I've always been intrigued with the rustic outdoorsy feel of camp. Back home, the old timers quite often not only built their camps or cabins, but everything in it, from the setting table, to the door hinges, everything about these stuck-in-time retreats reflected their life in the woods. Still scattered about our woods and lakeshores here in Maine, these beautiful old camps and lodges are a treasured part of our heritage.
In the many areas of the Northeast, this style of woods living reached a whole new level. As a matter of fact, there is a whole style of decorating homes that takes it's roots from the camps of the Adirondacks.
Many of these rustic pieces are master works of art, but what really interested me were the basic, functional pieces that incorporate brown ash in their design. Although the furniture is a bit out of the realm of my other interests, the basket ash is what drew me to this style, along with the fact that only two other individuals (Jack and Rick Leadley of Speculator, in the New York Adirondacks), currently make this unique style of rustic furniture.
The original designer of these chairs, Lee Fountain of Wells New York, was a very well known rustic furniture maker in the early 20th century, and his pieces are some of the most collectable of the Adirondack style.
I again was very blessed to have had a patient and skilled mentor in Jack Leadley that shared with me his knowledge of crafting these unique Adirondack style brown ash and yellow birch chairs and benches.
I only do a limited number of these each year, #1, because they are extremely time consuming, and #2, to find the right yellow birch saplings, with just the right growth pattern, size, and bark, is a long and tedious task. I have spent entire days in the woods trying to find yellow birch only to come up empty at the end of the day. Not that I'm complaining about any time spent in the woods, but it is a bit frustrating to find so few good trees. #3, they take a tremendous amount of the highest quality brown ash splint, which is very hard to get. I may have to pound out 2 or 3 logs to get enough of the almost veneer quality splint for one chair. They take a much higher quality splint than do packs or creels.
Nothing says relax and enjoy like one of these chairs or rockers. Jack has perfected Lee Wells' original design, so that each chair feels like it surrounds you with its strength and comfort. Just to sit in these chairs is truly an "Aaaaah" moment. Not only the ambience of camp, but really comfortable.
The frames are made of lowland yellow birch saplings, the back frame is steamed white ash, and the back and seat are woven of brown ash splint. For the rockers, I use yellow birch, with a natural bow in the tree so that the rocker follows the bow of the tree. All bolts for securing the bent ash bow and rockers are either brass or bronze.
The chairs and rockers are approximately 42" high, and 16" high at the seat, which is 19" wide, and 17" deep. The splint is also treated with pure natural tung oil, to preserve and protect the splint.
Chairs - $800.00
Rockers - $850.00
My grandmother used to call this a boot bench, although hers was made of just old rough wood, the idea is the same. It set by the back door of her kitchen out on the porch in the summer, just inside the door in winter, and your boots better come off before you tracked up her shiny floor. Or that fresh batch of molasses cookies she just took out would be cold before I got one.
The bench is also made of a yellow birch frame, and the seat is woven brown ash. It sits 20 inches high, and the seat is approximately 16" x 18", and treated with tung oil.
Boot Bench - $225.00
This last piece is truly Maine, and a treasured part of our Down East traditions. For any of you who may have spent any time in a Down East camp, you know you are looking at the liars bench. For those of you who aren't familiar with one of these, as legend goes, when you're sitting on it, but only when you're sitting on it, you can tell any outdoor yarn you wish to spin. The salmon that was so big that it towed the canoe, or the buck that could only travel on the skidder trails, because its antler spread was so wide. And no one can question the accuracy of your tale. Every sporting camp worth its salt has a well worn liars bench.
This model is exceptional in that it's a trappers model. The pine, spruce, or tamarack tree, standing dead and try, was taken from a long flooded beaver meadow. The legs were all cleaned of bark by the beavers, and were picked out of the bone yard through the ice. Sit, lets talk fishing on the West Grand Lake.
Large bench, approximately 5' long and 19" tall - $150.00
Short bench, (for little lies), approximately 3' long and 19" tall - $115.00