N.Y. furniture maker uses grant to grow

With the aid of a matching grant from the U.S. Forest Service and the Watershed Agricultural Council’s Forestry Program in New York, Stephen Robin of Stephen Robin Furniture in Woodstock, N.Y., now has the ability to make nested-based manufacturing grow and thrive in his community.

Stephen Robin and Paul HendersonRobin received $43,000 in a series of installments over recent months, which he used toward the purchase of a C.R. Onsrud router. He plans to start a line of solid wood furniture made from local hardwoods; his small shop has created stand-alone pieces until now. In addition to creating limited runs of furniture with the new equipment, Robin plans to offer CNC machining services to other shops. 

“In the Woodstock area, there are many guitar builders and woodworking studios like mine who will favor a local alternative,” says Robin. 

“Craftsmen spend thousands of dollars to ship products across the U.S. to other shops with the CNC technology. Now they can save time and money by keeping the wood local.”

One of the main goals of the grants program is to provide incentives that help local wood-using businesses manufacture regionally harvested material into value-added products, says Collin Miller, a forestry specialist at the Watershed Agricultural Council. 

“The more wood that remains in the region for processing into furniture and other products means that more dollars stay in local communities and provide local people with local jobs,” says Miller.

While similar federal funding for projects have dwindled over the years, Miller said the council hopes its current marketing projects, such as Catskill WoodNet and the Pure Catskills branding campaign for local New York wood products, will continue to provide assistance to wood business development projects in the future. 

Robin says he believes he received the grant because of his well-written proposal, and vows to put out the necessary horsepower, as he puts it, to honor the spirit in which the grant was given to him.

“These ideas have been brewing for many years,” says Robin, who is exploring how to tie the project into his long-term goals to create a woodworking school. “We’d like to create an atmosphere where aspiring craftsmen can spend a week learning the essential techniques of furniture building.”

Contact: Watershed Agricultural Council, 33195 State Hwy. 10, Walton, NY 13856. Tel: 607-865-7790. www.nycwatershed.org