When Stan Cooley, owner of Cooley Custom Cabinetry, realized he was running out of space, he decided to do more than simply add square footage. So, besides increasing the shop's finishing capacity by building an addition, he also added conveyors to move parts through more efficiently.

"When we didn't have that line, cabinets just were not moving. We had one spray booth and a lot smaller manufacturing area," he says.

Cooley says that as the shop, located in Plain City, Ohio, grew to its current 18 employees, he saw how easy it was to have product flow suffer as it went through the shop. The shop created a production line with conveyors it built to move product from the Komo CNC router and frame production area through the shop to the new finishing area and then out the door. Everything that can be on wheels is.

"I always thought that this was the best way to do it because you're moving product from point to point," says Cooley. "If you do this type of production line with movable workstations, they can put a sanding station up against the line and then move the cabinet down the line, sand it or move on down to the next process."

It's really about not lifting cabinets and parts more than necessary, he says.

Custom requirements

Cooley started out in 1987 as a one-man shop building custom cabinetry and has seen solid growth of about 15 percent per year every year. "We're a true custom shop," says Cooley. "A lot of shops say they're custom but take the 3-inch increment box and modify it, where we'll make whatever is needed."

Key to doing this kind of custom cabinetry is the software, says Cooley. "Cabinet Vision is an important tool, because it does so many things. It creates the drawings for the use of the client; it creates the drawings for the shop; it creates all of the cutlists; and it creates the machining instruction for the router."

Cooley's customers consist primarily of high-end custom home builders and remodelers and some referrals. CCC now builds two lines of cabinetry semi-custom and custom. The difference between semi-custom and custom cabinetry is the material used and the price. "Customers save some money, but it's still a nice looking cabinet. It's typical to use it in secondary rooms, even in a high-end house," Cooley says.

Production breakdown

Once the job is a certainty, drawings are done and samples provided, until everything is ready for the customer's signoff. Three color samples are prepared, one for the customer two for the shop, one of which is a master copy of the color. Then the job goes to the Design Tech department to be broken down for production.

Cooley says the design tech typically gets everything ready, including a list of doors to be ordered and all the shop drawings. He then gives the information to the shop manager, who looks through it all and makes sure everything is correct and at that point doors will be ordered as well as mouldings. When everything is ready he sends the job out to the Komo CNC router to be cut. A file travels through the shop to each department with specific instructions and dimensions.

Construction details

Cabinets are constructed using dadoes and face frames, with the frames pocket-screwed to the carcases. The wood for the frames is purchased already milled to the correct dimensions. A Milwaukee miter saw with TigerStop system cuts frame parts to size. A Castle pocket-hole machine is used for the face-frame pocket holes.

"We work to make sure there are no visible fasteners," says Cooley. This makes a difference for the finishing. Because CCC doesn't use nails in the frames, there's no puttying, which means there's no problem with species like cherry, where the color can change over time, he says.

Cabinets are assembled on the conveyor, which starts near the router. Frames put together with the Unique face-frame clamp are joined to the cabinet carcase. Door and drawer fronts are outsourced from either Conestoga or Sommers Wood-N-Door Co. The shop makes some of the drawers using a butt joint, held together with glue and nails. Sometimes it will outsource the drawers, if a customer requests dovetail drawers. A Virutex hotmelt edgebander is used for edgebanding shelves.

Fine finish

Finishing is an important part of the process, says Cooley. The boxes and face frames are sprayed together. "The reason we do that is then we can sand and fill that shell, so when you reach inside of it, it's flush and filled," he says. It gives the cabinets a nice finished quality that you don't see everywhere, he says.

The finish supervisor is in charge of the finishing department and is very skilled with meeting the various challenges required to meet clients' high expectations with various solids, clears and glazes, says Cooley. "They're very competent people."

The shop has two large Binks spray booths, which can be divided up for smaller jobs with a movable divider. CCC uses M.L. Campbell stains and catalyzed lacquer finishes with both airless and air-assisted equipment. Metal drying racks stand alongside homemade racks, all on wheels. After cabinets are finished, hardware is added on and everything is gathered together and marked for placement before the job is loaded on to the shop's trucks.

Installation is the final and most important step, says Cooley.

"We install all our products with our own installers to ensure everything fits perfectly and is installed correctly. It also allows us to solve problems and fix any mistakes quickly to keep the job moving. With our experienced and highly skilled installation supervisor and his crews we were able to offer this service to our clients and keep multiple jobs running at the same time."

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