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Organized for Consumer Appeal Winning at Custom Cabinetry A Simple Custom Finish for Stylish Cabinets special Section :

Finishing matters

The Process and Design Behind the mHouse HPL: Kitchen Confident


Technology Begets Technology:

Dream Kitchens and Material Innovations

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Peter Kleinschmidt, an industry icon and visionary is retiring after 39 years at the helm of Stiles Machinery. Peter became president and majority owner of Stiles Machinery in a management buyout from the Lohmann International Trading Group in 1975. Under his leadership, business rose from under $1 million to nearly $160 million. It is a phenomenal success story. But more than that, it is a testament to taking care of the customer with style, grace and an unwavering commitment to service. Peter’s steadfast dedication to training is just one example of a “total solutions approach” to ensuring his customers’ success. Stiles Education, led by Duane Griffiths is today the standard in woodworking education and training in the US. No rock was left unturned as Stiles Machinery was built from a small distribution company to North America’s woodworking technology powerhouse. What impresses me most of all is Peter Kleinschmidt’s unwavering perseverance to provide Stiles’ customers with everything they need – parts, service, training, financing – as well as a glimpse of worldwide technology in action. Stiles’ global “tech tours” of successful operations provide valuable insight into the world’s best panel processing firms – and proof to prospective clients that they too can succeed and prosper. When economic times turned against the industry and Stiles’ “more timid” competitors slashed spending on what they may have considered “intangibles,” Peter always felt a responsibility to his customers to stay the course. He had the fortitude to do it in uncertain times. The Executive Briefing Conference (EBC) is just one more example of Stiles Machinery’s high road approach to service. A list of attendees and participants at the EBC reads like a “who’s who” of industry leaders. It is a venue for business executives to explore visions for the future of our industry. The recent conference in Denver had the highest attendance in the 12-year history of the EBC. I’ve known Peter Kleinschmidt for over 25 years. My affinity for the panel processing industry is directly related to his passion for the business. He was and is an inspiration for me. I owe Peter a debt of gratitude. Surface & Panel magazine would not have been launched without his input. He is a gentleman and a teacher (a good one). At the end of the day, regardless of profession, teaching is the noblest pursuit. I know Peter agrees. He has had a positive effect on the lives of many industry colleagues and my guess is this is what he’s proudest of. Peter Kleinschmidt was one of the founders of the Woodworking Machinery Industry Association and served two terms as its president. He was the chairman of the International Woodworking Fair (IWF) board of directors and a member of the board of Combois Global Organization for woodworking technology exchange. He will continue to serve as an active member of the Stiles Machinery board of directors. The Homag Group AG recently acquired all outstanding shares of Stiles Machinery. Peter is pleased with the transition. “I know that my life’s achievement is being placed in good hands. I have been cooperating with the Homag Group for more than 30 years. It is the ideal partner to write the next chapter of Stiles’ success story,” he said. I asked Peter what he saw for the future of panel processing and the chances for success in America. He remarked, “We must become world-class manufacturers and make products of high value, whether it’s kitchens, store fixtures or furniture. We must upgrade the products we make and engage the consumer. There will be a re-industrialization in America with global influence and investment. Opportunity exists in all sectors of our industry.” I am sure a grateful industry will join me in wishing Peter Kleinschmidt the very best. His influence extends far and wide. And our industry is better for it. With Kind Regards,

John Aufderhaar, Publisher | Surface & Panel | | 920-206-1766


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6 Technology Begets Technology: Dream Kitchens and Material Innovations For a semi-custom kitchen manufacturer tasked with serving dealers nationwide, selection and agility have become nearly as important as quality. This sends ripples in both directions of the value chain.




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3 From the Publisher 72 From the Editor 74 Advertiser Index

14 Organized for Consumer Appeal The contemporary home organization market drives advances in decorative surfacing materials and serves as an agent for consumer acceptance of engineered products. 22 Closet Trends: Bringing the Inside Out Dark, likely cluttered and behind closed doors, closets were once considered secondary space in a home. Over the past 20 years, the panel processing industry changed that concept. 26 Winning at Custom Cabinetry When Justin Vance took over as President of Fairhope, Ala.–based Vance & Sons Custom Cabinets Inc. in mid-2012, he just may have entered into a new golden age for the market segment.

p u b l is h e r

34 The Continuing Evolution of Diamond (PCD) Cutting Tools High-tech panel production equipment coupled with competition among cutting tool manufacturers has earned a handsome dividend for panel processors, allowing manufacturing costs to stabilize.

John Aufderhaar President | Bedford Falls Communications 1617 Country Club Lane, Watertown, WI 53098 Ph: 920-206-1766 fax: 920-206-1767 a dv e r t isi n g

36 A Simple Custom Finish for Stylish Cabinets As it dominates its specific price point, turning out decent-quality products that consumers love, IKEA also makes opportunities for companies outside its market.

Ryan Wagner VP Sales & Marketing | Bedford Falls Communications 1617 Country Club Lane, Watertown, WI 53098 Ph: 920-262-2080 fax: 920-206-1767

41 Finishing Matters A special section highlighting the finishing industry.

Jake Gawel Client Services Director | Bedford Falls Communications 1617 Country Club Lane, Watertown, WI 53098 Ph: 920-390-2648 fax: 920-206-1767

42 Superb Finishing for a Variety of Styles 42


Suzanne VanGilder Editorial Director | Bedford Falls Communications 1617 Country Club Lane, Watertown, WI 53098 Ph: 608-698-0375 fax: 920-206-1767 G r a p h i c D e si g n

Karen Leno Graphic Designer | KML Design, Inc. 923 Forest Edge Circle, Coralville, IA 52241 Ph: 319-430-5108 fax: 920-206-1767 C i r c u l at i o n

46 Methods & Processes:

Keys to Consistent Finishing Reults

50 MDI: Fact vs. Fiction 52

The Process and Design Behind the mHouse Renown architect John Vetter brings his experience and process to the much-anticipated mHouse.

Architect Spec:

On the FM cover: Dura Supreme's continual investment in finishing technology results in gorgeous products that perform well even in environments with variable humidity.

60 HPL: Kitchen Confident From décor development and printing technology, to advances in texture, surface durability and edge treatment, the fusion of fashion and function in HPL brings consumers products that perform beautifully. 71 S&P Review: Micro-perforated Acoustic Panels from Navy Island Plywood C o m p o s i t e Pa n e l A s s o c i at i o n Main Office

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Surface & Panel is published quarterly by Bedford Falls Communications, Inc., 1617 Country Club Lane, Watertown, Wisconsin 53098, telephone 920-206-1766, fax 920-206-1767. John Aufderhaar, President, Christine Aufderhaar, CFO. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, electronic or mechanical without written permission from the publisher. Subscription policy: Individual subscriptions are available, without charge, to manufacturers who engage in panel processing, qualified service providers and suppliers. Publisher reserves the right to reject non-qualified subscribers. One year subscription to non-qualified individuals: U.S. $50, Canada/Mexico $75, all other countries $100, payable in U.S. funds. Single issues are $15, and must be prepaid. Bedford Falls Communications, Inc., does not assume and hereby disclaims any liability to any person for any loss or damage caused by errors or omissions in the material contained herein, regardless of whether such errors result from negligence, accident, or any other cause whatsoever. Printed in the U.S.A. Postmaster: Send address changes to Surface & Panel, 1617 Country Club Lane, Watertown, WI 53098. Please direct all subscription questions and mail to: Surface & Panel, 1617 Country Club Lane, Watertown, WI 53098 ph: 920-206-1766


Technology Begets Technology:

Dream Kitchens and Material Innovations RIKEN USA CORPORATION

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lame it on the Internet. On sites like Pinterest, materialicious and Houzz that give the average person access to fashions from around the world. Not too long ago, a kitchen dealer in Bismarck, N.D. could reliably meet the demands of its clientele with face-framed oak, cherry and maple cabinetry, maybe a nice lacquer or two. Now, if a modern homeowner is planning a once-in-a-lifetime kitchen build or remodel, it is a sure thing that he or she will explore the possibilities online before meeting with a dealer or designer. The Internet truly is a magical world of images and ideas, full of contrast, texture and gloss. For a semi-custom kitchen manufacturer tasked with serving dealers nationwide, selection and agility have become nearly as important as quality. This sends ripples in both directions of the value chain. Looking upstream, component manufacturers are responsible for developing comprehensive programs, not just of door and drawer fronts, but also toe kicks, light rails and end caps. In turn, materials suppliers are driven to develop products that meet aesthetic and performance demands. They share the responsibility of ensuring that there are processes in place that can reliably turn materials into pleasing end products. Looking downstream, it is imperative that dealers understand how to design with an expanded palette of materials. Equally important is educating installers and homeowners on how to handle and care for next generation surfaces.

Diversity and Access

For for than 50 years, family-owned, semi-custom manufacturer Dura Supreme has made cabinets. Headquartered in Howard Lake, Minn., Dura Supreme currently produces 2000- 4000 cabinets a week in its 200,000 square foot facility, which serves 800 dealers nationwide. One of the big advantages to dealers is that Dura Supreme offers many options and price points. “We have four main product lines: custom and semi-custom in both framed and frameless construction,” says Karen Wistrom, vice president of marketing for Dura Supreme. “If you learn our products, nomenclature and ordering system for one line, you learn them all. Our dealers can switch very easily between lines and pretty much offer a solution to 99 percent of what their customers are asking for.” The majority of the cabinets sold are still traditional faceframe construction with veneer or solid wood doors. However, that is changing and Dura is proactively expanding its product mix to meet consumer expectations. (Read more about Dura’s finishing operation on page 42). “Three or four years ago we started seeing a shift in trends towards cleaner lines and more contemporary styling. A little more sleek and simple,” says Wistrom. “When we felt that pulse, we started conversations with Northern Contours to develop acrylic, gloss and textured RTF products for Alectra, our full-access line. That was 2010. In the past, Alectra was about 10 percent of our business. Today it is running about 30 percent. A lot of that is because we went down this road with these other surfaces.” Dura’s prognostications were spot on. Over the last decade, there were definite pockets of contemporary styling in the United States in urban markets and on the coasts. “Now we are seeing increased awareness and acceptance across the board,” says Wistrom. “If you look at the NKBA for as long as they have been polling people, traditional has been the number one design theme,” says Wistrom. “2012 was the first time they as an organization recognized a big shift, with transitional moving into first place and contemporary growing fast. That sleek look has dealers and consumers more interested in frameless construction.” Components manufacturers that specialize in the materials that make the transitional and contemporary aesthetic so compelling are also feeling the shift. “We are doing roughly ten times the high gloss now that we did in 2006,” says Lary Skow, president of Northern Contours, a Minnesota-based manufacturer of 3D laminated and specialty components. “Dura Supreme hit the epitome of where the market is going right now.” Yet it is not enough to be visionary in anticipating consumer trends, particularly when those trends involve newer materials that can be challenging to machine and maintain. To succeed, the fabricators who hold the middle space, entities like Dura Supreme and Northern Contours, work closely with suppliers to develop solutions to common material limitations. They are also responsible for educating the people specifying, installing and living with the contemporary materials to ensure the cabinets look great in the long run. “It speaks to the demand in the market place. People don’t even ask dealers anymore if they have gloss, they expect it,” says Skow. “You can’t control your destiny if you don’t get involved.”

“You can’t control your destiny if you don’t get involved.” L ary Skow, president of Northern Contours


Q2 2014


Advances in Materials and Processes

With full access (frameless) cabinet construction, there are no spaces (reveals) between door fronts. This allows for the clean lines of transitional and contemporary styling. A unified and simplified surface becomes a canvas for interesting contrasts and colors. Northern Contours achieves the textures, high gloss and super matte finishes that are so popular in Dura Supreme’s Alectra line with 3D laminated rigid thermofoil (RTF) films, 2D/flat-laminated acrylic and textured TFL. Through the use of different methods, materials and matching programs, Northern Contours is able to supply Dura Supreme with comprehensive surface solutions. “When we entered into this, we took the proactive approach to develop full programs that support cohesive kitchen and bath design,” says Skow. “ For example, we work with Flakeboard’s textured TFL, but we won’t bring in a design unless there is an exact RTF film and edgebanding match available. Same for the gloss designs. It is not enough to make a door, we need to be able to produce everything: cut to size panels, toe kicks, light rails and integrated end panels. We have to have all the rest of the parts that make a set of cabinets so there are no design limitations.” Over the past several years, high gloss has emerged from the European market and crossed the pond into North America. However, achieving the look consistently with engineered materials was not an easy task. “It took a while to build up our program and refine our processes,” says Skow. “The challenge with gloss is that it is very different than other RTF. When you heat the film to make it form, you run the risk of almost melting it and getting orange peel, so it is very challenging. And of course, it is not very forgiving because it telegraphs every little imperfection.”

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Part of the solution begins with the substrate. Northern Contours relies on double refined MDF from either Flakeboard or Plum Creek for a smooth surface. It also reduces the amount of sanding needed after routing the board. As well, film suppliers are constantly improving their products. “Gloss used to be much thicker film, 28 mils with a big topcoat on it. That made it challenging to press. Most of the gloss film manufacturers have now figured out ways to dial it back to about 16-20 mils in thickness, so it has become more pressable,” says Skow. “They all have cool stuff in terms of color, print and design. We try to pick the best available from the various companies to have a complete product offering.” Northern Contours’ foil deck includes 25 high gloss designs from Riken, C.I. Kasei, Klockner from SSI, Renolit and OMNOVA. Acrylic gloss from EGR (represented by SSI), textured RTF and 2D products are also strong, playing important roles in transitional and contemporary designs. Reaching and Teaching A website dedicated to providing the Woodworking Industry’s highest quality 2D high gloss laminate.


Having a contemporary cabinetry line featuring cutting edge materials means nothing if dealers don’t know how to design with them. “The homeowner or remodeler puts a huge amount of trust in the kitchen designer,” says Wistrom. “So we come alongside our dealers and do all sorts of training to help them become experts.” On the specification side, that starts with tools. Tangible tools, like sample fan decks, give clients a feel for new materials. Digital tools bring designs to life. “We’ve done a lot of work with 20/20 software,” says Wistrom. “We give them all of our color chips and samples for the acrylics and foils. They scan them very accurately for color and texture. Then our dealers can utilize those surfaces in their drawings.” This technology helps designers to get comfortable with

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an expanded material palette. “A lot of people still feel high gloss is austere, but when they see that mixed with a weathered finish or a highly textured wood grain, it becomes something really intriguing.” Dura Supreme manufactures to order with a typical turn around time of four weeks for goods produced in-house, and six weeks if the design specifies outsourced gloss or textured components. To ensure the contemporary materials look as good once they are installed as they do when they are freshly manufactured, Northern Contours and Dura Supreme work together to educate installers and homeowners about how to maintain the material. This is particularly important for high gloss finishes which have a notorious reputation for scratching.

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“We get on the front end and talk about how gloss scratches and how to get it through the process unscathed,” says Skow. Gloss materials suppliers now include a standard peel coat that remains on the component through machining to installation. “Once that peel coat is removed, people are inclined to grab a paper towel and wipe their beautiful new door down. Then they scratch the heck out of it,” says Skow. “In most cases exposure to air and moisture actually hardens the film. So we recommend taking a microfiber soft cloth, and a solution of 99 parts water to one part liquid detergent, and gently wiping it down after the peel coat first comes off. That definitely changes the durometer. Then there are protective polishes, mostly developed by the acrylic suppliers, which also work well on high gloss RTF. The other thing happening in the world of science is that both the film and the acrylic suppliers are working on hardcoats to make the material more scratch resistant.” Dura Supreme’s development of the contemporary Alectra line is representative of why the brand is so successful: it continually invests in the technologies and partnerships necessary to maintain a comprehensive product line for dealers. Certainly the Internet, with its easy access to images and ideas, contributes to consumer preferences shifting toward transitional and contemporary styling for cabinets. However, it is the dedication to continuous improvement, process engineering and marketing all along the value chain that brings style to life. s&p

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he contemporary home organization market drives advances in decorative surfacing materials and serves as an agent for consumer acceptance of engineered products. For the past 27 years, Bob Lewis, president and CEO of Closet & Storage Concepts, has played a pivotal role in the industry by simultaneously introducing increasingly sophisticated products and simplifying their delivery process. The company’s franchise model is not unique, but because it developed in step with the segment, it is a good industry barometer. Closer examination of the company is not only an interesting look at history; it provides a good state-of-the-segment snapshot and some clues to what the future may hold. “It is a completely different industry than it was when we started,” says Lewis. “We were offering unfinished MDF as our primary product. Then we began to offer TFL in white, almond or oak. We weren’t even line boring when I first began. We would route a one-quarterinch line vertically in the front edge and the back edge, and press in a plastic track that had shelf pins.” Today such a system sounds downright primitive, yet it allowed Lewis to create a nationwide network of small cabinet shops that reliably support supplier partners. Each shop is also a powerful sales presence that literally goes into consumers’ homes and creates pull-through demand for the latest upgrades in materials, hardware and accessories. Predictable, Repeatable, Processes

“The point of franchising a businesses is to put packages together for the franchisee in a way that if they execute on a daily basis, they succeed because things are taken care of for them,” says Lewis. “They don’t have to figure out which machines to buy or how to lay out their shop. We handle all the training and build supplier relationships for materials nationwide. All those decisions have already been put together and proven to work.” 14

More Solutions with More Space Place “Our current plan is for the two companies to operate as separate brands,” noted Lewis. “This acquisition gives us the ability to offer two different business models to prospective franchise owners who want to be part of the rapidly growing home furnishings and improvement industry.” n

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loset & Storage Concepts recently acquired More Space Place, a manufacturer and retailer of Murphy beds, custom closets, garage organizers, and other solutions for saving space in the home or office. Combined system-wide sales are projected to be approximately $40 million with more than 400 employees and 39 locations nationwide, positioning Closet & Storage Concepts as one of the largest companies in the “space-saving” home furnishings and improvement industries. Headquartered in West Berlin, NJ, Closet & Storage Concepts designs, manufactures and installs a wide variety of custom closet, garage, laundry room, pantry, home office, wall bed, and other home storage products. The company was founded in 1987 by President and CEO Bob Lewis in the southern New Jersey/Philadelphia market. In 2000, Closet & Storage Concepts began offering franchise and dealer business opportunities in the United States and Canada. The privately held company has 11 locations, three company-owned and eight franchise-owned, in nine states. Based in Clearwater, Fla., More Space Place operates 28 franchise store locations in 10 states, including Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, New Hampshire, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Murphy bed sales comprise approximately 75 percent of its business, making it the nation’s top retailer for wall beds. The company’s product line complements Closet & Storage Concepts, which designs, manufactures, and installs a variety of custom closet and home storage products for garages and other rooms. Wall beds make up nearly 20 percent of Closet & Storage Concepts’ business. “This is a terrific opportunity for us to grow our business,” said President and CEO Bob Lewis. “The More Space Place retail stores expand our markets and give us the decisive edge for Murphy beds.” In the last 10 years, the business of creating or optimizing space has grown substantially and is predicted to continue its upward trend. U.S. demand for home organization products will increase 3.6 percent annually to $8.6 billion in 2015, according to industry forecasts.



Q2 2014


“If you look at the trends, upgrades have driven average sale price more than any single thing in this business.” Bob Lewis, president and CEO of Closet & Storage Concepts

By minimizing the risk in the variables, Closet & Storage Concepts built an extremely efficient system within North America. It is an interesting juxtaposition from the global and B-to-B market places where predictability is sometimes viewed as vulnerability. In this context, repeatability functions as more of a sales tool, paving the way for success for franchise owners, partner distributors and material suppliers. Closet & Storage Concepts put in the time to perfect the model and build the relationships necessary for success – so much so that process engineering and technical skills are less important than the location and charisma of a potential franchise owner. This too is counter to the larger manufacturing world where skilled technicians are in high demand. It is a testament to the effectiveness of the system Lewis creates and maintains. “Franchisees don’t have to have a tremendously high skill set. We prefer franchise owners who come into the business with a sales and marketing background, more than woodworking or cabinet making,” says Lewis. “It is much easier to teach somebody how to operate a small scale cabinet-making shop than to teach them how to run a business or sell.” This observation is in line with industry experts who predict growth for the next five years. In addition to recommendations to tool up and train up, success in manufacturing also requires strong sales, marketing and communications professionals.

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Home organization is also a segment where consumers are eager for the latest styles and innovations, even if they don’t understand the technology behind them. “If you look at the trends, upgrades have driven average sale price more than any single thing in this business,“ says Lewis. “Consumers love RTF trim and molding. They love hardware upgrades and lighting upgrades. They are very receptive to those innovations. In response, companies like Decore-ative Specialties, Hafele, Sidelines and others have done a tremendous job developing products to meet that demand.” Over the past 20 years, the closet industry has been instrumental in helping consumers to embrace engineered materials. “We do some veneer, but the bulk of the manufacturing is TFL,” says Lewis. Closet & Storage Concepts has established relationships throughout North America to meet the specific consumer tastes in each region. “The textured TFL products are really gorgeous and will continue to have higher and higher consumer appeal,” says Lewis. “It is a really exciting innovation. We offer Tafisa, Uniboard and Stevens products.” Technology For Success

The predictability of the materials and the tight tolerances of the equipment make it possible for just about anybody with motivation and the right market match to set up a successful closet organization operation. A basic Closet & Storage Concepts franchise includes an introductory panel saw, edgebander and vertical multi-head line boring machine. Lewis has relationships with several equipment companies, including Holz-her and Stiles. Again, recommendations are made geographically depending on the established service networks in each region. “These companies have comprehensive educational programs, which is why, on a corporate level, we recommend them.” Each owner also gets two weeks of on-site training at Closet & Storage Concepts’ flagship store in New Jersey. Franchisees learn

hands-on in an 8000 square foot facility, filling real orders, just-in-time, for the Philadelphia, eastern Pennsylvania, and southern and central New Jersey markets. The prescribed Closet & Storage Concepts sales process emphasizes the importance of each discreet step of a consultation. A designer’s primary responsibility is developing personal relationships and understanding a client’s needs, whether that client is a homeowner, builder, interior designer or remodeler. Armed with an iPad, a portfolio of finishes and product samples, the designer focuses on the front-end skills of establishing rapport, assessing the space and translating the client’s objectives into closet solutions. “I think this kind of direct-to-client business helps create a consumer pull-through type of situation for new materials,” says Lewis. “When consumers interact directly with the designers in their homes, in many cases they are comfortable and very responsive to innovative new product developments. That has created an entire upgrade industry within the closet and storage business.” The resulting sketches and notes are sent back to the showroom, where dedicated CAD drafters create the designs with Cabinet Vision software. Plans are rendered and returned to the client via e-mail within 24 hours. Regularly introducing innovative surfaces, hardware and accessories into Closet & Storage Concepts’ standard offering does more than upgrade a project and elevate the brand, it upgrades the entire closet industry. “Homeowners come in with an idea of what an organization system looks like, then they see the upgrades,” says Lewis. “Solutions so sophisticated and luxurious that they belong in the living spaces within the home.” By bringing higher-end materials directly to consumers, the home organization market not only drives suppliers to develop new and better products, it creates a robust market to sell them into. s&p

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Closet Trends:

Bringing the Inside Out


ark, likely cluttered and behind closed doors, closets were once considered secondary space in a home. Over the past 20 years, the panel processing industry changed that concept. Home organization companies, fueled by basic cabinet shops and headed by closet designers, are now in every reasonably-sized market throughout the U.S. Storage systems have evolved to become both more functional and more fashionable than ever, even reaching luxury status in many instances. “Everybody wants a custom closet. No two closets are the same,” says Debra Behring, president of Michigan-based RTF components manufacturer JB Cutting, Inc. “There is definitely more demand for specialty details because there is a lot of competition. What sets closet designers apart from the big box stores is the process of transforming every single inch of available space into something usable that looks great.” Home organization market veteran Bob Lewis, president of Closet & Storage Concepts credits much of that growth to upgrades in materials, components, hardware and accessories (see story page 14). The inverse is also true. Home storage systems pave the way for consumer acceptance of ever-improving engineered materials and related technologies. The following closet trends are worth noting because they work together to elevate the category. These innovations strengthen the organization market segment by making products that are increasingly desirable to homeowners.

image courtesy Hafele

Bringing the Inside Out


Architecture often strives to bring the outside in. Now, home organization is beginning to bring the inside (interior storage spaces) out into main living areas. “For us, number one is asking how we can help maximize those spaces in the closet even more,” says John Runyan, product marketing manager in charge of closet accessories for Häfele. “It is no longer just a rod or a rack. What else can be done to bring items out to the homeowner? That is the key. Maximizing space, function and accessibility with an elegant look.” The answer comes in all sorts of accessories designed to make even hard-to-reach spaces useful. Carousels, pull-out shelves, soft-closing glides and lift systems for doors all help to make small and oddly shaped spaces more functional. One new innovation that combines those hardware technologies is the wardrobe lift (which is available both motorized and hand operated). “It makes use of the upper areas of a closet that are typically out of reach,” says Runyan. “So it is great for storing seasonal clothes or other items that are not in use everyday. The new solutions are really all about easier access, so people don’t have to bend and dig, or reach to find items in their closets.”


Q2 2014


summer flame closet from California Closets

The two industries talk to each other to make sure there are matches, which really opens up design possibilities.” In addition to perfectly matching TFL, RTF films are glazable, offering homeowners a handfinished look. Seeing the Light

image courtesy of Affordable Closets Plus

Furniture Finishes

While hardware does the heavy lifting in closets, new advancements in decorative surfaces make the systems beautiful. This has catapulted the closet industry from its origins behind closed doors into organization products for the entire home. “There is a big trend toward textured TFL that matches other areas in the home: kitchen, bath, entertainment centers, laundry and more,” says Runyan. In addition to beautiful surfaces, detail components elevate the aesthetic of a system to the look of fine furniture. “We offer any type of accessory that you can thermofoil. We manufacture base and crown moldings, flutes, rosettes, valances, countertops and door fronts that can accept glass or resin inserts,” says Behring. “The film suppliers are coming out with new, beautiful options all the time – suede, gloss and matte films. Then there are the highly textured wood design films. The synergy between TFL and RTF is seamless. 24

“Another thing gaining in popularity and raising a lot of eyebrows is LED lighting in closets,” says Runyan. “It doesn’t get hot, is available in different formats (ribbon, puck, bulb), comes in different color temperatures and can be put anywhere in the closet. Light coming from different directions makes clothes stand out and helps people determine whether what they are grabbing is blue or black.” The same sophisticated lighting also creates an environment where a homeowner can appreciate the finer finishes, making surface upgrades all the more valuable. Consumers are open to contemporary closet design because it adds real value to the day-to-day. Being well organized actually helps people start the day better and feel more at ease in their homes. Yet modern home organization is more than that. It also serves as a gateway for introducing consumers to the latest technology developments in engineered materials, hardware and LED lighting systems. s&p image courtesy Hafele

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Winning at Custom Cabinetry


b y

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hen Justin Vance took over as President of Fairhope, Ala.–based Vance & Sons Custom Cabinets Inc. in mid-2012, he just may have entered into a new golden age for the market segment. Vance, who holds a degree in building science, is one of those new-generation cabinetmakers willing to leverage technology to fortify artisan craft. It was about that same time (the Sunday morning of IWF 2012 to be exact) that two other entities dedicated to the business of custom cabinetry were combining forces to create a revolutionary solution for artisan shops facing the big issues of capacity, competition from imports and cost control. “At the time we were doing good to do one kitchen a month the old school way. It took us two weeks to build a set of cabinets, then another two weeks to finish them,” says Vance. “I had a builder who was very interested in working with us, and the only way I was going to keep up with his volume was by becoming more efficient and evolving with market conditions.” Less than two years later, Vance is projecting a 10-fold increase in revenue for the year 2014. “We’ve more than quadrupled our capacity and I think we can do more,” says Vance. “The question is, ‘Just how fast do I want to grow?’” Expanding the business did not require more space or equipment expenditures. The company is still a mom-and-pop-shop, operating with eight employees in 6,000 square feet of space.


Instead, Vance switched from the labor-intensive process of making cabinet boxes to buying Cabinotch custom cabinet box systems. He also invested in KCD design software, which functions as his showroom and integrates fully with the Cabinotch system. “It is going to turn a lot of small shops like myself into big players real quickly,” says Vance. “It has for me. In the Gulf region, what I am producing now has become what everybody expects in their house.” To be clear, this is not a classic “make versus buy” trade-off, with its inherent suggestion of reducing craftsmanship to cut costs. The cabinetry is still high-quality. It is still custom. On the small scale, the synergistic combination of design/production software and precision manufacturing enables the small shop owner to remain competitive. In the bigger picture, the convergence of these technologies is an example of just how clever modern American manufacturing can be. What’s in the Box

What ultimately made Vance take the plunge and become an early adopter of Cabinotch and KCD was understanding the back-story and the innovations behind the innovation. It starts with the Challenger Award-Winning Cabinotch system. Created and perfected by Phillip Crabtree (the son of an artisan cabinetmaker who saw how complicated traditional cabinet boxes are to create), Cabinotch is essentially a snap together system for building face-frame cabinet boxes. It was such a useful fabricator aid, that the Crabtrees knew other shops would benefit from it too. When Cabinotch was introduced as a commercial product at the Closets Show, it was made from commodity plywood. It garnered a lot of attention, including that of North America’s largest hardwood plywood producer, Columbia Forest Products. “It started as a supplier relationship. We saw an opportunity for Cabinotch to upgrade to our domestic, formaldehyde-free PureBond plywood as an option – and a lot of the early users did just that,” says Todd Vogelsinger, director of marketing at Columbia Forest Products. “At Columbia, we are committed to excellent service. A big part of that is looking at meeting people’s needs. How can we help relieve pain points in someone’s operation?” Driven by the understanding that the path to success is making it easier for customers to use their products, Columbia acquired Cabinotch in the fall of 2011. It now operates as a separate entity and PureBond is the standard plywood. The production of the system is so precise that the boxes can be specified to 1/1000 of an inch, allowing users to make truly custom cabinets. (Read Tech Spec for more info on the production cell) “I now have a state-of-the-art facility working for me and I didn’t have to buy any expensive equipment or hire a single person,” says Vance. “Doing the type of volume we are doing now the old school way, I’d probably have to have 30 people here.” However, Vance is quick to point out that the benefits of using the Cabinotch system go beyond the obvious convenience.


Q2 2014


“One thing that Cabinotch is able to do is combine my jobs with other people’s jobs to maximize the yield. So there is significantly less waste then when we were building boxes,” says Vance. “Another thing is that in a way, I am buying my plywood and hardwoods directly from the manufacturer. I can get woods from Cabinotch that I can’t get locally.” The precise Cabinotch design and manufacturing process truly is state-of-the-art. This too is a big boon to users. “One huge thing – I am now able to offer inset doors,” says Vance. “Before, I could not trust that we could build a perfectly square box to house perfectly square doors. Honestly, it’s a nicer product than anything I could have built the old school way.” With the use of Cabinotch, Vance’s cabinetmaking operation went from good to better. When he implemented KCD, it went from better to best. Designing for Custom Production

At the 2012 IWF, while Columbia rolled out Cabinotch, the Sequoia Award winning company KCD Software also drew quite a crowd. By the end of the fair, it was obvious to both parties that by combining efforts they could make a custom cabinet solution of unprecedented power. “KCD software was developed out of a custom cabinet shop,” says Leslie Murphy director of marketing for KCD. “It has both design and production capabilities. So on the front end, we load the Cabinotch library into the KCD software. Then the cabinetmakers use it to make the design. They can show the client a 3D rendering of the project and generate a price quote.” As soon as the KCD integration became available, Vance saw the benefits for his company. “One of the things KCD has done for us is it has made it possible for my showroom to basically be a large TV screen,” says Vance. “I can create 3D renderings with the software that are very detailed, and zoom in and out to show not just the cabinets but the storage behind the doors. It’s extraordinarily helpful when doing a consultation with a client.” However, KCD is more than just a pretty face. It is also powerful production software. “When we first sat down with KCD, we talked about building our library into their design software and maybe figuring out a way to use that to send the measurements to Cabinotch,” says Vogelsinger. “And as soon as they understood our system, the people at KCD leapfrogged right into the deeper intelligence of how we program our machines. So with KCD, a cabinetmaker can design with the Cabinotch library, make a 3D rendering, get a price quote, and essentially the kitchen could be underway the minute he or she hits “send”.” With KCD on the front end and Cabinotch on the back end, Vance continually discovers new ways to strengthen his business. “Another thing that has helped me tremendously with KCD and Cabinotch is that my pricing is more structured and exact,” says Vance. “Before I could kind of guesstimate how much wood I was going to buy and use on a project, now I don’t even do that. “I can design a job and upload it to Cabinotch, knowing the exact price for that project. Then I push a button and KCD generates a door and drawer report. It used to be a pain to figure all that out. I typically order my doors from Decore-Ative Specialities and they give me an exact price, too. My only variables are my spray room and labor. So I have eliminated a lot of my question marks from my pricing. That makes me more profitable.” 28

After Vance places an order, his shop immediately gets to work on the little details and custom adornments, because the turnaround time from Cabinotch is quick. Typically orders go out via Fed-Ex freight within five days, though it is often faster than that. “That is one of the big features and selling points to my builders,” says Vance. “Now they are not pressured to order cabinets two months ahead of time. I can honestly tell a homeowner or builder that their kitchen will be ready in three weeks.” Vance concedes that many more-experienced cabinetmakers are resistant to the way he is doing things in part because they feel like they would be losing control of their product. But the way Vance sees it, he’s taking time that would have been spent behind the saw and using it to grow his business. He still does the design, finishing and installation (though the interiors of Cabinotch boxes come pre-finished with a UV finish Vance refers to as “bulletproof”). Yet with the new systems in place, Vance has more time to take on more projects and attend to the details that make a custom kitchen unique. “It has allowed us to do almost anything,” says Vance. “The best part about it, to me, is sitting down and designing all the fancy stuff. Same as old-school custom, except before I would be scared to take on multiple jobs at a time or worse, I would turn down small projects. Now, it is as fast as clients can walk in here.” Perhaps the most compelling part of the KCD and Cabinotch system is that it enables custom cabinetmakers to compete at a higher level. “Before I committed to operating my business this way, I had a couple of builders come in and check out the product. They were impressed with the quality and all said ‘if you don’t do this, the guy down the street will and you might not be in business very long.’ “I feel like it is actually changing the way a lot of the cabinet shops around me are doing business, because they are either going to be forced to do the same, or they are not going to be able to compete with me anymore,” says Vance. “It’s the best decision I made.” s&p

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the Cabinotch


frame front corner notch

flush corner angle


n the fabricator level, the patented, interlocking Cabinotch cabinet box system helps custom kitchen manufacturers compete against imports. Take a step back in the value chain and the system also fosters robust manufacturing in the United States while strengthening the position of American-made, formaldehyde-free PureBond plywood. This in a market flooded by products from overseas that compete on price. “We like to say we use American wood, American workers and American equipment,” says Mike Lee director of the Cabinotch program. The Cabinotch system incorporates an interlocking side panel-to-face frame wood-towood joint that takes minutes to assemble. Each box is customizable within 1/1000 of an inch, requiring a production facility that is both agile and precise. “Not only does the product conform to the desires of how the homeowner wants to use the kitchen space,” says Lee, “but having a uniquely customized product makes it very difficult for China to duplicate.” Boxes are built with one-half inch PureBond plywood and the interiors are finished with a UV finish. Each piece is cut by CNC to ensure it is perfectly square and accurate. The face frame includes the patented Cabinotch joint that allows the side panels to slide together with such a precision fit that no clamps are required, only glue and spot stapling. The first highly efficient Cabinotch facility is located in Owensboro, Ky. It encompasses approximately 25,000 square feet and is laid out by engineering experts in accordance with LEAN principles. The intention is to make sure that the model for the production cell is scalable, repeatable and can be standardized. “From our perspective, that is a micro-plant,” says Lee. “It is important to keep these plants very small and nimble so the relationships with the cabinet shops remain very intimate. They know our plant manager and are familiar with the people making their product.” The flagship plant operates with 15 employees (five per shift, three shifts a day) and is capable of producing around 400 cabinet boxes a day. Cabinotch plans on building additional facilities in the future. In theory, each plant will serve a 250 to 400-mile radius. Throughout North America, users can log into Cabinotch’s website (, activate an account and order product. “We recently eliminated all freight on orders over $1000 to let the market indicate the best areas to locate future plants,” says Lee. The technology behind manufacturing Cabinotch is exemplary in its efficient, mindful use of materials and dedication to the service of the end user. It is also inline with the mission statement of employee-owned Columbia Forest Products (Cabinotch’s parent company), “Our ideas will be groundbreaking and our stewardship will be forever mindful of the ground we live on.” s&p

inside frame

side joint 32

DetaIl angle

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The Continuing Evolution of Diamond [PCD] Cutting Tools b y

K a r i n

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n the summer of 1982, when the International Woodworking Fair (IWF) made its debut show in Atlanta, GA, the first polycrystalline diamond tools for wood/composite material were introduced in the U.S. The promise they brought to “run up to one million feet of material without a single tool change” seemed inconceivable. No one could fathom that any cutting tool could continuously run the equivalent of 7+ marathons (over 180 miles) cutting abrasive particleboard without wearing out on the first 10 miles! High-tech panel production equipment, coupled with competition among cutting tool manufacturers, has earned a handsome dividend for panel processors, allowing manufacturing costs to stabilize. As diamond tooling evolves, developments include extreme axial shear angle cutters that achieve a satin smooth finish resulting from a cutting action that is closer to shaving or peeling, rather than cutting. While these cutters are ideal for peripheral cuts, they aren’t the solution for parting cuts due to the larger cutting diameter necessitated by the extreme axial shear and resulting yield inefficiencies. Hogging/panel sizing cutters continue to advance with interesting designs that incorporate dust flow and chip extraction features, along with lighter overall tool weight (to reduce injury risk during tool changes) and tooth geometries that are matched to specific application for best finish.

“These challenges keep design and implementation of new cutting tool engineering ideas at the forefront and this trend will continue.” Karin Deutschler, the President of GUHDO USA Inc


The continuing advancement of newer composite panel materials, whether lightweight honeycomb panels with aluminum skin, wood composite panels with highly abrasive laminate surface, fire-rated MDF, carbon fiber reinforced plastics, phenolics or other specialty materials each seem to present their own set of unique challenges to efficiently cut, profile and optimize tool life while obtaining a quality surface finish. These challenges keep design and implementation of new cutting tool engineering ideas at the forefront and this trend will continue. Diamond-tipped saw blades deliver great savings during the many months they run without garnering even a moment of attention until they become dull. PCD saw blades do best and perform the longest in homogeneous materials, such as solid surface material, wallboard, hardboard, cement fiberboard, MDF and similar materials. Diamond router bits have progressed as well. Chip load is the most important factor in seeing positive performance, so the once popular disposable diamond router bit, that has definite feed speed

NO ADDED FORMALDEHYDE. limitations, has taken a back seat to newer designs. It is important to review expectations for output, finish and performance when determining tool specifications. The choice of single, two or three flute, straight or shear, segmented, staggered, insert or solid PCD tip, diamond grade (coarse or fine), polished or not should all play a part in the decision for best results. Drill bits, both through-hole (V-Point) and dowel style, are another relative newcomer in the array of diamond tools offered. While they do not run the marathons that their hogger, saw blade and routing counterparts are known for, they still offer a stately price/performance ratio that should not be underestimated or overlooked. To summarize, panel processors not using diamond tooling in their production are overlooking a tremendous opportunity to improve their bottom line. Letting the initial cost of diamond tooling intimidate purchasing decisions is ignoring the fact that in most cases, PCD provides the lowest cost per linear foot machined! s&p


FSC®-certified Collins Pine FreeForm Particleboard was used throughout the Hillside House in Mill Valley, California by SB Architects. Photo: Mariko Reed

Collins Pine Particleboard and FreeForm® Engineered wood products shouldn’t take a toll on the forests from which they came. Our particleboard products have earned numerous environmental accolades. We make the most out of every tree, so you can do the same.

About the author: Karin Deutschler is the President of GUHDO USA Inc and has been selling diamond tooling since its introduction in the U.S. in 1982. She currently maintains a blog about cutting tools at

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A Simple Custom Finish

for Stylish Cabinets


KEA – the world’s largest furniture manufacturer – elevated the production of inexpensive, predictable frameless cabinetry to an art. With its Euro-modern styling and wide use of engineered materials, it is hard not to appreciate all that IKEA does to make panel processed goods appealing to North American consumers. Competing directly with IKEA is nearly impossible. Its ubiquitous retail locations, all backed by localized supply chains, give the company the advantages of both imports and domestic manufactures. Yet as it dominates its specific price point, turning out decent-quality products that consumers love, IKEA also makes opportunities for companies outside its market. Just ask John McDonald, founder of Semihandmade, a Burbank Calif.-based company whose core business is making custom door and drawer fronts for IKEA kitchen, bath, organization


b y

and media products. Though the company is in no way affiliated with the IKEA brand, it produces to its standard component sizes. “IKEA is unique because it gives you the flexibility of not buying the doors if you don’t want them. It’s a great system. The kitchens are excellent, with European standard three-quarter inch TFL boxes. It is the same construction as Poggenpohl or Bulthaup. They use Blum hinges, slides and lifts, which is the best hardware you can get (and what everybody uses for custom). And again, you can use somebody else’s doors,” says McDonald. “We are able to fill that niche with one-of-a-kind doors that a company IKEA’s size just wouldn’t be able to do. It’s a bit like having the tiger by the tail.” Upgrade and Advantage

McDonald, an aspiring screenwriter turned self-taught woodworker, honed his material sensibilities and craftsman techniques

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with a decade of building custom furniture. He ran his operation as a businessman, so when the economy tanked he looked for a more reliable market to serve. “IKEA is a great company, and they are not going away,” says McDonald. “Someone suggested I start doing custom doors to its standards. I waited a year, but it just made sense. IKEA has 50 stores in the United States and Canada. We estimate conservatively IKEA sells 60,000 kitchens a year. Because everything is standardized though, our market is not just those 60,000. We're also able to upgrade IKEA kitchens up to six or seven years old which multiplies our pool of potential clients tremendously.” Currently about 85 percent of Semihandmade’s business is upgrading doors for IKEA chassis, with the balance being custom accessories to the system such as floating shelves, wine cabinets and bookcases.

Semihandmade is not the only company offering higher-end doors for IKEA systems. What differentiates it from the competition is that the custom fronts are all made and finished in-house. “Some of our competitors basically repackage and sell product made by third-party manufacturers. We can’t do it that way,” says McDonald. “The way we work is that people get on the IKEA website and design a kitchen using the free planner. They send their kitchen design to us and then there is a lot of back and forth. It is as custom as you can get without being custom.” Semihandmade offers a selection of Pionite and Formica HPL designs laid up for exposed edges on multiply. Some of their most stunning doors are one-of-a-kind sequenced veneers, mostly sourced from States Industries, which are laid up on MDF and edgebanded. Other offerings include solid shaker doors and unique reclaimed materials, like old wine barrels and barn lumber. This variety elevates the quality of the product beyond IKEA’s gravitational pull.


Refining and Scaling for Growth

The business model is so successful that Semihandmade just opened its first showroom in Burbank Calif. Burbank also happens to be the location where the largest IKEA store in the United States is slated to open in 2015. In the three-and-a-half years since the company started, it has grown exponentially – shipping 300 kitchen and bath units in 2013, and projecting double that in 2014. Once a one-man show, Semihandmade now operates in 9000 square feet, employs 22 people and dropships product throughout North America. While McDonald openly expresses his gratitude for Semihandmade’s success, he is equally as quick to acknowledge the challenges that accompany it. “I can’t be in sole proprietor mode anymore. I have a lot of talented people working with me and I also rely on my suppliers. Like any growing business, we have small disasters every week and still produce great product. It is all a part of learning how to refine and scale the business. An overnight success is typically a result of years of hard work.” One area that demands a lot of attention is finishing. Semihandmade doesn't offer staining or colored lacquer, but it does have a DIY line for people who want to take it to that level on their own. Standard wood and veneer products receive a solvent-based

Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)Certified


Post-Industrial Recycled Wood Fiber

Composite Panel Association Eco-Certified Composite Product

Potential support for five Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design® (LEED) credits


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All marks are the property of their respective companies

West Fraser & Marketing Marketing|| 1250 1250Brownmiller Brownmiller Road,Quesnel, Quesnel,BC, BC, CanadaV2J V2J6P5 6P5 West FraserMDF MDFSales Sales & Road, Canada Tel:| | Tel:250.992.9254 1.780.413.8900Fax: Fax: 250.992.3034 1.780.413.8910 e-mail:


Q2 2014


satin conversion varnish from ML Campbell. The clear finish is designed to provide maximum protection in the kitchen and bath environment. “I want to know exactly what we’re doing with the finish,” says McDonald. “You can make the most beautiful product in the world, but if you don’t finish it well or

don’t pack it properly for shipping, it makes no difference.” To that end, representatives from ML Campbell recently visited Semihandmade. They ran material through the shop’s air-assisted/airless Cougar spray guns from CA Technologies and sent samples to their North Carolina lab to help develop a

more consistent process. In response, one of the investments McDonald is planning for the next six months is a heated drying room to refine and expedite the finishing process. Another area of expansion is the development of a new line of doors that still looks great, but is a little closer to the typical IKEA customer’s price expectations. For this, McDonald is introducing the Eco line of reconstituted veneers from Brookside Veneers. “They all look great and we’re able to keep the price down by offering them as non-sequenced, and only vertical grain to maximize sheet use,” says McDonald. “Also, they’re all cut on CNCs as opposed to out standard sequenced stuff that we cut on Unisaws.” With the addition of the Eco line and investments in finishing, Semihandmade is anticipating continued growth. Add to that plans to include wares from several other IKEA “after-market” companies in the Burbank showroom, and it is quite possible that McDonald will become a one-stop IKEA customization operation. s&p

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mix & match by tafisa

Presenting Spring Blossom and Daybreak, another stylish combination that can be found in the Mix & Match concept developed by Tafisa® Canada, the company leading the way in fashion-forward interiors and environmental leadership. And Tafisa’s panels are manufactured using 100% recycled and recovered wood materials, saving millions of trees every year. Now that’s making a statement! Find out about Tafisa’s green mission and colour range at Sample and product information: 1-877-882-3472



iT’s wHaT’s on THe insiDe THaT maKes a cHampion.

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Place Matters

June 9 – 11, 2014 The Merchandise Mart, Chicago North America’s largest design exposition and conference for commercial interiors


Photograph by Hufton+Crow

Image courtesy of HOK

June 2014


Superb Finishing for a Variety of Styles Methods & Processes: Keys To Consistent Finishing Results

Superb Finishing

for a Variety of Styles b y

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ariety is one of the secrets to Dura Supreme’s success. “We partner with Dura for our cabinetry because of the huge breadth of finishes they offer, their flexibility and how well they work with the trades,” says Kelly Davert, general manager of Mingle Cabinetry Furnishings Design, one of the 800 dealers served by Dura Supreme. While the popularity of Dura Supreme’s transitional and contemporary product lines is increasing (see story page 6), 70 percent of the business is wood and wood veneer. “By far that is the majority of what we do, beautiful wood finishes and painted finishes,” says Karen Wistrom, vice president of marketing for Dura Supreme. “It is important that the finish looks great, but it also has to have the right feel, be it a smooth finish that enhances the wood grain or a weathered or distressed look. That is the quality difference between our product and one that is not done in a high-tech manufacturing environment.”


solvent borne stain intermix system

NEW PROMATCH INTERMIX SYSTEM & STOCK STAINS The C-Mix Intermix system provides ease of workability, good clarity and grain definition. This wipe stain can be sprayed or wiped on. It uses a simple one-step clear base and fourteen mono colors, allowing the match of virtually any color. The C-Mix system now incorporates the use of pigments and dyes in a single container. The addition of mono colors made with dyes provides the opportunity to match brighter colors with more depth. The system has 15 stock stains, and features 300 formulas that are quickly and easily duplicated. Color chip box sets in both oak and maple, plus formula guides can be ordered with the intermix system.

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Chemcraft® is a registered trademark of Akzo Nobel Coatings Inc.

Booth #2813

Consistently producing 1000s of SKUs, including many species of wood and an array of paints, stains, textures and glazes, requires a state-of-the-art operation. It also requires the diligent attention of a team of experienced craftsman. Dura Supreme, along with its supplier partners, has developed myriad multi-step processes to achieve high-quality finishes that will exceed nearly any customer’s expectation. “We manufacture almost everything in house (other than contemporary), even our doors. It is labor intensive, but it gives us a lot of control at each step of every process,” says Wistrom. “We are even able to pre-stain the center panels before a door is put together so when the wood expands and contracts, there is a finished product underneath. All of our processes and our attention to detail are about long-term quality.” Equipment and Technique

Dura Supreme’s multiple-step finishing operation occupies approximately one-third of the company’s 200,000 square foot facility. The sheer variety of door styles, species and finishes available makes high-tech spray on/hand wipe the most efficient method. This approach allows Dura Supreme to include as many steps in the process as are necessary to achieve a desired result, while producing 2000-4000 finished cabinets a week. Wistrom is quick to point out that sanding, one of the most laborintensive steps in the process, is also one of the most important. “If you don’t put the investment in up front with the sanding, it doesn’t matter how good your finish is,” says Wistrom. “It is the first crucial step in the process for good adhesion, but it is also necessary between coats. When you apply anything wet to wood, it raises the grain. Sanding throughout the process ensures a smooth surface.” Dura Supreme uses everything from wide belt and orbital sanders to hand and sponge sanding depending on the stage of finishing and the style of the piece. There are three different finishing lines, two hanging lines for doors, drawer fronts, molding pieces and other small parts; and one tow-line that uses carts to convey bigger items, like wood hoods and 4x8 panels. Multiple spray booths, each with a finish technician, are located along the lines. “If all we were doing was slab doors and drawer fronts, that could pretty easily be automated,” says Wistrom. “When you are doing turned posts, corbels, moldings and doors with intricate profiles and edges, you can’t really automate that. It takes that hand touch of the individual.” Dura Supreme’s finishing operation does include one Venjakob belt-fed automated flat-line finishing machine that is used for clear coating on some products. 44

To develop and apply complex, multi-layer finishes, Dura Supreme’s finish manager relies on strong relationship with both equipment and materials suppliers. “We collaborate very closely with Sherwin Williams’ industrial division on our formulations,” says Wistrom. “Everything has to work together, so our sealcoats and topcoats must adhere together, and they must work with our stains and glazes. If you are not watching the chemical make-up, materials can reject each other. One of their technicians is here all the time.” As parts move through the line, they are sprayed with the requisite materials. Dura Supreme utilizes solvent-based finishes for the durability and clarity of color. Depending on the finish, undertones might be applied as base coats. Stains are sprayed on, handwiped and sanded between applications. Glazing, distressing and other specialty finishes are also done by hand. Once the aesthetic is achieved, the pieces receive a sealcoat and are oven cured. If necessary, a final sanding is done prior to the topcoat, then the piece takes a final pass through an oven curing system. “It is crucial to make sure that the finish is fully cured and that the surfaces are hard and fully protected. From there, the pieces go into the final assembly area where the actual cabinet is assembled, inspected and shipped,” says Wistrom. “Our finishing processes are state-of-the-art, but in order to provide high-quality across many different species, styles and finishes, there is definitely an artisan component. When somebody makes that once-in-a-lifetime investment in their kitchen, we want them to be happy for the long term.” s&p


In our 25,000 square foot sanding and finishing laboratory in High Point, North Carolina, we can test and prove out any process on any material so you can be certain you achieve the best results for your products. Stiles has automated finishing solutions for almost any application in any industry. We offer the latest technology available in: • Roll coating lines • Spray lines • Vacuum coaters • Panel cleaners • Sanding machines • Digital printers • Profile systems • Edge processing • Curtain coating

Our consultants have years of finishing industry experience, and are ready to lower your costs, increase your quality, and manage all your logistical support. Talk to us. We’ll tell you more. For more information, contact Don Leblanc at 616.698.7500 or Please visit us at For information on how Stiles can put new technology and new thinking to work for you, contact Stephan Waltman, VP of Marketing and Communications, at 616.698.7500 or

Software. Education. Training. Parts. Service. Support. Leasing. Rebuild.


Methods & Processes:

Keys To Consistent Finishing Results b y


n the face of it, finishing should be simple. However, for most woodworkers in small woodworking shops, finishing a job can evoke trepidation similar to public speaking. After all, woodworkers saw, sand, glue and assemble, right? What’s this chemistry stuff? Alan Toney, a 35-year industry veteran and Distribution Trainer for Valspar Wood in High Point, N.C., estimates that on a scale of one to 10 woodworkers have an average confidence level of five when it comes to their own finishing skills. “The vast majority of woodworkers view finishing as a necessary evil,” Toney says. He’s quick to add that a little fear is understandable. Finishing is the most misunderstood step in completing a job,

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but along with the product design, it is the first thing people see. “Regardless of how well designed or constructed a job is, if your finish isn’t clear, smooth, and rich with precise color, it will detract from the project’s overall beauty.” Each year, Toney and his staff train hundreds of distribution personnel and woodworkers with small shops (up to 20 employees). He teaches three skill levels of finishing (beginner, accomplished and advanced) and offers customized classes that target specific needs. In Toney’s experience, the best way to help woodworkers overcome their fear of finishing is by establishing a step-by-step process that can be repeated every time. Consistency eliminates variables, making it easier to identify when and where problems occur, and how to avoid them in the future. “We try to establish good systems for our distributors and their customers by following best finishing practices,” Toney emphasizes. A large part of Toney’s class focuses on dispelling long-standing myths about finishing. As an example, he cites sanding for surface

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Alan Toney evaluating the color comparison of a treatment with the standard oak finish panel for accuracy of color. Using the same finishing process on every job eliminates variables and is the best way to assure color consistency every time.

This image shows a typical cold check failure due to excess film build. Many finishers fall prey to this when they apply numerous coats in an effort to build a really smooth finish and/or a really thick finish.

preparation. Woodworkers unfamiliar with surface preparation may be under the false impression that sanding with finer grit paper better prepares the wood to accept finish. The fact is that sanding a surface with paper any finer than 180-grit inhibits finish absorption, impedes color development and can adversely affect finish adhesion. Finer grit papers 240 and above are used for sanding between coats of finish, facilitating that silky smooth feel and appearance all woodworkers want their work to have. Shading with oil stains is another commonly accepted practice, but in Toney’s experience it is “flirting with disaster”. Oil stains can prevent the finish from adhering to the wood and poor adhesion due to oil stain shading can create an undesirable smoky finish that’s neither clear nor well defined. “A lot of the processes used in the woodworking world over generations do not deliver the best results with today’s products,” Toney says. “Finishing is just like any other chemical technology. As products change and improve, there is the need to adapt processes to get optimum results.” How different finishing products react can be affected by many variables, from the type of wood being coated (Toney gears training primarily to popular woods like oak, cherry, maple, and alder) and the moisture content of the wood, to temperature and humidity. A 50-degree, 90 percent humidity day in Houston is a lot different from an 80-degree, 15 percent humidity day in Phoenix. Weather can dramatically affect drying times as well as how products react with the wood.

JFP Joe Fletcher Photography

Customer measuring by weight on a gram scale during a finishing training seminar.

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Q2 2014


The dark gray panel on the left appears cloudy and lightened due to over-catalyzation, or what is referred to as a catalytst bloom. The one on the right appears “whitish” but is actually light gray due to the same effect.

Film bubbling is caused by using an incompatible reducer, or other component, without checking the compatibility of the two products together. The best way to avoid this effect is to read the product technical data sheets and follow instructions on the product label.

Small shops often employ wiping stains, but larger shops with higher production demands tend to use spray application, which provides a finishing method geared for faster, high-volume production. Moving from wipe-on stain to spray application increases the number of variables involved in the process. Air and fluid nozzles, proper atomization, material solids, solvent blend and drying time are a few factors that increase the complexity of spray application. Again, Toney reinforces the importance of using a consistent, repeatable process. As more products are developed, more options are available to improve the quality of a finish while maintaining ease-of-use. Choices for topcoats (sealers) are a good example. Nitrocellulose lacquer is an old stand-by for many small woodshops because it dries quickly and produces a durable finish suitable mainly for furniture. Conversion

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varnish is another long-standing product that is much tougher than nitrocellulose lacquer, especially in areas where moisture is present such as kitchens and baths. Conversion varnish does need to be catalyzed and has “pot-life” considerations. Pre-catalyzed lacquer is a hybrid product that contains the attributes of nitrocellulose lacquer such as ease-of-application and ease-of-repair, but also has some of the attributes of a conversion varnish (which delivers a higher level of durability) and has a shelf life of up to a year. Toney commonly receives questions from woodworkers and distributors concerning the durability, clarity, color tone, evenness, smoothness and even leveling of finishes. “A finish needs to be flexible enough to absorb the natural movement of wood but hard enough to resist scratches and dents,” Toney says. “This becomes somewhat of a balancing act because if you make the product so hard that it won’t dent, it will crack with wood movement.” Orange peel is a common finishing problem characterized by undulations in the finish resembling the surface of an orange. Orange peel can be caused by any number of different steps in the finishing process. It can be the result of drying too fast, high viscosity in the finish material, or improper spray equipment or setup that affects the finish application. Toney says the most important aspect of finishing is to establish a process that works for the customer and creates a repeatable, deep, rich and smooth finish every time. That’s something all woodworkers strive for. s&p

Regardless of how well designed or constructed a job is, if your finish isn’t clear, smooth, and rich with precise color, it will detract from the project’s overall beauty.

Your Local Advantage:

Manufacturing Huntsman understands supplying MDI-based resin solutions to composite wood product manufacturers takes more than just delivering products. It takes commitment, planning and a local worldscale manufacturing site, backed by an experienced manufacturing and supply chain team. Our dedicated associates in Geismar, Louisiana, know your market, its challenges, and more importantly how to respond quickly and adapt reliably to your changing conditions. It’s what we at Huntsman like to call‌ Your Local Advantage.

MDI:Fact vs. B y


Read on as we answer key questions to reveal the truth behind some of these MDI myths. What is MDI?

MDI is generically used to describe a range of products consisting of methylene diphenyl diisocyanate, polymethylene polyphenylene polyisocyanate (polymeric MDI or PMDI), and other variants, and is one of the basic components of polyurethanes, a widely used polymer. To make polyurethane, an isocyanate such as MDI is reacted with a hydroxyl-containing compound – typically a polyol made specifically for urethane applications to yield a high molecular weight and/or crosslinked polymer.

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Misconceptions still persist about formaldehyde-free MDI resins for composite wood panel (CWP) applications.

or more than 40 years, wood panel manufacturers have used resins containing formaldehyde to bond wood together during the manufacturing process of particleboard (PB) and medium-density fiberboard (MDF). Today, MDI-based resins offer a powerful, formaldehyde-free and fast-curing alternative solution for the composite wood panel industry. MDI-based resins are used for bonding PB, MDF, oriented strand board (OSB), laminated strand/oriented strand lumber (LSL/OSL) and wood fiber insulation board (WFI). The use of MDI in particleboard/MDF has increased more than 40 fold in the past few years. Although they have recently achieved more significant market share (more than 90 percent of operating OSB mills in the NAFTA region use MDI) several misconceptions still exist about MDI.


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The most important feature of MDI-based polyurethanes is that product manufacturers can create custom polyurethanes to meet their specific design criteria, production capabilities and end-use product performance specifications by choosing from a range of MDI products and a range of hydroxyl-containing compounds. The MDI used to make polyurethanes is available in three basic compositions: • Monomeric or “pure” MDI • Polymeric MDI • Variants produced either from pure MDI or components of polymeric MDI In composite wood panels, the wood provides a rich source of hydroxylcontaining compounds that react with the MDI resins, normally a polymeric MDI or its variant. Many components of wood naturally contain hydroxyl groups, such as cellulose, lignin and water. Is MDI a newly created chemical?

MDI has been used in the production of composite wood panels for over 30 years. MDI-based polyurethanes date back to World War II, when they were first used as a replacement for rubber. Polyurethanes were used in chemical-resistant garments, high-gloss airplane finishes and chemical/corrosion-resistant coatings. Later, polyurethanes could be found in coatings, adhesives, elastomers and rigid foams. In the late 1950s, flexible foams used for cushions became commercially available. Today, MDI has gained worldwide acceptance as a binder for wood composite panels.

Is MDI used in many common consumer products?

MDI is used to produce polyurethane materials, which are used in construction applications, automobiles, footwear, bedding, furniture, insulation, carpets, clothes, appliances, composite wood panels and more. If you have driven to work, sat at your desk, gone for a jog, gotten a good night’s rest or opened your refrigerator lately, chances are you have encountered polyurethane materials, which were manufactured from MDI. In 2010, 12.5 billion pounds of MDI were produced globally, with 1.8 billion pounds produced in the NAFTA region alone. Do traditional CWP resins work better than MDI-based resins?

MDI creates a very strong bond with the wood particles or strands as it reacts with the hydroxyl-containing compounds in wood when put under intense heat. A highly crosslinked polymer network is created which effectively acts as chemical weld. This is a different and superior type of bond compared to the mechanical weld that formaldehyde-based resins produce. In the case of formaldehyde products, it is clear to see where one material starts and another ends. However, MDI bonds by forming a diffuse interphase in which the resin spreads over the surface of the wood and penetrates into cracks, cell lumen and even cell walls. Penetration depths of up to 1 mm are readily achieved, which is well beyond the 3 cell depths commonly assumed to be needed for wood resins to provide adequate adhesive strengths. In the diffusion interphase, the MDI effectively becomes one with the wood. This, along with the penetration and the spread, is responsible for the high-quality performances expected from MDIbonded wood, including the resistance to thickness swell and excellent strength-to-weight ratio. Other potential MDI manufacturing benefits include:

• Achieving a more stable processing window, while reducing production costs • Fast curing time • Ease of adding biocides or fire retardants • Increased mill productivity • Reduced sensitivity to a wider variety of wood species • Increase in the panels’ physical property performance • Wider tolerance of wood moisture variability • Finished panels that are smoother, lighter and more natural in appearance when compared to those which are manufactured using formaldehyde based resins. • Compared with traditional formaldehyde options, MDI resins require a lower dosage making it a cost-effective binding option when comparing on a $/MSF basis • Improved indoor air quality, as it has no added formaldehyde • Helps CWP manufacturers meet more stringent CARB II regulations Do MDI products offer any benefits?

With MDI, volatile organic compound (VOC) control systems operate more efficiently thanks to lower, dryer temperatures and emission levels. Today, consumers are increasingly concerned about the quality of the air in their homes and the levels of VOCs emitted by the buildings and furnishings around them. Composite wood panels manufactured with MDI binders have no added formaldehyde, meeting the most stringent standards specified around the world.

Is MDI subject to the same safety and regulatory challenges as traditional resins?

Because MDI resins contain no added formaldehyde (NAF), they are considered “exempt” under requirements of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) standards. Using MDI resins classifies products as both CARB I and CARB II compliant. The resins are also compliant with the European EPF-S standard, as well as the Japanese formaldehyde emission standard. MDI has been thoroughly studied, recently undergoing extensive review and analysis by domestic and international authorities. The European Union’s MDI Risk Assessment Report (2005) concluded that “exposure of humans to MDI through the general environment is not expected to lead to any health hazards. Human exposure to MDI indirectly via the environment is of no concern. No concern is expected related to the physico-chemical properties of the substance for human populations (workers, consumers and humans exposed via the environment).” Therefore, there is no concern as to public exposure from CWP mills. Given the physical/chemical properties of MDI and monitoring results of MDI emissions (under petition by the industry), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering removal of MDI from the Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) list. Are there safeguards in place to prevent MDI exposure?

When handled and used properly, MDI is a very safe chemical. Mills using MDI binders are provided with training and advice regarding safe handling practices in the workplace. Chemical emissions occur at two primary points in the production of CWP: in the wood dryers and the hot press. In the wafer drying process, MDI binders are not used or released. Small concentrations of MDI vapors may be released when the boards are pressed in the hot press, but properly installed and maintained engineering controls, such as enclosures and local exhaust ventilation, prevent MDI vapors or particulate from entering the workplace. Monitoring of the air for MDI has been conducted at the fence-line or perimeter of OSB mills using MDI binders. This test is capable of measuring levels of MDI in the air as low as 20 parts per trillion (ppt). As a point of reference, one part per trillion is equivalent to one drop of water in 27,700,000 gallons. (Imagine adding one drop of water to the amount of water it would take to fill a 39-story building that is 100 feet wide by 100 feet long.) Even at the 20-ppt level, sampling results show no MDI being detected. Scientific assessments, such as ambient air sampling, clearly indicate that this does not represent a health risk to the surrounding community. Where can I find more information about MDI and its uses?

A number of educational resources are available through the Center for the Polyurethanes Industry (CPI) of the American Chemistry Council ( and the International Isocyanate Institute ( s&p About the authors: Michael Adams, Commercial Director, Huntsman, and John Bebak, CWP Business Manager, Huntsman, have more than 40 years of combined experience in the CWP industry. Michael can be reached at; John Bebak, can be reached at


Q2 2014


The Process and Design Behind the mHouse With nearly 30 years spent designing conscientious living spaces (homes, neighborhoods, communities), renown architect John Vetter brings his experience and process to the much-anticipated mHouse. Surface & Panel magazine recently sat down with Vetter to discuss the project. Please provide an overview of the mHouse.


I look at purpose. And the purpose of this home is two-fold. It is an example of the surface and panel industry, as a showcase home that highlights the best and brightest new materials in the industry. So it is a case study. However beyond that it is a lifestyle home, showing people outside of the industry alternative ways of organizing a house that connects with JV:

nature and takes advantage of sunshine. The home prioritizes quality of space over quantity of space, looking at a new modern lifestyle in a more liberated way. Is the process of designing the mHouse different than developing a home for a homeowner client?


It is the identical process. We are trying to knit something unique and specific to a very unique piece of land with consideration to the unique requirements and lifestyle of our client. Every space has an inherent quality to it. Understanding that and using it to inform the spatial arrangements is the first step. The resulting home is more holistic and intuitive. When people come into that space, they feel good – even if they cannot articulate why. That is the difference between an architect-built home and a production-built home.


How did you apply that process for the mHouse?


There isn’t technically a homeowner or client here, but rather a humanity that drives the program.



The processes of site orientation and identifying lifestyle are already fundamental to our practice. The real learning is from the materials. In meeting with all the different vendors, we’ve had the opportunity to understand not just their products, but how they make their products; their means and methods and processes in manufacturing. It is fantastic to learn where things come from. When you understand a material, how it is made and what you can do with it, you become better able to design with it and apply it in compelling ways. How would you describe the style of the house?


In terms of the future homeowner, we ended up taking the prototypical information we have heard over 30 years in practice from our clients at this price point and distilled it down to create our ideal client. So that is how we looked at it from a lifestyle standpoint, taking into consideration how to make a home that is a living home, meaning it can adapt to a family or individuals at different stages in life. Too often a home just works great if there are a bunch of kids or if it is empty nesters. To that end, we emphasize quality over quantity with an archetypal 2800 squarefoot structure. Then we are creating really compelling spaces with great materiality and a seamless connection to nature. We also really try to assimilate and incorporate our client’s personality into a home. In this case, that is a bit like capturing the ethos of the surface and panel industry and what drives the development of the materials used in the project. In meeting with suppliers, we find that in this industry there is an undeniable passion for engineering and design – and how they relate to people. That becomes the spirit of the house. The other shaper of this architecture was the land. It is great to have a more or less level site that is fairly wide open without a lot of vegetation. It gave us opportunity to work with the sun and also to capitalize on the great views of the golf course. At the same time, we looked at how to create private space. That is where the courtyard comes in. You still feel sheltered, and have this nice sense of scale, even though the land is wide open. 54

With each home there is a discovery process. What was that like for the mHouse?


What we learned was more on the materiality standpoint. It is how to incorporate cutting-edge engineered materials into a workable home for today, a home that can be constructed and not be overly complicated. So I think it is more from a means and methods and materiality standpoint, and we continue to learn.


I’m not a big one for placing styles on houses, but I know it’s really tough to get around that. I think there are impulses. The mHouse picks up on a mid-century modern vibe, particularly from prairie school architecture. There are tones of Frank Lloyd Wright from his Usonian homes that were prevalent at that time period as well. It also has a style we haven’t termed yet, that is kind of a humane modernism. A modernism that is not so stark and international as


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Then in terms of materials, the beauty is that the technology here has gone so far that it is liberating cost. You don’t have to have an extreme elite cost structure to have a very similar, authentic design.

it was in the 1950s. It is something that I think will become equally as grounded and liberating, but in a much more humane way. That is what we are really trying to do, not just with the materials, but with the way the mHouse is laid out. There is also a sense of regional modernism because it really responds geographically to the location in Wisconsin. The hallmark of good modernism is this liberation, an opening of the spaces particularly to sunlight, to views, to ventilation, all of which the mHouse does. So it resonates on those levels, but also in a way that will be a better and more heartfelt use of materials. I think that is the disconnect within classic modernism that hopefully we overcome today.

How do the materials in the mHouse help to carry those concepts of openness and liberation?


We apply our development process to meet our clients’ unique lifestyles and spaces. And we do have clients that come to us with huge budgets and the desire to have elite materials, wire-scraped millwork and granite floors, for example. Which is great if it fits your lifestyle.


One of the important things that the mHouse does is provide the same aesthetic and feel in materials that are more attainable. That is the essence of this home on two levels. Structurally, there is a sense of openness in lifestyle from the layout of the building and the connection with nature.

“I think there will be people who walk into this house with the understanding that it is a showcase for engineered materials, but I think there will be a far greater audience that will just come because they want to see something interesting.” John Vetter, Vetter Denk architects


Another great thing about the materiality of the mHouse is the play of the materials. Regardless of budget, we actually find that any building has more life if it has a combination of inexpensive materials (we call them common materials used in uncommon ways) juxtaposed with really beautiful priority parts. It’s the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, meaning rustyperfection. All of these philosophies are incorporated into the mHouse. Within our palette of materials everything is available, from pristine high gloss to deeply– textured, rustic surfaces, and everything in between. Sometimes even within the same material family and with not a lot of price difference. That is the liberation from cost that gives us a lot of flexibility to make a home that resonates. After time spent developing the mHouse, what is your feeling for the project?


J.V: I think there will be people who walk into this house with the understanding that it is a showcase for engineered materials, but I think there will be a far greater audience that will just come because they want to see something interesting. Even if visitors don’t know what the materials are, I believe that the home will still resonate on a very similar level as a home with elite materials. And I think for people in general, value is really a big deal. In our practice, we see that cost is starting to be the biggest concern almost across the board. People will be amazed by what the materials can do. Regardless of who you are, a homeowner, an architect or designer, it is easy to get stuck in the same groove when it comes to materials. With the mHouse, a person doesn’t have to understand the technology behind the materials to see and feel what they can do. It will open visitors’ minds to what is possible when they experience the overall quality of the space. That is liberating. s&p






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What is ECC? ECC stands for Eco-Certified CompositeTM, as defined in the stringent Sustainability Standard and Certification Program for composite panel products – specifically particleboard, MDF, hardboard and engineered wood siding and trim, and products made with them.

What makes a composite panel Eco-Certified? The requirements for ECC Certification are tough and specific, and require annual audits. Composite panels must first comply with the stringent California Air Resources Board (CARB) formaldehyde emissions regulation. In addition, the panel manufacturing facility must meet at least 3 of the following requirements:

• Carbon Footprint – Demonstrate that the panel’s carbon store offsets its cradle-to-gate carbon footprint as determined in kg-CO2 equivalents of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

• Local and Renewable Resource – At least 85% of wood fiber sourced within 250 miles.

• Recycled/Recovered – At least 75% recycled or recovered wood fiber; or at least 50% recycled/recovered wood fiber plus a minimum of 5% post-consumer fiber.

• Sustainability – At least 97% of the wood fiber furnish used in the

manufacturing process is either converted into panels or other non-waste products.

• Wood Sourcing – Hold a valid assessment and certificate from a certifying agency recognized by CPA such as FSC or SFI.

The Composite Panel Association is committed to advancing and certifying the sustainability of industry products for residential, commercial and industrial uses.

ECC Wood Products are among the greenest on earth. What products carry the ECC logo? Products carrying the ECC-certified logo include furniture, cabinets, closet systems, flooring, doors, mouldings and more.

Who can be ECC certified? ECC certification is available to composite panel plants and facilities that manufacture laminated panels, components and finished products. Certification provides independent third party verification and an audited chain of custody.

What about LEED? ECC certification may help products achieve LEED credit for Recycled Content MR Credit 4, Regional Materials MR Credit 5, Certified Wood MR Credit 7, and/or Low Emitting Material EQ Credit 4.4. ECC certification may also help earn credit for Low Emitting Materials EQ Credit 4.5 and others.

Who sponsors ECC? The Composite Panel Association (CPA) developed the ECC Standard, including its pioneering Carbon Calculator. CPA administers the ECC Certification Program as a third party certification agency accredited to ISO/IEC Guide 65 by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).





ince its introduction as a decorative surface, high-pressure laminate has held a place as an archetypical kitchen material. The look easily adapts to the fashion of the time, from the classic Boomerang pattern to woodgrain, whimsical, metallic and stone designs. Unlike the natural materials HPL is so adept at emulating, laminate undergoes constant technological advancements – from décor development and printing technology, to advances in texture, surface durability and edge treatment. This fusion of fashion and function brings consumers products that perform beautifully in a variety of kitchen applications.

In recent history, builders used commodity laminate as a starting point to up-sell other materials. While HPL dutifully performs in that role, it is also capable of fulfilling the look of elite materials with less cost to the environment and the homeowner. “When I really started working with Wilsonart’s line of HPL, I called it ‘glaminate’ because it offers designers so many distinct styles. It makes it possible for people to attain very aspirational looks. Beyond countertops, I love to use it vertically for backsplashes and wall cladding,” says environmental lifestyle expert and designer Danny Seo. “And it makes sense. Not only is HPL durable and can be wiped clean, it is made from recycled materials and can contribute to LEED credits. There is just so much to like about it.” To fully appreciate its role in the kitchen, it is important to understand what a sophisticated product today’s HPL really is.

HPL is available in variety of designs (solid colors, woodgrains, stone, abstract and custom prints) and finishes. It is an ideal surface material for almost any horizontal or vertical kitchen application.

Pionite by Panolam Surface Systems 60

Jowat | your partner in bonding

Lamitech – the largest manufacturer of high-pressure laminates in Latin America – takes it to the limit with Big Scale Granites. Big, bold patterns make dramatic statements that showcase the natural, varied colors in the veins of a real stone slab. And the bigger the better – these extreme designs don't have any of the pattern repetition found in traditional laminates. Now it is possible to achieve real scale looks for spectacular looking spaces. Lamitech’s paper suppliers source from FSC certified forests, and all laminates are low VOC and GreenGuard certified.

lamitech's "Lapidus"

Kitchen Fashion and Décor Development

Jowat offers a variety of Adhesives for furniture components that covers

Regardless of personal style, North Americans share an overwhelming affinity for open floor plans throughout the living spaces of their homes. “Within the kitchen that put more focus on having a center island,” says Renee Hytry Derrington, group vice president of design at Formica Corporation. “That opened the door for larger format, bigger movement stone designs.” Hytry Derrington is a global trend hunter with expert knowledge in what it takes to bring an idea to life in HPL. She started the process of developing large format designs (as well as the technology relationships to fulfill them and the marketing plan to reach consumers) years before the look dominated dream kitchen boards on Pinterest. Like most significant design trends, large centerpiece stone started with the elite who would jet off to the slab yards in Italy to peruse blocks of granite brought over from Brazil. Once selected, the block would be sliced with heavy equipment and shipped back to North America to serve as a center island. A compelling piece in stunning kitchen design? Certainly. Broad consumer appeal? Definitely. According to Hytry Derrington, the trend became more mainstream and the stone slabs somewhat more attainable. Yet natural stone is still expensive – and the mining and transporting of the materials has significant environmental impact. So she did what many people dream of doing. “I took (product designer) Barry Gomez stone shopping in top slab yards,” says Hytry Derrington. “We started in real format to develop a product that would meet the market’s near-future aspirational design demands.” The resulting 180fx Formica HPL collection offers visual drama with true-to-scale stone and large-slab wood patterns. It is a perfect solution for homeowners who desire the look of a stunning center island, but are not willing or able to take part in the costly business of shipping slabs globally.

• 3D Membrane Pressing (1K and 2K) • PUR Hot Melt Adhesives for High Gloss Flat Lamination • Thermoplastic and PUR Hot Melt for Edgebanding • Hot Melt Adhesives for Precoating and Laminating Jowat – One supplier for all system components.

Jowat Corporation 5608 Uwharrie Rd. Archdale, NC 27263 Phone +1 336 434 9000 Fax +1 336 434 9173

Jowat Corporation - Surface Maga1 1


61 12.02.2014 15:23:57

Q2 2014

Formica180fx® marks a revolution in surfacing with true-to-scale stone and wood patterns that offer visual drama unmatched by any other laminate. Modern, sophisticated patterns focus on a neutral palette – versatile enough to pair with any interior design concept. Producing large format HPL took the highly technical process of décor paper printing to task as well. “For 180fx, we’re scanning an entire slab of granite, but it is not as simple as just engraving that on a cylinder and printing with it. There is still a lot of work to do,” says Peter Garlington, design director for Interprint, Inc. “We have to be able to wrap the design around a larger-than-standard cylinder so that it seems continuous and without obvious repeat when used for a seven-foot long island. We also have to take into consideration how traditional kitchen manufacturers are going to work with the panel, which often means ripping it down the middle to make 30-inch countertops. So the design has to be balanced. In certain cases, like Formica’s Black Walnut Timber, which has that really interesting burly seam down the middle with the bowties put in the check, the large format becomes the art piece for the island. Then we print companion pieces for the countertops.” Interprint’s in-house design, repro and cylinder engraving departments work closely together to improve on nature. They create manuscripts and color separations that optimize the rotogravure printing process, so that the resulting HPL is not only stunning, but can be practically used in typical kitchen countertop and island applications.

cabinets furniture panels drawers closets

"Black Walnut Timber" by Formica

woodgrain prints by Panel Processing Inc.

The natural appearance and durability of Woodgrain Prints make them an easy choice over laminates. Our gravure printing process produces a high quality consistent image, and with multiple wood patterns and custom color matching, the possibilities are endless. Oh yeah, did we mention it costs less?

1.800.433.7142 62

"Dolce Macchiato" by Formica

rustic, vintage, natural.


Lamitech COLLECTION Lamitech Ref.: Rural Pine 1505

NEW 2014 COLLECTION. We are inspired by natural creativity.

Phone: (57-1) 644 9898 Fax: (57-1) 644 9897



With a varied range of surfacing materials, HPL offers lowmaintenance durability and excellent surface aesthetics. Along with new trends, these laminates offer features like resistance to stain, heat and moisture coupled with ease in cleaning for a hygienic environment. Appealing texture, such as the crystal finish which features a shiny, fine-grain feel adds elegance to the kitchen.

image courtesy of Greenlam Lamitech's "Santo Cinza"

Innovation on Top of Innovation:

Advances in Overlay and Texture

"dolce vita" by formica

Printed décor paper is what gives HPL its aesthetic quality, but HPL earned its place in kitchen design because it is durable and easy-to-clean. Advanced surface technologies enhance both the performance and the tactile quality of HPL. The most basic construction of HPL starts with several sheets of kraft paper (similar to brown paper bag material) that are impregnated with phenolic resin. A melamine resin-saturated décor paper is placed on top and the entire stack is fused under heat and pressure. When adhered to a composite panel substrate, the resulting decorative panel offers very good impact, moisture and scratch resistance. HPL’s durability is further enhanced by adding a paper overlay containing particles of aluminum oxide (the primary material that determines wear resistance in laminate) to the top of the material stack prior to pressing. Typically, the deposition of aluminum oxide in an overlay is dictated by the paper making process. However, some producers even take that technology to the next level. Wilsonart brought the process in-house so that it could control the deposition of the aluminum oxide particles. The company’s proprietary Aeon finish offers superb scratch/scuff/mar resistance, print fidelity and color saturation, that is achieved by encouraging small aluminum oxide particles to reside nearer to the surface of the overlay sheet and larger particles to reside more deeply within the overlay sheet. This development has done a lot to fortify high-gloss finishes. “The finish not only adds a great amount of depth and variety, it completely changes the color, offering more design options,” says Debbie Sulewski, national design director for Panolam Surface Systems. “Finishes range from matte, velvet, gloss and wood-grain to specialty "breve" from panolam

"slate sequoia" by formica

Today, many respected HPL producers have made investments in the décor development and printing processes necessary to bring the sought-after look of large-scale stone to market.


Panolams "Kopi Susu"

"Legni" from Abet textures like stone and leather.” Sulewski manages both the Pionite and Nevamar brands of HPL. “Depending on the material of choice, texture is accomplished with release papers or by embossing with steel press plates. When combining our Nevamar or Pionite materials with a cornucopia of finish options our clients can achieve any design objective,” says Sulewski. “It is all about texture right now. In kitchens the finish brings the large, exotic stone patterns for countertops to life, enhances the fidelity of woodgrain and adds another dimension of visual interest to the contemporary abstract HPL designs.” The advanced technology of plate finishes and release papers – with varying depth and changing arrangements – adds a three-dimensional effect to HPL. Yet sometimes, what is most compelling about texture is the absence of texture. “We have a new technology for our Drops collection which uses a reverse printing technique and special overlay atop aluminum,” says Damiano, president Abet, Inc. “This process gives a textured look, but the surface is actually flat.” Abet's "drops"


image courtesy of VT Industries

On the Edge HPL is a flat panel product with one decorative surface. In the worlds of furniture and casework, addressing the unfinished edges is generally a straightforward matter of matching edgebanding. However creating a kitchen countertop with an attractive edge and no dark line requires yet more advanced technology. In many cases, the solution lies within the HPL itself. Self-edging or mixed material edging is an option that, if done carefully, can be a great edge treatment. “For decades the big countertop issue has been the edge,” says Tony Damiano, president Abet, Inc. “High production tops continue to prefer the post-formed edge. For custom kitchens, however, metal edgebanding is in ascendency as well as using the laminate in a 90 degree self-edge. It is not uncommon to edge a countertop with a contrasting color from the horizontal plane to bring the eye away from the brown edge of the laminate. Color-through laminate is also a solution that is becoming more common.” For large-format kitchen islands with thick edges, exact matching digitally-printed edgebanding carries the design over the vertical surface. The nature of HPL allows it to be post-formed, which has become the common countertop edge treatment. Post-forming entails bending HPL using heat and pressure to create a finished edge. It is not an easy process, but a handful of post-formers have invested in equipment and processes to shape HPL for beautifully integrated edges and backsplashes. “The one missing link – which happened about the same time as all these other areas of HPL were evolving – was the edge treatment,” says Rick Liddell, vice president of the fine laminate countertop division, manufacturing and sales for VT Industries, North America’s largest post-forming operation. “Choices used to be self-edge (building a slab then adhering a strip of HPL) which leads to a black line where the two surfaces meet. Or we could bend the laminate, but it was still crude – a basic waterfall or rolled top. Now the technology has advanced to premium edges, with ogees and multiple radiuses. The edges can convey in and convex out, so you get some movement and it truly looks like what would be done with stone or other materials. Plus, post-forming makes a seamless edge. It has elevated the category of HPL from flat and simple to something that has much more design character. The new profiles really compliment the stone look that is popular.”

Success doesn’t come by chance Confidence in the trends A genuine Schattdecor original from the Decor Selection collection. It comes with an ‘absolutely-in-trend’ certificate, promising a significant appreciation in the value of the buyer’s own collection.

We make decors successful.

Applications of Innovations HPL is a common material that lends itself nicely to many uncommon applications. The same characteristics that make laminate a great specification for countertops and cabinetry (huge selection of designs in a durable, environmentally-friendly, easy to obtain material) make it a rising star for vertical kitchen applications. Environmental lifestyle expert Danny Seo recently designed two stunning show kitchens on behalf of Wilsonart for the 2014 KBIS. “The most important thing to me in the work that I do is style first, sustainability second. Because if it doesn’t look good, it doesn’t matter how green the product is. If you are disappointed with the aesthetic of it, you’ll just end up ripping it out and replacing it anyway,” says Seo. “But you don’t have to compromise. One of the interesting things about the modern kitchen is a lot of environmental designers know that real marble or granite or stone is not actually a very green choice, even though it is a natural material. It is mined out of the earth. It is a very heavy material and inefficient to transport globally. It is hard to work with. And it is expensive.” Despite the facts of the matter, there is no denying the popularity of the stone look. “I actually used a lot of aspirational ideas that people were pinning as favorites on Pinterest to develop these kitchens, “says Seo. “Then I found ways of using Wilsonart HPL to show how you can have a kitchen that looks like a $100,000 kitchen for a fraction of the cost.”

Modern Kitchens with Vertical Wilsonart HPL Seo’s Modern Luxe kitchen features an HPL marble slab island. “What I loved about that marble design is that the interior of the HPL is white, so there are 90 degree angles with no dark lines,” says Seo. “I carried that marble into the vertical surfaces to make the chevron backsplash. It looks like it is made from large, irregularly cut slices of marble. With HPL it was simple to design and fabricate, but imagine trying to achieve that look with stone tile. You would need an artisan fabricator and the tiles are heavy. HPL is just a great way to celebrate big, flat, beautiful areas in the kitchen. It just shines and looks great.” Seo’s Country Modern kitchen balances a compelling stone laminate countertop with a light woodgrain laminate wall cladding for an earthy, down-home feel. “I love HPL on vertical surfaces,” says Seo. “There is something so fresh about it. You can do bold, risky things, or just add a little complementary interest. When people want wallcovering in their kitchens, I think HPL. It is just the smarter choice, it is strong, durable, easy to clean, and looks amazing.” n

Treefrog’s Black Macassar Design is featured in a kitchen by Regio & Bauer

Photo by Tom Arban

HPL + Wood Veneer = Stunning Kitchens with Treefrog Besides being beautiful, Treefrog is an expertly prefinished wood veneer laminate that makes great cabinetry. The polyurethane topcoat is durable and long lasting. Treefrog's unique process ensures veneer consistency, sheet after sheet, in design spaces of any size. The laminate backer adds installation ease, and the laminate edge, always a concern, is easy to conceal in today’s more modern kitchens that often feature countertop overhangs and recessed door designs. n 68

Decotone Torino Wood Laminate Collection

Decotone Metallic Laminate Collection

Decotone Designer Collection Laminates Tel: 908-301-0600


Decotone Zenolite High Gloss Acrylic Panels

Decotone Translucent Panels Los Angeles


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New York



Metal Laminates in Modern Kitchens NuMetal from Advanced Technology, Inc. is a collection of HPL with a thin metal surface and phenolic paper backing. These laminates can be used for interior applications such as wallcoverings, wall panels and ceilings. NuMetal sheets are usually 4' x 8' in aluminum, copper or real stainless steel; featuring embossing, hand painting techniques, etching, and other innovative techniques to enhance the look of metals. s&p

Decotone Surfaces’ Torino Laminate Collection offers the latest European design trends. Stunning pearlescent designs compliment the company’s 72 beautiful woodgrain laminates. Realistic embossed textures increase fidelity and drive designer creativity.

Micro-Perforated Acoustic


odern sound dampening products like pyramid-tipped foam sheets and acoustic ceiling panels are generally effective, but can often be utilitarian eyesores. Architects and designers looking for more appealing alternatives may not see a panel punched with thousands of microscopic holes as the replacement product of choice, but the applied science behind the product will convert any doubters. Harnessing Sound

As sound waves sprint through our airspace they frequently crash into hard, non-absorbent surfaces (hardwood floors, concrete walls and drywall ceilings). The air existing between an incoming sound wave and the non-absorbent surface becomes compressed by the incoming energy and expands away. Thus, the sound is reflected with only a minimal amount of energy (and volume) lost. Micro-perforated acoustic panels from Navy Island are engineered to capture that potentially reflected sound. Microperforations work as escape ports for the

air found between an incoming sound wave and a panel. A point is reached when it becomes easier for the air to enter the perforations than continue being compressed. Once inside the perforation, surface friction between the solid surface core and the boundary of the air molecules converts the compressed air molecule’s energy into insignificant amounts of heat energy. This heat energy is then either absorbed or rapidly dissipated, essentially trapping the sound wave’s original energy. Even when air molecules aren’t converted into heat energy in a micro-perforation, a positive side-effect called “fluid friction” can occur. Fluid friction takes place when any ejected air molecules collide with the compressed air molecules of an approaching sound wave. Depending on the quality and dimensions of the micro-perforation, the fluid friction can deplete a significant amount of energy from the incoming sound wave. Competitive Separation

Navy Island’s micro-perforated acoustic panels have an effective design, positive


aesthetic appeal and can be used in construction applications. It’s this trifecta of usefulness that raises Navy Island panels above other sound-dampening products. Navy Island panels can be faced with nearly any surfacing material (wood veneer, vinyl, TFL, metal) and feature a core of either SoundCore™ monolithic wood wool or reinforced acoustical rigid fiberglass. It is no accident that Navy Island panels hold some of the highest Noise Reduction Coefficients (NCR) ratings. Navy Island researched the science of micro-perforation. The company then engineered a revolutionary manufacturing process and implemented stringent quality control to ensure a 99.7 percent "Perfect Perf" guarantee. When compared to other brands, crosssections of Navy Island boards consistently show deep, picture-perfect perforations; not shallow, crooked perforations that are incapable of effectively capturing sound. The research is done and the product is perfected. Now it is possible to beautify a space while perfecting its sound. s&p


Q2 2014



f rom



The Shape of Business The North American market is an interesting landscape in part by virtue of its size. The panel processing industry is an interesting landscape in part because a business can

“What struck me most in producing this issue was the recurring theme of big businesses operating in multiple regions with small, agile facilities.”

be very successful regardless of its size. There are companies that operate doing a single valueadded step, and others that are completely vertically integrated – and everything in between. Some entities sell globally, and some into a very limited geographic region. There are many examples of businesses that compete in certain areas while partnering in others. What struck me most in producing this issue was the recurring theme of big businesses operating in multiple regions with small, agile facilities. This is an obvious advantage for a company like Closet & Storage Concepts (page 14) that is continually refining its franchise model to include small cabinet shops and established supplier relationships, all based on location. It is also one of those “aha!” ideas in the story about Cabinotch (page 26). There is even some of that flavor in the story about a small, custom door company that piggy-backs on IKEA’s fundamental “manufacture near where you sell” method for bringing goods to market (page 36). Certainly this concept does not apply to every operation directly, but it does send ripples in both directions of the value chain. Strategically placed technology makes it easier for small businesses and artisan shops to be competitive. It shifts the burden/opportunity of distribution upstream while simultaneously building a downstream market for the latest engineered materials. And it tasks everyone involved with not just being expert, but with educating fabricators, dealers and specifiers all along the way (page 6). But the magic of this idea is subtler than that. Conventional wisdom warns against repeatable products that are vulnerable to offshore competition. This idea isn’t that. Instead it is a testament to how far technology has come – in consistent materials, precision equipment and production software – that it is possible to configure repeatable processes for custom and semi-custom design-driven products. Perhaps this concept could be applied to technical education. Maybe it is possible to build a streamlined, integrated, replicable format that borrows the best from the existing public/private, association and credentialing programs. Could it be franchised, so to speak, to meet the needs of geographic regions that have strong basic industry? Like the idea above, that too could send positive ripples both up and down the economy. Huge gratitude to everybody who shared his or her story and helped to bring this issue into being. It really is a beautifully calibrated industry, and I am honored to be a part of it. All my best,

Suzanne VanGilder | Editorial Director | 72

The Gateway of New Technology


“IWF is where our team goes to determine our priorities for investing in the future.”



Save $ - Use Discount Code SP


a d v e r t i s e r

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Blum, Inc. 75 (IBC) 704.827.1345 Perfecting motion

Laminati 70 877.863.7908

Boise Cascade 5 888.264.7372

Lamitech S.A. 63 +571.644.9888

Cabinotch 30-31 877.413.4299

NeoCon 40 800.677.6278

Chemcraft, a brand of AkzoNobel 43 336.841.5111

Northern Contours 8 866.344.8132

Clarion Boards 9 800.373.4383 Collins 35 800.547.1793 Composite Panel Association 21/58-59 866.4Composites decorative surfaces conference 25 920.262.2080 Decotone 69 908.301.0600 DVUV 46 216.741.5511 Elias Woodwork 13 800.665.0625 Forrest 12 800.733.7111 Greenlam America Inc. 65 877.647.0388 Hafele 55 800.423.3531 Hunstman 49 281.719.4916 Interprint, Inc. 2 (IFC) 413.443.4733 IWF 73 404.693.8333 JB Cutting 18 586.468.4765 Jowat 61 336.434.9000 KCD Software 30-31 508.760.1140 Kings Mountain International 11 704.739.4227

Omnova Solutions 17 866.332.5226 Panel Processing 62 800.433.7142 Panolam 76 (BC) 203.925.1556 Renolit 7 +1.973.706.6912 Riken USA Corporation 6 248.513.3511

Roseburg 53 800.245.1115 SATA 48 800.533.8016 Schattdecor 67 314.400.6100 SierraPine Composite Solutions 39 800.676.3339 States Industries 47 800.626.1981 Stevens Industries 23 800.574.7838 Stiles Machinery, Inc. 33/45 616.698.7500

Surface Source International 10 973.598.0152 Synergy Thermal Foils 15 954.420.9553

Tafisa Canada 38 877.882.3472 Talley Photography 68 254.721.7411 Thermwood 29 800.533.6901

Uniboard 57 800.263.5240

KML-Kustom Material Laminates Union Tool Corporation 16 888.358.5075 20 574.267.3211 Krono System West Fraser Sales Ltd. 19 +39.0422.850418 37 250.992.9254 74

More space in the same place. Make the most of any space with LEGRABOX, the new full extension box system from Blum. With an ultra slim profile of only 1/2" and a perfectly square interior, you can offer storage and access that seem almost impossible. Look for LEGRABOX and see the other ways Blum is perfecting motion at Booth 2637 at IWF 2014.

Perfecting motion


offer peace of mind?

Bringing more to the surface More Colorways | More Finishes | More Options You’ve selected that perfect color and your project requires that same color in multiple surfacing applications. Who do you call? Panolam Surface Systems. Panolam’s unique technologies provide a system of solutions allowing that perfect color to be used in multiple surfacing materials. Our surface materials work together to coordinate the look you envision, with the performance characteristic the space requires and the ability to stay within budget.

To bring more to the surface, call 877.726.6526 or visit

Panolam Industries International, Inc. | 20 Progress Drive, Shelton, CT 06484 | 1.877.726.6526 |

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