In the previous blog entry, our last machine purchase was in February of 2012. We will now pick things up a few months later with our next machine acquisition.
Castle Pocket Boring Machine – 5/12
The castle pocket boring machine was perhaps our most random and unnecessary $1850 machine purchase to date. Random and unnecessary because when I bought the machine we didn’t particularly have a dire need for it. We weren’t wasting large amounts of time manually drilling pocket screws. The main reason for the purchase was the fact that my largest account was closing on a huge inset face frame kitchen remodel, and when it came time for us to built the cabinets, I didn’t want to be drilling the pocket screws in every rail manually. But, what actually happened was that the inset face frame job kept getting postponed and delayed, and did not actually end begin until last November, 5 months after the initial proposed start date.
That five month delay taught us something unexpected, though. We realized how valuable a pocket boring machine was to our shop, even a shop that does very little face frame cabinetry. We didn’t realize how often we would use pocket screws until we had the ability to make them with the touch of a foot pedal. Rather than nailing paint-grade face frames through the front, we now use pocket screws. We also use pocket screws to build all our crown moulding nailing strips, rather than brad nailing through the finished face. No having to get the drill, dig the jig out of the tool box, and fight your way through drilling the holes.
6×12 Trailer – 6/12
The next purchase, a 6′x12′ cargo trailer, was less flashy and “cool”, but incredibly valuable to the company. Up until this point, we were using the work van that belonged to our other company, Shutter Crafts. There were multiple things wrong with this set-up.
The first being that every time we drove to a J. Alexander Fine Woodworking job, we did so in a vehicle with another companies logo on the side. Just a little tacky and less than professional. The next error in this method was that a work van is not really designed to haul cabinetry. We had to deal with the wheel wells inside the cargo area, as well as a less than stellar height clearance inside the van, which was even worse when you factored in the curve corners that connected the sides to the ceiling. Another factor, that had only recently become an issue, was that both companies were becoming more and more busy, which meant that trying to schedule the use of our one work van was becoming an issue. But, the proverbial straw that finally broke the camels back, was that I just hired my second employee, who was going to be my main install guy. Just because I was willing to fight with the limitations of a work van, did not mean I was going to ask him to do the same. This option may have worked when we were a one-man shop, but now that we were growing, it was time to upgrade our transportation system.
I researched everything I could about the merits of a cargo van vs. trailer, and in the end decided on the trailer. The initial trailer purchase was less expensive than a box van, we already owned the necessary diesel truck to pull the trailer, the gas mileage was greater with the truck than with a cargo van, there was less that could go wrong on a trailer than on a cargo van, and the trailer gave us more versatility and flexibility for future growth and changing needs.
My only must-have requirement, a ramp, was hard to find on a used trailer in our local market. So, I paid a visit to Trailers Plus, a local manufacturer of cargo trailers, and picked up a new 6′x12′ single axle trailer, with a ramp, for a bit less than $3,000.
Gannomat Format 42 – 6/12
A week or so after purchasing the cargo trailer, I finalized the purchase of this Gannomat Format 42 drilling machine and an older Davis & Wells 5HP table saw. As business continued to grow, the bottlenecks in our production began to make themselves apparent.
One of the main culprits, was the process of drilling the system holes in cabinet sides and bookcase sides. As mentioned in previous blog entries, we were using a Blum MiniDrill, which could drill 9 system holes at once. The part would then be moved left or right, an indexing pin would be pressed into the last hole to ensure proper alignment, and another 9 holes would be drilled. There were three reasons that we had outgrown this machine and needed to look at upgrading. The first was the fact that drilling only 9 holes at a time was very time consuming. The second was that drilling only one row of holes at a time was also very time consuming. Every part had to be handled twice, once for the front row of holes, and again after the drill fence was changed for the back row of holes. The third reason had to do with the accuracy of the hole spacing. In theory, the indexing pin ensures that each hole is drilled at 32mm centers, but in practice it is quite different. If one set of 9 holes is slightly off, then every set of 9 holes after that will be off. We build quite a few bookcases and entertainment centers, and when drilling a 7′ row of holes, it was nearly impossible to get all four rows of holes within a cabinet perfectly even.
That is where the Gannomat Format 42 comes into the picture. This machine has two drill heads, each with 21 bits. A cabinet side can be drilled with one cycle of the machine, rather than taking 6 cycles with the previous machine. The spacing between the front and back row is incredibly easy to adjust, which is so nice, since we are regularly building cabinets of varying depths, and constantly switching between three different types of drawer slides. The final feature that is an improvement over the previous machine is the fact that the spacing between each set of holes is aligned using stop blocks, rather than an indexing pin. While it initially took some getting used to, we have found the stop blocks to be more user friendly and so much more accurate for long drill runs. The Format 42 ran us $2800 from Coby at Advanced Machinery Systems in SLC, UT.
Davis & Wells Table Saw – 6/12
As mentioned above, along with the Gannomat Format 42, we picked up an older Davis & Wells 5hp table saw for the sweet price of $400! We already had a sliding table saw for cutting sheet goods and an older Rockwell cabinet saw for ripping solid lumber. The Davis & Wells table saw was going to be used as a dedicated dado table saw.
The process of switching from a rip blade to a stacked dado blade set isn’t a lot of work, nor does the task take a particularly long time, nevertheless, it was turning our cabinet saw into a definite bottleneck. Beyond the time and energy it takes to switch out blades, whenever the dado set was installed, no one could use the saw for a rip cut. It was also frustrating to have to install the dado set for just a few dado cuts, which meant we would try and wait to build up an inventory of stock before switching out the blades, which was just inconvenient.
We purchased the saw and, when we went to set up the dado set, we realized that the arbor was 3/4″, not the standard 5/8″ arbor. To have our current dado blades bored out was going to cost almost the same as a brand new set, so I decided to just order a brand new set from Forrest Blades. After installing a baby powerfeeder from Grizzly and the new set of dado blades, we were off and cutting!
Part 4 coming up soon.