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Subject: Re: Commercial Case Goods


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Message Thread:

Commercial Case Goods

D John Bishop

I am getting ready to get into a new business. I have posted here in the past, I have (3) industry experience. Our model will be mostly for commercial work. Been thinking about this a bunch and going over all the numbers. In the past we could build the heck out of wood boxes with a pretty typical set up. I have a great (14) Putsch Meniconi Panel Saw. It has a scoring unit but itís typically pulled back as a sharp blade will cut pre finished plywood, melamine, and exotic faced hardwood plywood splinter free both sides.
Nothing magical about the process, start at panel saw make big wood smaller than take parts to a machining line. Cross cut router with pneumatic hold downs puts dado in for deck on bases, or top and bottoms for upper. The piece slides down the line to a line boring machine, than continues to a dedicated inverted big boy router with a huge feeder to route a rabbit into backs and route a rabbit into the tops of bases for stretchers. A modest skilled person can take a pair of ends off the panel saw route the dado, line bore and rabbit in about (2) minute. Those parts than get labeled and put onto a cart to be either assembled or detailed if they are a bare box with a custom interior.
At the bench we would apply any needed edge banding either by hand or it comes off a Veritus hot edge bander. I believe a good assembler can band a typical base in about (5) minutes. He or she than details all the parts and gives them a quick QI.
Next is assembly, my latest assembly method was typical pin nails and glue. Than screws installed after box is assembled and squared up. In the markets I have done commercial case goods we did not run into many finished ends so end penetrations were not typically a problem. If it is a finished end we have a jig to biscuit the stretchers and deck into the finished end panel for a base cabinet.
I have run the numbers every which way but loose and no model I come up with can support expenditures on an edge bander, dowel insertion and case clamp as these are not cheap items. Our main body of work will be architectural woodworking but we build commercial boxes as our customer base needs them plus we intend to further pursue commercial and government where I know the commercial box is kind.
As best I can tell these are not items you can own unless you are really banging out boxes in some pretty good numbers. I came up through a boot strap mentality of working hard and you will be surprised with you can produce with some pretty typically tooling. I plan on following my existing assembly methods and I am sure if time and work load show the addition of these tools justified I can make the investment than.
Please share your thoughts on this matter, hope everyone is doing well.

9/15/18       #2: Commercial Case Goods ...
Paul Miller


There is absolutely, no way you will be able to compete in Commercial or residential cabinetry. Go to work for a shop, any shop. You obviously have no idea what this industry is about.

9/15/18       #3: Commercial Case Goods ...

You have a great plan, I would say go for it if it was 1970. Like Paul said donít even bother starting, maybe build a few for your garage or basement. But that is where I would stop. You will not be able to compete with just about everyone with those methods.

9/15/18       #4: Commercial Case Goods ...
Puzzleman Member

I notice that you don't have any kind of marketing or advertising plan. That is more important than just banging boxes together. If you don't have sales, you have boxes to bang together.

9/15/18       #5: Commercial Case Goods ...

Is this a joke? I looked to see if it was April fools? I had a good laugh anyways.
This is like competing against United Airlines with a hang glider.

9/15/18       #6: Commercial Case Goods ...
rich c.

Hard to decide if this is trolling, or satire. Working smart outdid working hard decades ago in Commercial work. Competing with national businesses on commercial work is nearly impossible. Don't forget you'll likely need to be a union shop if doing Government or major city commercial. Along with carrying a giant insurance policy. Just in case this is a real post.

9/15/18       #7: Commercial Case Goods ...
John Bishop  Member

Website: selectwoodworking.net

Not a joke at all, the criticism just motivates me that much more. Hate to say this but building commercial case goods is not exactly rocket science. Its hardcore production work, that is not my niche but I intend on doing them as my client base asks me to. Which is the model we have followed for many years.

We have a complete marketing and sales plan. That is dead aimed at our target markets. As equipment has become more available to the masses because of price reductions I may very well get the mentioned items. But from the start we do not intend on investing in that. We have a very specific plan to update equipment that fits our model as we run CV.

About a year ago we did a project over in Northern Kentucky with some very nice reconstituted veneers. If you guys thought the other bit was a joke you will really like this one. I ordered 3,000 linear feet of pre glued edge banding. In various widths to band the front of our box parts and for miscellaneous items. We are blessed to have some very skilled folks who seem to make quick work of banding. I have built boxes for so long I really donít care if I build them out on the side walk with a hatchet so long as they get done productively, too specification and are of good quality.

Iím sure you all think applying the banding by hand is a joke but the project was a good one with a nice margin. The banded items seem to always mix in with other architectural items we were brought to the job to do. Having never worked with a big boy bander, case clamp or dowel insertion type equipment I cannot comment on them. I can comment on the production of (3) local shops I have had great relationships with over the years and watched them build many a box. Two of them have a case clamp, big boy bander and a really cool drilling and insertion machine. They do commercial boxes but I have never seen them do a big run so I canít really comment on what the potential of the equipment is.

Union shops are not popular where we operate. Only one of them in the entire city and itís a split shop.

9/15/18       #8: Commercial Case Goods ...

I donít understand the dado process you are talking about. Why donít you just butt joint everything . You can pin and screw and meet Awmac standards. Backs can also be pinned and screwed.
You donít need a case clamp, cnc or dowel machine, but why donít you get a used edgebander. Edging by hand is very slow, poorer quality as the material is more brittle. You are also very limited to the type and color when buying pre- glued.
I give you credit for your excitement, but I donít understand why you are limiting and holding yourself back with such antiquated practices.
All the best.

9/15/18       #9: Commercial Case Goods ...
Ray B


We just put 3 government jobs and 2 retail projects out of our shop. Banded by hand , we used the Fastcap PVC tape banding on the ones that used and spray can contact for edging the few that had laminate edges.

Rolled or sprayed laminate for all the tops, doors,etc..

There is very much still a space in the market for an old school shop cranking things out the traditional way. We've mixed in historical woodwork (sashes and entry doors), reception desks, and other architectural millwork with the occasional melaminate/laminate work for the past 10 years.

No edge bander, wide belt sander, or big cold press machine.

If I wanted to focus on only box work I would go CNC but the profitability of our jobs seems to depend more on the client, site location and logistics, and amount of competition at bid time more so than type of work. We've narrowed our focus more on who are GC customers are than on a specific type of woodworking.

9/15/18       #10: Commercial Case Goods ...

I donít understand the dado process you are talking about. Why donít you just butt joint everything . You can pin and screw and meet Awmac standards. Backs can also be pinned and screwed.
You donít need a case clamp, cnc or dowel machine, but why donít you get a used edgebander. Edging by hand is very slow, poorer quality as the material is more brittle. You are also very limited to the type and color when buying pre- glued.
I give you credit for your excitement, but I donít understand why you are limiting and holding yourself back with such antiquated practices.
All the best.

9/15/18       #11: Commercial Case Goods ...

DJB, you sound pretty convinced. Did you go to IWF in Atlanta last month? A good educational experience. Maybe next year in Los Vegas? I have a bit of experience in commercial work. That's all we do. Been doing it for 30 years. Ship nation wide, much of it made to AWI specifications.

You must have pretty low wages where you are do be using labor at the rate you do. I've done some comparisons for banding with our machine and by hand. We do a lot of 2 & 3mm PVC in both straight and contour. We have a middle of the road IDM bander that can put on a band every 8 seconds or so. We are a bit out of date on our contour banding with a Brandt bander & trimmer. Would up date but it typically only runs less than an hour a day.

Software is the back bone of the operation. Architects expect professional looking submittals. What software do you use?

If you have some good local contacts and no serious competition, you may well succeed in getting the jobs done. I don't think you will be able to grow a business using your model. For me though I still like my CNC router, beam saw, bore & insert machine, case clamp, drawer clamp, conveyor system, thermoforming oven, molder, resaw, straight line rip saw and quite a lot of other things to make life easier. Are any of them an absolute necessity, NO. But they make a tool nut feel good.

Good luck, I think you will need it.

9/16/18       #12: Commercial Case Goods ...
John Bishop  Member

Website: selectwoodworking.net


The Dado is a result of building plywood boxes for about 25 years. For base cabinets a dado is for the deck and top stretchers. For wall cabinets or others itís for the top and bottom of the box. Itís a cross cut with a ĺ bit in a really cool cross cut router with pneumatic hold downs all over the place and a nice fence and scale. When doing face frame work it establishes the scribe for the top and bottom rails. We quickly found out it made it much easier for less experienced assembly folks to put the boxes together since the dado indexed the top and bottom rails for them. You just have to put glue on the ends of the top and bottom rails, put it into the unfinished side dado and pin it in place. Once all parts are assembled and the box has a back dropped in we run screws through the sides securing all. The back is typically ľĒ matching material set into a ĺ rabbit that is cut into the sides. This also helps greatly with less experienced folks. The panel saw cuts parts square which in turn squares up your box. Glue and staple back on, than drop in ĹĒ x 3Ē plywood screw cleats on the outside of the applied back. This allows for scribe on the rear of the box to fit up against the nasty commercial walls we install against. The ĹĒ screw cleats are glued and stapled than screwed into the top stretcher and the sides of the case. Installers secure cabinets through the screw cleats keeping all stress on those cleats and not the floating back.

If itís a remodeling application I really go old school and build a dead flat curb on site. We have done this a long time itís a great way of establishing a perfectly flat starting point. We reference all the heights with a lazar shimming up the built in curb (toe box) as needed so the run out is on the bottom where the floors are typically not flat or level. This allows you to then just drop base cabinets in place and move along. We use this exact same application for commercial installations and ship the curb loose. Same width for smaller base cabinets, and long pre assembled sections for long runs. Our commercial contractors really like this application as it allows us to put the curb in place and the different mechanical trades to come along and do their magic. This makes for a super clean look with all penetrations coming up from the bottom. Outside installation crews carry a pneumatic epoxy gun as well as an old school ram set to make quick work of fastening the loose curb to the concrete deck. We have never had a single complaint about this system in fact most of the GCs we work with are familiar with it. It also keeps us from having to cut slots and such into backs to work around plumbing pipes.

I am certain all you guys have super systems, this is just my way of doing it. I have been doing this a long time with good success in both commercial and residential markets. We switched over to a super nice pre finished ĺĒ maple box interior about (3) years ago. Itís a conversion varnish very slick and somewhat reasonable to buy. We do not do such a high volume of work that the few extra dollars we spend on nicer interior box plywood will get us in trouble from a job costing standpoint. And it makes for a very nice interior box that is not affected by your typical household cleaners or bleach.

I was doing a kitchen tear out as a younger man and noticed the toe kick was loose and build on site. I was just amazed at how stable everything was and how clean the entire job was. I fell in love with this application. We use it for both frameless and face frame products. The toe box is built loose and secured temporarily to the top of the cabinet so it never is separated from its mate.

The jointing system we use on our box parts which is a cross cut dado for top and bottoms. Rabbit both finished and unfinished sides to receive backs, then rabbit in both unfinished and finished sides for base cabinets is an evolution of learning for me over (33) years. It makes building boxes both wood and melamine as well as pre finished plywood very quick, efficient, and safe and can be accomplished by a mid level person. The joints help the mid level experienced type assembly person to index all the joints in place while fastening. A bit of a side note we build a lot of large cases that have to be a bit bullet proof because they are sometimes so darned big their own weight can cause them to rack or misbehave during material handling both in house and during shipment and installation. This was one of the reasons we adopted some of those assembly methods so boxes can be built and moved around without fear of them being torn up.

9/17/18       #13: Commercial Case Goods ...

There is no possible way that I would consider getting into the cabinet business commercial or residential without a edge bander. If your shop rate is as low as say $50 an hour and you finance a low end bander and your payments are $250 a month you only have to save 5 hours a month for it to pay for itself. You can save 5 hours just on one kitchen. You don't have to have a $50,000-$100,000 edge bander a cantek for $15,000 is a great value. Same thing with a CNC but thats a whole different topic. If you spend $70,000 on an edge bander and CNC they should pay for themselves in a year if you have a steady flow of work. Not running all the time just steady. Our cnc runs about 15 hours a week and same for the edge bander but they more than pay for themselves in labor time. 30 sheets in a day cut, dados, shelf holes, hardwares holes, and edge banded isn't hard. Assembly time is a lot faster and the time setting drawers and doors is way faster when the hardware holes are there and you don't have to deal with counting on the 32mm system for the right holes.

9/17/18       #14: Commercial Case Goods ...
David R Sochar  Member

Mel! You are back! Nice to see nothing has changed except your name.

9/17/18       #15: Commercial Case Goods ...
Charlie W Member

I can understand why some choose not to run a banding machine in a smaller shop. Especially if you do mostly wood banding. If you do PVC and 2mm+ then a bander is a must but with wood things get a bit trickier. My father has run his 3 man shop for 30 years without a bander. He uses a handheld Virutex for the application then they hand trim and detail. He only builds plywood boxes.
Old used edge banders are not always worth the time to set up and tune. My dad got an older masi a few years ago and after fooling with it for a few months he ended up selling it and going back to doing it by hand. Edge banders can be a big pain in the ass. I run a Casadei FLEXA 207 SUPER in my shop and it is a great machine but even it has its days.
this is a simple matter of ROI and only the shop owner can run that calculation.

9/17/18       #16: Commercial Case Goods ...

If you can get the sales, go for it. Things like how you put a box together is just details.

9/18/18       #17: Commercial Case Goods ...

Yes, banders can be a PIA but once you learn all of their adjustments and you have a decent machine, they are so much more productive than by hand. Since you are talking commercial work, you will get a lot of jobs that specify 2 or 3mm PVC or ABS. Not fun to hand band. If you use contact it must be water borne or the solvents will attack the plasticizers and the banding will come lose. You probably know all about that already.


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