The Stickley Story
Our story began with three words: Als Ik Kan—”to the best of my ability.” This old Flemish craftsman’s phrase has been the guiding principle of Stickley. Gustav Stickley marked his product with the phrase to assure customers that Stickley furniture was of the finest quality, every piece made with honor, integrity, and pride.
The Stickley brothers burst into international prominence in the early 20th century with their Mission Oak designs. These were based on the notion that furniture should be “honest”—a reaction against the fake joinery, unnecessary gaudiness, and shoddy workmanship of many of the pieces created in the early days of industrial furniture making.
The Stickleys used solid construction, what-you-see-is-what-you-get joinery, and the highest quality woods. But even more, they showed a genius for design, creating hundreds of new forms that were at once beautiful to look upon, practical to use, exceedingly strong and long-lasting, and perfect for the new ways American families wanted to live.
Stickley furniture was not for shutting up in formal parlors—it was to be used and loved by young and old. Great emphasis was placed on letting the gorgeous, organic forms of quartersawn oak and other woods speak for themselves. Finishes were not thick gums, but clear dyes that allowed natural grain to sparkle.
The same devotion to design, the best workmanship, and enduring value was applied to all Stickley designs. Leopold Stickley’s colonial-inspired Cherry Valley Collection, introduced in the 1920s, honored the traditions of early American craftsmen, earning Leopold the title “Revered Dean of Cabinetmakers” in the process.
Eventually the Stickley brothers passed away. And respect for hand craft ebbed during the 1950s-1970s. Stickley faced an uncertain future.
Then the Audi family stepped in. At his New York City showroom, E.J. Audi had for years been the leading seller of Stickley’s unsurpassed furniture. His son Alfred, and Alfred’s wife Aminy, were unwilling to let Stickley become a relic of the past, and decided to purchase the Stickley factory when Leopold’s widow was on the brink of closing it. Alfred promised the couple of dozen employees then remaining that “If you stick with me, I’ll stick with you, and we’re going to make this place move.” Together, they rejuvenated the company.
Alfred Audi passed away in the fall of 2007, but the Stickley legacy is being continued by his wife Aminy and son Edward.
Enduring tradition, superior craftsmanship, an unshakeable philosophy of excellence—these are the bedrock of the Stickley ethic, and the reason that Stickley produces America’s premium hardwood furniture.
We say it in many ways, and in different tongues, but the spirit goes right back to that Flemish studio: Als Ik Kan.
Learn more at the Stickley museum.
The Stickley Difference
Furniture is one of the most intimate products any of us will acquire. We share our meals around it. We rock our babies in it. We furnish the places of our lives so our families will love returning home, so our friends will look forward to visiting.
None of us is aching to inherit our grandmother’s car or television, but her china cabinet would be a prized possession. Great furnitures creates, and carries, memories across time.
What makes one piece of furniture an heirloom while another remains humdrum?
Special design, painstaking craft and construction, a history. These lend permanence and meaning to what would otherwise be just an object.
PINNED MORTISE AND TENON JOINERY
Most Stickley door joints are tenoned, glued, and pinned with wooden pins. The pins lock the joint supplying additional strength. This joint would hold together even without the use of glue.
Some styles are pinned from the front and are visible, others from the back.
The splining of the mitered corners of many mirrors provides the strongest possible corner. The chance of a joint ever breaking is minimal.
DOVETAILED CROSS RAILS
Cross rails on cases are dovetailed into the ends to strengthen the case from side to side. On Mission designs, the dovetail is hidden from view. This joint is self-locking even without glue, and separation of the end panels is impossible, unless the wood is split apart.
Dowel joints rely on glue, and glue can fail over time. A dovetail joint cannot fail.
TONGUE & GROOVE GLUE JOINTS
Solid wood varies greatly in grain and color. Proper matching of individual boards gives the appearance of one solid piece and eliminates the need to bleach or sap stain the lumber.
The tongue and groove insures a stronger glue joint which does not crack or split and allows for greater finished thickness on all tops.
PINNING OF CHAIR JOINTS
All Stickley Windsor and rush-seat chairs are pinned with wooded pins. These pins insure that even after long, hard use the joints will not pull apart.
The wedging of arm and back posts into the bottom of the seats is another assurance of a lasting joint.
SHIP LAP PLANKING
Stickley bookcases are available with ship lap planking in the back. Individual boards are machined, sanded, finished and applied one at a time. Together they add character and beauty to a piece.
BRACKET FOOT CONSTRUCTION
All bracket feet are splined, corner blocked and braced. In addition to the usual corner block, a corner brace is rabbeted into the side of the leg pieces. This leg is joined to the case by four screws, providing a solid foundation.
Four quartersawn solid white oak boards are mitered and then glued around a center post. This distinctive Leopold Stickley construction technique best displays the oak’s ray flake.
Simply gluing boards together to make a post yields an unsightly glue line and grain variation. Gustav Stickley achieved a similar effect with oak veneer. This feature is used in Mission styles exclusively.
Glass panels are secured with oak or cherry quarter rounds, mitered to fit perfectly and affixed with barely visible pins.
We believe the inside of each door should be as handsome as the outside.
SIDE HUNG & CENTER GUIDED DRAWERS
The center guide keeps drawers from skewing sideways. Side suspension keeps drawers level when heavily loaded. No plastic parts to break. No metal to rust and scratch. Just honest to goodness hand craftsmanship. The drawer never scrapes the bottom, and opens and closes with ease… forever.
TENONS (pinned through tenon shown)
A signature element of Stickley construction is the tenon—a board whose ends have been cut for insertion into a mortise. A blind tenon is concealed within the mortise. A through tenon projects beyond the depth of the mortise.
Tenons, whether blind, through, pinned or keyed, are the very best way to join furniture together.
A keyed tenon projects beyond the mortise and is slotted with a wedge-shaped block.
RESAWN & BOOK MATCHED DOOR PANELS
Resawing is a process of splitting thick lumber into thinner boards. The split halves are then opened like a book revealing identical grain. This painstaking process creates beautifully grained panels on all Stickley pieces it’s used on.
Making panels this way is more costly and more labor intensive, however, it is much more attractive than randomly matched boards.
SOLID QUARTERSAWN WHITE OAK
A method of sawing oak so the cut is made parallel to the wood’s medullary rays instead of across. This cut yields a limited quantity of top grade boards featuring ray flake, and it binds the perpendicular fibers together, giving the oak its amazing strength.
Quartersawn white oak is much less likely to crack, check or warp than when it is flat sawn. This method is used in Mission style construction exclusively.
BED RAIL CONSTRUCTION
The side rails of some Stickley beds are locked into special casting. The end rails are mortised and tenoned into the posts and locked with wood pins. We use top quality 5/4″ solid oak, cherry and maple for bed rails.
Two panhead screws are positioned at the ends of each rail to fit into an iron casting with a tongued slot. Our beds won’t wobble or rock.