Custom wood shop Commod in Rimpar near Würzburg, Germany is a Bavarian craftsman's workshop specializing primarily in high-quality interior architectural millwork. In fact this is a company with far more to offer. Over an area of almost 1000 square meters, Stefan Freudenberger and his team produce aspirational objects for discerning customers with a taste for the unusual – and they are passionate about their work.
A flesh and blood carpentry artist
Craft is loosely defined in Wikipedia as a "profession requiring some kind of skilled work" and involving the small-scale production of goods to order. This definition does not even begin to describe the underlying core of the Rimpar-based company. The term "art", conversely is defined as the "result of a creative process". To describe Commod requires something of a combination of the two. This is why Freudenberger has come to be known as a "carpentry artist" - and this is how he is described by HOMAG Bavaria's sales consultant Robert Herrler.
Each piece is a unique work of art
The majority of products (around 90%) created in the Commod production halls are exclusive items of furniture for private clients - top-quality unique pieces which you will never find copied anywhere else in the world. Occasionally the firm will also receive orders for complete new room concepts. For example furnishings and fittings for top-class restaurants or cafés.
The most fascinating aspect of every new factory is the interplay between different surface effects, some of them very rare and unusual. It can happen, for instance, that Freudenberger will cover the handle of a sliding display cabinet in colored rayskin from Thailand. But stainless steel, glass, textiles or other extravagant materials are also processed by the Commod team. Wood still generally provides the focus as a material - but only ever in the very highest quality, whether used in a family home in Germany, a finca on Mallorca or a villa on Ibiza.
One thing is certain: No two identical items of furniture have ever left the premises - and the term "series production" is one you will never hear from Freudenberger.
Veneering with a passion
Something you might not have expected: Commod loves to work first and foremost with veneers – and it goes without saying that Freudenberger and his team veneer the substrate material themselves. Because for Commod's owner, it is cohesive veneer application that distinguishes the outstanding quality of furniture from Commod. Even with transverse veneered fronts, the veneer pattern wraps around the furniture completely without interruption in Commod furniture - to an extreme degree of perfection and at every mitre joint. So the focus is firmly on achieving a perfect surface and flawless quality down to the very last millimeter. Whether he is working on a four meter-wide fitted cupboard for a living room or a 30 meter-long wall element with recessed door handles.
His competent expertise in veneer processing lends Freudenberger an unrivaled degree of flexibility in the creation of individual surfaces. Whatever customers want, they can have. This is why Commod holds only a minimum stock of veneer material - in this particular enterprise there is no standard product.
"We process all types of wood", explains Freudenberger. "Our materials are sourced from every country around the world. When we receive special customer requests, I will travel with my veneer agent to visit possible manufacturers around the world and source the most suitable material - specifically for this one customer."
In answer to the question as to which trends he envisages in terms of surfaces, Freudenberger is unable to give any generalized reply: "We are not the market. Our customers desire timeless, special furniture which is unique to them and this is precisely what we provide. Although high-gloss is very much in vogue and is set to remain so, we still continue to regularly process materials such as cherry, walnut or white lacquer and many other variations. Our customers have very specific ideas, their own decisive - and always totally different - sense of style and their own personally conceived concept of interior furnishing. Only very rarely does this marry with the trends which are shaping the rest of the market."
Perfectionist – also when it comes to choosing the right machine
Freudenberger also has very specific ideas about things – and that includes what his machine outfit should look like. "I have very high aspirations for my products. That applies not just to the designs, the materials and every single process performed by staff, but in particular also to my machines. Everything must be one hundred per cent right down to the last detail. This is something I firmly believe." For the carpentry artist, the quality factor takes absolute priority. Flawless processing of workpieces by the machines, from the saw through sanding to edge processing, forms the essential foundation for any top-grade item of furniture. Another factors which feature high up on his list are the "made in Germany" label and a simple, convenient control system. He believes that machines from the HOMAG Group provide a resounding tick in each and every one of these boxes.
His first machine investment with the HOMAG Group was in an HPP 350 panel saw from HOLZMA in the year 2005. This was followed by a WEEKE Venture 3 processing center and KDF 780 edge banding machine from BRANDT. The latest newcomers to the family are two sanding machines from BÜTFERING: One is a wide-belt sanding machine SWT 535 QCH Diamond and the other a Compact 32 edge and profile sander.
"My sanding machines allow me to achieve the perfect sanded finish, in other words a flawless surface in just a single pass. For example this has allowed us to achieve up to 70% improvement in the economy of our high-gloss furniture production. Using three belts in the machine we are able to sand through to the final polish stage in a single step. No further finish processing is required", explains the Chief Executive.
Workpieces undergo their first sanding process at the BÜTFERING SWT 535 using a transverse belt. This generates a homogenous sanded appearance. This is then followed by a combination unit. Using a calibrating roller, this also allows scope for surface sanding. For veneer and solid wood sanding, it also works as a second unit in counter rotation. The last unit to process the workpieces is an H unit with inner chevron belt. Using a grain of up to P 4000, this provides the ideal conditions for producing high-quality surfaces. Other benefits: The H unit generates a "cool sanding" process, in other words the creation of less heat due to friction, and the inclined arrangement of the slats also helps prevent oscillation lines. All units operate on the basis of a segmented pad, also known as an MPS or magnetic pad system. Here, pressure is applied to the workpiece by an electromagnetic system: If the system detects a smaller surface requiring sanding, the pressure on the workpiece is automatically reduced. This system is supplemented by a belt air jet cleaning system with five-stage control facility on the combination and H unit. This adjustability for different applications means further energy saving by cutting down on compressed air consumption.
All units can be used in different combinations - always depending on the material and surface.
Downstream from the units are two additional cleaning stations: A finishing brush and a cleaning and ionization device.
Ionization prevents static charging, meaning that any dust in the air is no longer attracted to the workpiece and is removed away by cleaning rotors. This allows subsequent coating or lacquering to be performed without the need for finish processing.
The convenient touch screen control from BÜTFERING ensures that all parameters are saved in up to 200 sanding programs. These can then be accessed as required for maximum reproducibility.
Blind trust in HOMAG Bavaria
Following the purchase of the new wide-belt sanding machine, Stefan Freudenberger was happy to purchase the second BÜTFERING for edge sanding "blind": "I have every faith in Mr Herrler from HOMAG Bavaria. What he sells is only ever top quality, and he understands precisely what it is I need." He uses the single-sided Compact 32 to carry out all the edge and profile sanding as well as denibbing work. The work starts with an edge and surface sanding unit. Two surface and profile sanding units (above and below) with exchangeable profile sanding pads and a swivel range from -30° to +100° then follow. All units are fitted with adjustable belt oscillation and steplessly adjustable belt drive systems and are suitable for sanding operations on panel edges, as well as for denibbing of polyurethane and polyester primers on raw timber, veneered wood, MDF and chipboard panels. The Compact 32 edge sanding machine also permits a wide range of different parameters to be saved in a variety of sanding programs.
"My products are like a good meal"
Even if the majority of products to emerge from the Freudenberger workshop are exclusive, the real luxury of these creations is not just about owning something nobody else has. Even the simplest of designs can be something very special – if it has been crafted with passion and, first and foremost, if the quality is right.
This is the viewpoint of a true connoisseur. Because the Chief Executive is something of a connoisseur when it comes to his private life too. Another of his abiding passions is cooking - also a very special kind of craft. "In the same way as an ordinary wine turns into an excellent wine, or a simple meal becomes a culinary experience, my products evolve into special products. There is no room in my workshop for half measures, and that is something others appreciate", says the master craftsman, who was born in 1973. So occasionally he swaps his work overalls for an apron to exercise his creative talents in the kitchen: A multiple-course menu for friends or a tasty family supper. It may not always be a gourmet masterpiece - but it is almost always something delicious.
His employees relish the challenge
For his company to succeed in such a challenging sector, Freudenberger is reliant on a well-oiled, motivated and highly skilled team. The workforce totaling around 15 members works closely with Stefan Freudenberger to realize his customers' projects. Added to these are upholsters, glaziers, painters, grouters and other suppliers. The master joiner also employs a team of four traveling installers. Every item of furniture is assembled prior to delivery in the Commod production hall, then dismantled again, delivered to the customer and reassembled on site. "We create something new and unique every day", explains employee Bastian Weippert. The motto we live by is "no such thing as no can do". The complexity of the individual products makes for ever new and exciting challenges"!