Cool Wood Creations Using CNC

By Karen Koenig | Posted: 06/06/2014 12:41PM

 

Considered innovative yet practical, the commercial interiors manufactured by John Hand and his team can best be summed up by one word: Creations.

Based in Anaheim, CA, Laminate Creations by Hand specializes in high-end commercial interiors as well as components for the millwork industry. In addition to the typical types of products and applications, the company thrives on the unusual.

“I’ll take on jobs most companies won’t,” says Hand, president of the 15-year-old company he owns, along with his wife Jean, CFO. Adds John, “I’m always up for a good challenge.”

Challenge is not a word John uses lightly. Among the more unusual jobs taken on by Laminate Creations in recent years was the re-creation of a 54-foot boat hull for Clearman’s Galley restaurant after the original was partially destroyed.

“We not only made the curved hull, but had to make the actual portholes. We did the restaurant interior along with a tongue-and-groove ceiling,” John recalls.

Also challenging, an extensive project for the Pacific Design Center in North Hollywood included the creation of a 3-Form illuminated bar, as well as a security desk which featured 1-inch blue laminated glass rings surrounding a white high-gloss-lacquered MDF exterior, with stainless steel accents.

“We can fabricate with just about any media,” John says, including solid surface, along with solid wood, veneer, composite panels and of course, laminates.

Although solid wood and veneer tend to be specified most often, it is not unusual for designs to combine the other media along with them, Jean says. For example, in a project for a local hospital, Laminate Creations combined bookmatched, sequenced cherry veneer with Madeira marble to make the boardroom conference table. The table measures 26 feet long and was 10 feet at its widest point.

One job often leads to others, with 75 percent of the company’s business coming from referrals, Jean adds.

Streamlined Operation

The production level is high at the 35,000-square-foot facility, despite having just 15 employees in the shop. “We highly believe in CNC machinery,” John says. “Having so much automation minimizes the amount of employees needed to get the job done.”

A one-stop shop, Laminate Creations offers a full range of capabilities, from fabrication through finishing. Any service not offered in-house is subcontracted, with Laminate Creations maintaining control over the job. “Customers then only have to deal with one supplier,” John says.

Panels come into the shop, laid up with veneer or laminate. Depending on the job requirements, the panels are cut-to-size on the Biesse Selco EB 75 panel saw, or sent directly to the CNC machining centers for processing.

Laminate Creations utilizes a number of CNC machines in the shop, including a Biesse Skill 1224 nested-based gantry-style CNC router with automatic labeling, a Biesse Rover B flat table router and a Bre.Ma EKO 902 vertical machining center. Also in use is a Rover 20 point-to-point boring machine, as well as a Weeke ABD CNC and Gannomat automatic dowel drilling, gluing and insertion machines for the construction of the company’s casegoods.

As part of the edge processing operation, the company has three edgebanders in the shop, including a Homag KAL 310 and an Artech Akron 445 edgebander, both with premilling and corner rounding capabilities. Other equipment used by Laminate Creations includes a Ligmatech case clamp, a smaller Gannomat clamp, as well as Saw Stops and machines for processing the solid wood and other media.

The veneered and solid wood parts are sanded on the Viet S211 widebelt sander before being finished in-house.

There are no minimums required with regards to the size or quantity of the job, and it’s not unusual to have 10 to 12 projects flowing through Laminate Creations’ shop at any one time, John says. These can range anywhere “from a simple box to very elaborate” projects in the $500,000 or higher price range, he adds.

The casework is typically assembled at the shop before being shipped to installations worldwide.

Spurring the company’s overall success in the industry, Jean says, has been its use of technology, a passion for woodworking “plus a lot of smart decisions” by John.

For his part, John adds, “Our work speaks for itself.”

From Garage to Global

After more than 15 years experience in custom furniture manufacturing, John Hand’s career reached a pivotal moment. While working on some commercial furniture in his garage, a neighbor admired the quality and suggested Hand do some work for his fast food restaurant chain. Shortly thereafter, Hand obtained his California contractor’s license, gave notice at his full-time job, rented a 1,500-square-foot shop and became self employed.

Hand established Laminate Creations in 1999. With his wife Jean serving as CFO, the company has grown significantly in size and scope over the years, and what was once a garage sideline now serves the commercial interiors market worldwide.

Less than two years ago, Laminate Creations streamlined its operations into a single 35,000-square-foot facility in Anaheim, CA, complete with full CNC machining capabilities and offering turnkey services. The company has 15 employees. For more information visit LaminateCreationsByHand.com.

Design Trends

While most of the projects these days call for wood and veneer construction, Laminate Creations President John Hand says he is beginning to see an increase in designs that specify laminates. “Probably a year ago it was 90 percent wood, but now laminate is coming back again slowly,” he adds.

Another design trend the company sees is “retro” styles for contract furniture, including leather-topped inserts on desktops, says Jean Hand, CFO.

Also noted is the growing use of multi-ply laminated panels “with the raw edges showing,” Jean says, as well as popularity gains for Plyboo, raw steel and reclaimed wood.

“People are looking for urban contemporary,” she adds.


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About the Author

Karen M. Koenig

Karen M. Koenig has more than 25 years of experience in the woodworking industry, including visits to wood products manufacturing facilities throughout North America, Europe and Asia. As Editor-in-Chief of Woodworking Network magazine (formerly Wood & Wood Products), Karen’s primary responsibilities include spearheading the writing, editing and coordinating of the editorial content of the publication, along with the Red Book resource guide and the Red Book online source and supply directory (RedBookOnline.com). She is also a frequent contributor to other Woodworking Network online and print media. She can be reached at kkoenig@woodworkingnetwork.com or Google+.

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