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Farm Wife Makes No-Cost Furniture
Susie Rothert, Elmore, Ohio creates her own willow furniture. Although to most people they appear to be rustic, valuable antiques, they cost virtually nothing to construct since they're made from "free" green willow saplings.
Susie got started in her unusual craft three years ago when she saw a willow chair featured in a magazine. Studying the picture, she decided that she could make her own, saving a sizable sum. After making a piece or two, friends began requesting her woodsy creations, and a new home industry was born.
To gather the willow needed for her project, Susie drives a pickup along country roads cutting and hauling the wild willow that grows along ditch banks or around swamps, taking only what she can use be-fore the material dries out. Several varieties of willows grow in the U.S., but as long as the plants are pliable, providing a good bend, they'll work satisfactorily, she says.
The willow saplings, 6 to 7 ft. long and ranging in size from 112 to 3 in. in dia., are pruned of their leaves, then sorted and stacked in the barn according to size for easy accessibility when assembly begins.
Using a saw on the thicker, woodier pieces, Susie first constructs a solid square frame of four legs for the furniture. No measurements are taken. She simply does it all by eye, sometimes using one chair leg to measure another.
Once the framework is completed and solidly braced, the piece takes on its individual personality. Carefully bending and twisting the willow lengths to make them pliant for curved designs, Susie hammers and nails the strips into position. No special tools are required other than spiraled nails that are used because they won't pull out. Glue is never used, as is done in most modem furniture manufacturing, because it won't adhere to the green stalks.
During the natural drying process the furniture contracts, making tightly knitted joints that will be durable a hundred years from now. Finally, as a preservation measure, the furniture is rubbed with linseed oil which gives it a warm brown rustic glow.
Susie has constructed a variety of furniture styles, with no two pieces ever exactly alike. Most frequently she makes plant stands, rockers, straight chairs, tables, lounges, and shelves. Prices range from $100 or less for small tables to $200 for a loveseat or a dining room table with a glass top.
Generally the pieces are sold as groupings or accent pieces. However, she recently got an order for an entire room of furniture.
For more information, contact FARM SHOW Followup, Susie Rothert, 1084 S. Opfer-Lentz, Elmore, Ohio 43416 (ph 419 862-2519).

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1988 - Volume #12, Issue #1