Custom Millwork & Display, Inc. isn’t afraid to handle challenging and high-visibility millwork jobs.
“Our main business is custom architectural millwork,” says Jerrel Mead. “We have no production items, and we make very little laminate cabinetry. Our main customers are the general contractors that perform work in Northern Indiana and Southern Michigan. We have provided millwork in the Chicago area, and even did a Tilted Kilt in Missouri.
The South Bend, Ind., company also made an elliptical conference table that was part of the CabinetMaker+FDM Pricing Survey several years ago. And it is one of the few FSC Chain of Custody certified shops in Northern Indiana that can handle large millwork projects.
“Somehow we have gravitated toward institutional work,” Mead says. “A good percentage of our annual business is at the University of Notre Dame. We certainly don’t get all the millwork business there, but we have a great relationship with the university. We have also performed work at Ivy Tech, Purdue, Indiana University, Ball State, Bethel College, Holy Cross College, and Saint Mary’s College, Culver Military Academy and numerous K-12 schools.”
Custom Millwork & Display employs seven people in the 12,800 square foot South Bend shop. “At one point we had three times that many employees, but have found that we can be more productive with less people and buy-out more items,” Mead says.
In the shop, the company uses a C. R. Onsrud Panel Pro CNC router, Mikron Multi-Moulder, three shapers and other equipment including a Brandt edgebander, two-head 42-inch SCMI sander and a Mini-Max sliding table saw.
The CNC router, edgebander and receiving area are at one end of the building. Materials are moved to assembly in the middle of the shop, and then on to the finishing area at the other end.
“We utilize the CNC router for everything possible from cutting cabinets, templates, cutting radius hardwood, and carving hardwood,” Mead says. “We also buy out running trim because it is cheaper than trying to do it ourselves. We make all radius components in house.
Custom Millwork & Display faced challenges in making mahogany stair treads and risers of mahogany hardwoods and veneers for the Basilica at Notre Dame.
“The altars have several radius areas, and having been built in 1871, the curves were not a true radius, and one side did not mirror the other,” Mead explains.
Drawings that had been provided were never meant to be templates for making this material, only a bidding reference on the project. There are no precise measurements for the 140-year-old building. The entire building was documented by simple field verification by using a tape.
The altar was covered with carpet, and could not be removed until the Basilica was closed for the three weeks of renovation and installation.
“Since the CAD file proved to be not usable, we had to come up with a way to measure with the carpet in place,” Mead says. “If ETemplate was not available, we would have had to manually template every inch of each step.”
ETemplate Systems developed ELaser and EPhoto three-dimensional measuring systems. EPhoto uses photography to develop an accurate CAD-based template from sets of digital photographs, measuring the entire space. ELaser software integrates the 3D laser to import and process the measurement data. It automatically draws the project in CAD as the measurements are being collected.
“Since the bid documents called for the existing nosing to be removed, we measured to each riser. The big challenge was that the top tread had to match up to existing marble with a brass trim around the perimeter. The brass trim was bent around the radius marble, and had several “flat” areas where it was not a true radius. The top tread also had to be planed down to ½ inches thick (other treads were ¾ inch thick) and receive a rabbet to go over the flange of the brass trim. This necessitated cutting the top tread upside down on the CNC.”
For the riser measurements, Custom Millwork was able to use masking tape as markers. Where the carpet met the brass trim at the top tread, Mead inserted laminate samples every 5 or 6 inches, and shot to those. That worked well.
“They were able to provide us a CAD file with the layout of each riser and the brass/marble existing platform floor,” Mead says. “From there, we deducted for the carpet, added for the new riser material, and the overhang needed for the lighting that was tucked behind the hardwood nosing.”
Mead says that the ETemplate system came through for them in a pinch. “If you look at the pulpit you will notice that it is tucked into a column. There were probably 20 different angles that needed to be cut into the landing, and ETemplate was able to provide a vellum template for the contractor. This helped tremendously because the handrail was not removable, and each post had to also be notched.
For future projects, Mead says he plans to continue to meld craftsmanship with technology.
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