A recent article (Oct. 2) by Tim McKeough in The New York Times (“Putting a designer’s polish on Ikea products”) describes how a supplier used off-the-shelf Ikea boxes and custom designer doors to create a small but very stylish New York kitchen – for $1,600 without the doors. The casework package included the boxes and hardware, motorized push openers and even internal lights. The doors, toe-kicks and appliance panels added about $5,000, and counters ran another $8,500. All in, the client got a state-of-the-art designer kitchen for about $15,000, which is one heck of a deal on a custom space.
Every small woodshop in America has the capacity to deliver this kind of deal.
The key is exactly what that designer did: outsource intelligently, using budget-conscious elements where possible and spending the big money on impact. The woodworking industry is rich in suppliers that can deliver top quality, bare bones boxes on a budget, upgrades to designer doors and hardware, and the software and design expertise to make it all happen. That last element, the ability to create eye-catching design, is often missing in woodshops. There is a tendency to be traditional, to make everything ‘fit’. And while most clients will settle for familiar, and some embrace it, there are a lot of buyers – especially younger professional people – who want a little spice in their kitchen.
Competition today isn’t limited to a few custom shops across town. With online design and purchasing, woodshops are now also competing with homebuilders, designers and architects, kitchen and bath dealerships, big box stores and even consumers. What carried the industry through the last half-century – the expertise to create something beyond the physical abilities of homeowners and even carpenters – is no longer the litmus test. If custom shops don’t compete on price and offer design innovation and superior service, their days are numbered. It’s very Darwinian: we need to evolve, or become extinct.
Fortunately, there is a path toward the light: outsourcing. Buying in some components can cut costs and provide uniform, predictable and repeatable quality. Every day the offerings from these suppliers are becoming more customizable and innovative. And outsourcing isn’t restricted to boxes, drawers and doors. Many companies offer architectural or millwork details that can add some zest and unique flavor to a kitchen that is leaning a bit toward blandness.
The following is a guide to some of the better outsourcing suppliers in casework, drawers and architectural details.
Cabinet Outsource (cabinetoutsource.com) in Brea, Calif., offers a catalog of modular cabinets with no stock or standard sizes. The casework is built to order using CNC equipment, and assembled with either Comfirmat screws (from quickscrews.com) or standard dowel construction. It ships by courier across the U.S. or will deliver in southern California.
CabParts Inc. (cabparts.com) in Grand Junction, Colo., offers more than 1,500 standard configurations and sizes of cabinet boxes, as well as custom sizing, milling and material choices. The line includes a modular hanging-panel, drawer-and-shelf system, and closet components that have a wide range of applications. In addition, it makes drawer boxes including optional solid wood dovetail construction, plus full overlay, flat panel doors and drawer fronts. CabParts can supply roll-out and adjustable shelves, fixed shelves, slab-type door and drawer fronts, closet systems and functional hardware. The flat-packed casework can be assembled using either Confirmat screws with hardwood alignment dowels (no glue required), or an option that includes 8mm x 30mm dowels that are factory inserted, and the woodshop will need to glue and clamp the joints.
For more than a decade, Cabinets Quick (cabinetsquick.com) in Orange, Calif., has specialized in semi-custom, built-to-order cabinetry from high-end residential work (using plywood and veneers) to commercial projects (laminates), and everything in between. The factory features state-of-the-art equipment, and uses only durable, locally sourced materials. For example, the standard hinge is Blum’s 110 clip-top Inserta with Blumotion.
Canary Closets and Cabinetry (canarycc.com) in Union, N.J., is a full CNC manufacturing facility offering custom cabinetry and closet parts for the home storage industry, along with five-piece polyester doors in over 30 matching colors. A free online closet design tool is available.
Eagle Bay (eaglebaywood.com), based in Orlando, Fla., supplies woodshops with cabinet doors, dovetail drawers and cabinet re-facing. Items can be finished or unfinished, and ordered online. Eagle Bay has extensive experience working with many species of wood, including bamboo, teak, ironwood and sapele.
Hall’s Edge (hallsedge.com) in Stamford, Conn., specializes in nested-base cabinet part machining for custom shops. The company points out that by outsourcing custom case goods machining, a woodshop that doesn’t own a CNC can eliminate errors, reduce assembly time and increase accuracy. As with most of the leading outsource suppliers, Halls’s Edge will accept a 2D DXF file or create one as needed. The shop delivers parts with all the joinery and hardware holes machined, and can edge band. Joinery options include blind dado designs that are self-squaring, so they require no jigs or clamps.
TaylorCraft Cabinet Door Co. (taylorcraftdoor.com), near Austin, Texas, builds custom, unfinished wood cabinet doors and drawer fronts that it sells wholesale to the cabinetmaking trade, both nationally and internationally. Its manufacturing facility is over 140,000 sq. ft.
Conestoga Wood Specialties (conestogawood.com) in East Earl, Pa., has been building custom cabinet doors and wood cabinet components since 1964. It makes doors, drawer boxes, front frames, ready-to-assemble (RTA) cabinets and hundreds of accessories. Conestoga employs more than 1,100 employees in five manufacturing facilities, and operates its own sawmills and trucking company.
Bill Sandrock is the founder and owner of Stratton Creek Wood Works (strattoncreek.com) in Kinsman, Ohio. The shop makes indoor/outdoor cabinets, window surrounds, decorative brackets, columns, spires, railing systems and much more.
Since 1983 Elias Woodwork (eliaswoodwork.com) has used its geographical position at the center of the North American continent to ship casework and components from sea to shining sea. The manufacturing facility is more than a quarter of a million square feet, and includes state-of-the-art finishing. In addition to cabinet doors and re-facing products, Elias offers custom, ready-to-assemble cabinet boxes, a polyester-saturated paper on MDF cabinet door line (DLV), a high-gloss acrylic line of cabinet doors, many Thermofoil colors and an impressive selection of wood species.
The stated aim of Decore-ative Specialties (decore.com) is “to help cabinetmakers be more profitable.” The company has locations in northern and southern California and also in Monroe, N.C. It makes RTA cabinets, doors and drawer fronts, plus drawer boxes, moldings and accessories. Decore-ative Specialties also performs custom finishing, supplies standard and specialty hardware, and creates such specialty items as panels, odd-shaped doors, custom hood surrounds, radius projects, mullions and louvered doors. The company has a strong commitment to environmental issues, and offers a diverse collection of water-based finishes on products made at its plant in Irwindale, Calif.
Walzcraft (walzcraft.com), based in La Crosse, Wis., manufactures custom cabinet doors, drawer boxes, moldings and many other cabinet components and accessories, all of which are available unfinished or prefinished. It’s another family-owned business with more than 270 employees. Walzcraft is now offering high pressure laminate (HPL) stock colors from Formica on its contemporary slab-style doors and fronts, as well as on custom pressed stock and laminate sheet stock. These are suitable for both residential and commercial applications, and are being incorporated into more and more contemporary kitchens, bathrooms, closets and furniture.
Keystone Wood Specialties (keystonewood.com) in Lancaster, Pa., is a wholesale manufacturer of high-end products ranging from doors and drawer fronts to dovetailed drawer boxes, face frames, solid wood molding, wainscoting and much more. For shops with strange angles to tackle, Keystone now offers lock miter construction (LMC, a solid, locked glue joint that can be specified in any angle from 90 to 140 degrees), for either inside or outside corners. The company also helps set designs apart from the crowd with its “weathered look without the hundred year wait.” That’s a technique that ages doors, fronts and other elements in any one of nine common species with a very authentic look.
CCF Industries (ccfdrawers.com) in Apollo, Pa., offers custom options such as laser engraving, edgebanding, front and side scoops, file slots (with or without bars), and undermount slide notching.
Cimarron Drawer (cimarrondrawer.com) ships nationwide from Las Vegas and builds standard drawers in Baltic birch, walnut, select maple, red oak, padauk, natural maple, plus white or colored melamine. There are cutlery and spice drawer designs available, along with suggestions for a wide array of custom design options.
Draw Box Specialties (dbsdrawers.com) is a States Industries company that hails from Orange, Calif., and offers five varieties of custom drawers, with a standard five-day lead time. The catalog also includes laser branding, slopes, notches, scoops, dividers, finishing options, corner drawers and more. DBS also offers fully machined, edge-banded and prefinished component parts with specified face and back veneers, and finishes that match a shop’s application. Edge treatments available include solid wood, wood veneer, PVC, polyester and clear or wood-grained foils, plus clear, custom color matches, opaque colors or printed wood grains in standard and custom gloss selections.
Drawer Connection (dcdrawers.com) in Meza, Ariz., manufactures high quality wooden dovetail and dowel drawer boxes, and offers seven-day turnaround on melamine and plywood orders, and 10-12 days on solid wood. The company works in a wide selection of materials and FSC certified products.
Draws Online (drawersonline.com) in Bristol, Conn., produces dovetailed drawers with hardwoods and European plywood. Product can be ordered assembled and finished, and the express lead time can be as little as 24 hours.
Olon (olon.ca) in Georgetown, Ontario, has locations in Indiana and North Carolina. The company offers a number of components and a full range of solid wood, plywood and wrapped drawers, flat packed or assembled, with dovetail, miter-fold or drill & dowel construction. Olon’s environmental commitment includes wrapped moldings using No. 1 grade MDF, and drawer components using particleboard, both of which are composed of recycled and recovered wood fiber.
Top Drawer Components (topdrwr.com) has been making drawers in Apache Junction, Ariz., for 28 years and offers a three to five day lead time, quotes in an hour, laser engraving, dovetail joinery, UV coatings, eco-friendly processes and lean production methods.
Western Dovetail (drawer.com) in Vallejo, Calif., offers a wide variety of quality drawer styles plus cabinet doors, accessories such as dividers and trays, and hardware. Custom- made drawers usually ship in five to 10 business days, and hardware ships in two to five business days. Among the options are pullouts, file drawers, recycling units, divided drawers, under-sink U-shapes, angled and curved profiles, and pantry drawers.
Millwork and more
Art For Everyday (artforeveryday.com) in Toronto specializes in original architectural woodcarving design and production. Its catalog includes more than 1,200 decorative corbels, capitals, moldings, corner posts, island posts, mantels, appliqués, rosettes, custom woodcarvings and other decorative architectural components.
CabinetMaker Warehouse (cabinetmakerwarehouse.com) ships throughout the U.S. and Canada. Among the components it supplies are prefinished ½” birch plywood drawer sides (4” to 10” tall) and bottoms, free-standing kitchen islands, a pretty decent selection of vanities and bathroom mirrors, and lots of hardware including barn sliding door sets.
Artisans of the Valley (artisansofthevalley.com) offers museum quality period reproductions and original designs by commission, including components based on the Gothic, medieval, Tudor and renaissance periods. The shop also does hand carving including wildlife, floral, leaf work, landscape, traditional period reproductions, ropes, vines, and figures in relief and in sculptural form.
Back in 1979, Leon and Janice Osborne started manufacturing and selling wooden items through a local country co-op. Their business was located in a garage in Toccoa, Ga., 90 minutes northeast of Atlanta on the edge of the Chattahoochee National Forest. Osborne Wood Products (osbornewood.com) is still headquartered in Toccoa, and today it supplies hobbyists and cabinetmakers with high quality decorative components. Its Classic Reeded Island and Islander styles have identified the company over the years as ‘’the kitchen island leg’’ people, but the catalog reaches far wider than that. Osborne supplies table legs, corbels, architectural columns, appliques, bed posts, wooden furniture kits, cabinet and furniture feet, on-lays, molding and trim, table slides and more. Its hand-carved cabinetry panels can add exquisite detail to kitchen doors. They come in 28” x 16” dimensions and are 5/8” thick.
Castlewood/American Manufacturers Supply (castlewood.com/ams) offers carved accents, range hoods, and a wide range of ornamental and decorative elements. The company will ship container and JIT programs from its headquarters in northwest Alabama. Among its catalog items are bar brackets, countertop supports, bun and pedestal feet, shelves, posts, legs, on-lays, moldings and trim, rosettes, valances, storage for wine and stemware, vanity components and drawer slides. It also has a strong collection of carved corbels.
Adam’s Wood Products (adamswoodproducts.com) has been manufacturing furniture and cabinet components in-house at its Tennessee location for more than 40 years. Among the offerings are kitchen island legs, finials, feet, posts, on-lays (these are split turnings in rope, reed, flute and other designs), carved corbels and shelf/mantle/countertop overhang supports, and a variety of other furniture legs. Many of these components can be used to customize a featureless cabinet, especially in contemporary casework where painted finishes are being used. All of the parts offered in the online catalog are in stock, and can be ordered with no minimums. Adam’s can also custom make many accents that a shop designs in a CAD program.
No relation to the last company, Adam’s Wood Turning is a custom lathe shop (both manual and CNC) with a 100,000-sq.-ft. facility in High Point, N.C. (adamswoodturning.com). Turnings Unlimited (turningsunlimited.com) can be found in Latham, Ohio, and makes custom balusters, spindles, newel posts, table legs, columns, capitals, finials, stair parts and the like. And King’s Corner Wood Turning (kingscorneronline.com) in Weare, N.H., is a custom turning shop that makes architectural turnings, furniture parts, and custom restoration work.
Alexis Mfg. (alexismanufacturing.com) in Grand Rapids, Mich., makes custom, complex wood components, primarily chairs and chair parts.
A. Lewis Mfg. Co. (alewismfg.com) in Baltimore produces high quality ornamental wood products including embossed wood molding (some 165 patterns), turned rope molding, rosettes and dentil molding. All products are manufactured to order, and while there is a downloadable catalog available for patterns, the shop can also meet custom needs.
With locations in Illinois, Ohio, Maine and Michigan, Brown Wood Inc. (brownwoodinc.com) is an industry-leading supplier of parts and components. Founded in 1927 and FSC certified since 2001, the company offers thousands of turned and carved decorative wood components through its Designs of Distinction branded product line. Parts can be ordered unfinished or finished. Silk screening, laser engraving and imprinting are also available.
Outwater Plastics Industries (outwater.com) in Bogota, N.J., stocks more than 65,000 products. Among the cabinet components are architecturally accurate polymer moldings and millwork, more than 1,200 decorative wood carvings, legs, corbels, and six lines of assembled and RTA kitchen cabinetry.
Rev-A-Shelf LLC (rev-a-shelf.com) ships from Louisville, Ky., and offers residential cabinet storage and organizational products that can add flair to a basic casework package. These include lazy Susans, kitchen drawer organizers, base cabinet and pantry pullouts, stemware organizers, wine racks and waste bins, to mention a few.
Woodshops that don’t own or lease a CNC, or don’t have enough capacity on the machines available, can go to the Wood Products Manufacturers Association’s website at wpma.org. After signing up, they can use the free supplier locator to find more outsourcing manufacturers to help fill orders, offer customers more choices, and use design tools and components to surprise the local market and build a reputation as an innovative custom shop.
This article originally appeared in the October 2017 issue.