In this day of the 2-day delivery mindset, we can become accustomed to having whatever we want, almost immediately. But if you’re in the market for custom woodwork from a master craftsman, that mindset is not your friend. One thing that must be considered is turnaround time. Purchasing a custom piece, whether it is furniture or cabinetry, is not like shopping for everyday things. A lot of planning and labor goes into custom woodwork.
Depending on where the wood shop/studio is located, getting supplies can take weeks. That can be even longer if any specialty hardware or lighting is backordered. With Just in Time inventory, which is widely used these days, manufacturers of these items won’t have them in stock. Since we are in rural Wyoming, when we order wood we have to plan around the supplier’s delivery schedule. Our regular wood orders are delivered every two weeks, so we have to plan in advance to have it here in time.
Also, there will, more than likely, be clients already in line for work. Remember, if the artist (I am referring to Scott in this case) is worth your time and money, he won’t be willing to rush his work. That is a good thing. You want the best your money can buy, and you shouldn’t settle for mediocrity. Your woodworker should want to give each customer his best work. That includes you, so remember to allow for enough time.
Scott will often do small jobs along with big ones, because he is set up to do both at once, and because he has assistants who help him with certain parts of the process. While waiting during drying time, he can work on something else. That way he is more efficient. However, he will not push one client in front of another, so it’s best if you try to plan as far in advance as you can. If you think you are interested in some future work, talk with Scott in advance so that he can get you scheduled if you decide to move forward with the project.
Building takes considerable labor. Scott, with the help of his team of assistants, builds almost every wooden component he uses. Occasionally, he will purchase small pieces, such as more elaborate corbels, and he will commission local metal workers to make metal pieces for him. But, for the most part, your piece will be built meticulously in his shop. That takes time.
For instance, if Scott is building your cabinets, they are fabricated here in Lander, not purchased from a wholesaler. He buys your wood in rough boards, then he planes and edges it, board by board, numbering and planning for the design. Each board has several passes through the planer and then go through the jointer, just to get the board ready to use. There are several more stages before that board becomes part of a cabinet door, drawer front, face frame, or trim.
After each part is completed, it has to be hand finished. Hand finishing takes longer, but it is preferable in our opinion. Then the cabinets are put together, and hardware, drawers, pull-outs, and other special inserts are installed. After Scott is satisfied, the blocks of cabinets are numbered, disassembled, wrapped, and loaded for delivery and installation on-site. Obviously, this whole process can take many weeks to months, depending on the size of the job. A small, single vanity may only take a couple of weeks to build and finish, but a whole house of cabinetry and trim can take 6 months or more.
Scott will not rush installation, either. He is very particular about the finished product. He wants it to be as close to perfect as it can be, so he will spend as much time as is needed in order to be able to feel good about putting his name on his work. And he does put his name on his work. Scott will “sign” his work with his brand in an inconspicuous place, because each project is uniquely designed, built, finished, and installed just for each customer.
One might wonder why it is necessary to wait for a custom-built project, and in fact, we have that question asked of us from time to time. The answer is simply that doing things the right way takes time. True custom woodworking is an art which has been slowly lost to CNC automation in bigger shops, but the difference in quality is astounding. One only needs to handle the work of a master craftsman to experience that difference. Do you want the best?
So let's imagine you have decided that you are ready to give Scott a call. Maybe you are in the market for a new table, or cabinets. In any case, the process is similar. Here is a quick glimpse of what that consultation might include.
If you call, Scott will have some questions for you to get an idea about what you are needing. If you e-mail, he will still want to talk with you. "Why does he need to call me?", you might ask. Frequently, people want a ball-park answer about cost and time-frame, but without enough information, it is not possible to give a price. There are so many variables to consider. Scott will need some basic information, such as:
- What is the job?
- When are you planning for this job to be completed?
- What type of wood do you want?
- What style are you interested in?
- How do you want this finished?
- Approximately what are the dimensions you are looking for, if you know?
- Do you have photos or drawings of styles that you are drawn to?
- Are you local, or will I need to travel?
There may be others, depending on the circumstances.
After he has some information, he will make an appointment to meet with you in person and make some rough sketches. We will show you samples, if possible, and if you want any assistance in designing or deciding what you want, we will help you any way we can. If you need less help, he will just plan based on your designs, if you would like more guidance, he is available to make suggestions. The meeting can be in your home/business, or in our home, shop, or showroom. Then, based on your answers, he will give you a ball park answer about cost and time frame.
If everything sounds right to you, he will work on more detailed ideas with you and take more measurements. He may give you samples. He will then figure a written proposal for you, and once he has your "Okay" we will send you an invoice for the down payment for materials, so that we can be ready when it is time to begin the work. We won't order materials without the deposit.
Depending on the size of the job, he will break your installments into payments. Each one is due upon receipt, and the final is due at installation/delivery. Once he gives you a written contract, he doesn't change prices unless you make changes.
Scott stands behind his word, and he has never had a disappointed customer. He cares very much about customer satisfaction. References are always available!
"Scott is a true craftsman. His concern for the owner's satisfaction sets Scott apart from any other contractor who has ever worked for us"
Arthur and Susan Stewart
A long time ago, all cabinets were built and installed to order, often by master craftsmen. These days, most cabinets are built in factories and sold as stock cabinets. These prefabricated, “Ready to Install” cabinets can range in quality from very good to not very good at all. As a rule, you will hopefully get what you pay for. Then there are custom cabinets.
Everyone’s idea of the definition of custom is different. Some contractors offer what they call custom cabinets, and don’t get me wrong, they can be very nice, but are more likely semi-custom. It is common for customers to be able to choose from a few stock cabinet boxes, and to choose the door and drawer style, the type of wood, and the hardware they would like to have installed on those boxes. Again, we are not saying that this isn’t a good option. It may be just what that customer needs. The cabinets can be very nice, and could possibly be more affordable. That is sometimes not the case, as the contractor is marking them up, and then charging for installation. That is simply not our definition of truly custom cabinetry.
A fully custom kitchen (or cabinetry/furniture for another room) should be built to fit exactly where it is intended to go. That means that if the customer has a crazy angle, or log walls, or unusually high or low ceilings, the cabinets should be made to fit those spaces. Cabinets can be coped around logs, built on angles, or built in any way it takes to meet the customer’s needs. If the cabinet maker is the same person who measured the space, helped design the layout, is building the cabinets, and will install them, everything should fit exactly right.
Frequently, our customers come to us and ask questions such as, “Can we also have a tall pantry cabinet, or a hutch?” Our response is always that you can have almost anything you want. You should have what you want because you are paying for it. No one should limit you to certain choices, just because it is easier for him or her, or because there is a limit to what he or she can purchase.
We build our boxes, drawers and pullouts, face frames, doors & drawer fronts, and Lazy Susans, in house, to make sure they are as close to perfect as is possible. That means they can be any size and shape you want.
This Douglas Fir and Mahogany kitchen was designed and built over the course of a year. It was a meticulous process, where the owner worked side-by-side with Scott and Lesley to get every detail just right. The owners made the Mexican tile flooring, and built the gorgeous home themselves. It is nestled in the Red Sandstone Cliffs of Lander, Wyoming.
Another really cool thing about hiring a custom cabinetmaker is that you can have your cabinets at any height you want. Are you taller or shorter than average? Having your cabinets at a more appropriate height means less stress on your back, and greater comfort over the years.
Some people choose to have hidden drawers in the toe kicks of the cabinets, or hidden panels in the sides. Some want glass shelving and lights, or built-in under-cabinet lighting, yet others don’t. Some want crown molding. If a more rustic look is desired, Scott builds beautiful live-edged Beetle-Kill Pine crown. He can even build the doors with interchangeable panels for different seasons, or so that the owner can change up the look from time to time.
We normally build all of our cabinets with ¾” Maple melamine boxes, and ¼” Maple melamine, full-height backs. All drawer boxes and pullouts are dovetailed. They are built of Maple boards with Maple melamine bottoms for strength and easy cleaning. Our cabinets are strong enough to hold granite, without needing reinforcement. Scott will help you design the style of your doors and drawer fronts, so that they are exactly what you want. If you would rather have all plywood boxes, that is possible too.
If corbels are desired, depending on the style you want, he will either build them, order them from a specialty catalog, or have them fabricated locally.
Soft-closing, adjustable hinges and undermounted, soft-closing slides are standard, but if someone really likes the old-fashioned type, they can be used.
Finally, we install our own work. Scott is meticulous. When he is finished installing your cabinetry, it will be sealed, cleaned, and ready to use.
Really, in our shop, custom means custom. We want our customers to love their cabinets. We want them to enjoy them for generations with their families. We believe our customers should have truly custom-designed and built-to-last (with the customer in mind), and installed woodwork.
People ask us that question, all the time. I guess it would be best to start 38 years ago, when a spark ignited in the soul of my husband, Scott Robeson. He had always had an appreciation for beauty in nature, but it was during wood shop at Eisenhower High School (Lander, PA) where he realized how much joy he felt when working with wood. He continued learning, and working outside of school with local contractors, taking in everything he could about carpentry. It was people like Larry Werner, a business owner and friend, who taught Scott to install hardwood flooring, and friends Mitch and Dave Passinger (Passinger Construction in Russell, PA) who took him under their wings and patiently taught him about building. Friends, like these, gave Scott the opportunity to grow into a competent carpenter, who would strive to be a master craftsman one day. Over the next decade, Scott read, observed, questioned, and tested his newfound knowledge and skills, becoming an artisan in the process.
I remember when Scott was 19, and he told me he was going to build all of our furniture and cabinets one day (I have to admit I didn’t really believe it then, just like I didn’t believe him when he told me about the grizzly bear attacking his brother and him. I was wrong then, too, but that’s another story.) Little did we know that, someday, he would be building beautiful things for people all over the United States.
When Scott and I were first married, in 1986, he took a job working in the woods of western Pennsylvania, logging. He worked really hard, which is typical for him, and he got to learn from the foresters who managed the projects. He was also frequently asked to clear trees for private homeowners, who would give him logs in exchange for the exhausting work. He would take those logs to an Amish friend, who would saw them into lumber, and then to another friend, who had a kiln, to dry the boards. Scott used some of that lumber in building our first furniture.
At first, Scott worked with only a circular saw, a drill, and a sander in the garage. Everything else was done by hand. My daddy, who loved refinishing antique furniture, taught Scott about finishing. Eventually, he had a small shop to work in, and he was given an old table saw. He slowly bought tools when he could, and he continued to build things for friends and family, all the while reading and learning as much as possible. He continued to work with other cabinetmakers and contractors. By 1996, he knew he could make a living building cabinetry, so he started in business, full-time. His shop was in his parents’ barn in rural Pennsylvania, overlooking the gorgeous Allegheny foothills. There, he quickly became quite busy as a custom woodworker and cabinet maker.
In that barn, he taught our sons, Brynn and Nick, how to use power and hand tools to create things that would last a lifetime and longer. He taught them to have great work ethic and high integrity. He never told them they were too young, but instead, he encouraged them to work hard at, and love whatever they did. Both boys enjoyed working with wood, and still do on the side, but have found other dreams to pursue. Scott never expected them to take over his business, because he knew the secret. He knew that he was good at his work because he loved it so much. His vision comes from deep inside, and it isn’t something you just do.
Eventually, circumstances and a love for Wyoming brought us out west, which required starting all over again, and building new trust and relationships with new customers. For the first year, we lived in Casper, where Scott worked out of his brother and sister-in-law’s garage during the week. They were so good to us. On weekends, he traveled to Lander (Wyoming this time, not Pennsylvania) to work with contractors, meet potential customers, and to begin building his new shop.
The next August, in order to start the new school year in Lander, we decided to make the move. Because our housing fell through immediately afterwards, and there was no other affordable housing available, we lived in a hotel room for the next 8 months, while continuing to build the shop/home at night and on weekends. Finally, after a long struggle, we were able to move in and finish the home over the next few years, with the help of new and very dear friends.
Those years were hard. There is no easy way to describe the difficulties we endured, but they were also beautiful, strengthening times -- times that we are very thankful for. Through everything from severe illnesses to a flooding river, with the Grace of God, we continued to press on and grow Scott’s business and his love for his trade.
People who know Scott, know that he is a determined and detail-oriented guy. They know he isn’t afraid of a challenge or hard work. He cares about people, and he deeply desires to give them exactly what they want. He sees his customers as his friends, and he sacrifices a great deal to treat them as he would want to be treated. He believes in that golden rule, and to this day, he stands behind his word and his work.
Alice Robertson began her career in the home organization industry as a professional house cleaner. After cleaning and organizing her clients’ homes for years, she decided to open her own home organization business. Over the years, she has built an impressive client list, helping to make spaces in homes and businesses more functional. She recently created tidyhome.info as a place to share the great cleaning and organizing advice she has developed over the years.
Green Cleaning Tips: Declutter without Adding to the Landfills
Believe it or not, the way you keep your home clean now can affect future generations. Keep reading for tips on how to get your space in top shape without impacting the earth.
Declutter your house for cleaner air and a better quality of life
If you aren’t already aware, you should know that clutter causes stress, can decrease your enjoyment of your home and, left unchecked, may become a potential health issue. Fortunately, eliminating messes and excess stuff isn’t that hard. Budget Dumpster recommends setting goals and creating a sorting system, which will make the task less overwhelming.
Donate or recycle what you don’t need
When you are sorting your belongings, separate them into “keep” and “donate” piles. Many things, such as clothing, gently-worn shoes, and kitchen items, will be welcome at your local homeless shelter. Larger items, such as mattresses, old computers, and appliances, can be recycled or donated for repurposing. In fact, most recycling plants or garbage services can point you toward an organization that will actually pick up your old mattressso you don’t have to lug it to the dump.
The main point of recycling or donating is not to let the big stuff turn into a big problem for the next generation. According to ERI, electronics waste is a major issue. The glass in a smartphone can take up to two million yearsto decompose. All of the metal, batteries, and assorted bits and pieces of our outdated technology tax the environment and can actually lead to significant health conditions for people many years down the road.
Embrace the cloud
While technology has added to the clutter in our landfills, it has also made it easier to avoid trash and trouble. There are very few papers that can’t simply be scanned and stored for later access. Receipts, coupons, and healthcare documents should be recycled instead of allowed to sit around collecting dust. Photos are also easy to store online, and there are numerous cloud-based platforms that make photo storage a streamlined process. In fact, if you are a member of Amazon Prime, you’re entitled to unlimited photo storageand an additional five gigs of free storage for other types of files.
Keep it green and clean
Once your home is neat and tidy and you’ve taken a truckful to the recycling center, keep things clean and healthy by switching to green cleaning products. If you are especially environmentally conscious, a bottle of vinegar and a box of baking soda will clean virtually every surface of your home. These can be washed down the drain without fear of contaminating your local water source. But if you don’t have time to make your own cleaning products, Todaylists the best eco-friendly cleaning suppliesavailable on the mass market.
You may also take the opportunity to assess your current cleaning appliances to consider whether it’s time for an upgrade. Vacuum cleaner upgrades are often neglected - we tend to hold onto our old ones for far too long. If it’s time for a new one, your old model can be donated to an animal shelter or local thrift shop. Pay attention when shopping for a new vacuum, as many are fully adjustableand can easily go from hardwood to carpet, which means you can get rid of a few extra tools in your cleaning supply arsenal.
Get the entire family involved
Unless you live alone, there are other bodies in your house that contribute to the state of your home. Give the entire family an opportunity to help you achieve your green cleaning goals. Children should be supplied with an empty box and encouraged to fill it to the top with toys they no longer need. The garageis another place that shouldn’t be overlooked, and even your outdoor enthusiast husband should be encouraged to let go of excess fishing gear, golf clubs, and lawn care tools he doesn’t use.
Cleaning your home – and keeping it that way – doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. And your household goods and cleaning routine don’t have to hurt the next generation. Reuse when you can, recycle when you can’t, and donate those things that still have plenty of life left.
The Spruce offers more tips on green cleaning.
This year, the Western Design Conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming is happening September 6th-9th. Many juried artists from around the country, including several outstanding master woodworkers, will be in attendance. If you would enjoy seeing some of the best and most beautiful work, all in one place, this is the show for you.
We were part of the show two years ago. There was so much to see, and we met the most amazing people from all over the world. We can't wait to get there to see some of the woodworkers we met last time. It is such a great feeling to meet people who share the same passion as we have.
This year, Scott is focusing on one of a kind bathroom vanities, featuring another local artist's hand carved granite vessel sinks and tops, and another local granite worker's tops, as well as some of Scott's wooden counter tops. As always, Scott will show his beautiful cabinetry in various forms and styles, some tables, and a few other surprises.
Meanwhile, here are a few photos from our last booth at WDC:
Here is the link, so you can check out the details and make plans. If you come to the show, stop and see us. We would love to see you! https://westerndesignconference.com
Our artist for this month is Samantha Gale. Sam is a local fiber artist, who enjoys working in other media, too. I met Sam at the Lander Art Center, and got to know her a little better at an oil painting class. I love her work, and I know you will, too!
Here is what Sam had to say:
“My grandma taught me to knit when I was eight. Nowadays, I wonder what possessed her to teach an 8-year-old to knit, but it worked. I kept it up intermittently, but never tried anything too challenging. I wanted to learn to crochet, but I could never quite understand it. Eventually, a friend in college taught me, and it finally clicked. Pretty soon I started experimenting with making my own patterns. I really liked the flexibility I had with crochet to make 3D objects. I've been crocheting for about five years and there are still many techniques I have left to explore. My next goal within fiber arts is learning to weave.”
2. Are there other media that you enjoy?
“I enjoy taking classes in other media. It's always fun to learn something new, and sometimes I get ideas of ways I can incorporate other media in my fiber art projects. For example, I make crochet mandalas that I display inside of embroidery hoops. I'm currently experimenting with wood burning designs on the embroidery hoops. I also enjoy watercolor painting as a way to give my hands a rest from crochet while still being creative.”
“I think one of the challenges of fiber arts is how slowly you make progress. My experience with other media is that you can see results more immediately. I've worked on some projects for upwards of 10 hours before there's enough progress to tell that the colors aren't working together. Then you have to rip it out and start over or perhaps just start something new. Fiber artists also have to be sure to take days off. It's not uncommon to get repetitive strain injuries in your hands or wrists.”
“Currently my favorite piece is the "yarn painting" I created this summer. It uses freeform crochet techniques to create a larger picture out of many small motifs. I do take commissioned work, but my ability to do so changes with my schedule. At the moment, I am preparing work to sell at Art In The Afternoon, so I likely won't be able to take commissions until after that. The best way to reach me for inquiries is at email@example.com.”
So you want a new look for your kitchen, but your existing cabinets are structurally great. Maybe they have sentimental value, or you just see tearing them out as wasteful. (Though, often, repurposing them is a better choice.)
We have "re-made" a couple of kitchens recently. Scott doesn't do a lot of refacing, because most of his clients just want to start fresh. But, occasionally, we have someone who really just wants new doors and drawers fronts, as well as a few upgrades to hardware, pull-outs, etc, and they have structurally sound cabinet boxes.
If your existing boxes are well made, and have the integrity to put new hardware in (and probably support more weight, since the doors and drawer fronts will be solid wood), it may be possible to get a whole new look without completely demolishing your old one.
Here are a couple of illustrations. In the first kitchen, the cabinets were craftsman-made of Pine. The home was an original cabin in the town of Jackson Hole, WY. The owner really wanted Scott to build custom Rustic Hickory cabinets with antler pulls, but they had these great pine cabinets in a pine kitchen.
The answer was to replace the doors and drawer fronts, and add a few pullouts and other cabinets. Later, the owners had Scott come back and replace some of the Pine trim with Rustic Hickory, too, and cover the new refrigerator in Hickory. Scott stained the Hickory to coordinate nicely with the original Pine and Logs. Check out the results.
.The second kitchen was Pine, too, but the Customer really liked Wormy Maple. The Wormy Maple actually matched the existing stain perfectly. The original cabinet boxes weren't top of the line, but they were still in really good shape. They were strong enough to support the new wood, hardware, and other accessories.
Scott added a few more custom cabinets, new crown, and new end panels, and the finished kitchen was amazing. Take a look!
If you are looking to spruce up your kitchen, keep in mind that a completely custom refacing job isn't necessarily going to save a lot of money in cabinets (Though it saves it in the other areas of remodeling.) Most of the labor in hand made cabinets is in building the doors, drawer fronts, drawer boxes and pull-outs, as well as end panels and tongue and groove. There are distinct advantages though.
First, it is possible to have gorgeous, one of a kind, top of the line quality, without tearing your entire kitchen apart. That means, less time waiting to use your kitchen. Installation is much quicker, and there is much less labor in tear outs for you or your contractor.
Second, there is less waste, so you aren't putting cabinet boxes in the landfill when it isn't necessary.
Third, it is possible to change species of wood, without changing everything.
Is this for everyone? No, but what is? If you are in a hurry, don't want to tear out your whole kitchen or put it in the landfill, or have cabinets that are of sentimental value to you, this could be a consideration for you. Most of our customers are building completely custom kitchens, so we don't do a lot of refacing. But, those cabinets that we have redone are spectacular!
I am beginning a series on local artists. I think it is pretty obvious that most artists approach life a little bit differently than others. Having a strong creative side (and sometimes a “way too big” imagination), I want to celebrate how artists think and what inspires them!
I enjoy talking about Scott’s work, but I’d like to take the opportunity to share stories about some other artists once in a while. This month, we are featuring Lander woodworker, John Applegate. John builds with reclaimed wood from pallets, and his work is outstanding! I asked John a few questions, and this is how he responded:
“I could give a sentimental answer related to my father’s passion for woodworking, but to be quite honest, it started out of necessity. One summer, 3 years ago, I needed an outside table and bench set for my annual wedding anniversary/4th of July celebration. I didn’t want to spend $2,000 on a plastic and glass patio set with a giant umbrella that would blow away as soon as I turned my back.
I started to think of materials that were abundant and easily obtained, such as pallets (which seem to be everywhere in our area and local businesses can’t even give them away.) So, I went to the local owners, asked permission to grab some pallets, took them home, tore them apart and just built the vision I had in my head. After that, the level of satisfaction and pleasure I got from causing a vision in my head to materialize in front of me and take on a characteristic of its own, well, was simply mind blowing…..I was hooked from that point forward.”
“Taking old material and making a work of art that is practical, beautiful and functional and of course, watching shows such as “Barn Wood Builders” or “Salvage Dawgs”. “
3. Do you have a favorite among all of your projects? What do you love about it?
” Yeah, it would have to be a Coffee table I made my first-year woodworking. I loved that it was unique in build and the wood was rich and deep in color.” *See Pics*
4. Talk to me about your process for selling your work. I realize this is not your full-time job, so how does a person get on your waiting list?
” My process is simple; once I finish a build I put it inside my house and set it up as I would any new piece of furniture I would buy for my home. I take pictures with my IPhone, and then post it to Wyoming Facebook buy and selling groups (usually 4 to 5 large groups). If someone is after a custom build it’s just a matter of reaching out to me via email: ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) or Txt/Call 307-335-5859. My building time is subject to weather since I mainly build outside in my driveway, but typically I can produce 1-2 builds per month."