Matching finishes adds value
By Linda Ohm, Managing Editor
October 15, 2009 | 7:00 pm CDT

Dale Kufahl, owner of Cabinetry Plus in Columbus, Wis., had a problem. He wanted to be able to offer interior doors and trim to match the custom cabinets his company built. At the same time, he was approached by a local door wholesaler unhappy with his finisher.

"I could see that we would never be able to keep up with that doing it by hand, so I needed to automate the process somehow," says Kufahl.

Cabinetry Plus had built a plant addition before deciding to put in a finishing line. Kufahl had to fit a line within the space and proportions of the new addition.

Space considerations led Kufahl to evaluate finishes before the equipment. "Once I got the finish, then I knew my dry times and I knew what equipment to look for," he says. "That was key -- the finish."

Finish first

Cabinetry Plus decided on Arch Coatings, which it learned about from Fasse Paints in Sheboygan, Wis. Kufahl needed to match the finishes on the trim, interior doors and cabinetry and the budget made it difficult to do all systems with ultraviolet. Arch Coatings was able to do it with conversion varnish and UV, he says.

"We were thinking conversion varnish, until we tested UV. Once I saw what UV could do for us I wanted to find a way to make it happen. Nobody could make it happen better than Arch and that was great," says Kufahl.

The finish Kufahl chose is a dual-cure UV coating that is solvent-based with low VOCs. Arch Coatings says that the dual-cure system does not require the high temperatures for drying as do more conventional finishes. More moderate temperatures between 100 and 110 C are generally used and cold UV can be used for final drying, putting less stress on the wood.

For Kufahl, quick drying times were crucial to his finishing equipment choices in the space available. He says he got great capacity, a very high quality finish and a high recovery rate on the overspray. The company also purchased an Aireworks dust control system to handle the specific needs of the finishing line.

Equipment fits the finish

Kufahl chose a Giardina flatline finishing system with a door flipper and vacuum lifting mechanism at the beginning and end of the line. Kufahl trusted the machine rep, knew the equipment and knew people who were using the equipment and were satisfied with its performance.

All the finishing equipment was tested using the Arch finish. "With Giardina we'd test all day and the belt was perfectly clean," says Kufahl. This was not the case with other systems he said. That was an important consideration in the machine choice. "The belt cleaning system is second to none from what I've seen," he adds.

The system in action

After being installed in February, it was important to get the system up and running for its door wholesaler customer. "The first thing we ran through, it worked. It was amazing," says Kufahl.

The product moving through the new finishing system now is the wholesale customer's interior doors, which come in unfinished. A door is lifted onto the conveyor with a vacuum lift and goes first through a DMC widebelt sander with a veneer belt and two orbital sanders. The door proceeds through the QuickWood SandTech denibber and some door styles may get an additional hand sanding. Before any stain is applied the door goes through a brush cleaner to remove any sawdust from the sanding.

Stain is applied with Kremlin spray guns, after which an automatic wiper evens out the stain. Again, hand wiping is done whenever necessary on the conveyor. The doors then go through a dryer but not the ultraviolet lights. The doors are flipped to the other side with the automatic flipper, loaded onto a cart with vacuum lifts and returned to the beginning of the line for the same process to be done to the other side of the door.

When the doors receive the sealer coat, the sander and denibber are turned off and the doors move directly through the spray machine, then the oven and UV lights until they reach the door flipper. The process is then repeated on the other side. For the final coat the doors run through the denibber, are hand sanded, brush cleaned, sprayed and dried with UV lights. A section of the conveyor has plastic covers that flip open to accommodate any touchup. The company determines the amount of material used by weight, measured in grams, to keep track of efficiency. A door is weighed before and after it goes through the finishing system.

A certain amount of tweaking was involved to get the exact finish Kufahl wanted. "Arch and Giardina had to impress me," he says. "I was really looking for something special and I think the results show."

Systems to fit

Initially Kufahl was considering that the same system would handle the trim as well. "I'm glad we didn't go that way because there's no way to keep up," he says. Instead the company bought a Makor finishing line with computerized sander and stacker, which does all the trim.

The Makor line is set up adjacent to the Giardina line in the new building. The finish on the trim is conversion varnish and is an exact match to the UV finish, both of which are produced by Arch.

Cabinets are finished in booths using conventional spraying techniques. In cabinet production Kufahl upgraded his finishing process by purchasing a Holz-Her three-head widebelt veneer sander. All the equipment purchased is intended to improve the quality and consistency of the finish of Cabinetry Plus' products.

The company uses Cabinet Vision and Cimtech software for its cabinetry work. It has a Komo CNC router, a Striebig vertical panel saw, Safety Speed panel router, three TigerStop systems and a Whirlwind chopsaw.

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