What happens when you combine a father who is a master electrician and a son who is an accomplished woodworker and cabinetmaker? The answer is Displayrite Cabinetry and an ingenious patented lighting system.

Bill Witkoski and his son, Bill Jr., worked together in their Oxford, Conn.-based shop to develop a system that solves many of the problems associated with interior cabinet and display lighting while opening up new opportunities for adding lighting to cabinets and furniture that have rarely been lit in the past.

Light where you want

Most conventional cabinet interior lighting is a top-down affair with lights mounted in the top of the cabinet. If there are shelves, they have to be glass to let any of the light travel to the lower regions of the cabinet. The senior Witkoski was awarded a patent for the system he designed to solve that problem.

"We wanted to create lighting that was built in to each shelf and was movable," he says.

The result is a subtle but remarkable difference. Even with opaque shelves, each shelf is evenly illuminated, from the top to the bottom of the cabinet. And each shelf still retains full adjustability, so shelves can be moved up or down in the case with ease at any time, requiring no change in wiring.

How it works

Witkoski's system uses a low-voltage 12-volt power supply that also eliminates the heat caused by halogen and other lighting systems. Special fixtures he designed each hold a 5- to 10-watt xenon bulb and are routed into a recess on the underside of the shelf. Spring-loaded pin contacts in the ends of the shelf contact with a thin metal strip recessed in a narrow slot cut into the interior sides of the cabinet. No matter where the shelf is moved, the pins make contact to complete the circuit and provide electricity to the lights.

With the low voltage and low heat of the system, Witkoski says it is a very safe system, and all components carry UL ratings.

Long development

While the Witkoskis have seen many of their systems go into the residential kitchens and built-ins that are the bulk of what the younger Witkoski builds, the system has its roots in the commercial arena.

The senior Witkoski talked to the people running the golf pro shop at the Westchester Country Club in New York. They had been lighting their display shelves with track lighting mounted in the ceiling, but were not satisfied. Customers looking closely at merchandise necessarily stepped in the path of the lights, casting shadows right where they wanted to look.

Witkoski went to work experimenting with battery-operated Christmas lights and off-the-shelf hardware from Home Depot to develop the first system. Westchester loved the results, and now Witkoski has installed the system in 40 or 50 golf pro shops.

Beyond shelves

The system has grown in sophistication from that first project, with Witkoski continuing to refine it. It took two and a half years for him to win his patent on the original system, and he is currently working with another manufacturer to develop proprietary bulb fixtures just for his system.

Installations have also expanded way beyond golf pro shops. In addition to residential shelf applications such as library cabinets and upper kitchen cabinets, Witkoski has developed installations for drawers and cabinets with doors so when you open the drawers or doors, the interior lights go on automatically. This is a particular boon for deep lower kitchen cabinets.

He's even experimented with systems installed under tables in retail stores so the space under the table can be used for effective display, too.

Easy to install

Both of the Witkoskis say the system is designed to be easy to install with conventional woodworking equipment such as a hand-held router. But the senior Witkoski says he thinks the system offers a particular opportunity for shops with CNC capabilities to add value to their cabinet systems with minimal effort.

While the father and son have had good success selling and installing the system themselves, they are currently in the process of developing a program to offer licensing so other shops can use the patented system with their full technical and parts support. Shops interested in the system can check out the company's Web site at  www.displayritecabinetry.com or phone 203/881-3828. l

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