Saturday, September 5, 2009

The only asset the fire left me was my domain I had years of work invested in Cork Cove Furniture, and as the economy went from bad to worse, so went the custom woodworking industry here in Maine.

Maintaining a steady work flow became increasingly more difficult and time-consuming. Bidding became so competitive people were dropping their prices as much as 30 -40 % just to make sure they got the work. I was the number two bid, out of three, on a job where the client took the lowest bid, far below mine. I recall wondering how the winning bidder could possibly make more than three dollars an hour on that job. Something had to give. Quality? Operating costs? Safety? This situation hurts everybody.

Maine's woodworking image on the national scale is top-notch. Heavy influence from the Shaker work ethic, and joinery techniques is apparent in Maine craftsmanship.

The woodworking industry here in Maine is so ingrained in all of our lives, that it's easy to overlook the real difficult problems it is facing. It goes unnoticed to the point that no one knew, or even bothered to look, that there was a business in the mill fire that lost everything.

Three days after the fire, after reading every news report about it, every single article referred to the mill as abandoned. I Googled the address, 483 Water St., Gardiner, ME, and Cork Cove Cabinetmakers appeared three times on the first page. Not one reporter, from the ten or so articles I read, had any idea who occupied the building.

I feel terrible enough, and embarrassed that I did not have insurance, but I hope that by bringing attention to the fact that there was in fact a business, mine, that operated out of that "abandoned" mill. Perhaps that by calling attention to this, someone will see the value in coming forward with information about the person, or people, involved in setting the fires.

In the meantime, I will continue to be thankful that no one was hurt in the fire, and no one was hurt battling the fire. The fire took everything except my domain name, Now, I want to take this opportunity to explore and document Maine's rich woodworking history. I want Maine Furniture to be a place where people can learn about woodworking, and furniture, and history, and share their stories, and associations, and interact with others whose passions lay in this industry and state.

So many small shops go unnoticed. High schools have cut their woodworking classes. The economy has forced sacrifices in quality and safety. Cheaper, low quality furniture is too readily available, and does not last.

Instead of buying a cheap dining room table and chairs, have a local person make a table for you. Buy the chairs when you can afford them next. The money saved long-term is remarkable. Buy local, buy "green". By supporting your local cabinetmaker, you are dealing with someone who wants your business, and cares enough to stand by their work. You won't need your receipt, and you won't get put on hold. If somthing ever goes wrong with their work, they will be there to fix it because it is their name, and their reputation, locally, that matters to them. You matter to them, and what an incredible beginning to a business relationship that has so much potential for growth.

I believe in this premise, because I have experienced it. It is my goal to promote the independent woodworkers in Maine, as well as their personal woodworking histories.

Please follow me on Twitter, and please leave comments. I want to hear about pieces of furniture that are important to you. I want to record as many different methods of joinery as possible. I want people to know the differences in finishes used in furniture making throughout the ages. If it involves woodworking and/or woodworkers, on any and all levels, let's talk about it!

Thank you all who have been supporting me through this economy, and now the aftermath of the fire. I am truly thankful.

Mark McKelvey


  1. Good luck with the new site Mark. Looking forward to seeing the site go live.

  2. Out of the ashes of a forest fire springs new birth and regeneration - Good Luck Mark in your new endeavor I wish you all good things !