American Heirlooms - April 2019


APRIL 2019


I like to let our woodworking speak for itself. When we’re asked to quote a prospective project, often we’ll include samples of our work and invite potential customers into our shop. Giving a tour of the place — letting someone see our precision workmanship and feel the smooth finish on each of our pieces — that’s the most effective tool we have. Recently I had the opportunity to quote a cabinet job. At first blush, I appeared to be up against some very stiff competition. From my perspective, the competing price was scary low while the features were scary good. There were a lot of quality elements that we would have included in our cabinetry, including soft-close doors and comparable framing. When I saw that list of elements (and the price), I thought, “Wow, this is going to be a tough nut to crack!” But when I investigated further, I discovered there was one component that had been deleted from this comparison: the craftsman. I was competing against a carpentry kit. It didn’t come with assembly. You know what they say: “There ain’t no free lunch!” This situation is actually fairly common, and it’s thought-provoking. For those who are not craftsmen, purchasing your own kit can appear on the surface to be a smart and frugal choice. Yet you end up paying more than you bargained for because that kit also comes with the inevitability of having to ask a buddy to help you, supplying refreshments and/or payment, and possible costly repairs

and rework later. When you don’t have the right tools or knowledge of the correct process, the chances for problems increase greatly. You could be missing some information, need to buy expensive tools, or have to source custom fasteners and other items. A craftsman is the “secret sauce” that pulls all of these disparate pieces together with great precision and experience.

Often, we’ll show the prospective customer

the difference in quality that we offer and try to educate them to make the best choice for their home. We always hope they’ll make the safe choice and go with the craftsman. However, all we can do is provide a customer with the facts and stand back to let them make their own decision. In this particular case, our prospective customer later received more information that reinforced my concerns about the kit. He already had doubts about its finish, but he then learned — from three other sources — that it often shipped with finish defects, which were a common problem with this specific kit. In addition, he discovered other cabinet sources that did not offer soft-close

drawers and appeared to be cutting corners in other areas. The shortcuts allowed for the appearance of an advantage when these shops submitted bids. In the end, we did our best to educate him about his project and what we could offer him. We do the same for every customer and their specific needs. The biggest thing you can learn from this is: Do your homework. Selling furniture keeps us in business, but it’s more important to us that our furniture and service are top quality. They speak for themselves, and together, they speak volumes.

–Ethan Zimmerman

302-653-2411 • 1

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Internal Defenses

Many trees and plants are beginning to bloom, which means that they will soon have to ward off various predators. Most animals have a fight-or-flight response when faced with a dangerous situation, but plants can’t run or physically fight the dangers they face on a daily basis. However, what they lack in claws and teeth, they make up for in chemical and mechanical defenses.

When a plant’s external defense fails, its internal protection takes charge. A plant lacks an immune system; instead, each cell is programmed to defend against any foreign object that

External Defenses

Many of us are familiar with thorns, prickles, and spines, which are all examples of a plant’s physical defense. But many other plants’ physical defenses are not as obvious. Trees protect themselves with thick, hard-to-eat bark, which is comprised of a natural polymer called lignin. Leaves are often coated in a natural wax, which deters most insects and pathogens. Some leaves have trichomes, which are sharp, hair-like features that stab or prick insects’ legs as they try to land or walk on its surface. Trichomes often also release toxins that can cause irritation and inflammation. Some plants contain microscopic, sharp crystals that puncture and inject chemicals into an animal’s mouth once they’ve bitten it.

comes in contact with it. If an insect or disease attacks the plant, the plant will thicken its cell walls with waxy plating, close its leaf pores, and kill off sections of itself to preserve the whole plant. Plants also have unique chemicals that are deadly to insects and microbes, some of which we use today as seasonings, medicine, or drugs. In addition to toxic compounds, plants can release hormones into the air that warn neighboring plants or even attract other insects to kill would-be attackers.

If you’ve decided to plant a garden this year, take some time to find out which natural defenses your plants wield.

When dead branches fall off a living tree, the result is a knot on the trunk’s surface. Consequently, these dark, circular, stump-like patterns cause a disruption in the living grain of the tree, resulting in a blemish on the surface. Typically, a knot depreciates the value of a given piece of wood because these features are considered defects, and for a large part of furniture-making history, they were an unsatisfactory element. For craftsmen, a knot in a piece of wood is a sign of weakness. Since knots once held a living extension of the tree, the place where those branches were attached has a different makeup than the wood around it. Knots can become loose and fall out during the milling and manufacturing process, and often, when a craftsman is creating a custom piece, he will take pains to avoid the knot so as to maintain the strength and integrity of the piece he is building. This part of the board is also more susceptible to shattering, especially if you place it on a lathe at a high rate of speed. Because of this, it used to be that loose knots were cut out, while others were hidden from view and kept from strain in the design and crafting of a custom piece of furniture.

Instead of perfectly manicured clear wood grain, customers are searching for more character. Now, knots are not always seen as a defect. This requires craftsmen to re-evaluate how we approach wood with knots, and since a knot is still a weak point, the need for precision and care is even more vital to the custom furniture-making process. If you’re looking for the rustic look of knots in your custom furniture pieces, our craftsmen can help. Learn more by calling our shop at 302-653-2411.

But that has since changed.

At our shop, we have seen an uptick in requests for more “rustic stylings” of our custom pieces. This often means that a customer wants knots and blemishes to remain visible in the finished piece.


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As craftsmen who offer fully customized furniture, we have heard some unusual requests, including building with materials from buildings, backyard trees, and rotting wood. Creating custom furniture is an art form, and, as some of the following strange designs prove, there’s no limit to what a designer can create. Woodsman Axe Table Perfect for burgeoning lumberjacks, the Woodsman Axe Table was inspired by “Little Red Riding Hood.” In fact, according to the table’s design company, Duffy London, “You won’t need to be afraid of the Big Bad Wolf with the woodsman axe table.” The table features four wooden-handled axes whose heads hoist the tabletop into place and serve as the legs. The tabletop is finished and cut to give the piece the feel of having been pulled straight from the woods. Fellow designers have lauded this piece, awarding it the Peta Levi Memorial Bursary Award in 2010. The Last Writing Desk Frans Willigers has created a desk with a nod toward minimalism. The last writing desk features a c-shaped desktop and seat combination that eliminates the drawers and storage commonly found on desks. Willigers’ concept derives from the idea that most modern writers operate on a laptop and no

longer need the storage space that writing utensils and paper used to require. Keeping with his minimalist theme, the last writing desk features slate coloring on top and four stainless steel legs. That’s all. Capstan Table Leaves have made adding more space to your table easier for decades, but what if your table could expand with rotations? That is the idea behind Robert Duke’s capstan table. The circular table runs on gears which make its pizza slice-shaped elements rotate and expand outward to create a larger table. Users can expand the seating capacity of the table, much like a leaf does today. Duke patented his creation in 1835, and the table wasn’t released into the mainstream until British furniture makers Fletcher Burwell-Taylor, LTD were asked to recreate the mesmerizing rotating table.

"90 percent of the game is half mental."

INGREDIENTS • 1 pound ground chuck, 80 percent lean • 4 soft, white hamburger buns, split •

"We were overwhelming underdogs."

4 small leaves iceberg lettuce

4 1/4-inch thick yellow onion slices

"Its déjà vu all over again."

• • •

1 teaspoon vegetable oil Salt and pepper, to taste Condiments of your choice

4 1/4-inch thick tomato slices

12–16 pickle rounds

"We made too many wrong mistakes."

INSTRUCTIONS 1. Lightly grease a small nonstick skillet with oil. Heat over medium-high. 2. While heating, gently shape meat into four patties 3 1/2 inches in diameter. Be careful to handle the meat as little as possible to prevent tough burgers. Season liberally with salt and pepper. 3. Sear patties on each side, about 1 minute per side. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking until desired doneness, about 1 more minute per side for medium-rare, 2 more per side for medium-well. 4. Let meat rest for a minimum of 3 minutes. 5. To assemble, place patty on bottom bun and top with tomato, pickles, lettuce, and onion (in that order). Spread condiments on top half of bun and place on top of onion. Serve.

"If people don’t want to come out to the ballpark, how are you going to stop them?"

Inspired by Saveur Magazine

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Brought to you by Kenton Chair Shop Builders of American Heirlooms and Penns Creek Furniture The Swiss Craftsman


P.O. Box 280 • Kenton, DE 19955 • Phone: (302) 653-2411

Inside this Issue

Speaking Furniture’s Language Page 1 An Unmoving Defense To Knot or Not to Knot? Page 2 Strange Pieces of Furniture Opening Day Hamburgers Page 3 Should You Skip Breakfast? Page 4


Sometimes you skip breakfast simply because you don’t have time to eat. Other times, you skip breakfast because nothing really appeals to you. This is a common occurrence for many people across the country. But when you skip breakfast, you may find that you feel just fine. It begs the question: Is breakfast really that important? Do you need to eat breakfast? It depends. Most people can skip breakfast and be totally fine. They’ll make it to lunch without skipping a beat. It all comes down to how you feel . Some people need breakfast or they’ll have to deal with mood swings — often referred to as being “hangry” — caused by low blood sugar. A healthy breakfast can stabilize your mood, helping you feel more positive, energized, and focused throughout the morning. We can, however, bust the notion that breakfast is the “most important meal of the day.” This phrase was used to market breakfast cereal in the last century. In reality, it doesn’t mean anything. The most important meal of the day is whichever meal you get the most out of, whether it’s nutritional value, enjoyment, or both.

Having a healthy, protein-rich breakfast does come with benefits, though. It gives you energy for the day and helps you avoid scrambling to find something to eat a couple hours later when hunger sets in. All too often, skipping breakfast (or having a carb-heavy breakfast) leads people to raid the vending machine or make unhealthy food choices they wouldn’t ordinarily make. Along these same lines, skipping breakfast may encourage you to eat more later in the day at lunch or dinner. You may think you’re saving calories, but over the course of a day, you can end up consuming more calories than if you had simply eaten breakfast. With so much research on the subject of breakfast, one thing is clear: You should eat when you feel hungry. You don’t have to live by the conventional wisdom of “three squares a day.” When you listen to your body, you’ll feel better for it!


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