On the outside, too often, the prices are perceived as marking up for the sake of marking up, the amount itself, apparently, conveying a certain stature. And while it’s true that the math is pretty basic—as with just about anything, you’re paying for materials, labor, and expertise—the difference in quality in each of those categories between budget-friendly collections and original furniture can be vast. I spent the better part of two years designing and crafting the handful of pieces that comprise my Trophy Series. Obscene as that may sound, it’s not far off my normal pace. The flask liquor cabinet was several months in the making.
No matter how successful, it’s in the best interest of all furniture makers to keep their costs—and, in turn, their prices—in check. After all, furniture is only as valuable as its function. And when it’s priced out of reach of everyone, it’s not being used. It’s partly with that in mind and partly because I tend to be a control freak with my materials that I decided to install my own wood kiln.
At the moment, my workshop’s surrounded by five 40-foot shipping containers that store all of my equipment and odds and ends. A sixth will house the kiln. It’s the latest step in an effort to control all facets of my process, kind of like a chef who does his own foraging and hits the fish market first thing every morning himself. A little while back, I brought in a chainsaw mill—it’s every bit as impressive as it sounds—so that I could mill most of my own wood. Eventually, I want to install an actual sawmill so that I can do it all myself. But the kiln, at least, starts me down what is a very long, slow path.
After a tree’s milled into slabs, they need to air-dry for at least a year. (The general rule is a year per inch.) Over that time, they’ll drop close to half of their weight. From there, they’ll go in the kiln. Once you develop an inventory—the one housed at George Nakashima’s New Hope studio is legendary for its depth—it becomes fairly easy to maintain. The effort is in investing the time and resources to reach that point. But, assuming all goes according to plan, I’ll be able to handle all aspects of the treatment of my wood.
Original furniture shouldn’t be prohibitively expensive. But, understand that no furniture maker wants to see his pieces relegated to a showroom. Those prices, however extravagant they may seem, are almost always grounded in some exceptional investments.