ASHBY -- Dan Harju makes beds. He is not a housekeeper or military cadet, he is a skilled woodworker who specializes in custom bed frames and reproductions. From his shop on 328 Richardson Road, Harju creates authentic reproductions of antique furnishings.

Harju and business partner Rick Donald have been using modern methods to create throwback furniture at The Country Bed Shop for more than 25 years, including original designs and hardware. Harju and his four-man crew make about 50 pieces per year, all custom-ordered, inside the 1,500-square-foot woodshop.

The smell of sawdust and lacquers permeates the space, while the sound of machinery echoes around the "bed shed," which is a freestanding building carved out of the forest. Harju and Donald lease the space and equipment from the former owner, whose house is the only other building in sight.

Both men are Ashby natives and long-time friends from school. Now in their 40s, the former construction workers have found a home in beds.

"I spent eight years making cabinets," said Harju. "But making custom furniture and antique reproductions is far more specialized. And less competitive." They make their own hardware in a forge behind the shop, which is powered partly by fifteen solar panels in the front yard of the nondescript, red barn with an 1980s-era phone booth near the entrance.

Much of whatever raw materials they need, hardwoods mostly, are purchased locally at The Woodery in Lunenburg.


The "bed-heads," as they refer to themselves, procure select lumber from mills and distributors then shape it according to exact specifications.

Harju speaks with pride about a client from Oregon. "We received a request from someone who had a bed that was carried along the Oregon Trail." For two decades the family had kept possession of the bed but parts were lost or broken through the years. "They asked if we could make exact copies of the two existing posts, to complete the bed in full," he said. "We said, yeah, send it over."

The new posts, now almost completed, are indistinguishable from the originals, he said.

Within the busy workshop is a finishing room, where stains and lacquers, shellacs and details are added.

Before that though, is, according to Donald, "the important task of sanding away any tool marks. We want to make it look as authentic as possible." The early craftsmen had no machine marks or tool scrapes on their original works.

Harju ad keep no inventory, mostly due to space and time, but do have an online catalog of their works and a selection of designs. "Before the internet," explained Harju, "our business model was to set up a product for display at various events and outlets."

That was effective but labor-intensive and limited in terms of marketing profile. "Now we have an updated website and Facebook where clients can look for items they like," he said.

Often people will want a particular period piece but with some personalized elements. Not just beds. They also replicate dressers and hutches from particular eras, again based on customer specs.

"We also restore age-damaged products," said Harju, who, along with Donald still lives in Ashby, within a few miles of the shop.