Kenneth Corbin says he was retired when Mike Edwards, a machinery dealer, stopped by his house about fours years ago. Edwards invited Corbin to go with him to visit a door shop, whose owner, Phillip Willis, had built an end-matching/coping machine that solved the problems of chipping, splintering and blowout.
"I think it took him six weeks to drag me a couple hundred miles down the road, and when I looked at the machine in operation, all I could say was, 'Wow.' This guy had developed a machine that wasn't on the market," says Corbin. "Mike and I fine-tuned the machine, adding safety features, a better dust hood, an easier way to change tooling and started the patent process, which is now completed. Then we took it to market."
That's the quick back story of PMK Systems, based in Knoxville, Tenn., which offers two end-matching/coping machines for shops of any size. The machines debuted at IWF 2008 and were a finalist for a Challengers' Award at IWF 2010. "To be identified by your peers as having one of the most innovative products is a feather in our cap," says Corbin.
"Each year we've gone out to all our customers and asked, 'Now that you've had the machine for a year or more, what would you do to improve it?' We've taken their feedback and made subtle changes to upgrade it. These are our third-generation machines.
"Very few people do R & D anymore. They wait for someone else to do it, then they copy it. They don't understand what went into it. What makes this different is a door manufacturer - a woodworker - understood the concept of the different woods he was using and solved a problem that has plagued the industry for 50 years or longer."
The problem: How to eliminate the chipping, splintering and blowout that results in a reject - without chip breakers.
"We've found that our system is highly sought after by the small- to mid-sized flooring companies as well as door companies. We can do the end-match or cope perfectly," says Corbin. "With the economy the way it is, companies can't afford the up-to-$200,000 end-matchers, but they can do it for under $20,000 with one of our machines."
The difference in the two machines is capacity. Model C-1203 is designed for stock up to 2" thick and 9-1/2" wide; the 1205 for up to 2-1/2" thick and 13-1/2" wide.
"We've sold a lot of the 1205s to people doing exterior doors and 10" and 11" wide flooring," says Corbin. "A lot of times, a tenonor will do 11" wide, but won't do the length you need. We have an unlimited length capacity."
"They're ideal for the small- to mid-sized company," adds Edwards. "They have a small footprint, they're not limited to any lengths they want to run. The big guys run the 6'-and-shorter lengths because it's easier to ship, but the specialty shops want to run the 10' and 12' lengths because they have customers that want that."
"When stock is placed into the machine and the operator steps on the foot pedal, several things happen," Corbin explains. "The side pressure clamp engages to square the stock; a centric clamp at the top, which works on a cam system, provides even pressure all the way across the width of the stock. The piece can't move on you. Most systems use little round clamps which, if not centered perfectly, the stock will rock, causing rejects. We eliminate that.
"The cut starts on the right with two counter-rotating spindles - one running clockwise, the second counterclockwise. One spindle climb cuts from the backside and stops an 1/8th of an inch from where the other spindle has already started. It doesn't go all the way through, which eliminates any possibility of chipping, splintering or blowout.
It's about a 4- to 6-second operation for most applications.
The base price for the 1203 is about $15,000, while the 1205 starts at about $17,000. Many options are available, such as a horsepower upgrade, voltage changes and elimination of electrical components for the Amish market.
All machines, which use standard insert tooling, are manufactured in Tennessee and parts are commonly available from a supplier such as Grainger.
"We stock parts and we'll sell them, but we don't require that from our customers," says Edwards. "They're not tied to us like a lot of the manufacturers for any spare parts that they need."
PMK sells direct and through select distributors. "We're getting customers who are returning to buy their second, third or even fourth machine," says Corbin. "The biggest comment we get is that it does exactly what it's supposed to do."
Contact: PMK Systems. Tel: 865-385-0779. www.pmkmachinery.com
This article originally appeared in the May 2011 issue.