Success through familiarity - Materials, machinery

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“Luckily there are still some people who have money and still want to build and that helps us. In general, we do the complete house as far as cabinets, but not the trim work. In most houses in the upper end, they end up having media centers in multiple rooms and offices. We just did one where the house was 9,500 sq. ft. and it has five bathrooms, a massive office, a kid’s study, a mudroom, and a separate laundry room.”

Coughlin is currently working on several new homes in an area near Cougar, Wash., just south of Mount St. Helens. Some people live there year-round and since it is off the electrical grid, they use alternative power sources such as solar, propane, generator, and battery.

“I’m also doing a new house in Longview that is a biggie. The guy is very detail-oriented and I probably have 120 to 140 hours in it before we even cut a piece of wood. It’s a lot of work on my end and we bounce ideas off each other and there is a designer involved and she has input.”

Materials, machinery
Coughlin is not a believer in CNC for his shop; he doesn’t feel a financial gain would be realized by making the switch. But his shop isn’t void of modern equipment. His mainstays include:

  • Striebig Automat III 5192 AV Optisaw
  • Ritter R46 double-row system drill; face frame assembly system with a Castle borer, and door-clamping table
  • Holz-Her Accord 1441 edgebander
  • Sandingmaster double-head wide belt sander
  • SAC RS 630 24" planer
  • Unique 336-4 shaper and 313 miter machine
  • Jet TWSS-2-3 tilting spindle shaper
  • Two Powermatic 26 shapers and 66 table saws
  • JLT door-clamping system
  • Binks 25-hp compressor with air dryer and spray booth with a Weater Rite heated-air makeup system
  • LMC dust collection system

He buys the bulk of his materials from Hardwood Industries in Tualatin, Ore., basically because they cater to the smaller shop.

“Maybe I’m a bit foolish, but I’m not a big price shopper and as long as you get the good service so you can serve your customers, then it’s nice to be able to come back to a place, in case we have any issues.”

Coughlin’s doesn’t do much veneer work, but when the need arises, they will buy components that are already veneered. The outsourcing is limited to thermofoil doors, an occasional door style they can’t build, and most countertops.

“For finishing, we use a Sherwin-Williams product; one of their better pre-cat lacquers that meets conversion varnish standards. I’m not saying it’s better than a conversion varnish, but they have their standards that they have to go by that conversion varnish has to meet.”

Riding out the storm
Coughlin considers his business to be in a competitive market during normal economic times. Being in a recession has made life even tougher for the small business owner. He now bids on jobs that he never had to before and, years ago, when he submitted bids, he would capture 90 percent of that work. Today, he’s lucky if he captures 50 percent of the projects he quotes. The near future for Coughlin Custom Cabinets is dependent upon what the economy does.

“We’re kind of at the status quo right now; we’re not trying to expand. A couple years ago, I was going to take on a partner and start going into doing complete remodels, and that could still happen. But right now, we’ll probably just keep going the way things are and not get overextended.”

Contact: Coughlin Custom Cabinets, 811 S.E. Grace Ave., Battle Ground, WA 98604. Tel: 360-687-8440.