Focusing on the future - Drawers, legs and more

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Conestoga’s custom manufacturing process throughout all of its operations is set up to create a one-piece order. As a general rule, the company builds everything as a unit of one.

“Surprisingly our No. 1 order quantity is a single piece,” Watson says. “That’s our largest-order size, followed by two-piece orders, and then it kind of moves around from there. It’s rare to get a 50- to 60-piece order; we get them everyday, but for most of every full kitchen order that you receive, you’re going to receive three to six one- or two-piece orders. So we build our whole business around servicing that end of the model. It’s difficult and it’s not inexpensive, but over 45 years we have kind of perfected the process.”

Although most of Conestoga products are American-made, the company does import a large quantity of plywood and hardwoods.

“In our case we only bring in self assemblies; we don’t bring in any final product,” Watson explains. “All the final machining, assembling and finishing are done here in the States with our people.”

Drawers, legs and more
Some outsource companies concentrate on a single product. Top Drawer Components in Phoenix, has been manufacturing drawer boxes for 20 years and has about 55 employees. The company produces between 800 and 1,000 drawer boxes a day using Dodds dovetail equipment, and bases its business philosophy on three factors — quality, technology and customer service.

“The majority of our business is the smaller custom shops because we are just providing a part to the whole,” says company president Josh Emerson. “We provide the drawer boxes for a local cabinetry manufacturer who just has a few guys in the shop doing a couple of houses a month or even a year.

“Everything we manufacture is typically considered custom, so any size, shape and material is per spec by the customer. We have clients in both fields [residential and commercial]. Most of the commercial stuff right now is high volume, green products, only a couple of sizes, and then the residential cabinetry is pretty much all sizes.”

The biggest movers for Top Drawer Components are made from Baltic birch, maple and beech. Certified materials are growing in popularity and there has been a big push for the no-added urea formaldehyde material, especially from neighboring California shops. Another product receiving more recognition is the company’s UV-finished drawer, which doesn’t contain VOC-filled sprayed lacquers.

Table legs of all styles, shapes, sizes and species are the specialty from Classic Designs by Matthew Burak in St. Johnsbury, Vt. The company concentrates on serving the needs of small commercial shops, while providing specific parts for several larger cabinet and furniture manufacturers.

“We’re dealing with a lot of custom work so we can respond pretty quickly to the custom needs,” says company spokesman Mark Desrochers. “We’re doing a tremendous variety of custom parts and not tremendous volumes in any one of them. That’s difficult for the offshore competitors to grapple with — the huge number of skews and not a lot of depth in any one.”

The ultimate outsource shop
The rule of thumb for many custom shops is if a product can be outsourced at a cheaper price than it can be built, and quality standards are met, then you outsource the product. There is an instant savings on machinery costs, labor and, in most cases, a quicker product turnaround.

Dirk Odhner, owner of Odhner & Odhner, in Easton, Pa., has been building custom woodwork for nearly 30 years. The company works with clients, interior designers and architects from the design phase right through installation. One of the company’s specialties is designing and building entire custom rooms in high-end homes.