A Note about “Green” Furniture..............<

Since I began building furniture in the 70’s, I have been concerned about the toxic
chemicals that are prevalent in the furniture construction business. I welcome with
open arms any new product or technique that is designed to reduce toxins from my
studio, my finished products, and the bloodstream and lungs of my customers, my
assistants, and myself. I also try to be as environmentally responsible in other areas
of my business. I buy supplies and raw materials locally when available. I recycle
and/or reuse many of the byproducts of the construction process. I design and build
using solid wood techniques and I avoid using plywood, which can contain toxins.

The most difficult issue I deal with when trying to be a green manufacturer is finding
an appropriate finish. Solvent-based finishes give depth and beauty to wood but they
off gas toxic compounds into the atmosphere. Water based finishes only off gas water
but, when cured, the finish still contains toxic components. Water based finishes also
have a bland plastic appearance compared to solvent based finishes. Polymerized
tung oil and Danish oil finishes contain heavy metals. Natural finishes such as raw
tung oil, shellac, or waxes are generally environmentally friendly but they do not
provide the protection necessary for high use furniture or cabinets. As of this time,
there is no single finish product that is environmentally appropriate, water resistant,
and similar in appearance to solvent based finish.

The finish I like to use now is a combination of products. I use shellac as a seal coat
because it imparts a depth and color that is similar to solvent based finishes. Next I
topcoat with a water based urethane or lacquer finish to give water resistance and
durability. This finish gives good appearance and does not off gas toxic compounds.
The disadvantage is that it can be labor intensive to apply. When a solvent based
finish is requested, such as urethane, I use a hand applied finish instead of a spray
finish because spray finishes emit more compounds into the atmosphere.

If you have allergies or philosophical objections to solvent based finishes, plywood,
global transportation of raw products, or irresponsible use of natural resources,
I would be glad to work with you to design and build a piece that you would be
comfortable having in your home.