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?