Kitchen Cabinetry Inside Out
August 15, 2011 | 11:11 pm CDT
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This alder kitchen features mitered raised panel doors and a custom glazed finish. Holleman
builds out the entire cabinet, while subcontracting the finishing.  

When he launched his Canby, OR, wood interiors firm, Mike Holleman didn’t have to think too hard about what to call it. He just let his business strategy be his guide. Now, MH Custom Cabinetry lets its reputation and customer focus precede it — a reputation tied directly to Holleman’s name. That has resulted in steadily growing business.

This painted kitchen dining area features applied
moulding on the doors.

Though MH Custom Cabinetry turned five last month, Holleman is no neophyte in the woodworking industry. He spent six years at Magna Design, a Seattle institutional furnishings manufacturer, where he received a thorough grounding in wood manufacturing best practices. (Magna Design was acquired in 1972 by Colwell Industries, and later by Watson Furniture Group of Poulsbo, WA.)

Afterward, Holleman spent 14 years immersed in residential cabinetmaking with a Portland, OR, firm, where as a production manager he specified software and equipment acquisitions including sophisticated CNC machines, before going out on his own.

“I was always the front runner on all equipment acquisitions,” Holleman says. “I went out and bought every piece of equipment for that company.”

Holleman builds cabinetry from scratch, outsourcing the finishing and, occasionally, doors. His design process includes the use of Planit CabinetVision to prepare the shop drawings for clients before moving into production. He has been using the program for 16 years. “The program always has evolved; I just kept with it and kept evolving as well.”

Holleman works in a range of species, based on client preferences and goals. Among his recent projects are an alder kitchen featuring mitered raised panel doors and a custom glazed finish; a lyptus wood kitchen with a curved peninsula and moulding on the cabinet doors; a walnut island with maple accents in white and natural finish; a hickory island with ebony wood accents; and a cherry island with curved ends and a light stained finish.

Enjoying his role as custom woodshop proprietor, Holleman has noticed some changes among clients recently: homeowners increasingly try to be their own contractors, which can be challenging. They sometimes hunt for online deals — not recognizing wholesale savings can deliver unforeseen expenses and delays. He is meticulous about making, even beating, deadlines. “My whole goal is to be waiting for you,” says Holleman of his approach to clients, whether homeowners or contractors.

“I am a face frame cabinet shop,” says Holleman. With frameless cabinets, he believes, “You’ve taken away a lot of the strength of the cabinet.” In building out the supporting structure he says he provides a project that will last.

“Let’s build something that is good and strong,” says Holleman. “Everything is hand made.” However, he sometimes buys doors, particularly mitered doors, sourcing locally. Another request that comes up occasionally is for outdoor living spaces, such as kitchens and living areas. A survey by landscape architects says over 94 percent of consumers surveyed want seating and dining areas, along with grills (93.8 percent) and installed seating like benches or seat walls (89.5 percent).

“You are building something that is really not meant to go outside,” says Holleman of outdoor kitchens. He uses waterproof glues and will use an outdoor spar varnish or frog varnish.

Currently his operation is small in scale — four people and the basic woodworking equipment. This includes wide-belt and edge sanders, a Streibeg vertical panel saw, RazorGage saw stop system, a Castle face frame assembly table, small moulders, 15-in. planer, 13-spindle adjustable drill, band saw and drill press, plus two standard table saws. Holleman also has a Her-Saf panel router, and two SCMI shapers for making cabinet doors. Last year Holleman added a Holz-Her HF 1402 Genius edgebander.

Holleman traces his woodworking roots way back. “I quit the trumpet in the eighth grade and went to woodshop. I didn’t know I was making such a big decision back then,” he says. In 2006 Holleman took the plunge and bought six acres and built a shop, doing his first contract job in March of that year. He believes that dealing honestly and fairly with contractors helped him lay a foundation of good will that smoothed the way for his new business. Contractors followed him to his new operation. “One even came over and graded my shop road and laid the gravel for it,” he says. “It’s been a blast; I love it.”

See MH Custom Cabinetry's website for a gallery of kitchen cabinetry and other residential projects.

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