The first thing I made from wood outside of junior high shop class was a storage rack for my large collection of music CD’s. It was tacked together from cheap pine 1x6’s and dowels using my dad’s electric drill. One look at it would demonstrate that fact I hardly knew what I was doing. Yet, the knowledge that it wasn’t some cheap, particle board, disposable furniture from the local dept. store, but something I designed and built myself, must’ve struck a chord somewhere in my psyche.
That early project, in spite of its exceptionally rudimentary construction, lasted me for well over two decades with little modification (until I gave it away). During that time, I found myself living in a rustic cabin outside Nederland, Colorado, chopping my own wood for heat, hauling my own water in, and generally living a simple life. It was there that my interest in hand building my own furniture grew into something greater than a typical do-it-yourself expediency. Awareness that furniture is not merely a utilitarian object but also a creative expression of its designer, a lasting marriage of both fashion and function, consumed me with a will to learn more and to create.
Economics precluded buying a shop full of expensive machines and power tools and, though this was certainly a discouraging fact, this hardship led my search for woodworking knowledge and skill to an earlier time. This earlier time was a golden age of hand built furniture, when furniture that was fit for kings and the common man alike was made without the benefit of things like, well… a 110V power outlet for instance.
That said, I am no technophobe, when a particular machine will result in a significant reduction of drudgery, I will make use of it, but a healthy portion of my stock preparation and joinery is done with hand tools not entirely unlike what was used centuries ago. I do this for good reason, not the least of which is my health and sanity, but also because of the result these methods are capable of producing.
The results of those early methods are testaments to craftsmanship that lasted for generations. They became family heirlooms. They inspired successive generations of craftsmen with their designs, from the ornate style of Chippendale furniture to the spare utilitarianism of Shaker. They intrigued viewers on The Antiques Roadshow. They made for conversation pieces at parties. They lasted.
This tradition, which for many seems to be a lost art, is what inspires me as a worker in wood. Though the styles in which I build are decidedly of a modern slant, the underlying notion that each piece I build is unique, and that it is built with the care and personality that I find hand tools to be uniquely capable of, is what gives the final result a story, an ethos, and, dare I say it, a soul.
Natural—unique-- hand crafted-- durable-- artistic-- local. I hope that you’ll join me in ensuring that these traditions continue.
The Mountain Top Joiner's Shop
Owner: Ryan Cheney
Location: Louisville, Colorado, USA
Maker of: Freestanding furniture and keepsake boxes
Founding workshop: Detached, unconditioned, one car garage with one outlet.
Number of Employees: 1
Copyright 2013. The Mountain Top Joiner's Shop. All Rights Reserved.