California Cabinetmaker Makes a Move into Home Offices

Wayne Frizzell of Wayne's Woodworks sees home offices as a growing trend and is gearing up to focus on that market.

BY HELEN KUHL

A change is in the air at Wayne's Woodworks in Anaheim, CA. Owned by Wayne Frizzell, who has logged more than 20 years in full-time woodworking, the shop previously has focused primarily on high-end residential kitchens and cabinetry for the ritzier areas of Orange County.

But lifestyles in that area are changing, thanks to clogged highways and the advent of computer technology which makes long-distance networking easy, Frizzell said. More people are choosing to work at home and are setting up home offices to do it. And Wayne's Woodworks is poised and ready to help.

"We are finding that many people in Los Angeles and Orange County are getting tired of driving these freeways and, with communications the way they are today, they can do the same thing at home that they used to do at the office," Frizzell said. "A lot of people are doing home offices now. We're getting more home offices than kitchens lately."

Most of the home office jobs average about $5,000, Frizzell said, although one project was $28,000. It included a desk with an Auton pop-up lift that raised the computer, and cabinets to accommodate the CPU, a printer and communications equipment that rolled out.

The company has become familiar with the idiosyncrasies of building cabinets for computers by trial and error and now has quite a bit of expertise, Frizzell said. "We have fallen into about every pit there is to fall into," he said. "But we learned a lot."

For example, Frizzell has learned to provide adequate ventilation for the CPUs so they don't burn out. "You have to put fans in the cabinets and have adequate air flow," he said. "We put holes in the floor and holes in the back corners. The cold air comes up from the floor and goes out through holes at the top corners."

Cosmetically, clients do not like to see cables running back and forth across their counters or work surfaces, he added. "So when we do home offices, every interior panel in the system has a three-inch hole cut in a specific place in a top corner," he said. "The advantage is that when we install the work surface and the monitor is at one end and the printer is at the other end, we can cut a hole and run a cable inside where it doesn't show. All the holes line up, and the cable goes right through them to the printer. We just cut a hole in the counter and the cable comes up right there.

"This way, it's all done in the shop. So you don't have to climb inside a cabinet and try to drill a hole in the corner where you will have a hard time getting to it on-site," he added. "We have learned to set up for cabling ahead of time."

Frizzell said he expects his experience to give him an edge over any competitors as the home office market grows. While there is a lot of competition in his area for building kitchens, bathrooms and even garage cabinets and closet systems, Frizzell said that the home office market is wide open.

"There are a lot of new housing starts around here. When the contractor builds a job, he puts in the kitchen and the bathrooms and maybe even a wet bar. But he doesn't build a home office," he said. "In my opinion, the home office is the hot field of the near future. We think we will get more home offices than anything else this coming year, based on our experience so far."

In addition to being a promising market, home offices appeal to Frizzell because they provide him with an opportunity to play with the computers themselves, a favorite pastime of his. "I really like to play with computers," he said. "So when I incorporate that into my work, I get to play."

Frizzell enjoys the computer work so much that in addition to doing the woodworking and installation for home offices, he will set up the customer's computers and related equipment as well. This also gives the shop a competitive edge, he said.

"We do the whole job. We tell clients that we will design their home office, build it, install it and set up the computer equipment so that when they get home from work, they are ready to go. And a lot of people take us up on that offer," he said.

While sometimes he will add something into the cost, Frizzell said that he does the computer setup primarily as a service. But it is also good advertising because customers tell their friends about the extra service.

Frizzell also uses his computer proficiency to help him sell jobs. "We have a laptop that we take out into the field, equipped with our design and estimating software package and a color printer," he said. "I can go to a customer's home and work with him to develop a project on the computer. In one meeting, I can do the design, draw the plan, give the customer a color hard copy, do a proposal, get a signature and get a check.

"I also have a modem and I can plug into the customer's phone line and fax the drawings back to the shop. The project could be underway before I leave the house! While we are actually about two months out on our jobs now, that's the capability of the computer and the software," he added.

Frizzell said that he uses KCDw Cabinetmaking Software, which does the designs and also does cutlists and pricing. In addition, he has a digital camera and can load photos into the laptop, which becomes a computer portfolio of his work. He also is developing a Web site (www.wwoodworks.com). However, that will be maintained by his wife, Donna, who also handles bookkeeping, marketing and office duties for the company.

Most of his business comes from word-of-mouth, and he also runs Yellow Pages ads in the wealthier areas of Orange County. He works mainly with customers directly, but does some projects with interior designers. He said he focuses on the high-end market, because "we can't make any money at the lower end."

The shop covers 2,400 square feet, with an additional 2,600 square feet available on a second floor, where Frizzell hopes to put a showroom eventually. He has three full-time employees, plus himself and Donna. Annual sales are $400,000, he said.

About 25 percent of the company's projects are in laminates and the rest is solids and veneers. Wayne's lays up its own veneers, including bookmatching and custom veneer work, using a shop-made veneer press.

Sheet stock is cut on a Robland Z320 sliding table saw from Laguna Tools. Currently the shop uses a Lamello biscuit joiner from Colonial Saw and Confirmat fasteners for joinery. But Frizzell said his current business plan calls for the purchase of a point-to-point boring machine and a switch to dowel construction.

One of his most recent purchases was a Casadei Industria K20/10R edgebander, also from Laguna. Previously, edgebands were applied by hand and created a bottleneck, he said. With the new machine, that problem has been eliminated.

Other shop equipment includes a pocket screw slotter from Castle Tool, a 1928 Davis & Wells bandsaw, an Edgetech edge sander, and DeWalt and Hitachi chop saws. A Powermatic tablesaw is used to cut solid wood.

Most cabinetry is frameless, and Wayne's uses Julius Blum Euro-style hinges. Most drawer slides are from Accuride, and the company uses a lot of full-extension slides because in the home office, it is important to be able to pull a file drawer all the way out, Frizzell said.

Most finishing is contracted out, although Wayne's will do some finishing on-site and occasionally will drape a curtain and spray in the shop in a pinch. He uses Wagner airless sprayers in the field and has an HVLP system with a Binks pressure pot and a Wagner gun for finishes in the shop.

Frizzell has been in his current location for about five years. His first shop was in Fullerton, and he also was in Orange for six or seven years, he said.

He has done woodworking most of his life, he added. "I can remember my dad yelling at me when I was 8 years old, 'You stay away from that tablesaw. You're going to cut all your fingers off.' That was on a dairy farm in northern New Hampshire, way out in the country. We built everything we needed ourselves, so I starting building things when I was a kid. I mostly taught myself."

However, woodworking initially was just a hobby for Frizzell, who went into law enforcement after the military. He was a police officer in Los Angeles County for eight years and then was police chief in a small New England town for three years. "But I realized that I had such an interest in woodworking that I had to give up law enforcement or I was going to get hurt," he said. "I would be out on patrol, but I would be thinking about what I was going to build when I got home."

Frizzell's formal woodworking education was at Cerritos College California School of Woodworking in the Los Angeles area, where he received basic training as well as studying European cabinet design and construction. He started woodworking full-time in Fullerton and has spent the past 23 years doing "what I love," he said.

For the future, he not only looks to a buildup of home office work locally, but also through the Web site. He envisions offering a high-quality RTA product that is easy to put together and can be shipped anywhere, which is one reason for his inclusion of the point-to-point machine in his business plan.

"With a Web site, you can show your product and then say, 'If you want to see how easy these are to put together, click here,' and demonstrate it. If a customer sees it, he will say, 'I can do that,' and he will order it," Frizzell said. "That's my feeling, anyway.

"This is a whole new field for us," he added. "With the Internet, who knows where the market can go. If it takes off, with my business plan, I'll be ready to expand."

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