Forest-to-Furniture: How Vermont Furniture Makers Keep Woodworking Local – and How You Can, Too

We Vermonters are a unique breed. We like to do things ourselves, and when we can’t do it ourselves, it’s a cultural norm that we want other Vermonters to be involved. It’s this blend of fierce independence and spirited collaboration that makes Vermont’s businesses and arts so unique – and it’s a tradition embodied by The Guild of Vermont Furniture Makers. Nowhere is it more apparent in the local choices our members make.

Guild members consider every part of the woodworking process and explore how to use local resources to make beautiful furniture. When they do, they impact much more than the character of the final product – they impact Vermont’s economy, environment, and culture, too.

How do our members keep furniture-making local? Let us count the ways.

1. The Economics of Going Local

Supporting local businesses keeps money and tax dollars local, which in turn provides a host of local benefits. Supporting local businesses keeps the local culture thriving, it keeps decision-making local, and it improves overall wellbeing. Everyone in a community benefits from local choices.Birdseye Vermont maple table top - David Hurwitz Originals

“By building furniture with locally-grown wood, I support the entire local supply chain, from the forest landowner, to the forester, the loggers, the sawmill, and the lumber dealer,” said furniture maker and Guild member David Hurwitz of the economic impact of supporting local woodworking.

In fact, according to a recent Rutland Herald article, the forest products industry in Vermont contributes $1.4 billion to our local economy, and employs more than 10,000 Vermonters. Our sustainable forest industry also helps provide the beautiful backdrop to our even larger $2 billion tourism industry.

2. The Environmental Impact of Local

When our Guild members select materials that are from right here in Vermont, they ensure that they are working with suppliers who follow legal, sustainable harvesting practices. Guild member Richard Bissell lauds Vermont’s current use program, which requires sound forestry practices. That assures him that our forests remain forests.

3. The Character of Local WoodVermont Cherry

Want furniture that is one-of-a-kind? Bissell explains: “Local lumber, like the maple log I had sawn this winter, provides wood with a unique figure that is rarely available commercially.” The sugar-tapped maple door by member Ray Finan, pictured in our previous blog, comes to mind. Going local imbues furniture with a singular character that is simply inimitable.

4. Supporting Our Neighbors

We support our neighbors and our neighbors support us. Guild member Timothy Clark knows that first-hand: “I have been lucky to have lived near two lumber yards for the past thirty years… If I ask, they will notify me when a new pack of lumber comes out of the kiln, so, many times, I can be the first one to go through it.”

How You Can Keep Your Furniture Local

We told you how we stay local – and the impact we have. Now, we invite you to join us in our mission. You can ensure that your furniture draws upon the local ethos by following two simple steps.

• Ensure material sourcing is local. Our members typically discuss this as a part of the introductory process. Talk to your furniture maker about whether the materials for your piece are as local as possible – from wood to finish.

• Ask about the rest of the process. The entire process from creative inspiration to completed item involves numerous steps. Richard Bissell considers local “sawmills and kiln dry jobs as well as furniture delivery jobs” as a part of his rigorous and transparent local use policy. When the whole process is local, you’re supporting local businesses and local jobs.

So, get the conversation started. This not only ensures that your voice is heard throughout, it involves you in the process of creation itself. This is especially important for heirlooms and the structural components of your home as it gives them a meaning they could not have otherwise.

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