When choosing wood for a great piece of furniture, you need to choose a great piece of wood. Fortunately, here in Vermont, we don’t just have sustainable forestry practices, but we also have some great examples off many different kinds of wood with which to build our beautiful furniture.
When we surveyed our Guild members about the Vermont woods that they like to use, two stood out above the rest: Cherry and maple were the first two mentioned on every list. Our furniture makers use a large variety of Vermont woods though, including ash, pine, butternut, poplar, hickory, oak (both red and white), sycamore, and elm. Guild member Richard Bissell likes to use local walnut as well, but it’s rare here in Vermont. Dave Hurwitz loves working with lilac, although because it’s a bush, it’s “generally only large enough for making carved handles for utensils.”
Vermont Cherry Cabinet with Sugar Maple doors at the top, by Richard Bissell
Cherry is a natural choice for furniture, because of its availability and characteristics, not the least of which is that it’s “one of the best all-around woods for workability.” Many of our local furniture pieces are built on a foundation of cherry as a result.
Vermont cherry isn’t always thought of as the best though. Guild member John Lomas said, “Vermont Cherry is often considered of somewhat lesser quality than Pennsylvanian Cherry. Sometimes the color is not as dark and there is a tendency for more pitch pockets to show in the Vermont stuff. Pitch pockets are little dark marks or streaks in the grain.” Despite the perception, our local cherry can provide the perfect material for our locally-crafted furniture. “…Over the last few years, I have found the locally available cherry to be of excellent quality. Width, color and grain easily rivalling the Pennsylvania stuff,” John said.
Based on John’s examples of Vermont Cherry, we’d agree.
Vermont Cherry Coffee Table made by John Lomas
Of course, no article about Vermont wood would be complete without talking about maple. Naturally, maple syrup is a major industry here in Vermont, and our trees produce 5.5% of the global supply of maple syrup, more than any other state. The maple trees good for making syrup are plentiful here, including the sugar maple and the red maple. “Red maple… grows like a weed around here,” John Lomas said.
What’s good for sugaring isn’t always good for making furniture. John said that red maple is soft and “generally not of such good color,” as hard maple, relegating it to support roles in furniture making, like drawer box parts. Sugar maple, by contrast, usually has a better color.
Naked Vermont Sugar Maple Table by ShackletonThomas
Even though not every maple is destined to be a great piece of furniture, Vermont does a few maples as well as anywhere. Bob Gasperetti said, “Some Vermont woods such as the bird’s eye maple… have amazing figure.” Whether it’s because of our growing season, amount of light available, or whatever, some of our maples take on unique looks when made into a table that can’t be matched.
Vermont Birdseye Maple Curve Front Desk by Bob Gasperetti
We don’t just have beautiful lumber here in Vermont and amazing artisans who craft it into the furniture you see above — it’s also a good idea to choose Vermont wood and Vermont furniture makers. It’s a sustainable industry here, and it supports Vermont’s economy. Furniture maker ShackletonThomas said “Vermont is fortunate to have a wealth of trees, that when managed properly can have an indefinite, sustainable future.” Vermont wood is a win-win!