Unfortunately, a custom shop has limits. But fortunately, the woodshop industry has a solution in outsourcing. By purchasing cabinet or furniture components already made and/or finished and working them into the shop’s existing offerings, a small business can significantly expand its catalog and also run several jobs at the same time. It’s an easy way to grow a business as long as the suppliers are reliable.
If you’re new to outsourcing or haven’t shopped around for a while, the following overview introduces many of the major suppliers. It also takes a look at some of their latest innovations and offerings and suggests some specialty suppliers that might come in handy sometime when a customer asks for something unusual.
While many of the larger companies supplying doors and boxes started out as small cabinet shops, some began life as specialists in this field. WalzCraft in La Crosse, Wis., was founded in 1982 to supply cabinetmakers and refacers with quality cabinet components. Outsourcing components was still in its infancy then and the company began with just a few profiles in oak. It didn’t take long to outgrow the original shop and today WalzCraft occupies more than 340,000 sq. ft. and employs nearly 300 full-time employees.
The secret to that kind of success and growth is constant innovation. This year alone, WalzCraft has expanded its muntin pattern options for glass upper doors; added new contemporary style high-pressure laminate doors and drawer fronts; began offering a veneered frame option that has no visible joints; introduced a line of contemporary melamine fronts; added six new colors to its paint palette; began offering its solid-wood dovetailed drawer boxes in both painted and primed-only options; and also expanded its options for French mitered cabinet doors.
Elias Woodwork & Manufacturing was founded just a year after WalzCraft and is located in Winkler, Manitoba. The company ships daily all across the U.S. and offers a flat rate of $25 when a woodshop orders 30 or more five-piece construction doors or drawer fronts. Shops that require solid finishes can order product in several new colors that were added to Elias’s lacquer collection during the summer. The company also notes that raw products have a much shorter lead time than finished products and customers can expect to receive most raw doors, drawers and molding in approximately seven business days, with the possibility of earlier delivery.
Keystone Wood Specialties is located on the old Philadelphia Pike in Lancaster, Pa. Keystone has been helping woodshops grow and thrive for 40 years and the staff there has also understood that success is tied to innovation. For example, a shop can now pop any element from the company’s door library into KCD Version 10 (the catalog even comes with the software). Among those are Superior Green doors, which are a high quality paint-grade product that features soft maple stiles and rails, as well as MDF panels. They’re available with any panel raise and can be ordered unfinished, primed for painting or prefinished in stock or custom colors. Keystone is also pushing the envelope on 3-D printing. The design department should be able to offer customers detailed samples of custom designs soon and is already using this technology in-house to create new component prototypes.
A small custom woodshop can rarely afford to do the kind of research and development involved in new technologies like 3-D printing, but being able to outsource this allows even the smallest shop to stay current.
One type of research that component suppliers do can really benefit the ordering process and that’s customer surveying. This summer, TaylorCraft Cabinet Door Co. in Taylor, Texas, did just that. The survey asked professional woodshop owners a number of questions designed to improve the process and some of the results were quite informative. For example, the respondents were very clear that when it comes to a custom woodshop’s priorities, quality is at the top of the list, followed by service and then lead time, selection and, finally, location.
That lack of priority with location is interesting. Once committed to outsourcing, shop owners don’t seem to feel there is a big difference between ordering from Maine, Muncie or Miami. Being able to order online has cut many days from outsourcing and new shop technologies (including CNC) have also dramatically reduced production schedules, so shipping days are not as consequential as they once were.
Shop owners are becoming more aware of the opportunities offered by outsourcing and attitudes are constantly changing. Existing technologies are always evolving, too. For example, Northern Contours, based in Fergus Falls, Minn., is offering a new textured melamine option called Level Impressions. The doors come with textured melamine on the face and back, and ABS edgebanding options that include matching melamine, 3-D aluminum or steel gloss. It’s an interesting look and feel.
It’s not always the finish on a cabinet that catches a customer’s eye. Sometimes dimensions alone can do the trick. Cabinetry that stretches all the way to the ceiling continues to gain popularity with designers and homeowners alike. Based on that, Conestoga Wood Specialties in East Earl, Pa., has recently expanded its extended-height options. The company also noticed another trend in design this summer — lift-hinge lateral doors that are installed above built-in appliances. These are short, wide cabinet doors hinged at the top that stay open while the customer browses inside the box. The new options from Conestoga can extend across an entire wide appliance such as a fridge, if necessary.
Another supplier, CabParts, has been building components since 1987 and currently offers a huge product line with more than 1,500 standard boxes, in addition to custom sizing. The company offers thermo-fused melamine panels in a wide range of colors and textures, plus hardwood veneers on a large variety of substrates including MDFs, plywood and various green cores. Located in Grand Junction, Colo., CabParts can supply drawer boxes, rollout shelves, adjustable and fixed shelves, slab-type door and drawer fronts, closet organizer systems and functional hardware.
For small shops that still want to do their own assembly and finishing, there are processors in most cities that will just mill highly accurate parts on a CNC. Hall’s Edge in Stamford, Conn. is a good example. The company specializes in nested-based cabinet-part machining for the professional custom cabinetmaker. It can accept electronic files from eCabinets or any software that creates a 2-D DXF file or take your design and create the files for you.
If you’re shopping for a more complete line of components, Eagle Bay might have the answer. The manufacturer in Orlando, Fla., supplies cabinet doors and dovetail drawer boxes in wood and thermo-foil, plus RTA (ready-to-assemble) boxes. Eagle Bay also provides refacing items such as veneer, concealed hinges and moldings — all shipped within 10 days or less to the U.S., Canada and (in case you’re thinking of taking things a little easier) the Caribbean.
Jack and Eric Lansford like to make life easier for cabinetmakers, too. The brothers operate Decore-ative Specialties, which their father founded in 1965. The company, based in Irwindale, Calif., also has operations in Monrovia and Elk Grove, Calif., plus Monroe, N.C. The Lansfords have reached out to custom cabinet and furniture builders in a big way in the last few years in the area of compliant finishes. Their customers have made them increasingly aware of tightening regulations and how tough those are on a small shop. So the company has aggressively pursued finishes that are environmentally friendly for both woodworkers and end users. If you don’t have to spray, you don’t have to worry about booth regulations. And if you find a great supplier, you don’t have to worry about quality or VOC compliance. Decore-ative Specialties offers RTA cabinets, doors, drawer, moldings and hardware.
They’re time-consuming and finicky to build, but high-quality drawers are perhaps the most obvious aspects of a kitchen and one of the first things a customer checks out. Steve Harmon and his crew at the Drawer Connection have understood that since 1997. The Mesa, Ariz., supplier builds dovetail and doweled drawers for shop all across the country and also offers some accessories including rollout shelves.
Drawer Box Specialties in Orange, Calif. recently announced the launch of Smart Shelf, a smooth-gliding drawer that mounts directly to cabinet shelves, to help maximize access to cabinet contents. Kind of a hybrid between a shelf and a drawer, it makes it easier for homeowners and commercial kitchen users to reach previously hard-to-locate items in the back of a cabinet. The company also recently introduced a beautiful, wood-faced pullout unit that hides unsightly trash bins.
Top Drawer Components operates out of Apache Junction, Ariz., and has taken innovation in a different direction. The company has recently committed to convert over to 100 percent solids UV finishing for its drawer manufacturing. The new technology, developed by Cefla America, triples Top Drawer’s existing finishing capabilities, while at the same time eliminating VOC emissions. The result is “a higher quality end product with a beautifully consistent finish that is much tougher and more scratch-resistant than standard lacquer finishes,” according to the company.
Timbercraft Custom Dovetail Drawers of New Milford, Conn., offers 5/8” maple or birch sides and 3/8” plywood bottoms for a traditional, very tough, dovetailed option. Timbercraft also promises to deliver throughout the Northeast in just five to seven days. As with most suppliers, the company offers a range of dividers and inserts, built-in ship pulls (that’s a scalloped handhold in the front that obviates the need for a metal pull), spice racks, file drawers and so on.
And Stratton Creek Wood Works LLC in Kinsman, Ohio, provides dovetail drawer boxes along with a host of other components including moldings, louvers, gingerbread, pergolas — and custom CNC routing services.
Looking for something unique to set off a custom kitchen or piece of furniture? Have a look at stained glass panels from Middlefield Glass in Middlefield, Ohio. The company has a new “design online” option that allows a cabinet or furniture shop to genuinely partner in the design process. Adding stained glass panels in wall cabinet doors is surprisingly affordable and delivers a vivid design upgrade — especially if they are backlit with some of the new, low-intensity rope light systems.
Furniture facelifts often begin with small changes and one of the more innovative firms in that arena is Doug Mockett & Co. The Torrance, Calif., supplier is known for cutting-edge cabinet accents — everything from built-in wireless phone chargers to leather bathroom fixtures or futuristic, polished aluminum hooks and coat stands.
If you’re looking for turned wood components, check out Brown Wood Inc. Brown’s catalog includes columns, legs, bun feet, furniture feet, corbels and brackets, carved appliques, moldings, bases, knobs and even complete tabletops. The company, headquartered in Lincolnwood, Ill., can custom-produce and finish an amazing array of wood components, based on a cabinet or furniture shop’s designs. It can also create replicas of existing parts, so a woodshop can build new to match an existing style.
Turnings Unlimited is a smaller turned-component supplier based in Latham, Ohio, that produces custom balusters, spindles, newel posts, table legs, columns, capitals, finials and stair parts.
Osborne Wood Products is another great resource. Established in 1979, Osborne offers table legs, island legs, corbels, bun feet and moldings. Always innovative, the company’s new product page featured 50 fresh items when checked in October, including some very impressive legs with carved vines and basket weaves.
Some companies specialize in a single aspect of wood components. The A. Lewis Manufacturing Co. is just such a supplier, and specialization has allowed the Baltimore, Md., firm to become one of the leading suppliers of embossed moldings. All products are manufactured to order, using most cabinet wood species. Lewis also makes rosettes, plus dentil and turned rope moldings.
Serving both coasts, Outwater Plastics Industries has facilities located in Bogota, N.J., and in Phoenix. If you’re looking for furniture components, Outwater probably has them — everything from appliques to cabinets, columns and wainscoting.
Adams Wood Products in Morristown, Tenn., has been in business since 1975 and supplies stock and custom unfinished furniture and cabinet components including bedposts, finials, bun feet, cabinet onlays, corbels and a whole host of furniture legs.
Many of these items can also be found online at CabinetParts, which specializes in hardware but also carries an extensive inventory of wood components. And if you’re looking specifically for table legs, try Tablelegs or ArchitecturalDepot
One of the more unusual specialty component suppliers is Sawtooth Shelf System in Washington, N.J., which has revived a shelf support system that was used for hundreds of years in German and Scandinavian casework. It consists of wood supports in each corner of a cabinet that each hold adjustable cleats upon which the shelves rest. A triangular or “sawtooth” cut in the support needs to be very accurate and was historically made with hand tools. The system adds a nice artisan touch to casework, is relatively inexpensive, very strong, easy to install and appears quite graceful. It’s well worth a look.
Woodshops that need custom carving can contact Artisans of the Valley in Pennington, N.J. The company provides museum-quality hand carving including wildlife, floral, leaf work, landscape, traditional period reproductions, ropes, vines and figures in relief and in sculptural form.
A shop that is looking to outsource boxes, doors and drawers, or furniture components, might also need to find a few specialty hardware suppliers.
• Adams Wood Products
• A. Lewis Manufacturing Co.
• Artisans of the Valley
• Brown Wood Inc.
• CabParts Inc.
• Conestoga Wood Specialties
• Decore-ative Specialties
• Doug Mockett & Co.
• Drawer Box Specialties
• Drawer Connection
• Eagle Bay
• Elias Woodwork & Mfg.
• Hall’s Edge Inc.
• Middlefield Glass
• Keystone Wood Specialties
• Northern Contours
• Osborne Wood Products
• Outwater Plastics Industries
• Sawtooth Shelf System
• Stratton Creek Wood Works
• Tablelegs. com
• TaylorCraft Cabinet Door Co.
• The Architecuraldepot. com.
• Timbercraft Custom Dovetail Drawers
• Top Drawer Components
• Turnings Unlimited
Some of the more comprehensive inventories are maintained by:
• Hardware Resources
• Hardware Source
• House of Antique Hardware
• Kennedy Hardware
• Woodworker’s Hardware
This article originally appeared in the November 2015 issue.