Custom Shop Strives for Independence

Crawford Cabinets of Cedartown, GA, seeks out new technology to continue growing and to make its “do-everything” philosophy a reality.

By Bernadette Freund

Enter Cedartown, GA, and the smell of Georgia pines leads you to Crawford Cabinets, a 12-man shop that uses the latest in technology.

     
 
These custom-designed cabinets display the type of detailed millwork Crawford Cabinets is able to produce with its new technology. Below, intricate paneling with corbels and trim reveal that the company can do everything.  
     

This successful company has been producing custom millwork and cabinetry for more than 30 years. Crawford Cabinets is a second generation company that started with the current owner, Billy Crawford’s father. It has expanded in the past year to include solid surface fabrication and frameless cabinets in its operation. In fact, it has grown so much so that the company, now occupies a shop of 20,500 square feet in the main building and 5,760 in its finishing building.

“In the beginning it was a part-time man and me in the shop along with my father. Since then we have expanded so much that we are at our third location. We moved here so that we would not only increase our space but also to ensure that we could keep fabricating and installing all of our own products.”

Crawford describes the company’s desire to remain self-sufficient as a “do-everything” philosophy. This philosophy can be seen as the pledge Crawford Cabinets has made to maintain its competitive edge. As a result, the company continues to perform almost every step of production from fabricating framed cabinet doors to installing cabinets and trim.

     
Crawford Cabinet’s Key to Fastening

In order to maintain its independence, Crawford Cabinets continually evaluates its operations. This analysis led the company to realize that its fastening system for making five-piece doors was inefficient.

According to Greg Crawford, woodworker and owner’s son, “We were having problems when we put our doors and drawers together for cabinets because the corrugated nails we used were pushing the joints open. If we put enough pressure on the joint not to open it, then the face of the wood would be dented. Since everything was located on the backside of the piece any adjustments or discrepancies in the wood could be seen from the face.

“We used to have to clamp our framed cabinet door parts together, and then we would drive a nail through the two separate woods with a nail driver. With the harder woods, like maple, it would take more pressure to drive a nail into the joints so often times the joint would get opened up and then the wood was wasted.”

Opened and busted joints, and dented drawer and door faces not only forced the company’s woodworkers to do many reworks but it also created some lost time and costly rejects.

“We would not know a piece needed reworking until the whole door was assembled,” explains Greg Crawford, “and then it was too late or it might cost us time because we would really have to sand it. The sanding then was much more time consuming because someone would have to drive the nail in, fill the hole with putty where the nail went in and get in the hole with a screwdriver to drive the nail in further and it would also have to be filed. Then it had to be sanded, which took a lot of time.”

The Fastening Solution

Crawford Cabinets looked for a better fastening system in keeping with the company’s preference for full control instead of outsourcing its door and drawer frames. What it found worked best for its operation was a dovetail key fastening system from the Hoffmann Machine Co.

The company uses a Hoffmann PU2-TL tilt-head routing machine for edge-miter joints on columns and beams. Its PU-2 dovetail routing machine is used for 22.5° joints. Both machines were customized by the manufacturer to suit Crawford’s needs. The company’s latest addition for fastening is a PP2-TAB four-head model to process drawer fronts and cabinet doors.

“We use the Hoffmann machines for doors and drawer fronts and also for trim and beam work,” explains Greg Crawford. “We added the Hoffmann PP2-TAB which will pull joints up tighter. Now we don’t have to worry so much about the alignment of the door fronts because the parts can be adjusted before the keys are inserted. This saves us time because we used to have to completely rework the doors or drawers. We don’t have to spend as much time getting new pieces of wood and MDF, recutting them and then sanding the pieces.”

The company’s Hoffmann PU-2 dovetail routing machine is setup with a special fixture for 22.5° clip ends, and the PU2-TL’s router head can be tilted for plus or minus 45°. Greg Crawford says that these machines allow him to produce consistently tight and accurate miter joints without the need for clamping devices, which has saved the company time on sanding and eliminated the possible need to outsource the company’s doors and drawers.

“With the dovetail keys, everything is registered on the face side instead of on the back side of the wood, like with nailing,” sa

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