|$7.00 MDF CABINET DOORS
IN 2 MINUTES!
More and more woodworking shops
are purchasing advanced computer controlled woodworking machines that they would not even
have considered several years ago. One explanation is the increased demand for products
that require patterns of a complexity that would be extremely time-consuming to produce by
hand. Another reason is that computerized woodworking reduces the need for skilled labor
which is becoming increasingly scarce and costly. Finally, the recent dramatic reduction
in the cost of computerized woodworking equipment has put their price within the
affordable range for all but the smallest shops.
It is now possible to buy an advanced computer controlled
routing center capable of producing virtually any wood design within a size limitation of
49 inches by 41 inches by 7 inches for under $19,000. A woodworking shop that has
recently begun using this new technology is highlighted in this article. It is a cabinet
shop that produces contoured one-piece doors for $7 that look better than five-piece doors
that they previously purchased for $25 each.
PepperTree Kitchen and Bath, Inc., Salt Lake City, Utah, is a custom cabinet shop that
specializes in producing European-style frameless cabinets. This type of cabinet dispenses
with the frame by making the case of the cabinet thicker typically 3/4 inch
to provide the necessary structural strength. One advantage is that the appearance is
cleaner because the frame is gone and hinges are hidden the walls and doors are all
that is visible. Another plus is that the lack of a frame means that less labor is
required to build them. The only drawback is that the rest of the structure must be built
to considerably closer tolerances. This is because the frame of a frame-type cabinet can
be scribed to compensate for inaccuracies while this option does not exist with a
A simultaneous trend in the cabinet industry is the increased popularity of painted
surfaces with white and several pastels being the most popular colors at present. This
creates problems with conventional 5-piece raised panel doors normally used with
European-style cabinets because as the wood expands and contracts, cracks can appear in
the paint which spoil its appearance. Another problem with these doors is that they
require a lot of labor to build by hand; thus most smaller cabinet shops are forced to buy
them at about $25 each from suppliers that use computer controlled equipment to produce
them in high volumes. Cabinet shops that take this approach run the risk of late door
deliveries causing them to miss their own deadlines.
with these difficulties, PepperTree Kitchen & Bath, Inc. President Steve Sewell
decided to switch to building single-piece doors that look identical to traditional
five-panel doors. He recognized that routing such a complicated pattern by hand would be
uneconomical so he began to investigate computer-controlled routers. He was aware of
several such machines in the $60,000 to $100,000 price range but felt that this amount
would be impossible to justify at the companys current production volume.
Then he heard about the Techno Series III PC-Driven CNC Wood Router (Techno/Isel USA,
New Hyde Park, New York) which is designed for production routing and drilling on a wide
variety of materials including wood, plastic, MDF, solid surfacing materials and
nonferrous metals. Sewell priced a model with two cutting heads, a 49-inch by 41 inch
cutting area and Z-axis height of 2 inches at $19,000.
Table technical specifications include a rapid travel rate of 200 inches per minute, a
Z-axis cutting force of 200-lbs. maximum, 0.0004-inch/foot resolution and repeatability
and 0.003 inch absolute accuracy. This combination of capabilities and price proved
irresistible so in early 1991
Sewell bought his first computer controlled machine. Sewell realized that the wide
range of styles and sizes he needed would require a considerable amount of programming if
conventional methods were used. So he hired a local programmer to write a simple basic
program that automatically generates any size door in each of the five styles frequently
produced by the company. Each style requires a 1-1/2" wide, 1/16" deep trough to
be cut out in the shape of a square, arch, cathedral top or half circle pattern. Two
different bits are required to produce these doors: a 1/4" round convex bit for the
outside of the pattern and a convex bit for the inside.
two-headed machine substantially speeds up production by eliminating the need to change
bits. Each program begins with a plunge cut 2 inches from the edge of the door using the
1/4" round bit. The outside edge of the pattern is traced and then the bit is used to
1-1/2" wide flat area within the pattern. Finally, the convex bit is used to
finish the inside edge of the pattern. An additional door style produced by the company is
a mullion with four panes of glass. This style is produced by making a through cut for
each pane while leaving a lip on the backside to secure the glass. In order to generate a
program for any one of these styles, the user simply calls up the program corresponding to
the style. The program prompts the user to enter the height and width of the door and then
automatically generates an ASCII file which is read by the machine control program to
produce the part. The new router has made it possible for PepperTree to produce one-piece
doors with the patterns mentioned above in about two minutes.
Total cost of producing the doors has been reduced to $7 per door which is a 72%
savings over the previous cost of purchasing them from an outside supplier.
The complicated process of cutting, fitting, sanding and assembling five-piece doors,
which typically takes about an hour by hand per door, has been totally eliminated. The new
one-piece doors expand and contract evenly thus avoiding paint cracking and improving
appearance significantly over conventional 5-piece doors. Furthermore, PepperTree has
complete control over when the doors are produced so they have eliminated installation
delays caused by late deliveries from outside suppliers. Finally, Sewell is planning in
the near future to begin programming custom-carved door patterns which can easily be
produced by the Techno machine.
For more information contact Techno-Isel, 2101 Jericho Turnpike, Box 5416, New Hyde
Park, N Y 11042-5416. Phone: 516-328-3970.