the time they could push a broom to help sweep the floor. As they have gotten older, they have learned various skills and eventually how to do much of the construction. It is very rewarding to see them take responsibility for various parts of the construction and assembly of the furniture.
My business has taken many turns, from finish trim in new homes, restoration of century homes, custom cabinets to custom furniture. About fifteen years ago I began to enjoy using reclaimed American Wormy Chestnut. The American Chestnut tree was the dominant hardwood tree in the northeast forests when our early settlers arrived. Tragically they were killed off by a disease that was introduced by imported tree saplings. By the early 1930’s almost all trees were dead or infected. The American Chestnut tree has not been able to make a comeback as the disease is still in the soil. Because of these tragic events, lumber can only be acquired by reclaiming from buildings that were built in that era. My love of American history led me to using this unique wood, reclaimed from century old structures. Over the years I have learned to really appreciate my opportunity to be able to build with this wood before it disappears completely. All the wood we use is reclaimed from structures that have outlived their usefulness. We document where the wood comes from so that we can pass on that information to the buyer. We believe this sets us apart from other craftsmen as we are able to build wonderful furniture that has an incredible history and yet we are not adding to the deforestation problem. The character of the worm holes and knots make for very unique pieces of furniture.
We get much of our Wormy Chestnut wood from West Virginia and Kentucky through contacts with men who take down old buildings such as schools, churches, and railroad stations. When we purchase wood we must let it dry for several months, depending on the weather, before we can begin to use it. When the wood is ready for construction, each piece must be metal detected to locate nails and any other foreign pieces of metal and then planed to the desired thickness. The beauty of this wood can then be achieved with much trimming and sanding.
Most of the pieces we build are of Shaker style. We try to read as much as we can about how the Shakers built their furniture and their use. We also visit historical villages and museums to see authentic pieces. During the Shakers time in history, metal was expensive and hard to obtain, so they were forced to come up with methods of construction for their furniture that didn’t use metal but achieved their purpose and would last for years. We use as many of these methods as possible since we feel they are superior to modern methods. Some of these are – dovetailed drawers and joints, mortise and tenon joints, rabbeted edges, hand turned knobs, period style latches on doors and raised panel doors. We also hand apply at least 3 coats of finish to our pieces – no spraying, to produce truly heirloom quality furniture. And as we love to say……”You are purchasing a piece of American history.
To find our more, go to our website, yesteryearfurniture.net and read the history of American Wormy Chestnut and see examples of our furniture.