a brief stint as a high school science teacher, I began my furniture making
career by working eight years under a German Master Craftsman. He
ran a small
shop employing about a dozen people including several other European craftsman.
The shop specialized in reproducing high style 18th Century American antiques.
I learned to work to the exacting standards set and perpetuated by the
guild system which still exists in Europe.
In 1979 I opened my own shop in the village of
Cherry Valley, NY. Two years later I moved to nearby Cooperstown.
I have continued to reproduce high style 18th century American antiques
with an emphasis on neoclassical Federal furniture. I developed a
second specialty when I did a series of commissions in the Gothic and Gothic
Revival styles for a monastery, and later, for Lyndhurst, a National Trust
for Historic Preservation site in Tarrytown, New York.
Ralston Furniture Reproductions is located in historic Cooperstown, New
York. Founded in the late 18th century by William Cooper, the father
of James Fenimore Cooper, Cooperstown is at the southern end of Otsego
Lake, headwaters of the Susquehanna River.
You are welcome to visit my shop; there are usually
works in progress to see, and while you are here, you can enjoy the beautiful
and historic Leatherstocking region made famous by James Fenimore Cooper's
many novels. Many nearby museums and the highly rated Glimmerglass Opera
Company are among the other local attractions, not to mention our best
known institution, The National Baseball Hall of Fame. By car, Cooperstown
is about four hours from New York City, an hour and a half west of Albany,
and two hours east of Syracuse.
|WHAT. I make
custom furniture to order and also conserve period antiques. While
I mainly do reproductions, and as noted above, specialize to some degree
in high style Federal and Gothic Revival pieces, the photograph galleries
will show an interest and versatility over a wide range.
me; lead times can vary greatly (I've never been able to correlate my backlog
to the season, economy, political party in power, alignment of the planets,
or anything else).
|HOW. All good
craftsmanship begins with the finest materials. I mainly use personally
selected South American mahogany, or native cherry, maple, oak, or walnut.
Often I have the native woods custom sawn. For each project I carefully choose
boards for uniformity of color and grain pattern. Construction follows
the enduring principles of traditional joinery, generally mortise and tenon
joints and hand cut dovetails.
In most cases I use hot hide glue, a traditional
glue noted for its strength and durability. I stain pieces with either
custom mixed transparent dye stains or chemical treatments, mimicking the
look of a naturally aged patina. Shellac that I prepare myself is the standard
finish in most instances. For table tops and similar high wear surfaces,
I use a water and alcohol resistant lacquer as a topcoat.
I work from measured drawings, existing pieces
of furniture, photographs, sketches, and even, on occasion, verbal descriptions.
In all but the first two cases, I provide a drawing, often full scale,
for your approval before starting work.