2015 marks 100 years since Oscar Onsrud and his son Rudy introduced the world’s first air turbine hand router and began a family dynasty in woodworking machinery – one that has continued through five generations of the Onsrud family.
Before launching C.R. Onsrud, Charlie Onsrud worked with his dad and grandfather back in the 1940s. “I would go in after school and do mechanical drawing work. I was also involved in manufacturing, working in the shop on new prototype machines,” he says.
After Charlie finished a stint in the military, he focused his efforts on manufacturing and selling woodworking machinery. By 1964 he moved to North Carolina because “that’s where the furniture customers were,” he says.
Charlie continued developing machinery to automate the woodworking industry. In 1976 he patented the Inverted Router, a product with abiding popularity. C.R. Onsrud also offers 3-axis and 5-axis CNC routers and machining centers.
As the machinery has evolved, so too has the woodworking industry, Charlie notes. “Twenty to 30 years ago, in my opinion, the furniture industry was very inefficient in terms of manufacturing. They all had duplicate machinery spread out in different plants, instead of, say, one plant dedicated to a process or product. It was great for the machinery manufacturers, but not so great for manufacturing.”
Those inefficiencies drove up costs, which led to companies moving production overseas. But the tide is changing, Charlie notes, and the quality control and fast delivery times – gained with technology and lean manufacturing – are helping bring secondary woodworking back to North America.
Along with Charlie Onsrud, continuing the family legacy at C.R. Onsrud are Tom, president, John, executive vice president and Bill, vice president. Tom’s children, Jeff and Alyson are the fifth generation involved in the woodworking industry.
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