Thomas Morton discovered his woodworking gift in high school shop class. “Some kids did band or football,” he says. “I did wood.”
In the late 1980s he, along with his wife/partner and best critic, Joanne, established Morton Fine Furniture Inc. I left the family land surveying business to “follow my dream,” he says. And as Joanne says, “I had a sense of his talent, and life is short.”
“Morton designs and builds striking pieces inspired by Arts and Crafts, Shaker and Pennsylvania German furniture.”
– Susquehanna Style Magazine
His designs are clean and emphasize the simplicity and elegance he grew up with in beautiful Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
“My work is not so much just Frank Lloyd Wright. It’s more a little Gustav Stickley, Harvey Ellis, Greene & Greene, Roycroft, and today's Moser, Nakashima, Krenov, and Maloof — all wonderfully creative people.”
Thomas searches diligently for extraordinary woods native to the Appalachian Mountains, going directly to the saw mills and dry kilns native to the area. Good design, quality workmanship, traditional joinery, and meticulous finishing techniques all bring his furniture to life.
His work encompasses an impressive list of accomplishments, accolades, locations, and clientele. He most recently was designated as a Heritage Craftsman of Lancaster County. Tom considers himself a simple woodworker. Yet, his stunning pieces raise the spirits of the beholder as would a fine work of art. Perhaps he can add you to his list.
The distinction of our furniture from that of furniture commonly found in stores is created from the passion our craftsmen have for the fine art of furniture making. It is quality without compromise. It's an educated sensitivity to form, function, balance, beauty, and our personal need to make life more meaningful. More than a job it is a way of life. We sign and date each piece because our work is who we are.
We handcraft our furniture with traditional joinery methods using contemporary tools. For example, mortise-and-tenon joints are used extensively in construction. Although usually hidden from view, the mortise-and-tenon is strong and durable. Our East/West Chair has 31 mortise-and-tenon joints with tenons locked in place with a wooden cross pin to ensure that the joint won't fail. Pinned through mortise-and-tenon joints are visible and used in the construction of our Morris chair.
Another traditional method of joinery is the interlocking dovetail. In addition to providing a joint that is unsurpassed in strength and will not pull apart, the visually recognizable dovetail enhances the beauty of a piece of furniture. All of our quilt chests are constructed using this joint, ensuring that they will last many lifetimes. In addition, the drawers in all of our case goods are dovetailed, front and back.
Although people typically do not think about the quality of the wood used in construction, materials of the highest quality are necessary for the overall integrity of a piece of furniture. Our furniture is constructed primarily from premium American Black Cherry, harvested from the Appalachian Mountains of Pennsylvania and New York. Because we do not use stains, matching the natural wood's color and grain pattern to maintain balance is extremely important. Consequently, our craftsmen take extra time to carefully select specific boards appropriate for each component making up the piece of furniture. The time required for this attention to detail results in a more beautiful piece of furniture and is simply not available today in factories that mass produce furniture.
True quality and integrity are often manifest in the obscure. When you look at the back of one of our cases, you will not find a piece of plywood or masonite stapled to the case. The backs are constructed from 5/8" solid poplar. After the individual boards are milled and sized, they are then ship-lapped and fastened. This allows the wood to expand and contract with changes in temperature and humidity.
Dust panels are placed between the drawers in our cases. This not only increases the strength of the piece, but it also serves as a lid to keep the drawer contents cleaner and prevents an overstuffed drawer from catching on the drawer rail.
The drawers in our furniture have finished interiors. This makes a lining unnecessary and prevents delicate clothing from snagging. A well-made case needs no hardware such as metal slides to make the drawers operate smoothly. Our carefully hand-fitted drawers will provide a lifetime of carefree operation.
After final hand sanding, a coat of oil is applied. The piece is allowed to dry for approximately 24 hours and then is rubbed with fine steel wool to further smooth the surface. This process is repeated 2 to 3 more times followed by a coat of wax. This labor-intensive method of finishing a piece of furniture is not only extremely durable, but it also reveals the wood's distinctive natural color and grain. The result is a surface that is both resilient and pleasing to the eye and to the touch. Our finish is the foundation of the rich patina that will develop over the years.