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Mohawk Furniture

Back in April, Aaron Posnik hosted the auction of Mohawk Furniture in Broadalbin, New York. Mohawk was a high end manufacturer of solid wood traditional furniture.
I couldn’t find much history on this company, but I do remember them being in business some 40 years ago when I was a child living in the Hudson Valley.

The old mill buildings are on a sprawling complex that is bordered by the Kennyetto Creek. The site was originally occupied by the Broadalbin Knitting Company. The existing brick buildings were constructed after a fire destroyed the original four story wood structures in 1905. Broadalbin has a history of massive fires. The downtown business district has been completely destroyed several times. Check this link if you want to learn more about the town. The remnants of a rail siding that was used by the knitting mill are still present on the southwest side of the property.

The Mohawk operation included a number of drying kilns, indoor lumber storage, and a complete manufacturing and finishing operation.

The company fell on hard times and the plant closed down in 2005. The owner had planned to sell the plant as a complete operation. During one of the inspections, asbestos was discovered on components of the heating system throughout the plant. What happened next is a bit sketchy, but it appears that the asbestos abatement was not performed properly. To make matters worse, the removed asbestos was disposed of improperly. The state intervened, people were indicted, and the plant sat untouched for more than a year. Once the abatement was completed, the owners began selling off the machinery. They attempted to sell all the machines to some local concerns, but none of the potential buyers were willing to pay what the owners thought the machines were worth. In January of 2007 Aaron Posnik annouced that they would be hosting the auction.

The highlights of the sale were the planing and moulding lines. There was a nice Whitney S-382 double roughing planer, and a Whitney S-240 finish planer. There were also six Mattison straight line rip saws.

The machinery prices were mostly depressed with the two Whitney planers bringing the highest prices of the auction. The S-382 sold for just over $8,000, and the S-240 brought $2,500.

I purchased a Whitney 29A 36″ planer, a Mattison 276 moulder, a DoAll Zephyr 36″ Bandsaw, a Grutter Up-Cut saw, a Delta surface grinder, a Cincinnati vertical mill, an antique anvil and a few skids of pre-cut drawer sides.

After the sale closed, I negotiated a deal for the second Mattison moulder, a Yates V54 Resaw, several table saws, an overarm router, a bell double cut-off saw, and some miscellaneous tools.

I went to remove my items several weeks later, only to find that there was about 3″ of standing water covering most of the ground floor of the main mill building. Fortunately, none of the areas where my machines were located had been affected by this. To make matters worse, there were also access issues getting into and navigating throughout the buildings. Most of the doorways have arched openings to are 9′ high and 8′ wide. This limited the size of the forklift that could be brought into the building. The Mattison moulder weighs close to 10,000 lbs, so I needed a good size lift. The local rental company had a 10,000 lb lift, but the mast was too high to fit through the doorway. I opted for an 8,000 lb lift and hoped that it be able to lift the moulder.

I brought the forklift into the building and picked up the Whitney 29A planer. The rear wheels immediately broke through the floor. The concrete floor had been laid on top of material that wasn’t compacted, or maybe it had washed out. I had to jack the forklift up and put planks under the wheels. I had to keep doing this until I had the planer on a solid section of the floor. I managed to get the planer to the first doorway and was able to turn the lift wide enough to to get it through the door at an angle. Once I had the planer outside, I had to drive it up a slight incline to the truck. The forklift refused to go up the hill and immediately overheated, spraying hot coolant all over me. I let it cool off and managed to get the planer on the truck.
I called the rental outfit and told them I needed a new lift. The new lift wouldn’t be available for a few days, so I decided to grab whatever I could carry and return at the end of the week.

On the second visit, I brought some steel plates and machinery skates to minimize the possibility of going through the floor with the moulder on the lift. I jacked the moulder up, put it on skates, and dragged it out onto the solid floor. I then picked it up with the forklift and moved it to the first doorway. The moulder wouldn’t fit through sideways, and I couldn’t get enough of an angle to get it through the opening. I ended up placing it on skates. This wasn’t easy since there was 3″ of standing water right in the doorway. I couldn’t see the condition of the floor due to the water, but very quickly realized that it was pretty rough. The machine would move a foot or so and then slip off the skates. After an hour and a half of messing around I was through the first door. The second door was wider, and I was able to get just enough of an angle to get the machine through the door sideways.
Not wanting to repeat the overheating incident, I decided to load the moulder on the tail of the truck right outside the door. I planned to drive the truck up the hill and then reload from the side. As soon as I set the moulder on the truck, the frame developed a nice arch. Suprisingly, the front wheels of the truck never left the ground. I decided to unload the machine, move the truck and reload at the top of the hill. Once again, the forklift didn’t want to go up the incline. I tried three times going forward, and when that didn’t work, I tried backing up the hill. I was surprised how easily it went up.
Next up was the DoAll bandsaw. It was too high to fit through the door and couldn’t be disassembled. That meant laying it over on it’s back to move it out the door and then standing it up outside for loading. I dragged it to the solid part of the floor, got behind it with the forklift, and tied a strap around the upper column. I tilted the lift as far forward as it would go, attached the strap and tilted back. This tipped the saw enough that it was resting on the lift. I then carefully backed up while lowering the forks and got the saw down on blocks. I then moved the forklift to the base and picked the saw up with the forks under the rear column. I ran a few ratchet straps around the column and the forks and was able to drive right out of the building. Once outside, I rested the upper column on the bed of the truck and lowered the forks to stand the saw up. Once standing, it was easy to get it loaded on the truck.
The remaining small items were easy to get out of the building, leaving only the Yates Resaw.

I returned to get the resaw out in June. Things had dried out in the building and almost everything else was removed so access was a bit easier. I brought my own forklift this time, along with skates and steel plates. I started by removing the lower wheel, and then moved to the upper guards. Once the upper guards were off, it became apparent that the upper column support had been badly broken and poorly repaired. I had planned to give this saw to a friend in Delaware, so I called him and told him of the damage. We both came to the conclusion that it wasn’t worth trying to salvage. I ultimately ended up selling the saw to a local scrap dealer.

I mentioned the machinery auction above, as that’s primarily what I’m interested in. However, the real money in the auction was generated by the finished furniture that was liquidated. I was surprised to see how much interest there was and the prices realized. Here are a few examples of what was sold. for most items there was 50 or more of each type available.

6 Responses to “Mohawk Furniture”

  1. Tom Owens says:

    Yours was a very interesting decription of all of the things that can go wrong while trying to remove those large pieces of equipment from the building. Your’s must be quite a collection as I have observed along the way. While reading the story I felt that I was right beside you fighting to get the machinery out of the building.

  2. Paul Murphy says:

    What a great story about the unseen tribulations of buying used machinery. I grew up one town over from Broadalbin and my brother worked one summer in the mill, quite possibly running one of your machines. I am glad you were able to salvage as much as you did and based on the conditions in the factory I am surprised the equipment was not sold off for scrap. Thanks for sharing and thanks for saving a little piece of history.

  3. I lived across the road from the mill in question for the first 10 years of my life.
    My father worked there for about fifteen years, so I understand how the building’s construction was severely lacking.
    My aunt bought an office (all the workings and machinery, and desks in the room) and sold them elsewhere.
    If we still lived in-state (as we now live 800 miles away), I would have done the same thing.
    Thank you for helping maintain memories of the factory.

  4. Larry Kelley says:

    I just found a yo-yo and Duncan yo-yo with a mohawk Furniture sticker on it At an estate sale in Swampscott Massachusetts and I just researched about it is the best I’ve come up with !!!

  5. Frank Krajcir says:

    I worked in the factory when I was 19 years old 1979 they made wonderful solid wood furniture. I worked many of the machines myself and if I remember properly Mr. Peterson was the president of Mohawk furniture at that Time.

  6. Anna Rivenberg says:

    I worked at mowhawk for 19yrs building furniture was lead person on the second floor.But I also worked on 1st and 3rd My. Husband Ronald worked outside for 21yrs.My sister worked in the office.But first she worked in sanding department.We made some awesome stuff tables; beds night stands .We made furniture for colleges. We made stuff for West point. Dining room tables chair for living rooms sofa frames gun cabinets coffee table end table.We had some good people that worked there. Mr Donald Peters was the big boss over mill he cared about people that worked for him.Would help them out whenever he could..And there was Mr Art frank he was very nice.

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