Foreseeing the Many Facets of Solid Surfacing Materials

Addison, IL, shop owners saw a solid future for the use of acrylic surfaces in the home when they invested in materials and equipment back in the early '80s.

By Lisa Whitcomb

Almost 20 years ago, brothers, Chuck and Steve Sprovieri of Addison, IL, opened Sprovieri’s Custom Counters on a strong hunch that solid surface materials would one day be as popular in the home as laminates.

       
 
Solid surface material is very pliable when thermoformed, lending itself well to creative outlets such as guitar bodies, picture frames, columns and other accessories. To date, the shop has made 20 promotional guitars like the one shown.  
       

Initially solid surface products and their uses were not highly visible to the general public. However, Chuck and Steve grew up in the industry because their father was a cabinetmaker, so they were aware of the material when it was first introduced to the market. “Steve and I saw the opportunity in Corian in the early 80s,” says Chuck. Around that same time, he purchased the material and used it to put a shower in his home. “I thought it was really nice and a great product that people would love in their showers and probably as countertops, too,” he adds.

Following the installation, the Sprovieri brothers got together and discussed the pros and cons of the product and its probable future, and decided to go into business together fabricating the solid surface material. “We saw the market changing and looked at it as a higher end product that we could specialize in,” says Steve. People wanted to upgrade from laminates to solid surface, and the material soon proved to be a favorite with homeowners, just as the brothers had hoped.

Although solid surface material was quite expensive when it first came out, it has dropped significantly in price, Chuck notes. Improvements in machinery technology have also had an influence on fabricating. “Technology has been available in the woodworking industry for a very long time, but solid surface materials are considerably newer so the technology hasn’t really caught up to the fabrication process until recently,” he says. “Now we are seeing a lot of custom machine manufacturers investing in the solid surface business, and we are now reaping the benefits of some of that technology.”

Moving Away from Cradle-to-Grave Production

“When we first started fabricating it was a cradle-to-grave type of operation for me and Steve. We could only fabricate three or four jobs a week. Now, with 50 employees, our facility is more production driven, and we are doing over 15 jobs a day,” says Chuck. He credits the shop’s production increases to the efficient machinery that is currently available to solid surface fabricators.

The shop uses a Profilematic V-groover to miter fold edges, tops and cove backsplashes. It is also used to create tongue-and-grooving, for wall panels or any other application where a hard seam is not desired. Additionally, the shop houses a variety of hand-held power tools, as well as a Komo VR 512 Mach III CNC router; a Striebig panel saw from Colonial Saw; a custom built thermoformer; a Pinske coving system, which is made up of several pieces including a Powermatic 27 shaper and clamping devices; two Delta Unisaw 10-inch tilting arbor saws; a Powermatic 10-inch table saw; E-Template digital software which is used with a digitizer machine that converts the code into router language, and a Murphy Rodgers dust collection system.

The Sprovieris like to hire and train all potential employees, a practice that Chuck Sprovieri believes is beneficial to the company’s success because he says the shop’s fabricating processes and general way of doing things is comparatively different than its competitors. “Our manufacturing process is different in the fact that we are using more technology than what a lot of other shops out there are using. We also use cellular fabrication, structured labor stations, which is considerably different than the way a lot of other shops are run.”

Steve Sprovieri does all of the design work, and the shop offers a design service to its customers as well. “I look at a lot of European kitchen and bath trade magazines, especially the Italian ones for design ideas,” he says. With the use of V-groovers, CNC routers and thermoformers, the shop can fabricate practically anything out of DuPont Corian, its material of choice.

Fabricating A Mélange of Solid Surfacing Products

     
 
This “natural stone” look with the chiseled edges is very popular with homeowners, says Chuck Sprovieri. The application can be applied to countertops, vanity tops, tables (as shown) and other unique pieces of furniture.  
 

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