Andy Anderson’s Custom Carved Furniture

Next time you visit a woodcarving show, take a moment to notice how many dust-weary, saddle-sore cowboys are displayed. All of those carved cowboys can trace their lineage to the work of Andy Anderson.

Inspired by a real-life cowboy from Wyoming, “the homeliest man I had ever laid my eyes on,” Andy gained fame and fortune carving cowboys, hillbillies, doctors, and other assorted characters. His work was admired worldwide, written about in magazines of his day, and collected by celebrities, including Jimmy Stewart, Roy Rogers, Walt Disney, and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Certainly, Andy is best known for his caricature carving. But Andy was also a real cowboy, a carpenter, a designer of his own line of ceramic figures, and a furniture maker. Andy designed and built two of his own homes in California and New Mexico. In his spare time, he carved many of the figures in the original Ghost Town attraction of Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, Calif.

The most common theme in Andy’s furniture, as well as in his popular caricature carvings, is humor. Andy’s construction methods were simple but effective. This is in line with his background as a carpenter, not a furniture maker. Drawers were joined using simple butt joints, not fancy dovetails. When Andy used mortise and tenon joints, he made no attempt to hide the joint. In many cases he even accentuated the joinery. Drawer pulls were made from carved wooden knobs and leather strips.

Andy said his furniture “is done in a rustic fashion, in harmony with Southwestern things.” The furniture was usually finished with a simple whitewash color and, in one case, a dark stain. Color was used on the carved furniture scenes the same way Andy used color on his free-standing characters. The grain of the wood is visible in all cases.

Most of the furniture was carved for his own use, for special collectors, or for friends and neighbors. Andy did not like carving large pieces, which explains their scarcity.

Bedroom Furniture
The bedroom furniture was carved for a family in 1947. Two young brothers grew up with this furniture until they moved away from their boyhood home. The boys wrote their names on the headboards, asserting their territorial rights of possession. Today, the most frequent visitors to this Andy Anderson guest room are my twin granddaughters.

The entire set includes two double beds, two nightstands, a chest of drawers, two table lamps, a floor lamp, a coat rack, and chair. Notice the sleeping hunter on the base of the floor lamp and the black bear peering around the corner at his adversary. The original set included a rifle that lay across the sleepy hunter’s lap. The rifle, alas, has been lost to history, probably borrowed by a young cowboy for playtime and not returned. The table lamp includes a hungry bear sticking his nose into a hollow tree, apparently searching for a stash of honey.

Corner Cabinet
The corner cabinet is from the same collection as the bedroom furniture, but served a completely different clientele. It was used as a liquor cabinet by the original owners, as attested to by the stains on the inside shelves. The outside, however, is immaculate. Today it is used to display some of Andy’s woodcarvings, and always draws the attention of visitors.

Desk and Chairs
The whitewashed desk and chair are from the collection of the Stark Museum. Both desks feature Andy’s typical rustic construction techniques. The desk finished in a dark stain is still used on a daily basis by the original owner. The original hinges have been replaced with leather straps and the original drawer knobs are missing.

Dining Room Set
This dining room set is a part of the Stark Museum collection in Orange, Tex. The piece is large enough to seat eight. Each figure carved on the seat backs is a different design. Note the exposed joinery on the table as well as the chairs.

A carved bootjack is one of Andy’s most unique works. This contraption was used to remove cowboy boots after a long day on the trail. Fortunately, this one was not used very often and is in remarkably good shape.

Comments are closed.