The winter of 2018 blows through the Mount Washington valley in Northern New Hampshire, leaving in its wake dazzling snow, treacherous ice and crystalline trees. For at least another six weeks, the people of Cherry Pond Fine Furniture hunker down facing the unexpected twists and turns of a North Country winter.
Inside the shop it’s cheerful and warm. Delivery drivers and service techs are met with the heavy aroma of wood shavings from American hardwoods, such as cherry, maple, walnut and oak. Milled wood planks are cut, planed, sanded and machined into parts that came together to create hand crafted, heirloom quality furniture – one piece at a time.
Outside, the February sun dazzles but gives a little warmth.
Inside, cutting into hard maple smells like baking brownies.
It is this particular point of the winter season that cabin fever settles in. The snow banks climb higher and higher. They create walls instead of vistas. It is a time to turn inwards, too
re-evaluate – to create.
Therefore, it is not surprising that William Langevin, master craftsman and production manager, decided to utilize a variety of parts that had been cast inside because they did not work for their original intention. His expertise allowed him to turn these orphans into something new, unusual and beautiful. They are one of a kind pieces – meeting our standards of quality and exceptionalism.
From unique coffee tables and cabinets, to benches and dressers, the showroom got a face-lift. The moral of this story – when cabin fever strikes – redecorate!!
In addition to spicing up the showroom with new and exciting pieces, the crew at CPFF worked on new products for our catalog.
It all begins with the idea. The idea gets translated to CPFF’s CNC operator and designer Josh Bechtold. He draws it up. The idea is discussed, tweaked, implemented then built. Everyone’s voice is heard and considered, which means our team is dynamic and involved – and the results are apparent. The Cambridge make-up vanity is an example of many minds coming together to create a piece both utilitarian and aesthetic. This has happened many time before and will again. The evolution continues.
The snow will melt, ice will turn to slush, the trees will bud, and bird songs will fill the air. That time is coming. But until then, before we are distracted by summer and all its promise, winter is our time. We have six weeks left.
Winter settled in at Cherry Pond Fine Furniture located in the heart of the very White Mountains in Northern New Hampshire with sub-zero temperatures, snow, ice, dark mornings and dark afternoons. I love the word “settled”. Meteorologists use it often to describe the arctic air masses that descend from Canada: “an arctic high has settled in the region”, I heard yet again on the car radio. “Settled” means it’s not going anywhere soon; like the ne’er-do-well relative who shows up at your front door with a duffle bag and a Rottweiler. Lovely. In my humble opinion, Canadian arctic air masses should respect the border. I am certain there are multitudes who find joy in this season.
I had occasion to drop by the famous Mount Washington resort recently to meet up with my daughter who works there. As I drove up the long winding entrance, I witnessed a musher driving his team across the snow covered golf course, a group of cross- country skiers bursting out of the woods like Olympic racers, a couple power walking up the drive, and a brave soul on a bicycle. Across the street skiers and snowboarders enjoyed the trails. It was a balmy one degree Fahrenheit. I’m not a fan. I blasted the heat as I drove up to the hotel.
I’m sure Matt Smith; our Chief Engineer/IT specialist is on the same page. His mind must be dwelling on families gathered, huddling by the blazing fire in the fireplace or the warmth of the wood stove, because he’s created some wonderful pieces lately. These include cribbage boards and mancala boards in assorted sizes made from cherry, maple, and black walnut, and for those who prefer more solitary distractions, wonderful little IQ testers that can keep you captivated for a long time – unless you’re a genius of course. The large cribbage boards are not for the faint-hearted. There’s no slipping past a few holes without your opponent noticing on these “bad boys”. They are created for the die-hard, nothing is better than playing cribbage, cribbage player. Once you purchase the board, all you need is the card table. We actually had a customer from Texas order four of them. They were the usual size and shape of the metal version, only made out of cherry, finished with black lacquer, and were complete with folding legs just like the original. They looked amazing. I remember our customer thought so too.
The shop is warm enough, though Peter passes through often with a propane torch in one hand and wrenches in the other. When the arctic high “settles” in, something is always freezing up, including Bill Langevin, our lead assembler. He moved here from Florida where he had worked as a master shipwright for seventeen years. He helped to restore sixteen of the only ninety Trumpy yachts still in existence. One of the most famous of these was the Sequoia, commissioned by the Navy as the official presidential yacht. I call him the Yoda of master craftsmen, though it’s difficult to recognize him in the winter because he dresses like an Eskimo on a whale hunt. It’s his Florida blood.
The good news is (especially for Bill) that January has faded into February, and we’re that much closer to spring. February is a special month. It’s chock full of deep freezes, piles of snow, tax returns, Valentines, and definitely that time of year when we desperately want to throttle the Groundhog. But at least it’s short.
Up to this point, as an active octogenarian, I have studiously avoided social media thinking all these outlets were poor substitutes for the cocktail parties popular in my parents’ day.
I was a frequent guest at these even when young because my parents were responsible enough not to leave me on my own but unwilling to miss a good party. These gatherings led to life-long friendships with adults who later in life became cherished and valued connections. I hasten to add that I never saw any of these great folks be anything other than animated, stimulating, great conversationalists, intelligent, kind and thoughtful. I am very proud and happy to have been considered a friend.
It turns out that these social gatherings also led to my first piece of business. One evening, I negotiated my first commission as a fledgling wood worker, a fold-down table mounted to the kitchen wall (made of cherry of course) for our hostess. Memorable chiefly because I still sport a constant reminder: in-line scars on my left hand between the roots of the thumb and forefinger, top and bottom, caused by an errant chisel. As I got older, chisels became a little more friendly.
Those days were great and what’s really nice is that a lot of the same elements that made those special also work in today’s social media world. We meet, we start to talk about common interests and pretty soon we’re looking for ways to help you find the furniture that not only works for you but will be an heirloom with all the memories that come with things that last a long time.
So, Cherry Pond Fine Furniture will be out there mingling with the masses and connecting with all you discriminating folks with good taste, appreciation for first-class service, quality and durability for generations to come. That is our mantra! Thanks for tuning in!
– The Wood Blogger
My present for Christmas, nine days before my eleventh birthday, was a Sears Roebuck lathe, a few basic turning tools and a box full of wood chunks. My dad and I had already built a work bench in the cellar so we set up the lathe and, after extensive orientation, I was on my own. I was big on candle sticks, baseball bats, ashtrays, crude bowls and managed to avoid hurting myself.
That was my introduction to wood working; a practice that has run for seven generations in my known family and probably generations before that in France, later England and, starting in the late seventeen hundreds, the colonies.
Our first ancestral records in the New York City archives, beginning in 1796, include a long line of Guests starting with William Guest followed by sons and grandsons including Williams’ two and three, all of whom had many brothers and sisters which may explain, in part, how New York City became so populous.
The three Williams, along with some of their brothers, were talented woodworkers and furniture makers. Based on conversations with my late grandmother, William one and two may have provided woodwork for St. Paul’s Chapel and Trinity Church (Land marks in lower Manhattan). In the 1950’s the successor family company provided wood work for renovations in both buildings.
My grandmother was pretty discreet but it seemed quite clear that William one and his successors contributed their talents not only to the building of wood work including the bar for Fraunces tavern (historic tavern, restaurant and now museum in New York City) but were dedicated patrons
George Washington gave an historic farewell dinner and speech at the tavern following the conclusion of the revolutionary war. I like to think that my ancestors were there.
This is my first attempt at a blog. It is interesting, at this advanced segment of my life, to learn to run a computer and ramble a little bit about how Cherry Pond Fine Furniture evolved from seven generations of businesses founded on the utilization of our favorite natural resource.
Yesterday, mid-morning, I drove northwards through Franconia Notch. It was one of the most spectacular days of my life in the North Country. The sky was brilliant, the foliage was luminescent. How fortunate we are for the abundant forests…the miraculous, self-sustaining, enduring and versatile material we call wood, and the privilege of transforming it to useful and beautiful furnishings for the ages.
Autumn has descended on Cherry Pond Fine Furniture. One night, while we were all in a deep sleep, a long wind rushed in and painted everything, from the lowliest shrub to the most majestic maple, a riot of brilliant reds, neon oranges, lemon yellow, burnt umber, lime green, chartreuse, gold, and vermillion. I want to rush out and buy a pumpkin!
It began subtly enough. By the end of September, when every view still showcased various shades of green, the young maple saplings turned crimson red, peering out from the dark green forest surrounding them like overexcited children ready for the party before everyone else. A few days and one very cool night later every living thing was awash in color. Mums sprung up in town planters, meridians, home gardens, and grocery stores. Pumpkins piled halfway up the wall at the local market and adorned porches all over town.
How can you live in the White Mountain National Forest in Northern New Hampshire and not love autumn? I mean seriously. The brilliant, sunny, 70 degree days are perfect for haying. In the backdrop of work and play there is the constant muted whirring of tractors dragging the hay baler and the smell of fresh cut grass. The five-foot round bales left behind in the field appear instantly; like a woodland fairy tipped her wand and said, “I want one here, and over there, and some here, and maybe here, and here, and here, and here” and *POOF* hay bales in every open grassland from Jefferson to eternity. They are as much a part of the season as pumpkins.
Of course our Cherry Pond Fine Furniture showroom gets its fair share of autumn tourist traffic – which makes us all happy. They are not like the summer and winter tourists who rush from one activity to the next; from kayaking to swimming to hiking to skiing to sledding to snowmobiling. They are here to simply look, to savor, and to soak in the splendor of their surroundings; sustenance for the spirit. My favorite question to ask each new customer is “Where are you from?” It always amazes me when someone from Colorado, California or Texas would find us.
The most obvious sign of the autumn tourist season in full swing is the multitude of cars pulled to the side of the road holding their cameras. Peter Guest, our illustrious President, and I recently went on a photographic adventure per request from a customer in southern California. Every hundred feet or so we would peer through a clearing and discover a spectacular vista to photograph. It was a short trip. (Jim and Debbie, By the Sea, this was for you).
Less than a mile from our shop there is a very special place where artists often set up easels to paint the scene. This particular spot is called “The Meadows”. It is a river valley completely surrounded by mountains. If you stand on the bridge and look northwest, which the artists do, the green valley runs flat and straight and true like a giant runway (dotted with a few cows) straight to the foothills of the Presidential Range. From this vantage point there is no doubt that Mount Washington is the master and commander. The autumn colors climb about one third up Mount Washington, then the dark green pines take over. At the top third, there is nothing but rock. It is an amazing sight, breathtaking.
I think about this when I am working. We are so lucky to be surrounded by such wealth, and challenged by it too. When we are handling the very material which gives us so much, how can we do less than our personal best with each piece of furniture we create? It’s no wonder our small shop creates heirloom quality fine furniture. Anything less would seem an insult.
Today Neil, who handles the rough wood and imagines the perfect matches he creates from it, came to me with a board about 12 inches wide and 70 inches long. He wanted to make two matching drawer fronts from it but wasn’t sure that a couple of marks at one end would pass muster. Any shop like ours that relies on profits from production would frown on an employee deviating from his task, but Peter encourages this kind of collaboration. This is why we get a result we can be proud of. This is why it works.
I was outside this afternoon when a flock of Canada geese flew south right over the shop. My right brain warned me I shouldn’t look up, but my left brain couldn’t help it. They flew in their typical “V” formation with the inevitable straggler calling from the rear. Another amazing sound of autumn.
by Caroline Lack
From the desk of Peter Guest Jr., President of Cherry Pond Fine Furniture.