For the last 17 years, my company has specialised in assisting smaller bespoke woodworking shops to expand their market into regions once thought to be too complex to be profitable.
My name is Rufus Cooke and I trained as a Custom Architectural Woodworker building and installing all forms of bespoke woodwork – doors, windows, cabinets, furniture and staircases. Despite our 10 man shop being “bespoke”, there was always a tendency to avoid the more “risky projects” those with complex geometries or other coordination issues as they were deemed to be “unprofitable”.
About 20 years ago I was working on a very large exterior timber framing project made from Ipe and stainless steel. Because of the large timber dimensions, it was all ordered direct from sawmills in South America requiring extended lead times. The timber was too rare and too expensive to justify ordering extra stock to allow for errors and it was then that I realized the value of generating a 3D prototype. Unlike 2D CAD, each timber and each stainless steel bracket was isolated enabling CNC milling and joinery of the various timbers while the stainless steel brackets were being fabricated. All components arrived on the jobsite and were then erected with the only problem being a burnt out bearing on the CNC router.
Certainly not every shop has (or wants) CNC equipment and not every job warrants generating 3D prototypes, but my hope is that this blog may help to offer ideas and to encourage collaboration among small woodworking shop owners.
Lastly, I’d like to dedicate this to my wife Pauline, to Ken, Louis, Bob King and to the shops and contractors with whom we’ve shared some wonderful experiences.