Reply by Catspaw

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Posted on Anyone Producing Custom Millwork with a Williams & Hussey Molder?

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236 posts in 3812 days

#1 posted 02-24-2008 02:50 PM

I was having a discussion about this subject just yesterday with the boss. Where to start, though…hhmm.

[insert thinking pause here]

Context: We have a Wadkin…..o.k. ... it’s a five head machine weighing in at several tons…lotsa $$$...comparing apples and oranges…..maybe.

No opinion on the W&H, although, I think we had one in the shop as late as last summer. Sold it. I Never used it.

To the other area of your question. re: the business of moulding.

We got this thing last fall and have used it abit. In our case, we use it for custom moulding per project. That is to say we make casework, frame and panel walls and ceilings, and moulding and such. A client gives us the design for maybe an entire room or maybe the whole house. That design usually includes custom profiles. So we’re not making “stock” moulding and then trying to sell it. I think this is generally what you’re talking about (specialty mouldings as opposed to competing with Home Depot in the “colonial” profile market.)

Here’s what I see, business-wise, in our shop and you can compare that to what you would like to do in your own context.

Our machine is designed to run 1000’s of feet of stock at a time, day in, day out, to pay for itself. It takes me as long or longer to set it up than it does to run the moulding sometimes. It’s very typical to spend an hour setting the knives, and running a few blanks (usually poplar) through to set elevations and widths before running the good stock through. Then, at even the slowest speed (3m per minute) it might only take 30 to 40 minutes to run four or five hundred feet of moulding. One set of knives (custom profile) can run $250. We have flooring (back side and tongue and groove), crown bevel (sides), and sprials for S4S on all sides already. So, we would typically have to buy one set for the surface profile maybe 70% of the time. Some profiles however require two and three sets. A machine our size doesn’t pay for itself when it’s just sitting there 95% of the time.

So you add the cost of one set of knives, the testing material, set-up time, etc., and it can add up to significant extra cost per foot to the moulding. Now, once you accumulate knives, some of that cost goes down, i.e. in the case of our five head we don’t buy a set of straight knives for the back or bevel for crown everytime we run moulding. And sometimes you can sell someone a profile you already have that is close enough to what they want.

There is also the cost of having to sand the profile. Invariably there will be timing marks. Sanding a tricky profile can add up in time.

You might be able to market running clients wood through even if it’s a standard profile. We’ve had clients that have cut their own trees and want to utilize that wood in their house whether it’s a standard profile or not. They just want to know it’s their own wood. You could also maybe market specialty exotic woods in stock profiles.

Now, we buy cants from the lumber mill. Then we plane and rip the stock ourselves to a blank size that will run through the moulder. You could buy pre sized but it adds to the cost as does your own cost for making the blanks yourself.

You can’t compete with the home stores. You’ll have to develop or find some specialty market to make it profitable.

So far we’ve started at the middle, getting the design and having to implement it. This has been troublesome at times. We’ve had knives rejected because they weren’t “exactly” what was on the drawing (as in a stock cove we already had wasn’t a full 1/4 round… was about 80 degs instead of a full 90 degs. and another profile was about 1/32 off and they rejected it. Out of $1700 in knives we had about 4 profiles that would have to be re-worked….and this was just for making approval samples.) I suggested to the boss that we find and work with interior designers and set-up to do “their style” and have them sell it to the client (built in sales force for free and knives would already be “approved”).

uh….my brain is empty now. maybe I’ll have some more stuff later. But, this should be some food for thought as to how you might want to proceed. Size it down to a W&H and go from there.

-- arborial reconfiguration specialist

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