When a highly specialized job calling for intricate, historically correct craftsmanship came through the doors at Wonders of Wood in Tracy City, TN, owner Dean Lutes knew the job would require a CNC. That would be a first for Wonders of Wood.
“I have been following the evolution of CNC technology since its inception,” says Lutes, who opened his woodworking shop in 1990. “Having worked with design software since 2003, making the jump into CNC machinery with this project seemed like the natural step to take for my business.”
Dean’s assignment was to create an Oak electronics control booth hiding sophisticated audio equipment. While that sounds simple at first, the control box was to be installed in the famous All Saints’ Chapel, a beautiful landmark at the University of the South (commonly known as “Sewanee”), which broke ground in 1905.
The regal-looking chapel is known for its ornate, Victorian Gothic-style architecture, patterned after the Church of England style emanating from Oxford, England, a design movement that began in the late 1740s in England. The Gothic revival movement had a dramatic influence on architecture around the world, especially on educational campuses.
“What makes this job so challenging and fun is that the control booth, which we’re making out of red oak, cannot look out of place in the chapel. On the contrary, it must look as though it’s been part of the chapel’s historic interior for over a century.”
Lute, who says his business has grown steadily over the years by word of mouth advertising, estimated it would take approximately 286 man hours to create the 11 carved panels needed to cover the 8’ x 6’ control booth using his existing tools.
Using a CNC cutting machine would cut the labor hours in half. It would also save time on additional aspects of the project, such as the carved columns and a door. He was ready to jump into the CNC era, and chose a Swift 48 x 96 model from Laguna Tools.
Lute's shop handles everything from simple woodworking jobs to ornate reproductions of antique furniture, porch columns, windows and doors, and custom cabinets. “I had been going to the Atlanta Woodworking Show for years," Lute says. "After spending some time at their booth, the Swift CNC option became the clear choice for me.”
Dean said he appreciated the fact that the CNC Swift (see video) could be easily outfitted with a vacuum table, so he could use it for all phases of his business.
While Dean comes by his woodworking talents naturally enough – his father was an accomplished carpenter – it wasn’t until he grew tired of his previous career in building and construction that he returned to his woodworking roots.
“I just got tired of doing heavy, high rise construction and decided to find another job,” he said. “I answered a help wanted ad for a trim carpenter position to help with building Blockbuster Video Stores. That contracting assignment took me all over the country and led to a number of other jobs as well.”
Dean eventually settled in Tracy, where he began building his Wonders of Wood woodworking business.