|Always a step ahead|
|Fishing for clients|
|Drop in anytime|
|Staying busy, self-sufficient|
The job turned into about four months of work, which Cunningham says was a nice break from his normal routine, and also extremely interesting. It required an inordinate amount of overtime, but was the only way a one-man shop could meet the deadline. But still, if the offer had been for an out-of-town establishment, he would have declined as he'd have to stay away from home to complete it. The owner couldn't be more pleased with the final product.
"It's just amazing," said Wright. "People comment to us constantly about the quality and the level of his professionalism and his expertise. Rick was a referral over to me and frankly, I met him, was impressed with his professional demeanor, and we went about the project in kind of a collaborative way. He came in and gave his suggestions, and we saw the quality of not only his workmanship but also his energy level and his expertise. It was a no-brainer to just continue with him."
The best part of the restaurant, or any job, is the visual aspect of the end product, says Cunningham.
"You can make the most wonderful piece for a customer, but all you have afterwards is the picture. The restaurant was neat because I can go back and look at it. I can also send people over there for referrals."
Drop in anytime
Cunningham is now in his third shop, which is 2,600-sq.ft. â€” his largest one ever. The warehouse-style building is in a quiet neighborhood area only two minutes from his home. The entryway serves as a small showroom, next door to his office. His shop dog, a Goldendoodle named Sasha, waits impatiently to greet visitors. His overhead cost, with utilities, is about $2,000 a month.
"Right now, the shop works fine. It's a little larger than what I need for one person but it's broken up where it works out very well. The location is good , it hasn't resulted in the walk-in traffic like I thought it would, but that takes time."
To enhance the custom experience, Cunningham welcomes clients who want to visit his shop and watch him work on their projects, and quite often, they take him up on his offer.
"I think people want to see it, but unless they're invited they won't do it. I love having people stop in. I get to show them the equipment and how it's made, and again it's another way they can be connected on what's being done."
His equipment includes a Speedy panel saw; Jet horizontal edge sander, 14" band saw, two shapers and table saw; Shop Fox panel cutter, molder and two air handlers; Grizzly dual drum sander; Ryobi open-end drum sander; Makita sliding miter saw; Porter-Cable pocket cutter, down draft sanding table, drill press, spindle sander and 15" planer; and Delta 6" joiner. Cunningham has been looking into CNC machinery, and plans to make a major purchase in the next five years. While most woodworkers are rather indecisive about what their favorite tool is, Cunningham knows his.
"Oddly enough, it's the Porter-Cable production pocket cutter for making the face frames. It's a router combined with a drill that lets me screw the face frames together from the back. It's probably the most efficient tool I own."