The History and Traditions of Amish Furniture Making

The History and Traditions of Amish Furniture Making

One of the finest craftsmen of solid wood furniture is the Amish carpenter. This community of artisans are steeped in traditions of woodworking that have been passed down from generation to generation. The Amish carpenters have a set of core values that they follow: simplicity, hard work and harmony with nature. Through the years they have honed a craft that produces works of art that have a beauty and craftsmanship unparalleled to any other furniture manufacturing process. And they protect this craft by ensuring the upcoming generations of Amish furniture makers will maintain the same traditions as those that came before them. Every dining room table, sleigh bed, coffee table or rocking chair will have the same quality, durability, and history today as those that were constructed a hundred years ago.  

The History of The Amish and Their Furniture Making

The Amish immigrated to America, more specifically Pennsylvania, in the early 18th century fleeing from religious persecution. With very little contact with the outside world, they relied on themselves to craft furniture out of need to outfit their homes. The Amish people hold tight to the core values of tradition, self-sufficiency, and community which is very apparent in their craftsmanship and carpentry. They have perfected their craft over the years and constructed furniture and cabinetry that become heirloom pieces that will last for decades and generations. 

Amish furniture first took America by storm in the early 1900s. The simple lines and solid construction of the Amish made furniture set them apart from the elaborate and ornate styles of the late 1800s and Victorian Era furniture. This surge of popularity for Amish furniture was a reaction to the poor quality of furniture that was being produced during this time. Americans were discovering that the Amish were crafting simple yet creative designs that were solid, quality pieces of furniture that were timeless. These same pieces that were constructed a hundred years ago have been passed down through generations and are still in the family with a story to tell. 

How is Amish Furniture Built

The decision to purchase furniture or cabinets from an Amish carpenter will always result in the highest quality possible. They take pride in their work and never take shortcuts. Materials and techniques are far superior to any that is used in factory-produced furniture, resulting in a heirloom piece of furniture that will be treasured for many years to come. The furniture building traditions that go into each piece that is constructed is a work of art and is proudly displayed in homes around the country. 

Handcrafting a beautiful piece of furniture is a process that includes using only the highest quality materials and traditional tools and techniques to create what can only be described as a masterpiece. 

Materials – Regardless of the Amish community that a piece of furniture is purchased from, it will always be made from solid wood. The Amish never use particle board, composites or wood substitutes. The most popular woods that can be found in most Amish workshops are locally sourced oak, cherry, maple, walnut, and mahogany that has been harvested from their land. The operation of furniture making is sustainable and earth friendly due to the fact that trees are replanted in order to replenish and not destroy the forests. 

The carpenters are very particular about the wood that is used. Each piece of wood is carefully inspected for any imperfections or flaws. Minor imperfections in the wood may be accepted, as long as they are able to “sand” these out by hand. The carpenters pay close attention to grains and if there are any cracks in the wood. These characteristics will determine the overall appearance of the final product. Just as no two fingerprints are the same, no two pieces of wood  are identical either. The end result is a truly unique, one-of-a-kind piece of furniture.

Tools – The Amish community conduct their daily life a little differently than the rest of America. They do not rely on electricity and other amenities to survive. So when you purchase a handcrafted piece of furniture, know that it was constructed almost exclusively by hand. There is the occasional need to use a miter saw or power drill, but even these are not operated by electricity. They are powered using pneumatics or compressed air. 

The beauty of the furniture is only enhanced by knowing that a carpenter sanded, sawed and pieced together an exquisite finished product by only using their two hands. The production of each piece of furniture tells a story. The carpenter’s attention to detail can be seen in the lines of the design, the smoothness of the edges, and the perfectly placed grain that is a testament to the value of craftsmanship that will withstand the test of time. Power drills and saws may be used in a limited capacity on a larger piece of furniture, but the end result will still be of quality, durability and sustainability. 

Techniques – Tradition is a revered aspect of the Amish community. Staying true to their heritage is a source of pride and is apparent in every piece of furniture that is built by their hands. Through the years they have developed techniques that create strong and sturdy pieces of furniture without the use of nails, staples or screws. Instead they use joinery techniques that hold the furniture together, and have been adopted over time by other furniture manufacturers. These joints are carved and assembled by hand, going together like a perfect puzzle.

Although these joinery techniques have been around longer than the Amish themselves, they have perfected these joints and incorporated them into every piece of furniture that they craft. The most common joinery technique used is the dovetail joint. This is used in drawers and cabinets to hold together corners to make them durable and long-lasting. The other commonly used joint is the mortise and tenon. It is one of the strongest joints for attaching two pieces of wood at a 90-degree angle. To ensure its strength, glue is added to secure the pieces and ensure a sturdy, durable finished product.   

Style – Most furniture that is built by the Amish is in either the Mission or Shaker style. Amish furniture is built for functionality, simplicity, durability and natural beauty. An advantage of purchasing Amish furniture is that it is constructed by hand, giving the consumer the ability to customize their desired piece. Adjustments to size, type of wood and finishes are all left to the preference of the consumer. Therefore no two pieces of Amish-made furniture are ever the same and it will never go out of style. 

The Mission style of furniture was born out of the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th century. By combining elements from Spanish and Native American influences, these stately pieces are created rectangular in style.  Mainly crafted from oak with minimal decorative details in order for the beauty of the carpentry to be showcased. 

The Shaker style of furniture was adapted by the Amish from a group of people with the same name. This style of furniture is also without much decoration and features a minimalist design. Most pieces were painted or stained to enhance the aesthetic beauty of the piece. The woods most commonly used in this style was pine, maple or cherry and incorporated wooden knobs instead of brass pulls.

Both the Shaker and Mission style of furniture is functional and versatile to fit in with any decor, whether it is traditional or non-traditional. Mixing styles will add interest and balance to your home without one style dominating over the other. Therefore bringing harmony and peace to your home.  

Sustainability – A core value of the Amish is sustainability. As a community, they are environmentally friendly and are always looking at ways to improve conservation. Here are just a few of the ways that they maintain a high level of sustainability. 

  • All the wood that is used in creating the beautiful furniture is locally sourced. They only cut the trees that are needed at that time. There are no wide swaths of forest that are being damaged and destroyed. The Amish then plant new trees to replace those that have been used. 
  • Amish furniture is 100% Made In America. Nothing is being sourced overseas, therefore there aren’t any fossil fuels being used to transport goods from other countries.
  • Amish furniture is custom made when ordered. So there is no need for giant warehouses that need to be heated and cooled to protect the furniture. 
  • Unlike factory-made furniture, Amish crafted pieces will last a lifetime. This means that they will not end up in a landfill unlike their mass produced counterparts. Unfortunately, the particle board and resins in factory-made pieces do not decompose at a rapid rate. 
  • Amish furniture is made from natural, non-toxic materials that do not harm the environment or emit gasses within your home. 

Traditions of Amish Furniture Making

Amish traditions are a part of their heritage and they respect these values without deviating. That does not mean that they are stuck in the past or not able to adapt to the modern times in which we live. Even though they live a much different life than the rest of the country, they have embraced being adaptable in order to survive. Without giving up their values, they have chosen to use technology, advancements and innovation as a tool, and not a replacement, to streamline their craft. Their handmade furniture tells a story of hard work, skill, community and respect for the environment. 

The Amish traditions continue on with each generation. The skills that a master carpenter has learned is passed on to his son to continue the family trade. They are taught how to make flawless furniture by using their hands and the power they possess within themselves to create a work of art that can be enjoyed by consumers everywhere. There are even schools that have opened to teach the value of Amish furniture making. Each school is known for a specific aspect of the furniture making tradition. 

As modern times meet the traditional Amish lifestyle, they are finding there is a demand and respect for their craft and what they contribute to the furniture making industry. The quality and durability that comes from purchasing an Amish-made piece of furniture is more desirable than the mass produced pieces. Consumers are wanting individuality and customization when it comes to considering the type of furniture they bring into their home. Purchasing an Amish-made dining room table or bedroom suit or rocking chair means that it will be a cherished item that will be passed to children and children’s children. A story and a history will be attached and engrained in the very wood of your Amish-made furniture. 


The decision to purchase furniture for your home can sometimes be an overwhelming task. From design choices to materials to style, the choices are insurmountable. Factory-made, mass-produced furniture tries to lure consumers by only having simple designs with limited choices. The downfall is that these items will eventually be replaced. 

Choosing to purchase an Amish-made piece of furniture or cabinets will allow the consumer to have the customized piece that they desire. The Amish have the freedom to allow for changes in size, wood grain, and stain so that you are getting the exact piece that will become a permanent fixture in your home. Your furniture will be durable and longevity and increase in value as time goes on. 

Bringing Amish-made furniture into your home, you are not just buying a piece of furniture, you are investing in a community of people that are rich in history, tradition and skill. As a consumer, you are bringing their story into your home and continuing on the heritage of the Amish carpenter. The timeless style will transcend generations and begin to take on a life of its own, telling your story to those who inherit your priceless treasures.