June 30, 2022

We’ve Never Made The Same Product Twice

Enfield Bed headboard in cherry natural

Nature is not in the business of consistency. There are no Formica® forests. Every hardwood tree that grows in the Appalachian mountains develops its own graining and tone depending on elevation, severity of the winters, rainfall and competition for sunlight. Once that tree makes it to the lumberyard, it’s up to our buyers to determine if it is Gat Creek-worthy.

“There are specific standards for grading lumber,” said Gat Caperton. “The National Hardwood Lumber Association has spent a century making them as confusing and complicated as possible. While we consider the standards, what we rely on is the old-fashioned eye test. Does it look like it will make a pretty piece of furniture or not.”

Passing our eye test is no guarantee the lumber will take center stage on the final product. As it moves through the workshop, every piece of lumber is assigned a grade to determine where it will be in the finished product. An “A” surface has the pleasing qualities to get the star treatment as a tabletop or drawer front. If designated a “B” surface, that lumber becomes a less-seen element; a side panel, for instance. Lumber you won’t see — framing, inside drawers, etc. — is designated a “C” surface. 

Converting lumber to furniture is truly a board-by-board decision. As those boards go through the building process and become panels crafted into furniture, every maker at every stage has to make decisions. “When you address a panel, take a layer off through sanding or planing, you alter it and something unexpected can come up. The maker has to address that,” Gat said. “Throughout the journey from raw lumber through the build and finishing, every person in the chain makes choices that affect the finished product. We just want to be sure that they use the softest touch possible.”

Using a “soft touch” speaks to a fundamental design philosophy at Gat Creek: The allure of all-natural hardwoods is all about variance. “Nature is not perfect,” Gat said. “It’s the variance that makes every piece special and unique. Even in the cases where something might be seen as an imperfection, we make a judgment whether it adds to the beauty or detracts and needs to be removed. We work hard to keep the natural variance in.”

All that effort to respect what nature has made means, no matter which Gat Creek piece becomes a part of your home, it’s one-of-a-kind. Just like you.