One Tank Trip

One Tank Trip: George's Furniture

EAST DONEGAL TWP., Pa. - A simple piece of wood ends up becoming a chair, a table, a part of your home. You can watch as it all comes together in a place that started someplace else almost 50 years ago.

"It didn't actually start right here. It started in a house in Elizabethtown, where we lived when we were first married," explained George Martin's widow, Ave Lee.

George Martin had just returned from voluntary service in Honduras. He spent two years carving wood there, and back home in Pennsylvania, he kept at it. It was a hobby at first.

"I knew he had an interest in it," Ave Lee recalled. "He would have made an excellent farmer as well, but it just seemed God kept pushing us this way."

In 1974, the Martins opened George's Woodcrafts, now George's Furniture, in East Donegal Township, Lancaster County, near Marietta.

"We want to just show people what we do, which is it's a lost art," Ave Lee said. "Not too many people do this."

For $3 a person (kids are free), you can walk through the wood shop. The first thing you'll notice is the smell.

"Right now, you're smelling some of the white oak and maybe the walnut," said craftsman Anthony Heisey, our tour guide.

From start to finish, one craftsman works on each piece.

"We built a business on custom tailoring, so if you bring a design sketched on a napkin, we'll give it a shot," Anthony said. "We have just larger machines that you commonly have in your basement. They are longer and wider and safer."

On average, a craftsman makes about two chairs a day. A dresser takes about four days and a large hutch about two weeks, and it's all Pennsylvania-born. He said the saw mills in central Pennsylvania harvest from the Allegheny Forest area.

There's no waste. Wood scraps are used to heat the kiln. They create a lot of dust, so the vacuum system changes the air every 20 minutes. You'll watch as they carve out the furniture, put it together, spray it. It goes into the stock room for delivery.

"I have a rocking chair from Juneau, Alaska. It was ordered from the bottom of a gold mine," Anthony said.

The rocking chairs are rather famous. When George was 12, he went over backwards on one, hit his head and vowed that if he ever designed a rocking chair, it wasn't going to tip over. George figured it out. So if you go, give it a try.

George died in 2010. His daughter and son-in-law are at the helm now, but George's love of the art remains.

"You can still hear George talking about how to make things, what not to do, and his standard stays with us here, and we've held that for 50 years," Anthony said.


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