November 2005

One-Man Shop Gets a Labor-Saving Boost

Ron Drury's new widebelt reduces his lengthy hand-sanding time.

By Sam Gazdziak
Ron Drury Cabinetmaker does some commercial work, such as the casework and reception desk in this eye doctor's office.

It is no wonder Ron Drury's cabinet shop feels like home to him. It is at home. The 4,200-square-foot shop is located in his garage, sharing space with his Hot Rod Model A Ford. "I live out in the country on about 40 acres, and getting close to home with the business was one of the best things I ever did," Drury says.

Ron Drury Cabinetmaker, of Clarksburg, MO, has been in operation for more than 20 years. It had been located at three other locations before its current home. Drury is the sole owner and employee of the company, along with occasional help from his daughter and son-in-law.

Drury builds high-end custom cabinets, bathroom vanities, fireplace mantles and bookcases. Clarksburg is located near Jefferson City, the state capital, and many people who work in Jefferson City live in nearby Clarksburg. "I find that to be a lot of my customer base," Drury notes.

The projects Drury takes on tend to be around $12,000 to $16,000. Drury says he has not spent a penny on advertising in the last 15 years. Instead, he lets the quality and integrity of his work speak for him.

The Little Details

All of Drury's cabinets have a couple of trademark characteristics: He installs his cabinets up to the ceiling and puts a small row of glass around the top of the panels on the door.

"I've been getting a few requests for the Shaker or Mission styles," he notes. "The Shaker is plain and simple, and if you're not careful, it will look cheap." Along with the glass, he adds a beaded edge of oak, hickory or whatever else the cabinet species is.

This oak fireplace mantle and bookcase unit is a typical custom residential project for Ron Drury.

Drury (whose car refurbishing hobby creeps into his woodworking vocabulary) also notes, "I always try to impress on people the value of putting the extra 'chrome' on a set of cabinets in the form of raised-end panels. In almost everything I get out, I try to put raised-end panels on it." The end result of his work, he says, is that someone viewing the cabinets may not notice one little detail or another, but will like and appreciate the overall look.

With the size of his company, Drury says he researches what equipment goes into his shop and gives it careful consideration before making a purchase. A widebelt sander was on his "wish list" for a long time, he says, before he felt he could justify buying one. But finally the time was right.

"For years I wanted a sander, and I could see the benefit of having one," he says. "I finally found something that satisfied the dollar value and gave me the 37-inch sanding width that I needed."

The machine he found is a Timesavers SpeedSander widebelt sander. He bought it and an assortment of belts almost a year ago, and he says it has already paid for itself.

"It has literally cut hours out of the handwork I used to do with the random orbit machines," he says. "The more man-hours I have to spend on sanding and grinding, the less I have for construction and cutting. An hour's worth of work on the SpeedSander is saving me four to six man-hours of labor."

Saving those extra man-hours, while maintaining the same level of quality, can help a small shop stay profitable and competitive, Drury says. For him, the return on investment was seen quickly.



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