We've made several machinery purchases for the shop, but perhaps the most random and unnecessary, we thought, was the $1,850 Castle pocket boring machine. It was random and unnecessary because when I bought the machine we didn’t particularly have a dire need for it. We weren’t wasting large amounts of time manually drilling pocket screws.
The main reason for the purchase was the fact that my largest account was closing on a huge inset face-frame kitchen remodel, and when it came time for us to build the cabinets, I didn’t want to be drilling the pocket screws in every rail manually. But, what actually happened was that the inset face-frame job kept getting postponed and delayed and did not actually begin until last November, 5 months after the initial proposed start date.
That five month delay taught us something unexpected, though. We realized how valuable a pocket boring machine was to our shop, even a shop that does very little face-frame cabinetry. We didn’t realize how often we would use pocket screws until we had the ability to make them with the touch of a foot pedal. Rather than nailing paint-grade face frames through the front, we now use pocket screws. We also use pocket screws to build all our crown moulding nailing strips, rather than brad nailing through the finished face. No having to get the drill, dig the jig out of the tool box, and fight your way through drilling the holes.
The next purchase for the shop, a 6′x12′ cargo trailer, was less flashy and “cool”, but incredibly valuable to the company. Up until this point, we were using the work van that belonged to our other company, Shutter Crafts. There were multiple things wrong with this set-up.
The first being that every time we drove to a J. Alexander Fine Woodworking job, we did so in a vehicle with another company's logo on the side. Just a little tacky and less than professional. The next error in this method was that a work van is not really designed to haul cabinetry. We had to deal with the wheel wells inside the cargo area, as well as a less than stellar height clearance inside the van, which was even worse when you factored in the curve corners that connected the sides to the ceiling.
Another factor, that had only recently become an issue, was that both companies were becoming more and more busy, which meant that trying to schedule the use of our one work van was becoming an issue. But, the proverbial straw that finally broke the camels back, was that I just hired my second employee, who was going to be my main install guy. Just because I was willing to fight with the limitations of a work van, did not mean I was going to ask him to do the same. This option may have worked when we were a one-man shop, but now that we were growing, it was time to upgrade our transportation system.
I researched everything I could about the merits of a cargo van vs. trailer, and in the end decided on the trailer. The initial trailer purchase was less expensive than a box van, we already owned the necessary diesel truck to pull the trailer, the gas mileage was greater with the truck than with a cargo van, there was less that could go wrong on a trailer than on a cargo van, and the trailer gave us more versatility and flexibility for future growth and changing needs.
My only must-have requirement, a ramp, was hard to find on a used trailer in our local market. So, I paid a visit to Trailers Plus, a local manufacturer of cargo trailers, and picked up a new 6′x12′ single axle trailer, with a ramp, for a bit less than $3,000.
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