Woodwork handcrafted in the Alps. Since 1879
For more than 135 years we are working with solid wood in the surroundings of the Austrian Alps. The Wittmann Workbench was developped by Josef Wittmann, the founder of the company and refined over 4 generations. Besides our renowned workbenches we are producing handcrafted solid wood chairs and tables. Our chairs are either for the private sector or produced for contract furnishing and therefore stackable.
Today, the two brothers Wolfgang and Karl Wittmann lead the family business. Along with our team of skilled carpenters we produce wooden masterpieces every day from a state of the art factory based in the wonderful surroundings of the Austrian Alps.
Beginning in 1879, more than 135 years ago, Josef Wittmann Senior and his son Josef “Sepp” earned their keep with a Wainwright's in a small town in the Austrian Alps. In the “Almtal” valley, back then in the former Austrian empire, lived many farmers and woodworkers. As the mountainous region is rich in forests the wood cutting and wood processing craft had a high importance ever since. Even today many lumberjacks are living from the rough business of tree felling in the mountains. Wood is harvested here in a height up to 1,500 m in very steep and dangerous sites. Undoubtedly the hard work pays off. We confide in the regional wood for 135 years – and our customers as well.
Back in the 19th century lumberjacks and farmers were working primary with wooden tools. For logging they needed strong wheels on carriages and in winter massive wooden sledges were used instead. Josef and his son were skilled and handy manufacturers of wheels and sledges of that kind. The quality had to be unquestionably high as it beard heavy duty work all year long. Wainwrights worked a lot on workbenches to fulfil this demand. The workbenches at the Wittmann Wainwright’s were homemade, like many others the valley.
The years of the two world wars were difficult for the Wittmanns. Sepp was sent to the Russian & Italian front line in the First World War. At a certain point Josef, an old man by then, couldn’t bear the whole workload on his own anymore. In the following years most of the work was done by Sepp alone. He married late and got father even later. His oldest son Josef learned the trade of wainwright and helped him with a strong hand. Sepp witnessed in his life the Austrian Empire, the first republic and the Nazi Regime. After he lost his oldest son in the Second World War he seemed aged and tired. Only two years after the war finally ended he died and left the almost 18 year old Karl who continued his work and had to supply the whole family.
Karl was an innovator and tinkerer and his obviously inspired by the alpine region. In the early 1950s he was well known for the production of skis. Karl created the ski brand Bergkristall. First skis were made out of pure ash wood, later a complex assembly of components detached the ashen fabrication. Today those skis seem extremely long and heavy but in the 50s they were quite ahead of the times.
With end of the decade the wainwright's commodities lost their importance in the everyday life and Karl figured it was time for a change. In Vienna he had the chance to learn the modern trade of coach work. Back home he implemented a body shop in the family business. In those days a lot of components for tractors and lorries were plate-wood-combinations. He fiddled about solutions for the business which’s requirements he knew already too well: logging. But it was not long before those replacement parts were produced by the growing car industry only.
Instead of expanding the body shop and move in the same pace like the car industry Karl decided to focus on his core competences. He invest in a large building which inherited a large wood processing part in the 60s. The family started to produce school furniture out of solid wood. Beside school chairs and tables they started to deliver schools with workbenches. He and his brother in law, Josef, were thinking about ways to improve the ordinary workbench. With experience gained over generations, mechanical knowledge and a tinkerer’s spirit they developed the end and face vises we still use today. As Karl was used to the heavy work on the benches he made sure that innovations wouldn’t cause any loss in robustness.
Today the two sons of Karl are leading the family business. Karl (jun) and Wolfgang are still producing chairs and tables out of solid wood. Every piece which leaves the workshop is on the highest level of handicraft. With them the workbench got some more features – like height adjustment and mobility. Not only were the workbenches modified also the chairs and tables look different today. Solid does not mean heavy and clumsy anymore. The two brothers easily combine solid with light and tender. With the experience of generations, skilled craftsmanship and a passion for wood the story will go on.
Although many things happened over 4 generations one thing never changed: the material we are working with is still the solid wood from our valley and our mountains.