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2012 BEST: MADE IN AMERICA
for Excellence in Design and American Manufacturing
Accepting this prestigious award at the U.S. Capitol July 4th, 2012,
Ray Bialkowski, President of Kittinger,
praised his company, employees and hand-crafted products
as symbols of ‘Made in America’.
Founded in Buffalo in 1866, Kittinger Furniture’s unparalleled craftsmanship enriches many rooms in the White House including the oval office —and throughout the country: presidential libraries, boardrooms and living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms and home offices of American families.
The U. S. Cabinet meets around this 22’ x 7’ Kittinger conference table.
And this past February, Raymond Bialkowski,
delivered 16 new leather chairs made for the Roosevelt Room,
a staff meeting room in the West Wing—steps from the Oval Office.
Mahogany is the hallmark of Kittinger furniture.
Their experts select prime mahogany in South America to meet rigid specifications.
It is kiln dried and pre-cut to their specification.
All furniture is hand crafted by:
cabinetmakers, carvers, wood and veneer experts.
Stains and finishes are hand-applied, hand-sanded and hand-rubbed.
Historical research is fundamental in Kittinger designs. Sketches are drafted into auto-cad drawings—then detailed drawings— for making jigs and templates for cutting parts in the Kittinger mill.
Kittinger’s production standards apply
to all artisan wood furniture —traditional or contemporary.
They will help you judge quality for yourself.
VENEERS TO CREATE FLAT SURFACES:
The standard thickness of mahogany veneer is 1/32″ .
A continuous roll of veneer is peeled
by spinning a wet, trimmed log on a rotary lathe against a sharp blade.
Flat sheets of veneer are sawn
across or lengthwise for different grain patterns .
Flat surfaces are constructed of five layers for warp-resistance and stability.
The core of each flat panel is a five ply construction
and glued to each side of the core is a cross-banded veneer.
Mahogany face veneers are applied to both sides, completing the panel.
The direction of grain is alternated for each layer—for surface strength.
Glue is applied between each layer:
finished boards are clamped for 24 hours to assure perfect union.
Before application, face veneers are inspected. Some are slip-matched or book matched to align the direction and configuration of nature’s artwork —and then perfectly matched on furniture tops, doors and drawers.
Rubber sanding machines smooth flat surfaces;
other machinery sands all edges.
A single pattern may have hundreds of parts:
tops, sides, drawers, doors, dust panels, moldings, legs, etc.
Carefully following the draftsman’s detail drawings, digital technology is used to shape precise furniture components as chair top rails, arms and legs from selections of solid mahogany.
Carving uniform arm and leg components for tables and chairs.
Components as cabriole legs are hand-carved,
and some are embellished by hand-carving or engraving.
A hand-carver fashions a scroll on the knee of a cabriole leg ending in a ‘claw and ball‘ foot. With concentration and intensity, the artisan uses hand tools to freely achieve a three-dimensional design.
One leg takes more than a day to hand-carve;
almost one week to complete four.
ARTISAN MADE QUEEN ANNE CHAIR
Components for every chair are joined
and sanded, corner blocks installed and
splat edges rounded by hand-sanding,
all by a single cabinetmaker.
Every chair is perfect prior to staining
Solid wood, prepared for double dowel joinery.
Master craftsmen join components for bookcase/secretary units and ‘high and
lowboys’ with drawers.
All drawers have dovetailed corners and
glide on mahogany rails; a costly and superior method of drawer construction.
Drawer interiors are mahogany veneer.
Solid pine dust panels separate all drawers.
Three inch thick blocks of mahogany are used to create the curved bottom of this bombé shaped ‘chest-on-chest’. Because of the curve, dovetails for the
drawers are cut at compound angles.
Computer-controlled routers eliminate imprecision and heighten efficiency by performing several cutting and boring operations at once, allowing craftsmen to focus on the fine art of wood-working.
Small pieces of veneer are inlaid in the troughs cut by the routing machine in flat surfaces of wood furniture before staining.
Inlaid woods are covered with shellac so they don’t absorb stain.
The checkerboard is made by alternating inlays of contrasting veneers.
HAND-STAINING AND HAND-FINISHING:
Diverse finishes are applied–all by hand–in 21 to 24 steps. The natural wood furniture is bleached to a uniform color and dried overnight before stain is applied by hand.
Because bleaches and stains raise grain, wood is hand-sanded after every application. Wood fillers are applied to fill any porosity. Inner-drawer wood is sealed —but not stained.
A final coat of lacquer imparts high gloss and the heirloom furniture is sanded one last time, hand-rubbed to a glassy finish and delivered to their prestigious destinations .
I first visited the Kittinger factory 20 years ago but never
forgot my respect and appreciation for their principles of
excellence! My recent visit generated my same respect and appreciation.
The following pictures illustrate the vast real estate necessary
to produce these heirlooms of the future!
Pat Breen: EYEWITNESS TO QUALITY
I have no commercial ties and neither promote nor negate brand names for any of the international everyday products I write about.
I’m proud to make two exceptions:
one is artisan wood furniture from KITTINGER FURNITURE;
the other is mass-produced furniture from FANCHER CHAIR.
My posts explore the excellence of their furniture
made in America,
in western New York,
where I grew up and where I live!
My next post: MASS-PRODUCED WOOD FURNITURE : Fancher Chair