I got the pleasure of meeting with Mori Kono, a Japanese-Canadian artist. He started as a log home builder after he moved to BC in 1994. Over the years, his passion for carving grew and it quickly became his main focus. In 2005, he established MK Carving & Sculpting in Abbotsford, BC. He creates custom wood carvings and sculptures including hand carved doors, carved mantel pieces, 3D free standing pieces, wall mounts, hardwood detailed carvings, classical architectural carvings, memorial carvings, and custom signs. He creates these custom pieces using all types of wood including local coastal and exotic woods.
Mori has a unique process in creating his pieces. He spends time connecting and learning about the client so he can incorporate their personality and characteristics into the piece. He also spends time researching about the project and discussing the meaning behind the project with the client so the appropriate emotions are conveyed.
Mori’s respect and passion for wood, positive energy, and unique style has landed him many awards including Canada Home Builders’ Association’s Best Creation of Unique Feature of Room Interior award for creating a wrap around staircase with a cougar post (image below).
For more information, visit www.mkono.netread more
Design duo Michael Thomas Host and Tanja Hinder are the creative force behind mth woodworks, a local woodworking company based in Vancouver, BC. They combine salvaged Western Red Cedar tree stumps and birch branches with organic resin, creating one-of-a-kind furniture pieces that connect people with beautiful West Coast forests.
This success story started many years ago, when designer and builder Michael Host left his hometown of Vancouver, BC to pursue his passion – the design and construction of timeless furniture. His path led to places like Australia and New York where Michael became an accomplished furniture maker. His journey also brought him to Europe where he was inspired by the architecture and furniture designs. Michael spent many years studying and acquiring renowned and unique woodworking techniques.
Tanja Hinder, on the other hand, grew up in Switzerland. Fascinated by architecture and furniture design, Tanja soon found herself involved in many design-consulting projects. In 2001, she travelled to Vancouver where the paths of Michael and Tanja crossed for the first time. The rest as they say “is history!” Tanja eventually immigrated to Canada and become an aspiring furniture and interior designer.
Over the past year, they have been able to refine their construction techniques to enhance the longevity and durability of their designs. They also further developed their original concept in a new series of products that complement the organic shapes of their salvaged woods in a surprising way.
Today, mth woodworks’ mission is to connect people with BC’s beautiful surroundings by fusing together raw natural elements with organic resin.
“The inspiration for our designs comes from, well, EVERYWHERE. However, nature and travel definitely fuel our creative minds. To us, these are the most important ingredients for all our creations. Guided by clean lines and functionality, we are proud to offer “the bloom collection” and “the host collection” to a diverse clientele.”
For more information on mth woodworks, please visit: http://www.mthwoodworks.com/
Click below to watch a great video on how they salvage their wood:
If you can not see the video link above: click hereread more
Central Valley Cabinet Doors, based in Abbotsford, BC, manufactures custom wood cabinet doors, distributes a line of Thermofoil doors, and re-faces existing cabinets. They have been supplying custom cabinet shops in the Fraser Valley with locally produced cabinet doors since 1994.
In 2008, they expanded by selling to the end user who wanted to replace their existing doors with new ones. Over the next few years, they began to sell and promote several products that helped streamline the re-facing process. Re-facing is a process of giving your kitchen a face-lift without having to rebuild the entire kitchen. The current layout stays the same; however, the cabinets get re-skinned, new doors are put on, new hinges and hardware are added, etc. to change the appearance of the original cabinets. The process is quite cost-effective and a popular choice amongst homeowners on a budget with a limited timeframe. Central Valley Cabinet Doors offers a few different solutions for re-facing such as Shaker White Thermofoil door. Watch this quick video on their re-facing solutions.
If you can not see the above video link, go to: http://www.centralvalleycabinetdoors.com/refacing-video.php
Central Valley Cabinet Doors has the ability to custom create what the customer specifies. They prefer to use locally sourced wood; however, they can import rare species and have a wide variety of material available according to the customer’s specifications.
For more information on Central Valley Cabinet Doors, visit www.centralvalleycabinetdoors.com
Vernon, BC based Poulin Timber Works Ltd. was incorporated in 2003. The owner, Joe Poulin, having operated a home based business creating wood carvings and manufacturing custom furniture, realized that there was a better market in the construction industry. He attended the Timber Framing Program at the College of The Rockies, with the intention of setting up his own business. After gaining two years of experience working for other log and timber framing companies, PTW went into production and hired its first (external) employee in 2005.
“Initially, 90% of our business was building timber frame accent pieces and small structures,” Poulin said. “In 2006, we landed contracts for three resorts in Vernon; building log Hashi Post decks at The Outback; trellises and pergolas at The Strand Lakeside Resort; and all of the timber frame entries and accents at The Rise. We went from a company of 2 employees, to a company of 8 highly skilled craftsmen. That was as big as we wanted to get! Keeping a low overhead was paramount in the company’s business plan…it helps to keep us competitive.”
After a few years of going ‘flat-out’, the economy changed, and PTW had to either change its strategy, or go down like other log and timber frame companies. Diversification was key and they gained a valuable working relationship with Structurlam Products Ltd. based in Penticton. The BC Government started implementing ‘Infrastructure Projects’ to help bolster the economy, and as heavy timber specialists, PTW fit right into the ‘structural glulam installation’ scope of work.
“Even when glulams were not shipped pre-cut by CNC machines, we had the tools and expertise to cut precise joinery and knew the techniques to raise and fit them. There was certainly a learning curve, especially dealing with steel connectors, rather than traditional wood-to-wood mortise and tenons, secured with oak pegs. We have perfected the process, and are proud to be amongst only a few companies in BC who can legitimately claim it! We have served as consultants throughout BC, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, and as far away as South Korea.”
PTW is a strong community supporter as Gold Sponsors of the 2005 Sovereign Lake FIS World Cup, the 2008 Ford World Women’s Curling Championship and currently the NONA Child Development Centre in Vernon. Our most fulfilling charitable contribution was to rebuild the roof of a community hospital in Peru after an earthquake destroyed it in 2009.
What makes them unique in their industry is that they have managed to recognize, and diversify with the changes in their economy. “My grandfather taught me that if you’re proud of your work, then put your name on it! That’s why my name is my company and I’m prepared to back it with quality work, performance and recommendations from our clients.”
Current projects include: Prince George new Kin Arena; Northern Lights College Training Tower; Maple Ridge Pump House; NONA playground shelter; Grizzly Den log stairs & railings.
For more information on Poulin Timber Works, please visit: http://www.poulintimberworks.com/read more
This week I had the opportunity to meet with a very interesting company; Vancouver Urban Timberworks. They specialize in producing products from hard and softwoods. What sets them apart is that their products are made from discarded trees around the local area.
In and around Metro Vancouver, there are hundredsof trees that are coming down for various reasons which could be quite costly for the individual or company to discard. Starting out in their North Vancouver driveway three years ago, Eric and Danny began retrieving these fallen trees free of charge. They then transformed these trees into unique wood products including large slabs, furniture, and other custom products.
One of their projects included producing a boardroom table made out of reclaimed and salvaged timber from the Squamish Valley in BC. After retrieving the tree, they reclaimed the usable timber, milled it into slabs, transported it in their biodiesel powered trucks, kiln dried it, CNC’d it flat, and finished the table. Click here to watch a quick video on the production of the table.
With the support of their community, they have moved their business out of the driveway and into a retail location that will soon house an exquisite showroom. They are steadily adding and upgrading their equipment and inventory to increase their capacity and meet a high demand.
For more information on Vancouver Urban Timberworks, visit their website: http://vancouverurbantimberworks.com and their facebook page: facebook.com/pages/Vancouver-Urban-Timberworks/245145348849853read more
A Fine Log Building, based in Chilliwack, BC, handcrafts log home and timber frame structures. With over 23 years of experience in the wood building industry, Eric Menard started the business in 2000 building unique log home projects and completing log & timber work on many commercial buildings. His creativity lead him to explore and create new products throughout the years. Now, they have expanded to include a signature line of luxury log tables and benches that are shipped throughout Canada and the United States. Since the tables and benches are made from natural logs, each is uniquely different and last a lifetime.
What sets A Fine Log Building apart is that they use logs that mills can not use. They take a log or stump of any size that mills discard and use it to make a one-of-a-kind product. They build anything from small character log cabins to large recreations facilities and furniture.
An interesting project they recently completed was a traditional 18th century Long House for the Sto:Lo Nation in Chilliwack, BC. The Long House was built as it would have been by their people during that time in history. The building covers an area of 40′X70′. Local Douglas Fir was used for all of the log beams & trusses and local Western Red Cedar was used for the posts. Split cedar shakes were used on the roof and rough sawn board & baton were used along the exterior walls. This building is open to the public and is currently used for educational purposes.
For more information on A Fine Log Building, visit www.finelogbuilding.com
Last week, BC Wood Specialties Group hosted the 9th annual Global Buyers Mission in Whistler, BC. Among the 19 international delegations that attended were timber importers from India looking to replace current wood sources with Canadian wood products. After attending the successful Global Buyers Mission, the India delegation visited BC value-added wood manufacturers as part of their extended mission. One of the companies they visited was International Forest Products (Interfor) Acorn Division in Delta, BC. The Acorn mill is an export sawmill dedicated to manufacturing high value squares and timbers that are used in housing and industrial applications across global markets.
Dave Hayer, MLA Surrey-Tynehead, opened the event on Tuesday at Interfor by welcoming the India delegation to BC. He stated that one of the goals of BC’s Job Plan is opening up markets abroad for BC goods. “Helping companies like Interfor make connections with new companies overseas is one of BC Jobs Plan initiatives that we have been focused on.” Mike De Jong, Minister of Finance, took the podium on behalf of Premier Christy Clark and Minister Pat Bell to further explain the BC Job Plan strategy and outcome.
Following the opening speeches, the India delegation attended two seminars, went on a tour of the mill, and learned about grading standards at Interfor. The seminars, delivered by John Leahy from Canadian Mill Services, dealt with the phyto-sanitary rules for sending forest products from Canada to India and BC’s tree species and wood products. The mill tour lead the delegation through the mill, letting them observe how a log is remanufactured into a timber product. Lastly, the delegation was shown the different types of wood species Interfor remanufactures at their plant and how they are graded.read more
Francis Lemieux & Co. is a small, custom woodworking company located in Port Moody, British Columbia. With over 20 years of experience serving the BC and US market, Francis Lemieux offers a wide range of services including custom furniture and millwork fabrication, art services, and prototype building. The company is involved in the entire process from design to production and installation. They have chosen to remain small in order to maintain flexibility and diversity in the products they produce and to provide a high level of personalized service.
The company was established by Francis Lemieux, a hands-on master tradesperson in the joinery trade. Francis Lemieux has designed and made everything from musical instruments to furniture and architectural woodwork. For a time, he specialized in the design and production of chairs. Francis Lemieux is also the designer of a collection of original furniture, lighting, accessories, and art work called “Frank Smith”; all of these pieces are produced in-house. Francis Lemieux & Co. has worked with many design professionals and artists to facilitate the production of their products and projects which have included restaurants, hotels, and private residences. Their shop is well equipped for a diversity of products, including a CNC router capable of 2D and 3D work, which is used as a design tool just as much as a production tool.
Francis Lemieux & Co. has exhibited in numerous shows and competitions and has won several design & craft awards. Judson Beaumont has described Francis Lemieux as a positive inspiration when he started his company, Straight Lines Designs, in the 1980′s.
Over the years, Francis Lemieux & Co. has given back to the community by training many apprentices. Francis also volunteered his time to sit on the advisory committee for the Fine Woodworking program at Selkirk College in Nelson, BC and was a member of the former Wood Co-op on Granville Island. In addition, he has donated his work, including art pieces to numerous causes; the most recent being a relief carved art piece donated to the Unicef Unite for Art Auction.
This January’s cold snap has been blessing ski hills around the country with an abundance of snow after a slow start to the season. However, the Fukushima nuclear crisis still looms heavily over the prospects of resorts attracting foreign tourists. In fact, for 2011 the number of tourists coming to Japan fell 27.8%. Niseko has benefitted the most from inbound tourism over the past few years so it was safe to assume that it was also being hit the hardest by this steep decline in travellers. Therefore, I recently visited the area to find out what was happening and what the prospects were for a rebound.
The first thing that struck me driving around the area was the number of construction sites that seemed to be stopped. In meeting with local people I soon learned that developers quickly put the brakes on many projects after 3/11. However, unlike past boom and bust cycles the owners of these projects are now well financed professional developers. Therefore, they have both the capability to weather the tough short-term conditions and they also have the foresight to see that over the longer term the nuclear fears will dissipate and foreign tourists will return in large numbers. Everything that has made Niseko the most talked about ski resort in Asia is still there.
One positive outcome from the current downturn is that a central “village” may finally be built in the Hirafu area. Over the years many people involved with developments in the area told me that the shoddy shape of the main access to the Hirafu lifts and the lack of a Whistler type village area was holding Niseko back from reaching the next level as an international destination. Many of the old buildings lining the main road were owned by people waiting for the area to grow further but without the means to properly develop the properties themselves. It seems that several of them were persuaded by the bleak prospects last year to finally sell. Once that part of Niseko is redeveloped, the whole area will benefit greatly from it.
Another thing that seems to be changing is the attitude towards domestic travellers. One of the amazing aspects of the Niseko success story was how it could prosper while only catering to foreigners and completely ignoring the massive Tokyo market. Hokkaido was always seen as a clean and pristine area, but that image has been further reinforced by the fact that it was one of the few areas in Japan that was spared any fallout after the Fukushima explosions. By actively pursuing the Tokyo market, Niseko operators can not only fill more rooms now, they can also build a more diversified client based so that the area is less susceptible to future shocks from overseas.
While 2011 was a terrible year for Niseko developers and lodging operators, there is some optimism returning. Apparently the number of inquiries from Australia and ex-pats in Asia has been increasing recently. Hopefully the Japanese government’s declaration in December that the Fukushima plants have achieved cold shutdown will encourage the Chinese tourists to also comeback. At the very least, the Japanese government is looking positively at 2012 by aiming to attract over 9 million inbound tourists topping the previous record of 8.6 million. Let’s hope they are right!read more
StructureCraft Builders is a unique team of engineers and builders who work with clients and architects to design, fabricate, and erect carefully detailed building and bridge structures in timber, steel, glass, concrete, and other materials. Their staff of engineers, modellers, detailers, estimators, project managers, supervisors, and carpenters are all based in their 25,000 sq. ft. FSC-certified shop located in Delta, BC.
Thirteen years ago, Gerry Epp formed StructureCraft Builders to design and explore more building ideas with architects, often in conjunction with their associated firm, Fast+Epp Structural Engineers. The first project they took on was the stainless-steel-and-Parallam trussed roof of the Vancouver Aquarium expansion in 1998. Since then, StructureCraft has been engaged by architects and design-build teams for projects which require exposed structures, usually involving wood in a significant and innovative way. These 50+ projects cover all types of structures including timber buildings, facades, atria, and hybrid footbridges, as well as WoodWave structural panels, timber panel systems, composite concrete-timber, lathe milling, and custom castings.
As design-build specialists in architectural timber structures, the StructureCraft Builders team combines their significant experience in structural engineering, 3D modeling, detailing, project management, timber procurement, shop fabrication, and site erection of complex wood structures to design and construct each project to the highest standards, throughout North America
They work with their clients from the design phase which begins with understanding both the vision and the overall project constraints. Working together, they introduce ideas which can both enhance the architecture and lead to efficient structural solutions. They also work with the client to develop concepts which, through 3D models and renderings, are eventually developed into drawings. Structural testing is carried out on certain projects before fabrication, which takes place in the controlled environment of their shop. They then erect all of their projects to ensure the final product reflects their high standards. Their unique methodology of pre-planned “constructible” design, timely material procurement, and creation of a custom kit of parts and assemblies results in a rapid and accurate installation for each project.
Many of their projects have won awards for both architect and design-builder, including the unique WoodWave roof of the 2010 Olympic Speedskating Oval; the Arena Stage Parallam-and-cable façade in Washington, DC; the “Footbridge of Dreams” in Princeton, BC; and the Central City timber structures in Surrey, BC.
They are currently wrapping up construction of the free-form, orchid-shaped roof for the VanDusen Gardens Visitors Center (picture to the left). The 71 unique all-wood panels of this Living Building Challenge project were completely pre-fabricated in their shop, including glulam beams, lumber rafters and ceiling joists, plywood skin, sprinkler piping, electrical conduits, thermal and acoustic insulation, and laminated plywood ceiling battens. The Center will open to the public this fall.
StructureCraft Builders are committed to creating excellence in architectural structures for their clients. The results can be viewed on their recently updated website at www.structurecraft.com where you will find detailed descriptions of their design-build process, their staff, their products, examples of their completed projects, and their awards received.read more
This week I got a chance to visit The Grape Box in Burnaby and chat with Ruth Hoffman. The Grape Box is a social enterprise supported by The Burnaby Association for Community Inclusion.
They have a triple bottom-line business model. First and foremost, they offer high quality products at competitive prices with excellent customer service. Secondly, on an environmental note, all of their products are made from reclaimed western red cedar and pine beetle wood. Lastly, their social mandate is to create training and employment for adults with intellectual disabilities.
They currently employ 6 adults with intellectual disabilities at their Burnaby woodshop. “We are fortunate to have found ideal employees to perform the tasks of cutting, sanding, planning, and engraving and who do not mind the repetitive nature of our work. Our employees are highly motivated and appreciative of the opportunities to learn wood-working skills and even more thrilled to be paid minimum wage and be able to be contributing citizens to our community. Successfully matching skills to tasks is a key factor to managing our personnel costs and ultimately a sustainable operation,” says Ruth.
The Grape Box started off as a program in the 1980′s run by The Burnaby Association for Community Inclusion (BACI). www.gobaci.com. With years of experience and a growing reputation for quality and service, The Grape Box was spun off into a separate social enterprise in 2007. Today they operate in Burnaby with over 4,500 sq ft. and an integrated workforce of 10.
Their name represents their flagship product – the wine box; however, they also produce outdoor furniture (Adirondack chairs, high and low-back chairs, planters and picnic tables); and a wide assortment of gift boxes for the corporate promotional market. Because they are a small shop, they are also able to accept requests for custom designs and have made table centerpieces, arbors, small bridges, coasters, and trays. They have a laser engraver on-site which allows them to produce high quality engraved products.
“Above and beyond our commitment to being fiscally and environmentally responsible, we chose this business because it offered employment opportunities to individuals with all types of abilities,” says Hoffman. Their philosophy is to build a society where everyone has the opportunity to be included, challenged and successful. “We want to be able to offer more jobs with barriers to employment and become one of BC’s prized business models,” says Ruth.
For more information on the Grape Box, please visit www.thegrapebox.com
In BC, heritage millwork manufacturer, Vintage Woodworks (www.vintagewoodworks.ca), was facing a dilemma. The company had an excellent reputation for its ability to reproduce authentic classic joinery from over 150 years ago, but it was finding that as it grew, the current manufacturing space and systems were causing inefficiencies in delivering their product to their customers. Company owner, Ken Coley-Donohue, quickly discovered that getting a handle on his labour costs, and ability to quickly turn a project around was going to be key to his company’s future success.
What started Ken’s interest and the potential for Lean at Vintage was a tour he took part in two years ago. During a visit to a kitchen manufacturer, he saw first hand how implementing Lean principles could lead to great improvements.
“A friend told me he read the The Goal, by Eliyahu Goldratt and felt that he was reading about a day in my life. It took me 1 ½ years to pick it up, but when I finished reading it, I was actually inspired”, says Ken.
In Victoria, real estate is expensive. Challenged by its multi-story, multi-building layout, the company knew it needed to improve, but felt it was hampered by the constraint of its layout. Says Ken, “Vintage has always had a culture of improvement but had lacked a true plan or structure. I believe we have made decisions on improvement in the past that haven’t had the depth of understanding of our true goal, and as a result, have not got the return on investment that we were hoping for”.
Attending a workshop that included a Lego exercise helped to get the true idea of Lean across. With better clarity on the basics of one piece flow and the Lean concepts, an in-house training session on 5S (Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize, Sustain) and the seven deadly wastes was organized for the staff. “The 5S was a great starting point for Vintage as we needed to clean house and create some standards”, says Coley-Donohue.
After seeing the success from their 5S activities, the next step was to get training on Value Stream Mapping (VSM) to help them map out their process and make improvements to the flow of their products. VSM is a Lean manufacturing technique used to analyze the flow of materials and information currently required to bring a product or service to a consumer.
“We saw immediate payback after we finished the VSM exercise. With one of our products, we were able to reduce the number of processes from 18 to 7. This was a huge savings in the production”, commented Ken. “Because we have been looking at our products in depth with VSM, it helped us improve our consistency and our quality”.
Without buy-in of the staff, many of the Lean concepts won’t work. “Initially, I didn’t understand how Lean could be good for our staff”, says Ken. “After all, if you can do more production with less staff, how would your employees feel? People tend to think that if you look at efficiency in production it means jobs are on the line”.
Vintage began by making small changes that let the staff experience the improvements. For example, convincing the moulder operator that he was going to save money by doing lots of shorter runs rather than setting up once and doing bigger runs was difficult at first.
However, after witnessing that the machines were not tied up and the set ups were happening three times faster, employees began coming around. Says Ken, “with less inventory we did not have our cash tied up and it kept what inventory we did have clean and fresh”. “Reduced work in progress cleared the floor, kept the staff focused and reduced the possibility of damage to the products as they made their way through the shop”.
The next steps for Vintage Woodworks include creating the framework so that its staff can sustain the Lean improvements they have already done, and getting ready for further Lean implementation.
Adds Ken,” I have been really lucky to have an Operations Manager in our company that truly believes in the Lean journey. Working together, our staff is looking forward to future changes and the benefits it will result for them”. “We anticipate it will take Vintage some time before we meet our goals, however each step we take we should realize an improvement on our productivity”.
Brian Ehrecke is a manufacturing specialist for FPInnovations. FPInnovations is a company with over 25 years of experience providing technical and manufacturing support to the wood products industry in Canada. He can be reached at (250) 462-4000 or email@example.com more
Norelco Cabinet Solutions opened their doors almost 40 years ago in Kelowna, BC. They now have two manufacturing plants in Kelowna with Cucina Del Re Cabinetry, specializing in high-end custom cabinetry. They have a team who designs and builds all types of different cabinets that suit the individual customer’s needs, including two very skilled, hand-crafters who carve intricate details on the cabinets. Norelco’s primary cabinet division uses innovative European technology and high quality materials to design and construct cabinets for residential and commercial buildings. They distribute all over Western Canada and the US including Hawaii, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and California.
Norelco has actively participated in a number of Business Innovation Partnership (BIP) activities over the past two years. Along with attending workshops, they have completed a Lean program as well as a sales and marketing project. When the current owners purchased Norelco, they were told that the facility would not be able to exceed a certain amount in sales due to the limited production space. At that time, Peter Raja started the lean program with the help of FPInnovations, one of the BIP partners, in hopes of increasing their productivity, and thereby their sales and margins. After implementing the new program, they are now producing at well over the previous limitation in sales and have the capacity to keep growing.
Recently, Norelco has completed a sales & marketing project with sales guru, Neil Godin. They were instructed on how to set up a Facebook account, Twitter account, a blog through WordPress, joined LinkedIn, and developed an e-newsletter. Norelco has fully immersed themselves into the world of social media. Their first newsletter was sent out to 800 contacts last month and since then, 300 additional people have signed up for the newsletter. They have 111 followers on Twitter and 70 on Facebook. They also optimized their website for search engines to display them as the very first result when “Kelowna kitchen cabinets” is searched; whereas before, they were listed on the 25th page. In a very short time, they have greatly increased their brand awareness.
Social media is a powerful tool for companies to use to strengthen their relationship with clients and potential clients, while increasing their company’s profile. However, you must learn to use it correctly to yield results; otherwise, you might do more harm to your company’s image than good.
Not only is Norelco establishing their presence online, they are also expanding into the Hawaii market. As a BC Wood member, Norelco has had the opportunity to attend tradeshows in Western US and Hawaii to meet with prospective clients that they normally would not have the opportunity to get in front of. Peter says “If it wasn’t for Dave [Farley] and BC Wood, I would never have gotten these clients, or even gotten in the door to talk to the executives.” BC Wood has in-market representatives in the US, Japan, China and Korea. If you are considering expanding into these markets, contact BC Wood at 604-882-7100 for more information on how to access our knowledgeable representatives.
For more information on Norelco, visit their new and improved website at www.norelcocabinets.ca.
For more information on instigating a company project like the ones Norelco has successfully participated in, contact Scott Thompson, Manager, Business Innovation Partnership (BIP) at 604-882-7100 or firstname.lastname@example.org more
Last week, BC Wood along with FPInnovations and CAWP went to Victoria to discuss the Business Innovation Partnership program and meet with value-added wood manufacturers. I got a chance to visit Swifsure WoodWorkers, M-Time Developments, Vintage Woodworks, and Douglas Grant Cabinetmakers with Randi Walker from BC Wood and Brian Ehrecke from FPInnovations.
The first company I visited was Swiftsure Woodworkers in Victoria with Randi Walker and met with Peter McCutcheon, the President of Swiftsure Woodworkers. Swiftsure Woodworkers designs and manufacturers cabinetry for fine homes in the greater Gulf Islands region of BC. They have received multiple CARE awards and GEORGIE awards. The CARE award recognizes the winning efforts of Vancouver Island’s professional builders, developers, architects, interior designers, and sales and marketing professionals. The GEORGIE award by the Canadian Home Builders Association of BC recognizes excellence in home building. We also got a chance to check out the shop and see a CNC machine at work. This was the first time I saw a CNC machine at work and I was amazed.
Peter also mentioned they employ Joiner and Carpenter Apprentices from Vancouver Island University’s apprenticeship program. This is a great way to get hardworking and enthusiastic workers, and help develop the skill of the next generation of craftsmen. I do encourage all of the value-added wood products manufacturers to follow Peter’s footsteps in employing BC apprentices.
For more information on Swiftsure Woodworkers, please visit their website: www.swiftsurewoodworkers.com.
The next morning, I met with Dave Miller of M-Time Developments with Brian Ehrecke. They produce a number of different value-added wood products including panel wall homes. Their goal is to operate an ecologically and socially responsible milling operation which purchases the bulk of its logs from local, sustainably managed (and certified) sources. Dave talked to us about some interesting projects he has worked on and is currently working on. I don’t think I have ever met someone so enthusiastic and passionate about what they do as Dave Miller is. It was great meeting someone with so much enthusiasm.
I then visited Vintage Woodworks with Brian Ehrecke which is located in what used to be a hotel decades ago. Vintage Wookworks is BC’s heritage millwork supplier. They specialize in providing restorations and restoration products for historic windows, doors, moulding, and brackets. Brian has been working on a technical project through the Business Innovation Partnership program with Vintage. I got a chance to go on a shop tour and see all of the different machines they use for producing different products. The most interesting part was seeing all of the improvements that were made through the project.
For more information on Vintage Woodworks, please visit their website: www.vintagewoodworks.ca.
The last company I visited was Douglas Grant Cabinetmakers in Victoria with Brian Ehrecke. This is another company located in a unique building. Douglas Grant Cabinetmakers provides quality finished kitchens, bathrooms, built-in furniture, and more. Douglas gave us a tour of his shop and showed us a gorgeous cabinet he was working on that showcased his attention to detail.
For more information on Douglas Grant Cabinetmakers, please visit their website: www.douglasgrantcabinetmakers.com.
I want to thank all of these companies for their time and interesting stories. I also want to thank Randi and Brian for taking me with them to visit the companies. I learned a lot about the value-added wood products industry look forward to meeting more companies!read more
Last week I got the chance to visit some truly unique BC Wood members with David Pao. We visited Brent Comber Originals and Straight Line Designs. This was my first time in a shop and I had an amazing experience.
We started the day by visiting a non-BC Wood member, Francis Lemieux & Co. We got a chance to check out some of Francis’ products and chat with him about the Wood Co-op that recently shutdown. Francis was a board member for the Wood Co-op that was located on Granville Island. If you would like to know more about what happened to the Wood Co-op, visit Francis’ blog: http://relevantwoodworking.blogspot.com/.
We then visited BC Wood member, Brent Comber Originals. Brent Comber showed me his unique designs and took me behind the “Staff Only” doors. I had a sensory overload as I entered the shop, from the warm scent of wood and sawdust embracing the air around me, to the sounds of craftsmen sawing, cutting, and carving big pieces of wood, bringing Brent Comber’s visions into reality. All around me I saw piles of raw wood and pieces of Brent Comber’s designs. I learned a lot about how wood is prepared and made into a finished product. I even got a little souvenir!
The next company we visited was Straight Line Designs. On the way up to shop, we dropped in on Christian Woo at Christian Woo Woodwork & Design. Christian was busy preparing for the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York this May. We then went up to Straight Line Designs, conveniently located in the same building. As I walked into the shop, I felt like I walked into Dr Seuss’s workshop. There were all different shapes and colours, and to set the mood, whimsical music was playing in the background. It looked like a really fun place to work. Jud Beaumont gave me a delightful tour of his shop and showed me some really unusual pieces of furniture. It made me wish I was a kid again so I can have some really unique furniture pieces! Jud also shared some pretty interesting stories about tradeshows he has done in the past. If you ever run into him, ask him about his Tokyo adventure involving his Elvis Whale.
This was my first taste of the value-added wood industry and I learned a lot. I got a chance to see all of the effort and processes that go into making a finished wood product. I look forward to visiting more BC Wood Members and learning more about this industry; but, next time I will bring a camera so I can show you what I got to see!read more
The “Lehman Shock” has had a major impact on wide swaths of the Japanese economy, ranging from exports to the US to the domestic housing market. One segment that was particularly hard hit was the resort market. Foreign investment funds that were driving new developments from Okinawa to Hokkaido dried up overnight leaving many to wonder if Japanese resorts had just been caught up in America’s housing/development bubble. The final verdict on this is still out, but there are some positive signs now that suggest that it wasn’t a mini-bubble and that Japanese resort developers are getting their shovels warmed up again.
For me the positive news started in February when I was able to stop in to visit some developers in Niseko catering to foreign buyers. They told me that land prices in Niseko didn’t drop much after the “Lehman Shock,” but this was because no one was buying or selling. The real estate market just hibernated for a year! These developers are happy now just to see transactions taking place as it means overseas investor confidence has returned. They are also busy quoting homes for the some of the new visitors who came to enjoy this winter’s phenomenal snow.
And speaking of land sales in Niseko, the biggest news this winter was the recent $67 million sale of the Niseko Hilton/Niseko Village development to Malaysia’s YTL Hotels and Properties. Citibank, the previous owner, has of course been in serious trouble since the “Lehman Shock” and has been selling assets around the world to help turn itself around. In addition to a luxury hotel in Saint-Tropez, France, YLT owns various resort properties across Asia and is looking to expand further. In Niseko Village they will get two hotels, two 18-hole golf courses, 155 ha of ski hill, and 462 ha of freehold land that Citibank already master-planned to encompass an entirely new commercial village center and a combined 1000 units of detached homes and condos. TYL president James McBride has also confirmed the company’s intention of modeling the development on chic resorts like Whistler, Aspen, Vail, and St. Moritz, Switzerland.
Over the years of watching what has been happening in Niseko, I have always maintained that the area would really begin to take off once Tokyo’s wealthy regained interest in it. During the bubble-era Niseko was one of many resorts that popped up only to fade away just as quickly leaving bad memories of bad assets. Perhaps not wanting to get burned again, the Japanese have been happy to leave all of the fun and excitement in Niseko to the foreigners. However, it seems that at least some of them have taken notice of the big developments being pushed ahead there now even after the “Lehman Shock.” The developers I met with told me that this winter was the first time that they had received inquiries from prospective Japanese clients and several are at advanced stages of negotiations.
While Niseko is the poster-child for current resort developments in Japan, good news is coming from other areas as well. Most notable was a report last week in the Nikkei Newspaper announcing the March 22nd opening of Resorttrust’s XIV Hakone Rikyu mountain resort hotel. Memberships for this luxury hotel that boasts hot spring water pumped into bathrooms of the higher-end suites were 82% sold out by February despite lingering concerns related to the “Lehman Shock.” Overall the company is seeing renewed demand for its resort properties from Japan’s wealthy especially since the fall in real estate prices has convinced many of them that it is a good time to buy. Resorttrust says that it will now focus on resort properties that are within a few hours’ drive of Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka.read more
Today was the start of the 2nd Disneyana Festival at Tokyo Disneyland. This is special event for hardcore fans costs $2000 per person and includes a one night stay at the Disneyland Ambassador Hotel. The main purpose for most of the participants is to be able to purchase Disney goods that are otherwise unavailable in stores. The first Disneyana in 2008 attracted 170 people, but this time over 320 took part!
The special collections include decorations and figures that had been previously used in the park as well as limited edition items. Most of these items are put up for auction after a special dinner show. Disney also offers items that they collaboratively designed with other companies/designers especially for this event. This year they had unique bags and cushions in addition to a high-end line of crystal ware and of course furniture from our very own Judson Beaumont! These items have their prices set, but due to the limited number for sale buyers are chosen through a lottery system.
The people at Disney were very pleased with Jud's pieces and this project should lead to future opportunities. I just wish I could have been there tonight when the lucky guests were drawn to buy Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy!read more
Last Friday Judson Beaumont & Brent Comber arrived in Tokyo. There was no time to rest as an important client of theirs invited them to his hometown in Toyama for some pre-100% Design meetings. He also wanted to introduce the dynamic duo to some traditional Japanese culture.
The first stop was at a regional design festival that is known for combining traditional crafts with modern design. Along with our famous Canadians, famous Japanese designers, Yukio Hashimoto, Kengo Kuma, & Naoki Sakai were also taking in the sights. After looking over some amazing glassware, pottery, etc, we were treated to an outdoor tea ceremony. While the service was traditional, the Kengo Kuma designed aluminum furniture was definitely not.
Our next stop was a traditional washi (Japanese paper) maker. He is one of only about 10 people stil using the traditional methods to make washi. He even cuts down the trees and brings them down from the mountains himself!
Tonight I am having dinner with a major WRC buyer. We are at a Kyushu style restaurant with an amazing view of Tokyo Tower near our office. There is a lightning storm in the area so I am waiting for the Tower to get hit. Very cool!
Over the past few years there has been a lot of talk in Japan to make roofs green in order to reduce the heat-island effect. Cities like Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya in particular have become a lot hotter in summer as the concrete used in buildings absorbs heat and then releases it at night. It is amazing how there is so little difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures in August.