What is Branch Hill Joinery?
Branch Hill Joinery is a cottage industry started in 1995 which features the work of some amazingly talented Amish craftsmen. These Old Order Amish craftsmen of Southern Michigan are some of the last Amish in the country who are still using old-fashioned construction methods and hand tools without external power sources. Most of the furniture is actually built right on their farms! This enables them to maintain the integrity of their lifestyles. Furniture and quilts are designed especially for you, and are signed by the individual craftsperson. These high quality hierloom pieces are the antiques of the future.
How are you different from the other Amish furniture outlets?
Most other Amish furniture stores offer pretty much the “same” furniture with standard sizing and spray-on finishes. The furniture from Branch Hill Joinery is more unique in both in design and craftsmanship. All items are custom sized, and designs are adapted to meet your needs. Each piece is built one at a time and our craftsman are some of the last ones to perform a large portion of the construction utilizing hand tools. Many of our fine pieces of furniture feature hand-cut dovetails which cannot be found in ordinary furniture pieces. Our fine furniture pieces also feature solid wood 3/8 drawer bottoms. Our inset doors are TRUE INSET, with the butt hinges actually mortised into the doors. Our bed frames and dining tables are fully mortised and tenoned for strength, stability and beauty. Many of the other stores simply screw the headboard to the bed post — we actually mortise it in!
In addition, you can choose your own type of finish. We also offers finishes that are environmentally and chemically sensitive.
How do I go about designing a piece for my home?
You can send us a description, photo or sketch of what you would like us to make for you. I can give you a ballpark estimate. Final pricing may vary depending upon the final design specifications. A modest deposit fee is required in order to develop working drawings. If you purchase the piece, any design fee is waived, since it is already incorporated into the pricing.
What types of wood are available?
Most of the furniture we make is from American Black Cherry or Red Oak. We also offer Walnut, White Oak, Regular and Hard Maple, Pine, Poplar, Hickory, Butternut and Quarter Sawn Oak (white or red). Prices vary depending upon the current market value of the wood.
What is so special about Cherry? Why does it darken as it ages?
Many of the beautiful antique pieces you see were made from Cherry. Cherry is especially admired for its beautiful grain and the fine patina it acquires over time when it is finished naturally. The heartwood of cherry darkens as it is exposed to oxygen and sunlight. The rate at which it darkens depends on the amount of sunlight it is exposed to.
What is heartwood/sapwood Cherry? Why is it so expensive?
The sapwood and heartwood are the two parts of the tree that make up the lumber. The sapwood is the part of the tree that was alive when the tree was cut down. It is the exterior part where food, water and other nutrients move. As the tree grows and ages, the interior part of the tree basically dies and the water in the cells is replaced by resin. This resin is what gives Cherry is classic reddish color. It also is what makes the trunks of trees rigid and strong. The resin is also photosensitive and will darken when exposed to oxygen and sunlight. This is what makes Cherry darken. The sapwood lacks this resin and the cells are still filled with water. Because it has no resin, it will never darken. We do not allow sapwood on the tops of tables, dressers, and other prominent surfaces. We do allow limited amounts of sapwood on the sides of drawers, chests, backing boards, and other non-prominent surfaces. It is just about impossible for us to eliminate all sapwood. In order to do this, we would have to just about double the price since almost every board from the mill contains some sapwood.
Cherry has become increasingly more expensive during the last ten years — actually doubling in price. This is because it has become very popular — while the amount of harvestable cherry has been decreasing each year.
What kinds of finish do you use on the furniture?
We prefer to use a natural oil finish and also to not to stain our pieces so that the natural beauty of the wood remains andover time, a rich, warm patina can develop. Our oil finish is a special mixture made up of primarily Tung and Linseed Oils. Most of our furniture and kitchens are finished with this strong lustrous oil finish consisting of 4 coats (sanded between coats) followed by a coat of beeswax. We use an oil because it actually penetrates the wood and is very water resistant. However, it does take a few months for the oil to fully cure. While oil is not as water resistant as Polyurethane, it also will never discolor, scratch, peel or chip. And an oil finish will never have to be stripped. You can refreshen any piece by just applying a little oil with a cloth rag.
We offer Polyurethane as an option, however, if you do feel strongly that this is what you need. Polyurethane is a finish that coats the outside of the wood and provides protection from water. For kitchen cabinets, we recommend several coats of polyurethane gel on top of the danish oil sealer. We will stain or paint (including milk paint) furniture upon request.
For chemically sensitive people, we also offer custom oil finishes such as Tried and True.
Do you use any veneers, plywood, or particle board in your furniture or kitchens?
We do not use any veneers, plywood or particle board in our fine furniture unless you request this as a cost savings option. The backs of hutches and bookcases are stunningly magnificent when they are planked pine or ship-lapped hardwood. Because of its stability, we do use top grade veneered plywood (no particle board) for the sides, backs, and shelves of our kitchen cabinetry. We do not ever use any particle board in any of our furniture or kitchen cabinetry.
What type of care does my furniture need?
Naturally oiled furniture is easy to maintain and does not require much care. However, you should always use coasters for wet glasses. Once or twice a year, we recommend polishing the entire piece with a good coat of lemon (or other natural oil) oil to keep the wood from drying out. If desired, you can also apply a coat of paste wax or beeswax with a clean cloth. A wax finish will offer additional protection from water and will also make your furniture shine. If you need to first remove old wax, you can lightly wipe off the furniture first with a cloth damped in Murphy’s Oil Soap and water.
Here are two oil and wax finishes I use often: OLD Craftsmen’s Lemon Oil with Bees Wax or Howard Feed-N-Wax (this is thicker, more heavy duty)
What types of joinery are used?
Traditional 18th century joinery construction methods, including mortise and tenon, and dovetail joinery are used. Mortise and tenon joinery is the best way to construct table frames, doors, bed headboards and footboards, desks and many other items. Many of our chests and bookcases feature hand-cut dovetail frame construction. These methods makes the furniture extremely sturdy and allows the wood to adjust to fluctuating temperature.
How are your drawers constructed?
Drawers are made using dovetail joinery on all four corners. Furniture pieces also feature solid wood 3/8 inch thick drawer bottoms (not plywood unless you request this as a cost saving option). The bottoms of kitchen drawers are 1/2 inch veneered plywood. Typically fine furniture has old-fashioned wood slides. Kitchen cabinets feature your choice of extra sturdy sidemount full extension slides or Mepla soft close full extension undermount slides.
Do you use any power tools?
In the initial stages of construction, the Amish use some power tools to rip the lumber and also to do some planning. These tasks are done at the workshop on my farm. After that, the Amish take the wood to their own workshops to build the furniture by hand. Their workshops do not have any power tools. All mortise & tenon joinery is done by hand, as well as the dovetail joinery for the cabinet boxes. Surfaces are also hand-planed and hand-sanded. Hinges are true butt hinges and mortised into the doors.
How can I visit Branch Hill Joinery?
You can visit the Workshop near Coldwater, Michigan or my home in Dexter, Michigan by appointment only. Please Contact Anna if you would like to visit.
How do I place an order?
How is the furniture/cabinetry delivered?
We can deliver furniture anywhere within a 200 mile radius of Coldwater or Ann Arbor. Long distance shipping is also available via Pack Ship USA or our “white glove” delivery service. The exact freight charges depend upon the weight of the item and the location to which it is being shipped. Many people find that it is exciting to borrow or rent a pickup or larger truck to come pick up the furniture themselves. This also allows them a chance to see the workshop, meet the craftsman, and spend some time in non-touristy Amish Country.
Can I return furniture?
Since all our furniture is custom made, it is not returnable. All furniture, however, is guaranteed for workmanship and construction quality. If there is something that is not satisfactory, we will make it right.
Do you have wholesale pricing or sales?
Not really. We do offer a small discount for volume purchases of some items. However, our furniture is made one piece at a time and our current pricing reflects the true cost of construction. Because we do not have a store or retail outlet, our prices are already wholesale! Occasionally (not often), we have a few floor samples that are reduced in price. You can ask about these.
How long does it take from the time I order to delivery?
It usually takes about 6-12 weeks from the time of order to the time of delivery. Depending upon how many pieces are in the queue, it can take longer. A more accurate estimate can be given at the time you order.