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Friday, September 25, 2015

Sustainably sourced dining room chairs

My wife and I have separated after 20 good years and she has moved back to California where we first met.  It is an amicable separation but nonetheless she ended up taking a lot of furniture and other essentials with her.  This left me without a set of dining chairs.  Ideally I wanted chairs that were sustainably sourced in some way.  My original thought was to approach my friend and neighbor, John who is a skilled furniture maker because he had recently made a really stunning set of craftsman style chairs for his home.  But he explained that it would take up to a week per chair to make them even if I was helping and I realized I had neither the time or the money to invest.

My next step was to go to a local furniture store that represents Amish furniture makers.  They had a variety of samples that I found quite suitable for my needs at prices ranging from $230-$265 per chair and this was the upper limit for my budget.  The problem was that it would take 6 to 8 weeks to have the chairs made.  At this point it occurred to me that I really do not need heirloom quality furniture since I have no children or heirs who may wish to inherit furniture from me.  Also I did not want to wait that long because I had decided to convert the guest room in my house to a B&B using airbnb and wanted to get that set up pretty quickly.  Click here to see my listing, I have already had a few guests and I am getting reservations for the fall color season here in Maine which peaks in mid October. (We refer to the out-of-state visitors who come for the fall as "leaf peepers"). 

So finally I resorted to searching for chairs on the web and found a nice set of chairs from Sears.com on sale for under $50 each.  While I was not particularly comfortable with the idea of chairs that are made in Malasia, I did learn that they were made from "sustainable rubber wood".  In doing my research I learned that rubber wood has come into usage in the last few decades as a secondary use for trees from rubber plantations.  When these trees reach the age of around 30 years, their production diminishes and they  are harvested for their wood and the plantation is replanted.  The wood itself is prone to infestations from beetles, but when treated properly and dried correctly it can look somewhat like mahogany.  It is an attractive hardwood that takes stain and finish very nicely.

The chairs arrived at the local Sears store in a few days partially assembled in flat boxes.  Assembly was surprisingly simple and easy and I was impressed with the quality of the finish and the engineering of the joinery that makes for a very sturdy chair.
Chair parts
First chair assembled

The chairs did not take long to assemble, and look good with my family heirloom Jacobean reproduction oak table from England.
Whenever I need to purchase anything, I recognize that I am voting with my dollars for - or against - a sustainable future for humanity.  I take every decision quite seriously, particularly when dealing with large items.  But this also scales down to purchasing food at the local grocery store, natural food stores, and farmers market.  I make every effort to support local agriculture or acquire foods that are not shipped in from another country.