Handmade Shaker Walnut Trestle Table

This particular table features a boat-shaped top whose grains form a beautiful teardrop shape. The wood is a rich, chocolate brown color with a hand-rubbed smooth finish. Although this model was specifically designed as a dining table, the trestle table is versatile and can be used for any purpose. The table also disassembles easily, making it a snap to move anywhere you please.

View more specific product information about this shaker trestle table or check out our entire line of custom dining room tables.

Tiger Maple Dining Room Table with Turned Legs

Check out the tiger maple dining room table with turned legs that I recently completed and delivered to the clients home in Lyme, Connecticut.  This handmade dining table makes a wonderful formal or casual dining experience.  Click here to view product specs and buy online.

Old Lyme Bed – a Custom Order for a CT Customer

Wooden Colonial Bed Handmade in VermontI recently delivered a bed to Connecticut for a family which has ordered multiple pieces over the years. This bed is similar in design to another piece they ordered previously. The destination for this new piece was a room with amazing views. The client desired to elevate the bedstead this time so that they could have an unobstructed view of the ocean.  This required is a departure from my typical design. The height of the headboard posts are 48″ to accommodate a  headboard that is 20″ in height. This increase in height gives the piece more weight, and provides more surface to display the grain of the wood.

If you are wondering about this bed’s name, it is named for Old Lyme CT, one of the earliest settlements in New England, located at the mouth of the Connecticut River as it enters Long Island Sound. The furniture styles from the early colonial days of New England continue to influence the design of new pieces commissioned for homes in the area. We pay tribute to that history with the naming of the bed and with the lines which evoke the earliest designs of four poster beds in colonial America.

As a result of this original custom order, it now joins the rest of my collection as an option for anyone to request. Just give me a call!

A custom coffee table project: ponderings on the origin of the name

drawing-room-side-tableWhile laying out a full scale drawing of my current project (a mission style coffee table), I could not help but ponder where it got its name – and how it evolved.

Apparently the origins of the coffee table are not exactly known.  It is, however, thought that it developed in Britain in the middle of the 18th century.  It is more than likely that the coffee table evolved from an earlier beverage, tea – the tea of choice at that time. Tea tables were taller and placed behind the tall-backed settee of the time.
By end of the 18th century, furniture design and taste shifted to a slightly lower back and this influenced the height of the table. Moved, now, to the front or side of the settee, the tables became lower as well. Once coffee became common in the British isles, the design took on Anglo-Japanese influences with an even lower height. In the listings of Victorian Furniture by R. W. Reynolds & BB Whinery and The Country Life Book of English Furniture by Edward T. Joy, a table designed by E Goodwin in 1868 and made in large numbers by William Watt, Collinson, and Lock, it became known as a coffee table.

Ponderings aside, the gallery below shows the evolution of creating this handmade piece.

Phase 1:  Full scale drawing, list of parts, mill the parts
Phase 2:  Prepare the joinery and dry fit
Phase 3: Glue up
Phase 4: Finish work; with chisels, scrapers and sandpapers; sand top separately, attach the top to the base; apply tung oil

In the course of one week, I began and completed this piece and delivered it to a long-standing customer in Stowe, Vermont. I welcome your comments and am happy to answer questions about creating a custom piece for your home.


Custom platform beds: a contemporary interpretation of an historic furniture design

Given that the average person spends 1/3 of his or her life sleeping, a bed is probably the most important piece of furniture you will ever purchase. Mattresses aside, the design and construction of the bed frame itself determines whether it will withstand the test of time. Will you still like it in 30 years? Will it be one of the pieces of heirloom furniture that is so beautiful and solid that your family will pass it down from generation to generation?

What began in the 12th century as raised wooden bedsteads heavy and ornately carved, became much simpler wood frames by the 14th century for several reasons. First, draperies were added which covered up the frame, as a demonstration of wealth and luxury. Those added layers of fabric also provided a practical element against the cold. An additional influence was the ease of transport, as the wealthy brought all these belongings with them during their travels. Styles in the 17th and 18thcenturies returned to more elaborate, ornate designs reflecting the style of the day and the importance of bedchambers as a place to receive visitors. Can you imagine?

Regardless of style, the construction of those early hardwood bedsteads involved mortise and tenon bedframes that carried the mattress via ropes woven into the side rails. (Those ropes regularly required tightening, reflected in the “sleep tight” expression still used today.) It wasn’t until the invention of the box spring in the mid 1800’s that rope-style support became less common.

So, what historical influences are seen in a Hawkridge Furniture bed?

Cherry Pencil Post Bed Handmade in VermontHawkridge Furniture has chosen to feature a unique blend of the ancient and the recent in its collection of shaker inspired platform beds. I use the construction techniques of the oldest historical examples with designs that reflect the simple construction of the 1300s and Shaker design from the early 1800s. The simple, clean lines of a Hawkridge bed will simply not go out of style. At any time, bed linens and other décor can bring an ornate sensibility if desired.

Construction Details

Walnut Wooden Post BedAll of our designs make use of the traditional – and most durable – mortise and tenon construction technique. The wood for the posts and rails is significantly more substantial than commercial products, yet retains an elegant line. We begin with six-quarter wood for the side rails and end quarter for end rails. I place 6-7 inch bed bolts through the mortised post and into the tenon of the bed rail. The nut goes into the post and covered with a matching escutcheon. (The bolts, from Horton Brasses, are also beautiful enough to leave exposed if desired.) The connection is so secure that you could dance on the bed; it will last well beyond your lifetime.

Compare this construction to any commercially made bed. Their thinner stock bed rails, metal hooks where tenons should be, thin metal mortised to the post, and end-grain side or foot rails may not withstand even your own use, let alone a next generation’s. The sheer stress of the design and thinner wood will simply not hold up over time.

So, what about the platform itself?

Custom Cherry Wood Platform BedPlatform beds describe a bed frame with a solid surface that requires only a mattress. The best-known examples of early wood platform beds have been found in Egyptian burial tombs, including those of King Tutankhamun. Platform beds today often feature particleboard; for an upgrade, you can sometimes select a plywood board. Although technically not “platform”, slatted supports are also sometimes used in lieu of a boxspring and marketed as “platform” beds. However, slats don’t fasten well to the frame, and are prone to breakage.

My platform is constructed out of maple slats positioned vertically between two pieces of 5/8″ thick Baltic Birch. This “honeycomb” construction is the strongest platform construction you will find. Each bed’s platform comes in three equal-sized “plywood sandwiches” for easy assembly and transport.

Can I still use a Box Spring?

Box springs are fading like dinosaurs, but if you plan to use one, the height of the headboard has to be adjusted. In general, the height from floor to bottom of the rails is 8 – 9 inches.  The space from rails to headboard will then be determined by the mattress and/or box spring. In addition, king size beds and California kings often need an additional foot at the center of the platform.

Why invest in a Hawkridge bed?

  • Solid construction that can last for generations
  • Design that reflects the function you need
  • Style that will meet the test of time

Most orders involve some level of customization, so let’s chat about creating the perfect bed for you. You can reach me at 802.535.4473 or paul@hawkridgefurniture.com

Custom standing desks: return to being active at work

Stand-up desks were popular fixtures in homes and offices two and three centuries ago.  Like so many designs, these tall desks are back in high demand. Most of the products on the market are high-tech, adjustable and – to be honest – ugly pieces of furniture. In their quest to be one-size fits all, the commercial manufacturers have given customers very few choices.

Inspired by a desire to be more active, individuals have come to us to order a stand-up desk that is customized just for them. Our expertise is designing writing desks and computer desks that suit the unique demands of particular tasks with comforts that address the ergonomic requirements of the individual.  The width and angle of the desktop is dictated by the task, while the height must reflect the point at which the user’s hands are in a comfortable position to write, type, or engage in some other creative task.  All our standing desks include a foot rail to allow the user to alter his or her stance and reduce fatigue.

Some of the questions we ask during the design process:

  • What is influencing your decision to stand at your desk?
  • What’s the primary task at this desk?
  • What is the height where your hands are comfortably placed for that task?
  • How tall are you?
  • Will you use a laptop on this surface?
  • How about a monitor?
  • Is the keyboard wired or wireless?
  • Would you like a drawer?
  • Would a hinged surface work for you?

We can incorporate a deeper, flat area behind a hinged lid for folks who plan to use a large monitor or iMac but also want the hidden storage of a lift-top surface. A keyboard drawer or tray can also be included to allow the hand-height to be lower and the monitor to be a bit higher.  If only a laptop will be used, ergonomics will dictate that the overall height will be a bit lower than you might expect.

One of the especially useful aspects of a Hawk Ridge standing desk is that it has two components: the surface of the desk and the frame on which it rests. This harkens back to Federal designs and even the portable writing desks that were popular when trains were the main mode of transportation. That allows the owner to move the surface of the desk to another location if desired – and makes shipping easier as well.

The health benefits of standing while working have been documented in dozens of studies and articles in the past few years. Our customers have stated that standing at their desk lifts their spirits – it leaves them energized rather than tense from sitting.

Customers select Hawk Ridge Furniture when they’re looking for an heirloom-quality standing desk that is a stunningly beautiful addition to their workspace at home or office, not just another high-tech gadget. We find it rewarding to build a desk for someone who will be using it for a long time because it has been customized just for them.

Get in touch with Paul to place an order for your own!

Handmade Dressers

As beautiful as they are functional, a craftsman can create a number of unique handmade dressers by calling on the wealth of designs and fashions of centuries past that are still popular today. Modern handmade bedroom dressers can meld styles, such as Queen Anne, Shaker and Mission styles of furniture, to match the style and color of any wooden bed and bedside table. Other sideboard dressers often feature a combination of natural woods to accentuate a frame and panel construction that creates a unique aesthetic to match any dining room’s décor.

The same dovetail joinery that craftsmen use to create sturdy handmade desks is also used to build elegant tops, sides and drawers of handmade dressers. The body of the dresser, or the carcass, is held together with dovetail joints that add an element of design as well as making it extremely strong. Other dressers employ frame and panel construction that is highlighted by mortise and tenon joinery that is accented with wooden pins.  Combining both techniques for any style of handmade dresser is what makes the carcass durable and the drawers move in and out smoothly.

Among the many styles of handmade wooden furniture that are still favored today is the Queen Anne style. The Queen Anne style of handmade wooden furniture was first made popular in America between 1720 to 1760 and can be distinguished from other styles by the signature cyma, or S-curve, that is seen in the feet of a dresser or chair, and may also be worked into other parts of a piece of furniture. These S-curves blend well with modern styles of decorating by softening the look of a heavy piece of furniture with the gentle curves.

Originally made from walnut, the Queen Anne style of furniture is a singularly Colonial American style. Today, handmade dressers of this style can be found made from any natural wood, such as cherry, butternut, maple or mahogany. Butternut wood is from the walnut tree family, and is celebrated for its warmer, honey-colored tones with contrasting darker grains.

An artisan will also delight in mixing types of wood for a more modern-looking handmade dresser. Hardwood knobs on the drawers of a bedroom dresser can be made from darker rainforest woods or even brass. The top of the dresser might feature darker dovetail details to bring an understated accent of beauty to an otherwise basic dresser. Studio furniture makers have the freedom to enjoy playing with the combinations of natural woods, knobs and joinery methods to create dressers that are truly unique and tailored to a client’s specific style preferences.

Another style of handmade dressers that is still popular today is the Shaker style. Originating in the late 1700’s, the Shaker style is revered for its clean lines, durable features and innovative joinery methods. Distinctive features include an arched apron and tapered legs, which looks graceful and unimposing.

Shaker-style sideboards were originally minimal in decoration, but craftsmen today add modern touches to this timeless style by blending the types of wood in the paneling. By contrasting natural woods, such as maple and walnut, the artisan can accentuate the beauty of the panel doors and drawers. Pointedly practical, these Shaker-style sideboard dressers are excellent for storing dining dishes or fine china, and the hand-rubbed dresser tops can exhibit ornamental decorations but are elegant enough to simply stand alone.

Shaker-style sideboards can be made to look more modern by blending natural types of wood, accenting a solid-colored sideboard with darker or lighter hardwood knobs or even by using glass paneling in the doors. The visible glass contrasts especially with the darker rainforest woods for a modern, open aesthetic.

Studio handmade dressers differ greatly from factory-made dressers in that studio-furniture makers have the creative freedom to mix and match classic styles with modern demands. Whereas factory-made furniture is made to appeal to most people’s styles and preferences, studio-furniture makers create one-of-a-kind handmade dressers for one-of-a-kind clients. We realize not everyone has the same taste or needs, which is why working directly with an artisan can be a rewarding process for both the furniture-maker and the client.

What To Look For In a Handmade Desk

A handmade desk adds both a function and a unique aesthetic to any space in your home or workplace. Craftsmen who specialize in studio furniture, or one-of-a-kind or limited production furniture, are skilled at choosing the wood for each project to highlight both the character of the wood and the function and style of the piece of furniture.

Whether a craftsman is building a traditional cherry or walnut secretary or a modern mahogany stand up writing desk, he will often use a combination of traditional joinery and modern furniture making techniques in its creation.

First and foremost, a fine quality desk is both beautiful and ergonomic in its design.  Not only should the desk be pleasing to the eye, but the design should also reflect the intention for its use. For example, a secretary tends to be ornate in design, has many drawers and cubbyholes to store desk items, but might make a poor computer desk. A more modern flattop desk is more likely to comfortably hold either a desktop computer or a laptop.

The design should therefore reflect a consideration of its use.  A flattop desk should be spacious enough to comfortably fit a computer of various sizes without crowding the rest of the space. The height of the desk should also be comfortable for most people’s height to sit and work at for long periods of time.

If there are mounted bookshelves on top of the flattop desk, they shelves should reasonably be able to house a books of a few different sizes. For any style desk, it should be built with skill so that you want to use it for its intended purpose. A high quality desk is functional for your use, and elegant to look at.

Beyond the functionality of the desk, an experienced craftsman will skillfully highlight the natural elegance and simplicity of the wood he is working with. When a desk is expertly made, even a person without any knowledge about furniture will appreciate the grain of the wood, the texture of the surface, and the quality of the color of the natural wood.

Regardless of the style of desk, a finely made handcrafted desk should start from the best materials. Mahogany is a favorite among craftsmen for its versatility and density, which allows artisans to easily match up the grain of each piece of wood. Maple, cherry and walnut woods are also excellent choices to work with, as hand rubbed natural oils easily accentuate the natural beauty and character of the wood.

When you are considering what kind of handmade desk to purchase, you should ask yourself if you value the design over function, or the function over design. A traditional secretary desk, for example, is extremely elegant in design, but once opened reveals the organizational qualities that gave its reputation as a “secretary.”  A shaker flat top desk, on the other hand, offers a functional space to spread out on while celebrating its simplicity of design.  Depending on what you are looking for, a skilled craftsman can help you create a design that will work well for your specific needs.

Studio furniture-makers differ from factory-made furniture because the craftsman typically focuses on one piece of furniture at a time. The craftsman starts by hand-selecting the wood with a specific piece of furniture in mind. He will then treat the wood, work with high-grade veneers and carefully prepare the pieces of wood according to the pattern. In doing so, the craftsman will work to bring out the beauty in the specific pieces of wood so that the final product looks unique, even if it is a common style.

Because of the level of detail that studio furniture-makers go into, it is rare that you will find a “cookie cutter” piece of high quality handmade wood furniture. Finely crafted furniture is an investment for the home, but a craftsman should feel comfortable guaranteeing their handiwork to make sure your fine, handmade desk becomes a family heirloom in years to come.

The mission of Mission furniture

Recently I had a client who was interested in a pair of bedside tables.  He wasn’t exactly sure of what style they should be, but he knew he wanted something simple, with clean lines and demonstrably handcrafted.  After some discussion we agreed that Mission style fit the bill.

Mission style was popular at the turn of the 20th century, influenced by wood furniture of the Spanish missions in California and also by the British Arts and Crafts movement.   The movement was pioneered by Gustav Stickley and the architects Charles and Henry Greene, emphasizing humane design in the midst of the industrial age.  I believe that Mission style was also a reaction to the ornate excesses of the Victorian period.  Mission furniture design was utilitarian and organic, using simple materials and construction to highlight the values of the integrity of man’s labor and connection to nature.

As I was building these Mission style end tables I could not help but reflect on how “what goes around comes around”.  Here we are in the midst of the information age, once again yearning for things that are simple, grounded in nature and handcrafted.