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Connecticut shop finds its niche as CNC service provider

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Dave Hall’s business, Hall’s Edge in Stamford, Connecticut, is a CNC machining service provider that makes boxes for cabinetmakers, thus making those cabinetmakers more efficient and profitable. He does this with a CNC machine, an edgebander, a forklift and three CAD/CAM software packages.

Hall came to woodworking from the printing industry. There he implemented technology to replace typewriters and manual typesetting with computers and page-design software. At the same time, he was also making cabinets in his basement shop, buying the cut panels for his boxes from a CNC shop to increase productivity. Often, Hall’s orders took a backseat to the CNC shop’s work, which eventually led him to buy a CNC machine in 2004.

While researching his local market, he discovered there were few CNC service providers in an area with plenty of cabinetmakers. The light bulb went that he could fill a niche and, 12 years later, he has.

Hall has a Thermwood CS40 CNC machine with a 5’ x 10’ moving table and five-head automatic tool changer. To start the production cycle, sheet goods are stacked in front of the CNC machine and moved to the table with a vacuum lift, which Hall says increases productivity and decreases the wear and tear on him. The cut box parts are then stacked on rolling shop-built carts for a trip through his Holz-Her Sprint 1310 edgebander. They are then strapped to a pallet for customer pickup or delivery through a freight company.

Most of his customers are in a 50-mile radius, including contractors established in and around New York City.

Hall uses Thermwood’s eCabinet Systems, Bob CAD/CAM and Vectric VCrave Pro software. He’s been a longtime user of Thermwood’s free software, even before he had a CNC, so this choice was obvious. There’s a community of users in the eCabinets Systems, many of whom are designers only. Bob CAD/CAM and V-Carve Pro are used for the most challenging and creative designs.

Hall also offers on-the-job training to his customers who are or want to be eCabinet users. He doesn’t charge a fee for this service, but is often rewarded with more work when his advice pays off.

Hall’s Edge prices jobs by the sheet rather than basing the cost on machine hours. This might seem strange at first, but it is a pricing model that fits with his customer’s thinking and job-cost estimation practices. Edgebanding is priced by the foot.

Hall’s pricing and use of the eCabinet Systems software helps small shops take on large jobs, since they can use their skilled craftsmen to make face frames, doors and drawers, rather than loading sheets of plywood onto a table saw.

Hall doesn’t need to do much advertising as word-of-mouth referral does more for him. While most of his customers are small shops, there are a few that are larger. As people, both workers and managers, move from shop to shop they take their knowledge of Hall and his shop’s capabilities with them that, rather than losing a contact, brings more shops to use Hall’s Edge services.

Two of Hall’s customers have ended up buying their own CNC machines. He’s not offended, since their growth was putting too much demand on his operation. Hall says he’d rather have lots of small customers, which creates a better cash flow and makes the schedule more nimble. When the recession hit in 2008, he didn’t have all of his eggs in one basket and was able to jump into the more promising commercial installation and remodeling markets.

Though Hall’s Thermwood CNC machine is old by industry standards, it still functions perfectly. Hall says Thermwood has outstanding customer support, so he gets parts quickly and help from technicians at a moment’s notice.

Hall’s Edge is a shining example of doing one thing and doing it very well. By focusing on one task, Hall can tightly control costs and production schedules. This leads to lower prices and short, predictable delivery times. His customers benefit, which leads to more work. It’s quite a nice little circle.

This article originally appeared in the June 2016 issue.

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