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