Martin Goebel: Featured Maker of the Year entrant

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Martin Goebel (shown above) leads a small team of craftspeople who create furniture and fitouts for a broad based clientele. Hard work and a commitment to producing high end and often innovative work have seen his business achieve prominence in just 11 years. Martin has entered his Melrose Table into Maker of the Year presented by Carbatec awards and was kind enough to reply to the questions posed to him below.


Looking at your social media, it seems you do high end, often large scale work requiring similarly high end skills and processes. The word ‘fearless’ comes to mind too. Where are you based, and how would you characterise the nature of your work?

Our shop is a 15,000 sq. ft. facility in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA. The building was built in 1919 and originally an enameling plant for truck chassis. We bought the building in 2019 and did a full overhaul of the mechanical and electrical systems. We built our shop and needs slowly. Now in our 12th year of business this is our 3rd shop starting with 1200 sq. ft. and growing as our clients and need grew. We are classic small business in which we do anything that makes us money.

The phrase ‘I’ve been a whore for less’ often gets thrown around the shop jokingly and seriously. We started with very little and pressed as hard as we could squeezing as much sweat equity as we could finding clarity of our path through greater and long work hours. My shop manager Jason Dakis (now in his 11th year with the company) always assumed that this would at one point end so we were going to work as hard and long as possible to stave off having to get other jobs. We have three main revenue streams: high end residential (mainly custom) furniture, hospitality (restaurants, bars, hotels, breweries) and corporate.


Brennans, custom bar construction by Goebel & Co Furniture

Who are your main clients?

We work with many public and private clients around the world. We are located in the American Midwest but many of our clients are on the East and West coast in top 10 American cities: New York, Boston, Washington DC, Miami, LA, San Francisco etc. We have done some work for Phillipe Starck based in Paris for hotels in Switzerland, countless architects and interior designers and even a throne for Queen Melambeka of the Lamba in Zambia. My favorite clients however are young families reminiscent of my friends and family. Often we work for clients furnishing the 4th bedroom of the 5th house. The furniture is forgotten if ever used. The young mother feeding her children on our table is our ideal client. Our work is appreciated and directly relates to the quality of life. I see myself in those pieces.


Vishal table with cottonwood burl top in metallic finish with metal base. The chainsawn 'boulder' has a special brass finish.

Do you do all the design work?

I am the main designer for our pieces. Everything is design in 3-D CAD via Solidworks then transferred to either templates for hand production of files for CNC production. I consult a lot of experts and books on various aspects of fabrication an concept. Our shop is a collaborative experience in which the vanity of one designer or craftsman does not overshadow the quality of the product. What you see from our shop is the collective best of many people coordinated by Jason Dakis and I.


Are you on the tools as well?

For the first 7 years of the business I need 8 hours of production/making daily over and above administrative duties (office work). I was pushing a lot of hours, to many. I needed to make a decision about where to focus my attention. The last 5 years I have been very hands off which is hard. Now 40 years old, I spent from age 16-35 covered in dust. I don’t sit in the office well. It’s unnatural for me. The vibration of the machinery and smell of dust tease me daily however, we are developing young craftsmen and building something that is more important. Ironically, I have find myself this far into the industry only to return to being a weekend warrior hobbyist woodworker (in a rather well equipped shop haha). I make 2-3 pieces a year. The last major piece I made was the Zambia throne, as the main craftsman but with help just as all of our pieces are created.


 Avec credenza in Macassar ebony

How big is your team?

We have 4–7 craftsmen and a few office staff. We leverage digital design and CNC and very talented visiting craftsmen depending on production needs. We are growing and will double this in the next 24 months.


Steamer Trunk, wenge, white cedar and hard maple, custom brass hardware. The lid was milled from a single board.

I can only imagine the investment of time, let alone hours, required to create a viable solid wood furniture set up of your scale. How long have you been in business and what have been the main drivers?

I have been building furniture professionally since 2002. Goebel & Co. Furniture opened February 6, 2011. I previously worked for a few companies which I found to be toxic environments. After the Great Recession ended in 2010 (in the US), I decided to start something on my own terms with it’s own set of ideals. It bothered me that the collective best of an industry yielded such poor quality furniture. It also bothered me that individual craftsmen had such hurdles to financial success. We are a hybrid of the two systems using the collective best of a team of craftsmen and digital technology as multipliers for the good of all involved.


Avec credenza in flame box elder

How did you develop your making skills? What’s your background?

I started training at 16 during high school for 3 years with my mentor William McCoy. His skillset instilled methods which I use to this day. At 19 I went on To The Krenov school in the final year of teaching by James Krenov (Fort Bragg, CA). I worked for 6 years alone in a 400 sq. ft. work shop behind my grandparents house. I received my undergraduate degree in Studio Fine Arts from University of Missouri and then Masters degree in Furniture Design from Rhode Island School of Design. During this time I worked on contract for Thos. Moser Cabinetmakers in Design and Engineering (Maine, USA).


Long days – night time delivery of pecan log to Goebel & Co Furniture 

Rare and special timbers also feature in your work. Is there a story or inspiration that relates to that?

We are located in the American Midwest, one of the world’s largest deciduous/non-tropical forests. We personally harvest and saw 100–120 timbers annually mainly White oak, Black walnut and American Cherry as well as many other less known local timbers. We inventory lumber for 12-24 months before kiln drying. We use the world’s finest timber regardless of species. Many of the exotic timbers are supplied by M.Bohlke Veneer. They have an incredible solids (not veneer) inventory. It’s a joy to work with and is ethically sourced. We try to celebrate the hundreds of years of growth which pre-dated our used of the timber. Some of my favorite time, to this day, is spent in the log yards choreographing the sawing and drying process, stacking lumber, watching the logs unfold.


 Tal credenza, featuring sequentially matched shop sawn black walnut veneers.

Lastly, can you summarise what you strive for in your work and what motivates you?

As craftsmen we aren’t taught to make one thing. We are taught a set of skills to be used in conjunction with a set of tools that can be directed any way we choose. In my vision the tools don’t stop at the door to the shop. Design, technology, and modern methods are helpful but by far the most powerful and manipulatable tool is the collective effort and thought process of skilled craftsmen. Craftsmen Ken Stahl Keith Gotschall Zac Jurden and Cooper Goldman don’t work for me full time but add to our collective skillset when needed. We don’t own a CNC (yet) but this adds to our skill set. This isn’t a 1+1+1=3. There is no limit to what can be created. My role now is to bring people together and create things we didn’t know possible or couldn’t see individually. Only now after 11 years are we starting to see the capabilities.

Learn more at Goebel & Co Furniture and Instagram 

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