Page 1 of 4 1234 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 32

Thread: Visit to an Amish Woodworking Shop

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Villa Park, CA
    Posts
    1,407

    Visit to an Amish Woodworking Shop

    I just returned from a week visit with the in-laws in PA, around Selinsgrove. My brother-in-law and his wife are getting a table and chairs made by an Amish woodworker, Mr. Brubaker (I didn't get his first name), and took me to his shop. It was an interesting visit. His shop is exactly like any other commercial woodworking shop - except that he doesn't use electricity and doesn't have any lighting except the natural light through the windows.

    He has all the regular tools - a DeWalt miter saw, a Delta table saw, a Woodtek jointer, a shaper, router, planer, a couple of lathes, dust collection, etc. He also has a finishing room with a modern spray gun with a pot. Any of you would feel right at home in his shop.

    He powers all the tools with flexible drive shafts driven by a diesel engine. I don't know exactly how the power is coupled to the shafts but there's obviously some type of clutch on each shaft so that you can turn on each tool when you want to use it.

    It was quite enjoyable talking with Mr. Brubaker. He's about late 30's to early 40's with three kids who work in the shop - two boys and a girl. When we arrived, the boys were turning wooden knobs on a lathe - he's known for wooden knobs and sells them to other woodworkers. The lathe is jigged up so that all the boys have to do is mount the blank and then use a "duplicating tool" to cut the knob. There was a plastic shield over the work so the boys could see the cutting but have protection.

    My conversation with Mr. Brubaker was exactly like one I'd have with you if I visited your shop. I asked him about his tools and how he powers them, and how he modifies them for the drive shaft. He seemed to enjoy talking about the shop and the tools and the problems he's encountered.

    He makes chairs, some with a decorated crest rail. I asked him how he makes the crest rail - whether he steam bends the wood and carves the decoration himself. He replied that he buys the crest rails from a supplier who bends them and embosses the decoration into them.

    All-in-all, I discovered that an Amish woodworker is exactly like any other woodworker today - they just don't use electricity.

    One thing I didn't do was take pictures. I just didn't want to be the tourist who started snapping pictures of the "ole time people".

    As we were driving away, I commented to my BIL that I should make a deal with the Amish to take the electric motors that they take off of their tools and sell them on eBay. He kind of "harrumped" and said, "The Amish aren't dumb. You can be sure they're already selling those motors one way or another."

    Anyway, I just wanted to pass this story along. I could have spent quite a bit of time with him talking about tools and furniture but I had to limit things since he has a business to run. The funny thing is that I had the impression that he could have spent quite a bit of time talking about tools and furniture, also. He definitely was not pushing me out when I left.

    Mike
    Ancora imparo
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  2. #2
    Glad you enjoyed your visit.
    Amish friend of mine is woodworking with all the mentions that you made. Humbles one real fast.

    Had the opportunity thru him to visit at least 25 Amish homes and spend time with them.
    One could eat off the floor in all those homes very clean and orderly. NEVER found one home that looked like lot to be desired. Have nothing but respect for them.

    WoodWorking, Crappie Fishing, Colts, Life is good!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Monroe, MI
    Posts
    470
    We enjoy going to Amish country in Indiana and spent a week in PA a few years ago. Some of them even use electricity in their shops, but generate it using an on-site generator. We've got an amish dining room set, dresser, and my wife has a jewlery chest and all are nicely made--with many modern techniques like pocket screws.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Michigan
    Posts
    2,436
    You guys must have a different breed of Amish then what we got around these parts.
    They have telephones in a building outside of the house, have farm tractors with the rear tires on steel rims ( know how funny it is to see a newer farm tractor on steel ) they have and own their own trucks and "put a driver" in it to drive them around.They all seem to be able to use skid-steer loaders without the steel rims for som reason
    Around here they are held in mixed regard as for their workmanship, I've been called out to do a lot of repairs on work they have done.
    The local Amish woodshop orders in all their stuff and sell it in their store...had a couple Amish work for me once....they could drink more beer than I could afford.
    Fella I did some work for had a Amish crew come in to do some interior work in his house, he told me they would not flush the toilet when they got done...yep, he fired them.

    Glad you guys have had good expieriences.
    A very wise man once said.......
    "I'll take my chances with Misseurs Smith and Wesson. "

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Monroe, MI
    Posts
    470
    In Ohio, they seem to be doing a lot of specialization--one family does turnings, another makes chairs, another roll top desks. Those sell wholesale to other families that run shops.

    We camped at a campground in Ohio that advertised "free firewood". I jokingly said it was probably cutoffs--until we got there and found out it really was. You could see the marks from the CNC routers on all the edges. Some of them have phones in a little, well phone booth, out by the road. Many of the businesses have email and fax numbers and the way I understand that works is that they go to a place "in town" where they print them for the business. Most of the rural shops don't have electric. When you go in there are skylights, including a lot of those Solar Tubes and gas lights, which I find mildly scary with all that wood and fresh finish. On the finish, most of them use pre-cat finishes, which are sprayed by someone who specializes in that--not sure if they are Amish.

    I know the guy next door to me had his horse barn built by the Amish several years ago. I think he said they came from Indiana. They built all the stalls and everything. I've heard of others doing that. If I were going to build a barn today though, I hear there's a good guy up in the Charlotte area.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Tokyo Japan
    Posts
    15,807
    I guess, just like any "Group" it takes all kinds.

    Thanks for sharing the story about you visit Mike!
    The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
    William Arthur Ward

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Villa Park, CA
    Posts
    1,407
    To expand on what Stu posted - I was just sharing my experience in visiting an Amish woodworking shop and in how "ordinary" everything was, including the woodworker. I was not in any way saying that the work produced was any better than any other commercial shop - Amish or non-Amish.

    People are people and some will do excellent work and some will do "not so excellent" work. Being Amish doesn't change that.

    No matter who the woodworker is, you need to look at the work to decide if it's any good. Looking at the woodworker will not tell you.

    Mike
    Ancora imparo
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Carlyle IL
    Posts
    350
    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Ash View Post
    You guys must have a different breed of Amish then what we got around these parts.
    They have telephones in a building outside of the house, have farm tractors with the rear tires on steel rims ( know how funny it is to see a newer farm tractor on steel ) they have and own their own trucks and "put a driver" in it to drive them around.They all seem to be able to use skid-steer loaders without the steel rims for som reason
    Around here they are held in mixed regard as for their workmanship, I've been called out to do a lot of repairs on work they have done.
    The local Amish woodshop orders in all their stuff and sell it in their store...had a couple Amish work for me once....they could drink more beer than I could afford.
    Fella I did some work for had a Amish crew come in to do some interior work in his house, he told me they would not flush the toilet when they got done...yep, he fired them.

    Glad you guys have had good expieriences.
    Steve, do you know if they charge sales tax, or pay state and federal income taxes? Or does the income go to their church?

    What about workman's compensation insurance. Do they pay this mandated insurance policy?

    The house I live in has cabinets "made" and installed by the Amish. These cabinets used plywood and some sort of factory applied catalyzed laquer or someother finish.

    My biggest complaint is in the dinette area where they used big HONKIN wood screws to attach some trim!

    Like someone else said, No they are not dumb. They are opportunists capitalizing, marketing and merchandising on their heritage to an unsuspecting public.

    Let me be clear. Maybe not all, but in my experiences with them here in Illinois, they are taking more than they are contributing to our society as a whole. taxes and insurances are my two biggest issues.

    please someone correct me if I have misinterpreted my experiences.

    joe

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Henderson View Post
    To expand on what Stu posted - I was just sharing my experience in visiting an Amish woodworking shop and in how "ordinary" everything was, including the woodworker. I was not in any way saying that the work produced was any better than any other commercial shop - Amish or non-Amish.

    People are people and some will do excellent work and some will do "not so excellent" work. Being Amish doesn't change that.

    No matter who the woodworker is, you need to look at the work to decide if it's any good. Looking at the woodworker will not tell you.

    Mike

    I too have been to Amish workshops in Ohio and yes there is some good quality work going on but as for superior? I equate with the same relation as any other manufactureing company, the difference is that the product was produce by folks with good work ethics, Christian Ideals, and don't curse when they screw up, like I do. I have good work ethics and Christian Ideas but have difficulty with the cursing when I screw-up. (But I'm working on it )

    Visiting Amish Communities is indeed very interesting and (weather or not you believe in their ideals) you have to give them credit for their resistance to societies demands. Around here we have Mennonites, which are similar yet more relaxed in their beliefs, they do use power tools but only for their Job... A friend had them build his barn and was amazed that they arrived in a truck and used power tools. They explained that it for their vocation and not a personal luxury.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Southeast Pa
    Posts
    2,019
    I live in an area surrounded by the Amish and I have no idea where people get the idea they don't pay taxes. As far as I know the only tax they don't pay is SS and they don't get to draw it either. In fact there have been cases where they left the church and payed SS for 35 years and then their SS was denied because of some form they file when young.

    As far as tools here in Lancaster county most of the commercial shops use a large motor to drive a compressor and then change the electric motors out to air motors. Then they can turn on and off and regulate speed with a simple valve.

    As far as the quality of work its all over the place. But there are probably dozens of crews that drive into Philly daily to build houses.

    One problem they had in the past was using hammer tackers to install roofs but most have converted to air nailers now. The shingles attached with the hammer staplers tended to blow off in a good wind.


    I tend to buy all my angle iron and steel from the local Amish welding shops..

    Mostly very good people and about all I see them getting without working is the freedom they enjoy. Them and several other local religions don't have to serve in the military even when we had the draft.

    All in all they are very good at business and if its junk people want its junk they will sell, if its quality they want there are some super craftsmen willing to do fine work. Both in wood and metal, there is even one over near Gap, Pa that will cast iron parts for you if you send him a pattern.

    Garry

Similar Threads

  1. How Can You Spot The Amish Fisherman??
    By Dan Mooney in forum Off Topic Discussion
    Replies: 10
    Last Post: 02-14-2014, 06:52 AM
  2. Living Like The Amish
    By Bob Spare in forum Off Topic Discussion
    Replies: 14
    Last Post: 12-25-2008, 08:24 PM
  3. Peachtree Woodworking worth a visit
    By Wes Billups in forum General Woodworking Q&A
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 02-10-2007, 04:29 PM
  4. Amish Customs
    By John Hart in forum Carpentry and Construction
    Replies: 31
    Last Post: 11-25-2006, 12:33 AM

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •