In 2014, aboard a ferry from Portland, Maine, Tom and Mary Moser headed 185 nautical miles northeast to Nova Scotia. But it wasn’t the scenery that caught Tom Moser’s eye; it was the simple cafeteria chair he was sitting in.Read More
Inside the Thos. Moser Workshop
Tom and Mary Moser founded Thos. Moser Cabinetmakers in 1972. Their first official shop was located in the old grange on Cobb’s Bridge Road in New Gloucester, Maine. After they cleared out what had been left behind, they transformed the space into a functioning workshop. The stage where the band placed on Saturday nights became the finishing room, the box office became the shop office, and workbenches and machinery replaced the risers that had previously lined either side of the dance floor.
The grange hall was home to Thos. Moser Cabinetmakers for eight years. As the company grew, we moved into an abandoned meat packing plant on Riverside Drive in Auburn. With the company’s success, we soon outgrew this new space, and in 1987, we laid plans to construct the shop we call home today.
watch the shop tour
The rough mill is where every piece of furniture begins its story. Every few months, we receive sustainably sourced cherry from the Alleghany plateau, walnut from the Missouri river banks, and ash from northern New England to replenish the stock. Once the lumber is unloaded, our craftspeople in the rough mill comb through stacks of rough lumber, selecting boards for each project. On average, we go through 264,000 board feet of cherry a year. That’s the equivalent of the rough mill being emptied out and refilled every 2.5 months.
Every board is carefully hand-selected for grain and color match – a process that requires the craftsmen to visualize how the piece will come to life from only a pile of boards. This ensures that the tabletop, drawer fronts, or headboard look like they came from the same tree. Once the boards have been selected, the craftsman cuts the boards to size, runs them through the joiner, and glues up any panels that may be needed for the job.
Known as “The Taylor,” the panel press is responsible for gluing up every tabletop, chair seat, headboard, and more. Once the panels have been glued up, they will cure for 2 hours. Built in the 1960s, “The Taylor” is one of the oldest machines in the shop.
These tools have enabled us to enhance our craft by allowing for exact precision, increased quality, and expansion of our design capabilities, creating a union of traditional craftsmanship and modern technology. Once the intricate parts have been created on the CNC, they are then in the hands of our skilled craftspeople.
As we move into the cases department, we are stepping into the original part of the building. In 1990, we added 20,000 square feet to the shop to create space for the rough mill, CNC work center, and, as you’ll see later, the finishing, upholstery, and shipping departments.
Many of the craftspeople in the building are cross-trained to work in any discipline. Casework is one of the most demanding work areas in the building. It requires a keen eye and sharp attention to detail. The craftspeople in this area can choose which project they want to build. One week it might be a bed; the next, a sideboard or Dr. White’s Chest.
The glue-up of a Dr. White’s Chest utilizes 53 clamps.
Our tables department crafts the largest and the smallest pieces of furniture in the building. From Minimus Tables to custom 40-foot conference tables and everywhere in between. Throughout the department, the walls are lined with jigs, essential for creating precise cuts and parts for every table in our lineup. At last count, there were over 150 jigs that lined these walls.
Many of our signature curves are created through the process of lamination- a process that requires multiple layers of veneer, glue, pressure, and time. We improve the strength, stability, and endurance of many vital pieces within our furniture through bent lamination.
The veneer is kept in a self-contained humidification room to prevent warping and cracks.
Many of our signature curves are created with bent lamination. Bent lamination is a process that requires multiple layers of veneer, glue, pressure, and time. This technique improves the strength, stability, and endurance of many vital structural elements found throughout our designs while adding complex and graceful dimensions.
At Thos. Moser, we use two different processes for creating a bent laminated curve. One press uses radio frequency, which works similar to microwave and is extremely powerful.
The Radio Frequency Press is used to create smaller heat-cured curves such as chair knees, dresser drawer fronts, and table skirts in 30 seconds.
Our chairs department is home to some of our most iconic furniture.
Chairs is the largest department in our shop, spanning nearly 12,000sq feet. The craftspeople here are responsible for chairs, stools, benches, lounge pieces, and rockers. This department makes nearly 50 pieces of furniture by hand in a week.
It is in chairs where we find most of the sculptural elements of furniture making. From hand-sculpting a seat, rasping the curve on our Continuous Arm, or creating the fluid motion of a Pasadena Rocker or a Wing Sofa, these craftspeople have a delicate touch and keen eye for crafting seamless and comfortable forms.
There are only three of these machines in the world, and they live within our shop. This jig creates the signature arm of our Continuous Arm Chair. Tom knew he wanted to create a crest with a fluidity that transitioned into the arms of the chair. He began by experimenting with lamination and bending techniques, which led him to design a jig from a copper plumbing pipe resting upon a scrap wood brace. The design of the first jig was then taken to a machine shop. The two jigs that were constructed in the late 1970s, minus a few shims, Bondo, and the addition of hydraulic cylinders that pull the arm into shape, are the exact ones we continue to use today.
Welcome to Tom’s personal workshop in the building. This small prototype shop is used to explore new designs, and custom projects, and on occasion, you can find our Founder, Tom working on his signature flag.
After we leave the prototype area, we’re headed to finishing and upholstery.
Upholstery makes a piece of solid hardwood furniture cozy, elegant, playful, or sophisticated. When the final stitch is sewn and the cushion is placed into the frame, the customer’s vision is realized. Just as the boards are selected in the rough mill for grain and color match, our craftspeople in upholstery select the fabric or leather, ensuring the patterns are aligned, the material lays in the right direction, and the leather is free from blemishes. Built from the inside out, every element of the cushion is made in-house.
Built from the inside out, every element of the cushion is made in-house. This includes creating a custom frame that will fit within the seat, constructing the cushion, sewing the covers, making buttons, and installing the seat. Every element in this softer side of furniture needs to be every bit as durable and pleasing to the eye as its hand-crafted wooden frame.
Once the cushion is installed, it receives a final check and moves on to shipping.
It’s here that some say the furniture comes to life. After each piece of furniture is carefully hand sanded, it receives a coat of Rev Oil. Our “Revised Oil” is a proprietary blend that contains a percentage of linseed oil with the addition of driers and resins. This new oil treatment allows for an overnight dry time and creates additional protection that is close to the surface, similar to a top coat. A day’s drying time is allowed, and then the piece is lightly sanded and ready for the final finish if either wax or catalyzed lacquer.
A final sanding and quality control check before it’s on to shipping.
Before being loaded onto our trucks, every piece of furniture receives a final quality control check before it is hand wrapped in blankets.
The use of moving blankets allows this process to maintain a higher level of sustainability while protecting the furniture from scratches during shipping.
From every hand-selected board, sculpted seat, chiseled piece of joinery, tufted seat cushion, and hand-finished piece of furniture wrapped with care –we are a family of craftspeople who genuinely love what we do, day in and day out. And we’re proud to leave our mark.
If you are local or visiting Maine and are interested in an in-person shop tour, make a reservation here.
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