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Unique handmade furniture store opens in downtown Millersburg

If patience is a virtue, Dan Raber may be one of the most virtuous people around.

Raber, who recently brought The Colonial Homestead to Historic Downtown Millersburg, is a purveyor of fine handmade furniture and tools.

While his store front showroom is packed with century old tools, furniture, including a grandmother clock, and many other interesting and unique items, one thing is for sure concerning Raber’s store: If it isn’t forged the old-fashioned way, you aren’t going to find it in The Colonial Homestead.

“It’s all handmade,” said Raber of his merchandise. “Whether it is a 1700s era end table or an 1800s era hand-woven rug, it is all made with handmade tools.”

Sorry, no replicas allowed. Raber is adamant that this new venture will be unlike anything people have seen when visiting Holmes County.

“It has to be period correct, it has to be done either with period tools or techniques, or must be an original if it’s in here,” said Raber.

The fact that all of the items in the store are fashioned in ways that our forefathers would have made them or, in the case of the original pieces, did make them, only adds to the allure of this business, which harkens back to well before the days of automated industry.

According to Raber, there will be a mix of new items, hand-crafted of course, and old vintage items.

The one thing he stressed is that there will not be any of the typical craft-type items found around the area.

“If it’s not authentic and it’s not usable, it’s not in here,” said Raber.

The passion for Raber for all things handmade began in his dad’s woodworking shop. There, he spent 15 years honing his skills in the woodworking business.

But when the furniture market took a downfall around 2008, Raber found himself thinking outside the box.

With competition fierce, Raber said he refused to lower his quality to compete with cheaper furniture. The hectic pace and huge demands to compete burned him out, his drive to build furniture diminishing.

In the meantime, Raber continued to follow his passion for period reenactment and muzzleloading, and the thought began to grow, what if he could combine the passion for that with his woodworking background?

A meeting with a gentleman in Friendship, Ind. helped him generate even more enthusiasm for the idea.

“He was making muzzleloaders and also handmade furniture,” said Raber. “I was fascinated. We spoke for several hours, and he wondered why I wasn’t doing the same thing.”

Raber had the passion for history. He had the basic knowledge of working with handmade tools, and the background in furniture.

He began it as a hobby, tried the wholesale end of the market before discovering that wasn’t going to work, so he shelved it for awhile.

Less than a year ago, the opportunity to begin to pursue the idea of a new store featuring only original and handmade items surfaced, and when the store front came open in Millersburg, he jumped at the chance.

He said that while he will build and restore old furniture the old-fashioned way, he eventually hopes to get into the art of museum restoration work.

In a day when companies are bent on pushing out product as fast as possible, Raber has done a 180-degree turn, and invested himself in doing things the old-fashioned way. Slowing things down, the idea is to recreate and build with accuracy, purpose and quality.

Thus, patience is a must, even as he pounds out individual pegs to install in an end table he is building.

“You can’t possibly rush things when creating like this,” said Raber. “You have to be a bit of a perfectionist for this, and love doing it. I thoroughly enjoy coming to work every day, because I love what I am doing. Time just flies by when I am doing this, and it is very rewarding.”

His Millersburg store, located at 144A W. Jackson St., is open Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The incredible front showroom is complete with numerous authentic hand tools, hand-forged ironware, handmade furniture, wooden housewares and a number of woodworking books geared to help novices learn the art of building using hand tools.

It is at once a throwback to centuries past, as well as a working facility where people can not only see Raber perfecting his art, but can also participate in classes.

“This is the only place around here that you can bring genuine antique furniture and know it is going to be repaired with the original techniques and tools that were used 100 to 200 years ago,” said Raber. “That is what I love about this. It’s real, and it is the same way we did this centuries ago.”

Raber welcomes people to stop in and watch him work, and peruse the store, but if you hang around long enough, it is quite possible that he may simply hand you a tool and tell you to hunker down and get to work.

Published: July 22, 2013
New Article ID: 2013707229937