Hallmarks of Amish Furniture Design

Amish furniture is sustainable and will last for generations.  No two pieces are identical because the Amish craftsmen carefully select individual pieces of wood based on its grain and beauty.  You will not see particle board or laminate used in Amish furniture making.  Instead, you will notice the handcrafted pieces are made of solid wood.  Attention to detail and careful craftsmanship are what make Amish furniture so desirable.  These pieces are meant to withstand the test of time.

The techniques used by Amish woodworkers do not require the use of electricity.  Open-air seasoning and kiln drying add to the beauty and strength of the wood.  All finishing is done by hand, including sanding and polishing.  Amish woodworkers use tools powered by hand.  The furniture is crafted with hydraulic and pneumatic power tools.  Amish furniture making is a skill that is passed down from fathers to sons.

Furniture dealers and historians appreciate the beauty and fine craftsmanship of Amish furniture.  The main characteristics of Amish furniture are the clean, simple lines and impeccable details.   Dovetail joinery is a hallmark f Amish furniture.  This type of joinery fuses the wood together without using screws or nails.  The end result is a dovetail joint that resembles two hands with the fingers interlaced.  This type of joint is incredibly strong and beautifully simple.

Amish furniture first became popular in the 1920’s and 1930’s.  Two of the most widely known styles of Amish furniture design are Mission and Shaker.  Although people often use these words interchangeably, the two styles are very different.  Mission style furniture is distinguished by its simplicity and exposed carpentry and joinery. The emphasis is on straight vertical and horizontal lines combined with the use of flat planes.  Mission furniture is easy to recognize because of its straight lines and uniformly sized wooden slats.  This style is primarily made from oak and emphasizes a straight line design with exposed joinery, notably the use of mortise and tenon joinery.  Mortise and tenon joinery fuse together pieces of wood without nails or screws.  A common characteristic of Amish furniture is the five-piece English dovetail joints on drawers and steel ball bearing drawer glides.  The simple use of repetitive, evenly spaced parallel slats gives Mission-style furnishings an implied quiet strength and solid form.

Shaker style furniture is recognizable by its unadorned, simple style.  Shaker design is popular because of its durability and utility.  This style reflects the Shaker principles of honesty, simplicity and humility.   It is free from excessive decoration and pieces are most often made from maple.  One of the most notable Shaker chair styles is the ladder back design.  Shaker chairs were made for function.  They were built to slide under the table when not in use or hang on the wall.  Shaker furniture has a slightly delicate appearance, with chairs and tables having tapered legs, compared to the squared Mission style.