Amish Furniture

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I Always Wanted Amish Furniture…

…And now, I have it. It is hilariously ironic to me that I have nicer cabinetry in my van than I had in my house. Before we get to the “how to” though, a little backstory… When we got to this (END!) part of the build… you know, the part that actually makes things look pretty… we were so done with learning new skills, and so out of time, that we needed to make it happen sooner rather than later. We had assumed we would have help with the carpentry, but all known options fell through. Thus it came to pass that we found ourselves driving the backroads of Minnesota, searching desperately for a roadside sign we’d seen once, which read “cabinets and vanities.” We found said sign, and followed it. To a farm. With a buggy parked out front. I wondered aloud, “Huh. Is this a lawn decoration? Or are these people Amish?” I think we all know the answer to this question.

Upon taking a look at pics on Stephen’s phone, Junior (names have NOT been changed to protect the master craftsman) said he could do it. And then it started raining unicorns and fairy dust. Wait wait wait… not so fast. Stephen explained that unlike kitchens in houses, there are NO STRAIGHT LINES in a van. Junior did not bat an eye. Not one single eyelash. Yes, no problem, he said. He thought it’d take 4 days, he said. Whaat??? (It did; we love Junior.) 

Humble beginnings — Junior’s sketch of the main kitchen cabinet.

So, Stephen drove Ubu to Junior’s workshop every day and built cabinetry, the Amish way. It went like this:

Junior runs his shop via a diesel-powered engine to avoid reliance on the grid. It was a sight to behold:

Everything worked on pulleys and belts connected to a central crankshaft that ran under the entire shop.

How the pulley system works:

I have to post a picture here to brag on Junior’s craftsmanship. Look at these perfect joints! Even when using tools that run on pulleys.

He is also quite handy with a maple plank. He built our desk in under two minutes; see for yourself:

I made lots of trips to the hardware store for lots of corner brackets. You could probably do pull-ups from our upper cabinets (but I’m not gonna test it): This is a great example of how he and Kilty Man leveled out the kitchen cabinets using the counter below. Assuming that the piece of wood he’s holding was square  — and knowing that he built the counter below perfectly square — they  balanced the entire cabinet on two of those vertical pieces that you see him holding.  Just absolute genius 🙂 This was still difficult, and engineering ways to attach the cabinets on a curved metal surface wasn’t easy, but with a lot of “figuring” as Junior called it, they were able to work out the puzzle piece by piece.

And, due to his master craftyness, Junior gave our van some amazing touches we never would have been able to do (not to mention, you know, level countertops and even surfaces). For example, finished beveled edges on the counter top. Also see the beautiful backsplash he added.

After four 10-12 hour days, Junior had a few more days before his next kitchen build started. So we twisted his arm to help with some finishing touches:

Behold the sliding bike tray! You can also see the box that holds the outside shower next to the water heater. The bike tray is truly one of our favorite features. It can hold up to 500 pounds!  

What the bike tray looks like painted and complete.

He also covered all of our doors beautifully.

We could not believe his skill. We could not believe our luck. 

If we would have found him even one day later, he would have been booked for his next job and we would have cardboard countertops.

Also, *BONUS* — Junior’s wife fed Stephen lunch every day. Homemade Amish lunch. With bread baked in her wood-burning stove. With love. One day this bread was transformed into Junior’s first ever peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which Stephen was honored to witness. Their house had blue accents and beautifully hand-crafted furniture and was elegant in its simplicity and silence. Hmmm… Ubu also has blue accents and beautifully hand-crafted cabinetry and also enjoys simplicity and silence. Now I’m going to make a PB&J. With love.

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