Simple in design and construction, the mission glider is nevertheless a worthwhile buy, not to mention a comfortable seat. At its best, it is also made by skilled artisans who take the time and utmost care in crafting a quality piece. One group of these exemplary craftsmen, the Amish have long been acclaimed for their woodworking talent.
To get started, note that Amish furniture is not a specific style unto itself, but rather a collection of various design styles embraced by and practiced by Amish workers. Two of these, Shaker and Mission, are popular and similar to one another. They are both clean-cut and basic looking, but the Mission style is characterized by exposed joinery and straight lines, whereas the Shaker style is slightly more elegant and functional with an eye for long-lasting durability. Ironically, like the Amish, both of these styles have religious backgrounds. The Shaker style is so called after the religious denomination of the same name, while Mission style is a revival of the design of early Californian Spanish missions. Unlike the aforementioned two, the Queen Anne style is significantly more elaborate and does not resemble in any way the mission glider, with ornate carvings and detailing on the feet. There are also Southwestern, Rustic, Beachfront and Cottage styles available as possibilities.
Although they share the religious affinity, there are more reasons why the Amish are so perfectly matched to the mission gliders and other similar furniture. The unique culture resides primarily in the Midwest, mainly in Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania. However, what sets them apart as craftsmen is their use of only wood in all of their furniture, including a minimal amount of laminate and particle board. Plus, their attention to detail is unsurpassed; this is true handmade quality that cannot be replicated in an assembly line. By looking at every piece with a keen eye, the Amish are able to better see how the grain lies and how certain pieces best fit together. The result is a mission glider that is built to last many years in the hopes that it will be passed down as an heirloom, much like the art of building has been passed down through the generations of their people. This venerated education is passed down through the generations, but also at school. The Jonestown School of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, for one, is well known for making tri-paneled, painted blanket chests. That being said, most Amish schoolchildren stop attending after the eighth grade to begin work, so at that point it is the job apprenticeships and families to continue to teach them the traditional Amish trades.
What is also unique about the Amish as furniture manufacturers is their method of constructing a mission glider or Shaker style cabinet. In accordance with their religious beliefs, the Amish do not use electricity, and this extends to each and all power tools. In order to complete pieces within a reasonable time frame, shops have turned to hydraulic and pneumatic tools, which run on diesel generators, as an acceptable alternative. As time goes by, though, more and more technology seeps into the culture and certain allowances, especially in the case of woodworking, are made. In the end though, much of the final detailing is still done by hand to ensure top quality. Some of the older generations even use old-fashioned Amish tools. One of the best things about handcrafted furniture is that every piece is one of a kind. That new mission glider is sounding better all the time.