About Heirloom Furniture
True HEIRLOOM FURNITURE can only be obtained from a custom furniture maker. Heirloom furniture is created by careful attention to detail throughout the entire construction process. From selection of the wood to the final finishing, only custom furniture has the inherent quality to make the piece an heirloom. Handwork by one individual is the critical component in creating furniture with 18th century character. Al Fortunato builds every piece from beginning to end, ensuring consistent detail throughout every phase.
Being the proud owner of a handcrafted heirloom will raise one's appreciation for quality crafted furniture as compared to furniture manufactured in a production environment. There is no place for planned obsolescence in an heirloom. Quality construction is what has allowed furniture from the past to become priceless antiques and that same quality is inherent in all furniture built by Al Fortunato. This handmade quality and the natural characteristics of the wood make each piece unique. Owning such an heirloom is affordable for those with discriminating taste and the desire to pass such fine furniture on to future generations.
COMMISSIONING a custom built heirloom must not be taken lightly. Consideration to design, type of wood, construction techniques, and the final finish is a carefully thought out process. From the initial selection of the wood to the final finish, every phase is as critical as the next. Working with the client, Al Fortunato will assist in creating the heirloom you will be proud to own and pass on.
Design of the heirloom begins with the client's preferences. This can range from an exact replica of a priceless antique, to a custom designed piece exhibiting the character of the 18th century and capturing the spirit of the masters. Almost any piece of period furniture can be constructed from measurements or photographs.
WOOD selection plays an important role in the final product. Premium hardwoods (cherry, tiger and birdseye maple, walnut, birch, and mahogany) are selected specifically for each piece. Careful attention is paid to the boards for each piece. Quartersawn wood is used where stability is critical. Doors and drawers are made from boards with matching grain so the character of the wood is consistent throughout the piece. Door panels are made from boards hand selected for their unique grain and book-matched for symmetry.
CONSTRUCTION TECHNIQUES proven over hundreds of years are used throughout the piece. Through and half blind dovetails, sliding dovetails, and mortise-and-tenon joints are used as they were when today's antiques were created. Backs can be solid wood with beaded and/or ship lapped joints. Drawers are dovetailed at all four corners with solid wood bottoms. Modern duplication technology is not used. Subtle differences in otherwise identical parts capture the spirit of the 18th century necessary for true heirloom pieces. If adaptations for today's lifestyle are required, they are done such that the character of 18th century craftsmanship is maintained and are included in as subtle a manner as possible.
FINAL FINISH is as critical as every step leading up to it. Finishing the piece with the wrong material and utilizing the wrong application method can ruin a quality built piece. Every piece is finished with a hand rubbed, custom blended, premium varnish over a stain or dye (if desired) resulting in color, texture, and gloss meeting the client's desires. The end result will be a piece that has a protective finish allowing the beauty of the hand selected wood to show through.
WOOD MOVEMENT of wide hardwoods is a characteristic of quality hand made furniture and is something that must be understood. Hand selection of wide figured boards imparts a quality representative of furniture made hundreds of years ago when virgin forests were commonplace. Use of wide boards is not a characteristic of typical production furniture. Consequently, wood reaction to seasonal changes in temperature and humidity is more noticeable in quality handmade furniture than in common production furniture made from smaller boards glued together, or from veneered particle board or plywood. Expansion, contraction, cracking, and warping may occur through the life of the piece. These are not defects in materials or workmanship, but rather natural tendencies of the board and should not be viewed as a flaw in the piece. This natural movement is taken into account during the construction of the piece to minimize its effects. Movements that do not interfere with the utility of the piece should be accepted, as they were when today's antiques were in use. If the piece should become unusable, due to this natural movement, corrections can be made. If you are considering a repair please contact Al Fortunato for the best procedure to follow before attempting any modifications.