Dorset furniture maker looks back on 50 years of fine woodworking

Isabel Wissner - Vermont Country - Master Furniture maker Dan Mosheim

And how he’s never been able to escape from mathematics

By Bob Audette
Vermont Country

DORSET — Since high school, mathematics has played an integral and sometimes surprising role in the life of master furniture maker Dan Mosheim.

“I liked geometry in high school,” he said recently from his Dorset workshop. “My adviser said, ‘Why don’t you just be a math major?’ Well, one term of being a math major made me realize that I was not academically involved enough to do that. So I switched to the business curriculum, where I learned nothing that applied to running a small business.”

Needless to say, math is crucial when designing tables, sideboards, desks and beds. At the same time, many of his friends and connections, including his main paddle tennis partner, are math teachers, tutors or scholars.

Photo by Isabel Wissner – Vermont Country

“So I’m still sucked into it. You can’t make this stuff up,” he said. “I recently wrote a blog post about algebra and geometry in the workplace.”

 Mosheim arrived in Southern Vermont in 1971.

“I got off the bus in Arlington on July 6, 1971, to visit my sister, who was living in Arlington at the time,” he said. “I had been traveling for a couple of years after college. I went to Penn State and graduated in ’69. I had intended to go back to the Ocean Reef Club [in Key Largo] where I spent the winter of 1970. But I met this woman who is now my current wife, and we’ve been together 51 years. It’s been a good run.”

Mosheim’s wife, Calista, grew up in Guilford as a Kristensen, where her dad, John, was a town moderator and state legislator.

“She moved up here to work at the Jelly Mill in Manchester,” said Mosheim.

In 1974, the couple built a house in Arlington, and he worked as a carpenter for a local contractor from then until 1979.

“At that time, my wife was working at a kitchen store, and she was talking to people and they would say, ‘Where can we get a table?’” recalled Mosheim. “I had already built a shop as a hobby thing, and to do projects for the builder on the side. So I just sort of stumbled into it.”

While he got established, he also worked as a bartender at Ace Manley’s Roundhouse in Manchester for a couple of years. 

“When we finished our first house, we had literally just five pieces of furniture. So I started with a kitchen table. Then I bought some chair kits from Cohasset Colonials. I liked the process, so I bought a copy of ‘How to Make a Windsor Chair’ by Mike Dunbar. My first business card said, ‘Dan Mosheim, Windsor Chairs.'”

Mosheim estimates he made about 1,000 Windsor chairs during that time.

In 1996, now with two boys in middle school, they moved to Dorset, where the Mosheims built a home and a new workshop.

Everything Mosheim creates now is custom ordered by people who have seen his work or have found him on the internet.

“People find pictures there, and they say, ‘I like this, only bigger, smaller, taller, shorter, lighter, darker … It’s a back-and-forth process.”

In 2018, Mosheim started to think about retiring. He let his four employees go (“They found jobs instantly,” he said) and began working on his own again.

“But it really wasn’t the same, even with Will here building banjos, and Sam doing metal work,” he said. “I didn’t really enjoy working by myself.”

Photo by Isabel Wissner – Vermont Country

Three years ago, Christian Moore, his nephew, dropped by and has since been helping out around the shop.

Mosheim is happy that his two sons are fine craftsmen, as well. He’s also proud of the work he’s done that will outlast him, furniture that will become family heirlooms.

“I couldn’t have dreamed this up,” he said.

To learn more, visit dorsetcustomfurniture.com.

Bob Audette has been writing for the Brattleboro Reformer for close to 15 years. When he’s not working or hanging out with his 6-year-old son, he can often be found on one of the many trails leading to the summit of Mount Monadnock, in southern New Hampshire.

Vermont Country magazine

Vermont Country has a hyperlocal focus on the Green Mountain lifestyle, its personalities, events, attractions and culture. The magazine appears six times a year, designed to complement the state and four-season living. VtCo magazine is a Southern Vermont publication of Vermont News & Media.

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