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FIRE • WEAPONS • TOOLS • SHELTER
Early man used wood as if it came with instructions!
The Industrial Revolution gave us democratization of wood furniture:
machine technology enabled uniform production of legs, arms, spindles, rails, splats and joinery techniques.
As I began visiting international manufacturers of everyday essentials, a highly respected NYC architect/interior designer of commercial spaces insisted I visit Fancher Chair because of the excellent quality of their mass-produced wood chairs.
A region of rich farm land in southwestern New York State known as the ‘fruit-belt’ was home to Fancher Chair because of select native hardwoods as red and white oak, maple, cherry and ash.
I never heard of Fancher Chair but the interior designer smiled and said I probably had sat upon many of their contract chairs in offices, libraries, restaurants, hotels and motels throughout the U. S.—from Marriott’s to the Waldorf Astoria.
And so, I first visited Fancher Chair in Falconer, New York 20 years ago. Older buildings had been modernized and ‘green’ standards were in place before environmentalists gave it a name.
Fancher Chair not only made and sold contract chairs (that I ‘probably sat upon’) ; they also made chairs for international furniture companies who would hand-stain, hand-finish and ‘seat’ them for their own prestigious brand-name collections.
During my visit, Bruce Erickson introduced employees by name as he extolled their Yankee work ethic. I witnessed chair production that incorporated excellent standards of quality— and became my standards for furniture quality.
Each task; shaping, cutting, sanding, drilling a mortise and shaping a tenon was performed—one at a time—for one component—by one operator—on one machine. Production was slow—albeit excellent.
CURRENT FACTORY PRODUCTION:
Fancher’s production still begins with dimension stock, (wood pre-cut by lumber mills in sizes specified according to end use). Their lumber mill has already kiln dried the lumber to a level of 6 to 8% moisture.
Too dry, wood absorbs glue and doesn’t develop a bond.
Too wet, wood may warp and twist.
SQUARING WOOD STOCK:
Before components are shaped, dimension stock must be ‘ripped’ by a ripping saw at the furniture factory, to assure edges are all perfectly squared at right angles.
Fancher Chair had always been capital and labor intensive
but during my recent visit, I witnessed significant change.
Now, capital expenditures include digital technology that
not only speeds production; it improves the consistency
of their excellent quality.
Chairman Emeritus Bruce Erickson demonstrated how
digital technology makes current production superior.
CURRENT PRODUCTION OF UNIFORM COMPONENTS:
Skilled operators program digital machines to perform several tasks simultaneously and precisely—for one— or one thousand components.
In one operation, components are shaped
complete with mortise and tenon or double dowels.
The accuracy and speed of perfect precision is a dream.
And we—the consumer—are beneficiaries!
Machines simultaneously cut and shape components for both
left and right sides of a chair.
ASSEMBLY OF WOOD COMPONENTS:
How components are joined;
is a measure of craftsmanship and quality.
MORTISE AND TENON:
A mortise (drilled cavity) and tenon (projection at the end of a component) are glued and interlocked to resist movement and provide maximum stability.
These photographs illustrate the consistency of perfectly precise fittings
—because of digital technology.
Glue flash binds in 15 minutes and achieves 85% binding strength in 30 minutes.
All components of this chair have been glued, joined and held in spring clamps for one hour prior to sanding by a rotating sanding machine.
Standards are rigid as finished frames are examined under brilliant light as traces of excess glue are scraped, sanded and buffed if necessary prior to staining or finishing.
STAINING AND FINISHING
After inspection, Fancher’s ‘made-to-specification‘ chair frames are shipped to their status brand manufacturers who use labor intensive techniques to stain and finish them to match finishes of their furniture collections.
Fancher employees stain and finish their ‘contract chairs’ in their factory.
Conveyors advance frames through a succession of hand-rub-downs, sprays of toners, non-grain raising stains, wiping by hand, more sprays of sealers, lacquers, hot-air blasts, more hand-rub-downs and final waxing. This controls cost and maintains good quality.
Finished frames are seated according to specification. Machine-woven caning, plywood covered with padded upholstery fabric or webbing are only a few of the possibilities.
PULL UP A CHAIR!
HAVE A SEAT!
PLEASE SIT DOWN!
Fancher is one of many long-standing, good-quality global businesses affected by rising raw material, technology and labor costs but digital technology has contributed greatly to the speed and consistent excellence of their current chair production.
Leaving Falconer, I marveled not only at how Fancher Chair
maintains their standard of excellence for mass-produced
wood chairs, but at how far man has come to perform tasks
formerly powered by treadles, winches and steam.
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 for artisan wood furniture from KITTINGER FURNITURE;
the other for 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!