Ken Wilcox joined Timber Products Company to spearhead the architectural plywood business at Spectrum last summer. Timberline recently caught up with Ken to learn more about architectural plywood and his team.
What are the differences between architectural plywood and regular plywood?
Wilcox: The main difference is that architectural plywood products are always used for cosmetic surfaces. It’s what shows on the final product, versus the inside of a cabinet, for example. That means architectural plywood requires a lot of attention to detail to create the same grain consistency in the veneer. Architectural plywood is also usually produced for a specific project. About 95% of the time it’s not a stocking item; it’s something a distributor or customer would buy expressly for a project.
What are some uses for architectural plywood?
Wilcox: People use it for projects like residential kitchens, public buildings, law offices, performance halls, and even private jets and motorhomes. Marine-grade architectural plywood is used to create interiors for yachts. (They look like museums; they’re beautiful!) You might see architectural plywood used for a receptionist’s desk, or in an office that not only has wall paneling but which also has doored cabinets integrated with the wall. One of the newer trends is using architectural plywood ceiling grids for sound-deadening purposes.
What would you say is Spectrum’s biggest differentiator?
Wilcox: Our big advantage is the wide array of products we produce. The advantage to distributors is that we can produce their small order of custom architectural panels, and they can mix those panels with a variety of other Timber Products offerings in group shipments to reduce their freight cost. Another differentiation is that standard plywood typically uses very few import species. They stick to things like cherry, white oak, red oak, ash and maple plywood. With Spectrum’s architectural plywood, our customers have access to well over 200 species worldwide, both domestics and exotics, all responsibly sourced. This allows them to achieve the perfect look for their projects.
How long have you been in the business?
Wilcox: I’ve been making architectural plywood for about 25 years, but I’ve been in the hardwood and softwood plywood industry for 46 years. My experience allows me to put a real personal touch on every order—which is important since each order is a custom order. It’s crucial to ask all the right questions: What’s the application? Does it need fire rating? Is weight a factor? Is sequenced matching required? After so long in the business, I can get to the bottom of what a customer really needs and we can value-engineer their project for perfect results.
What else can you tell us about the team and products at Spectrum?
Wilcox: We have a great team. Everybody in the factory is cross-trained on every job, which means the knowledge of each and every employee is incredible. It allows us to produce very high-quality products for our customers because every person is a quality control center. Since our products are so specialized, we often become the lead-in point to Timber Products’ entire line. We can meet a customer’s specific needs, then help them find the rest of what they need to get the job done.
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