‘Taylor’-Making Custom Finishes

Using intriguing combinations of glaze, crackle, stain, paint and wood toner, a New Jersey shop beautifies furniture one piece at a time.

By Lisa Whitcomb

Taylor Made Custom Cabinetry

Palmyra, NJ


Year Founded: 1988

Employees: 11

Shop Size: 7,200 square feet

FYI: Owner Jay Taylor received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in woodworking and furniture design from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.


When confronted by an impending career day project in the eighth grade to make a career choice for his future, Jay Taylor, Taylor Made Custom Cabinetry, Palmyra, NJ, remembers fondly that he wanted more than anything to be a carpenter. Upon hearing of his career aspirations, Taylor’s uncle suggested that he take the idea one step further and consider becoming a cabinetmaker. “He said, “Jay, carpentry jobs come and go. But if you become a cabinetmaker, you will always have work. [If times are slow and you have no cabinets to make,] you can always fall back on your carpentry skills, but not the other way around,” recalls Taylor.

That advice stuck with him through his formative years, and in high school Taylor pursued training through wood shop and vocational schooling. After graduation, he was unsure of exactly how to apply his training in the woodworking field, so Taylor decided to go to college and specialize in furniture woodworking and design. He says that the program he was enrolled in at Indiana University of Pennsylvania was small, and when he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, he was the only one graduating in that major that year.

This maple entertainment unit was finished with a honey-colored stain and a white glaze.  

“When I got out of college, I wanted to get into custom woodworking, so I worked for three different cabinet shops doing custom work. Then, I worked for an exhibit company for a while, so my woodworking experiences were pretty varied. I always knew that I wanted to own my own business and said to myself one day in 1989, ‘The time to do it is now.’ I quit my job and opened my own shop,” says Taylor.

Building a client base with design appeal

Taylor Made Custom Cabinetry grew slowly in the early years, servicing the Delaware Valley and eastern seaboard. Taylor did mostly renovation work back then because the overhead was low and he “could afford to do it.” While working to become a high-end custom cabinet shop and fulfill his dream, Taylor slowly transformed the company over the first six years into his ideal business.

“I looked into several different woodworking markets when I was getting out of renovations and decided early on that I wanted to build cabinetry and furniture pieces for clients who would appreciate good design, fine craftsmanship and not be overly concerned with price,” he says. “I never wanted to be in a mass-production middle market because I have so much background in design. I wanted my work to be artistic, one-of-a-kind and special.”


The Finishing Touches

Depending on what finish a client desires, Taylor Made Custom Cabinetry uses a multi-step finishing process to achieve that look. First, toner is applied to darken wood like oak, for example, resulting in a piece that has the look of mahogany. The toner is available in several colors and is misted onto the wood, either prior to staining or after, giving the wood a subtle layer of detail that is enhanced by the stain. If the toner is applied after the stain, a sanding sealer is applied before the toner.

After the surface has been prepared, stain is applied using either the wet or dry method and then hand-rubbed into the desired depth. Painted furniture pieces are also prepared in the same fashion. Gold leafing, glaze, crackle and a clear coat of lacquer can be applied to add character to a piece. “You get a real depth of color, and the look is very sharp,” says Taylor.

Through trial and error, Taylor has devised several attractive finishing effects by spot crackling and applying glaze colors in different thicknesses. He has also mixed the two finishes and added toner to a piece for additional dimension. As a final step, every piece of furniture o

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