Do you see what I see? A familiar line from a popular Christmas song – and what we wonder from time to time when our eyesight is focused on something of value.
This is often the experience in the truck with Jeff. As we live in Northwest Montana, there are trees everywhere. Often when we are driving along, I can tell Jeff is eyeballing the woods for potential material for future furniture projects. He used to get that look when he surveyed the forests for firewood. These days, it’s all about furniture.
What does he see? I can say with all honesty that he doesn’t see the forest – just the trees. And only specific trees. He is always scanning the hillsides for Rocky Mountain Maple – that’s his wood of choice. It is a pretty hard wood – and seems to only grow to the right size for the framework for our stickwork furniture. He also scouts for birch trees. Birch has a beautiful grain to it that is a great compliment to the live edges of bark on the Maple.
Besides the trees and branches, he is also looking for roots. Amazingly, roots have been
used to create some of the most interesting details of some of our pieces. The Mountain Wooing Bench began with finding two tree roots that each had a curve, and the design for the back of the bench sprang to his imagination.
Gathering materials has become a bit of a family endeavor – and we are out to get more material in just a few more days for some gates and an arbor to be built next week. So, if you see our truck at the end of the day of gathering, you might just see what we see.
Every business has a start and a story to go with it. So, here’s the story behind starting this business – and this blog. Jeff has been a carpenter for 34 years. It’s all he ever wanted to do. Right out of high school he pestered a contractor so much the guy finally hired him. Through the years, he’s had great experiences including work-
ing on the vacation homes of the rich and famous as well as giving his time to a single mom who needed a new roof. Suddenly, as most of you know, the economy took a serious hit. Remodeling projects were becoming scarce. Jeff decided to use his downtime to investigate an interest he had in making furniture. He started with learning to hand-hew logs into usable material, and then assembled the pieces using mortise-and-tenon joinery into a sweet primitive bench. Everything was handmade -rustic and beautiful, and Old Country Furniture was born.
The next project was an Adirondack style chair – all hand-hewn materials. What a beauty. The rustic lines were certainly a departure from the true Adirondack, and the Montanarondack was born.
Branching out from furniture, Jeff also tried his hand at making gates. Again, hand-hewn and mortise and tenon, with the addition of some willow branches from our tree.
Beautiful. We kept the first one and have it installed on our hay barn and tack shed. I couldn’t imagine a more perfect gate for us.
As more gates were made, each one incorporated more branches, until the StickStack gate was made – all branches. Jeff had stumbled into something really fun.
Jeff couldn’t wait to try using the branches to make furniture. The creative juices were flowing and he was having a ball. Outdoor furniture galore! Beach-style chairs, benches, coffee tables – even one with skis attached! I have to admit that some of the creations were the strangest furniture I have ever seen: but, people loved them. Our only outlet at the time was our local Farmer’s Market, and things were selling. It seems that many people really like quirky furniture!
All along, we struggled with having the words to describe the furniture to people who had not seen it. Then we found the phrase “stickwork”. Now we can tell people that it is stickwork furniture.
Then he made a rocking chair, and he fell in love with rocking chairs. That’s a story for another time.