By David MacDonald
“I like to see how carefully they can measure something, that’s very telling,” says Jeff Amos, founder and co-owner of Amos Wood in both Blockhouse and Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. “The next thing I look for is excitement and a willingness to take hold of our vision.” The “our” refers to his son, co-owner Obe Amos. The vision is simple: Amos Wood makes wood available to live with. As Amos Wood keeps expanding, more and more craftsmen – along with homeowners and businesses – are learning just what this vision looks and feels like.
Since 2011, there has been a “real public reach in Nova Scotia for real wood products made in the province,”Amos says. This is part of a wider trend. People prefer local.People prefer traditional – retro, if you will. People prefer custom and unique. And, in tune with Amos Wood’s vision, people are going back to wood. “Wood has a gravitational quality to it,” he explains.”As a material it does something inside a home that other materials just don’t accomplish. It draws people in. Nothing does this as warmly as wood does.”
This back to basics movement is not a passing fancy. “There was a clear realization.People felt bilked by cheap and lousy MDF [medium-density fibre board]. Our wholesalers have been telling us for the last couple of years that there has been ongoing and substantial decline in the overall sales of MDF because people want the real deal,” Amos explains.
Amos knows wood. He should. He’s been in the design, millwork, and furniture game since 1976. He just had “the gumption to start early,” he says.”In 1974, I somehow got it in my head that I was going to make furniture. I started with very little money and a very small tool base.I gradually secured the quality tools that helped me make a name for myself in the beginning as a craftsman of increasingly fine execution in joinery and line and wood.”
He’s also a connoisseur of furniture making and craftsmanship. But he goes a step beyond the proverbial dad. You know the one. The dad like so many of ours who spent Saturday mornings with a coffee in one hand, the remote in the other, and Bob Villa and Norm Abram on the television. Amos also reads the literature.
“I’ve studied cultural and historical influences from many different time periods. Various eras of English, Scandinavian, and Japanese craftsmanship have inspired my own work in so many ways. The individual influence of Sam Maloof and George Nakashima can often be seen – to the trained eye – in my work. The natural edges – live edges – featured in Nakashima’s work, for instance, are very popular. Of course I’ve gone through different flavours at different times; increasingly discovering what mattered to me. I remember a small table I made about a year after I started. It has lines in it that I use to this day, edge shaping – I can’t do better.And it always comes back to the display of beautiful wood.”
The range of products offered up by Amos Wood is extensive. Their millwork includes: flooring, interior wall and ceiling, moulding and trim, exterior siding, stairs and components, as well as interior and exterior doors. Their furniture includes: dining tables – including waterfall and glass insert designs – living room tables, bathroom counters, kitchen and bar, seating, and bedroom and office furniture. “We make everything from tiny mouldings to giant boardroom tables – and everything in between. Our knowledge of wood and its uses is extensive because of our many years of experience,” Amos explains.
The giant boardroom table Amos is referring to isn’t a hypothetical. In fact, it’s 30 feet long by six feet wide. It’s just an example of what the design services at Amos Wood is capable of. “We bought a modest moulding business back in ’08 and purchased a space for fabrication across the street at our Blockhouse location. For those who don’t know, a moulding shop literally produces any shaped wood in linear fashion. From the get-go, I wanted people to know that we’re a place where you can get more than other moulding shops. That’s why we took on this huge table project. It was actually our first job in that new shop.”
Amos still remembers the wide eyes of his team as he shaped the wood for that table. “They got even bigger when I put on the oil finish,” he recalls. “At that moment they truly began to understand that we could literally make anything; whoever came in, whatever piece of wood they choose, we make it work. It’s a standard of excellence and design process most people don’t get to experience. I love hearing my team say to someone over the phone “Yes, we can.” Today, a woman brought in a piece of drift wood from the South Shore and asked if we could make it into a table. In short, I told her that if it’s made of wood, yes we can.”
As Amos sees it, if people are willing to spend good money on furniture, they deserve something that will last – the kind of furniture that can be passed down in a family. A legacy of comfort and taste, if you will. “A couple of years ago we made a walnut harvest table with a lot of edge detailing for a family,” he recalls. “Well, at that time their youngest was 18 months and they knew that thing was going to take a pounding. They came in just a couple months ago, very pleased and big hugs. The missus told me that one of the girls spread lipstick on it and it didn’t ruin the finish!The way we look at it, when that couple has grandchildren at that table they’ll know every story that comes with every dent – it’s part of their family history. They’ll be able to share and enjoy in a way that is so meaningful. We’ll go to great lengths to find ways of making things that will last for people; it’s not only about high end.”
Referring to their commitment to providing quality products and design services to both commercial and residential customers, Amos explains that “We delightfully cover the gamut.”
“Work stations and desks are the principle products we do for office spaces. For restaurants: table tops and counters are commonly sought from us. Once we bring in the CNC, I’m very much expecting to see more cabinet work. With the selection of high-quality wood we now carry, business owners, like homeowners, can really enhance ambiance. We recently did the furniture, sales desk, and benches for a high end outdoor garment store and it was very much about the character. They chose a very distinct wood for their panels – the walls. It worked well.”The choices in wood and grain – as profiled at amoswood.ca – will make your eyes jump from one photo to the other and then back again: Walnut, bubinga, pine, maple, hemlock, root burl, clear spruce, black cherry, yellow birch, white ash, red and white oak.
And it’s only going to get better. In August, Amos Wood will officially be in the CNC Machining game. Computer Numerical Control allows skilled craftsmen, like the team at Amos Wood, to use software to control machine tools. “This greatly enhances our productive capability, not only in our furniture, but other possibilities as well. We’ve been wanting to put kitchens on stream for a long time now and in late July I started discussions with a construction company to evaluate purchasing that company ? this way we’d literally be a one-stop shop for the entire house and everything in it,” Amos says.