South Dakota Millwork Company 'Banks' on Quality

Bank's jobs are the primary source of income for Leo DeVaney Woodwork of Sioux Falls, SD.


Having the backing of a bank is important when starting out as a company, as any business owner will attest. But in Leo DeVaney's case, the concept of "financial support" went far beyond getting approved for a loan.

Not only did The First National Bank of Sioux Falls finance machinery purchases for DeVaney's fledgling woodworking shop, it also provided him with manufacturing space in the basement of its Sioux Falls branch, as well as giving him work building millwork and cabinetry for that office.

That first job 25 years ago developed into DeVaney's primary market. Today, bank jobs account for 80 percent of the company's $80,000 annual sales. On average the three-man shop does three banks a year, with projects ranging from $5,000 to $50,000.

A recent job, a new branch of The First National Bank in Sioux Falls, was one of DeVaney's biggest to date. It required $18,000 of oak lumber and MDF for its wall paneling alone. Consisting of 3,000 board feet of oak and 41 sheets of rip-sawn MDF, the pre-measured vertical panels were doweled together on site. Finished with Pratt & Lambert varnish and cherry stain, the extensive use of paneling makes a striking impression.

The panel design continues to the teller line, where the base is topped with a mountain green granite countertop to withstand heavy use. Removable panels, designed to accommodate computer and electrical changes, separate the teller stations. Steel cabinets are used below the countertops for security reasons. Standard cabinetry features 3/4-inch melamine interiors and red oak veneered MDF doors. The drawer boxes are made of poplar. They feature dovetail construction and use Knape & Vogt full-extension 3800 drawer slides. Cabinets feature Blum 170° adjustable hinges.

This bank in Sioux Falls required $18,000 of oak lumber and MDF for its wall paneling alone. Consisting of 3,000 board feet of oak and 41 sheets of rip-sawn MDF, the pre-measured vertical panels were doweled together on site.

The shop also provided the desks, credenzas, work stations, all extension joints, windows, trim and casework for the bank. All of this work was completed in three months.

The most challenging task of this job was adapting to a new construction method, said DeVaney. Having invested in new equipment, the shop switched to the 32mm system, replacing biscuit and dado construction. New equipment includes a Linea double-headed line boring machine, Vitap doweling machine and Putsch Meniconi vertical panel saw, all from Atlantic Machinery. The 2,600- square-foot shop also uses an SCMI S116W table saw, a Powermatic table saw, Omga miter saw with a Mass saw fence system from J.A. Dawley Manufacturing Co. and an Alexander Dodds Co. dovetailer. The shop also houses SCMI sanding equipment. A 3,000-square-foot area devoted to finishing includes HVLP spray guns from Wagner.

"Although we had to get familiar with line boring, this system has sped up production tremendously," DeVaney said. With the new system, the shop can fabricate the stiles, rails and toekicks for cabinets, cut them to size, sand and finish and then assemble them. Using the previous dado method, the shop would have to assemble the piece, put on stiles and rails and then size the piece to fit.

While the branch offices of the First National Bank carry a common design theme, some are highly customized, such as the remodel of a Western Mall branch in Sioux Falls. For example, a lip was added to the reception desk to conceal the "wall" of reminder notes from bank customers. For another work station, DeVaney built overhead cabinets for storage, designed a shelf unit to accommodate a fax machine and incorporated doors on the back of a credenza to make use of dead space.

Upon the suggestion of another employee, the ledge outside the safety deposit box area was made just large enough to have the customer sign his name, so it would be otherwise unobtrusive to traffic flow. "With employee input, we came up with the right combination to meet their needs and still kept the simple, contemporary look of the bank," DeVaney said.

More traditional-style woodwork was used for a branch office located inside a retirement home as a convenience to its residents. Featuring oak with a whitewashed pickled finish, the bank matches the traditional decor of the facility. Fluted columns, turnings and corbels adorn the reception desk and other workstations. DeVaney also custom-made an 8-foot by 6-foot French window for the bank.

Traditional styles are predominantly requested for the shop's light commercial and residential work as well, DeVaney said. Workstations in a local law office feature raised panels, corbels and fluted columns. The traditional motif is continued in the bookshelves and desks. On a more unusual note, DeVaney was commissioned by the senior partner of that firm to create a desk that incorporates elephant head carvings as well as the other traditional motifs.

For that type of job, DeVaney purchases specialty carvings from Raymond Enkeboll Designs. Unique sheep's head carvings were used in a buffet created for a local client. Designed by the customer, the unit features cubbyholes for mementos, bookshelves and numerous cabinets and drawers for paperwork storage. Fluted columns, grapevine mouldings and carved corbels also highlight the piece.

The shop works on residential projects in between larger bank jobs, DeVaney said. While accounting for a small portion of overall sales, the same time and attention is given to these projects. "We have a saying in the shop," he added: "'Any job, big or small, do it well or not at all.'"

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