The Rutherford Report—Small Team Continues Sam Maloof's Work

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“I want to be able to work a piece of wood into an object that contributes something beautiful and useful to everyday life.”

—Sam Maloof
Small Team Continues Sam Maloof's Work

A dedicated three-person team continues storied craftsman Sam Maloof’s tradition of producing custom, hand-made furniture in a small workshop next the world-famous woodworker’s Alta Loma home.

“We miss him a lot, but we are carrying on,” said Mike Johnson, whose chance encounter with Maloof at Montclair Plaza in 1980 led to their long friendship and partnership in Sam Maloof Woodworker Inc.

Elegant wooden furniture designed and built by Maloof, who died in 2009, can be found in the Smithsonian, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the White House Craft Collection.

But Ros Bock, who manages the business end of Sam Maloof Woodworker Inc., said the master craftsman always insisted his work was meant for more than observing.

“He’d say, ‘No, that’s why I made it, for you to sit in,’” she said.

Today, Johnson and his son Stephen use the same tools, saws, sanders and templates as Maloof to make new furniture that mirror’s the signature style that brought so much praise to the Chino native.

“We certainly aren’t producing your everyday piece of furniture,” Bock said. “You are buying a piece of art that is very, very functional.”

Unlike wooden furniture found at most stores, the pieces produced here have no visible screws holding parts together. Instead, segments are fused together with glue and meticulously crafted joinery that allows each part to fit perfectly into the other.

Screws are used to reinforce joinery, but they are hidden beneath wooden plugs—often made from ebony wood to offer contrast. This allows the furniture to have a fluid, organic look and feel after it has been sanded and oiled for hours and hours.

Because of the amount of time and effort that go into each piece, customers often have to wait months to get items such as a walnut rocking chair, though Johnson said he does put other projects aside to get orders for baby cradles out as quickly as possible.

“Sam always said, ‘Babies don’t wait.’”

Johnson worked along side two fellow craftsman—Larry White and David Wade—for years in the workshop, but Wade left to pursue his own art in 2013 and White, who still leads the Maloof Master Craftsman Tours for the Maloof Foundation, recently retired from the business.

Johnson’s son, Stephen, now works side by side with his father in the workshop.

“It’s worked out even better than I imagined,” Johnson said. “He took to it really well.”

While Johnson has taught his son how to fashion fine furniture from hardwoods, his son has taught him a thing or two about modern day marketing, including how an Instagram post can reach hundreds of thousands of potential customers around the world while costing a lot less than a half-page ad in Architectural Digest.

“It’s amazing how the Internet kind of opens up the world to you,” he said. “I’m working on pieces for customers in Singapore, Vietnam and Paris.”

The radiant, sleek wooden furniture produced by Sam Maloof Woodworker Inc. doesn’t come cheap. Prices range from $40 for a small, walnut paper weight to $3,000 for a maple pedestal table to $20,000 for a walnut rocking chair or more for larger items.

But considering the fact that one of Maloof’s rocking chairs once sold for $80,500 at auction, customers are more than willing to pay a premium for furniture made in the famous craftsman’s distinct style.

Visit more information about this Second District business.
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