Custom Woodworker Goes Hi-Tech in Woodstock
by Collin Miller
Local woodworker Stephen Robin sees a lifelong dream finally coming true. With the aid of a matching grant from the U.S. Forest Service and the Watershed Agricultural Council’s (WAC) Forestry Program, Robin added a state-of-the-art piece of woodworking machinery to his Woodstock studio. The new equipment kick starts the first phase of a signature line of solid wood furniture made from local hardwoods that Robin has been creating in his heart for years.
The new machine, called a CNC Router (short for Computer Numerical Control), will allow his company to make big strides in production capacity. “Curves are as easy to cut as straight lines. Complex 3-D structures are relatively easy to produce. Even the number of machining steps that require human action have been dramatically reduced by automation,” states Robin.
In addition to creating limited runs of furniture with the new equipment, Robin plans to offer CNC machining services to other shops. “In the Woodstock area, there are many guitar builders and woodworking studios like mine who will favor a local alternative,” states Robin. “Craftsmen spend thousands of dollars to ship products across the U.S. to other shops with the CNC technology. Now, they can save time and money by keeping the wood local.”
Paul Henderson, lead designer and project manager for the company, feels that a sustainable model for small business involves working to improve conditions and long-term job security for a new generation of woodworkers. “Woodworking is a learned skill where time and money are invested to secure talented people.” Henderson says. “The company has started early in developing a plan for it to thrive for many years with the younger woodworkers on our crew.”
Receiving the grant has been a catalyst for taking this small furniture business in new directions. “These ideas have been brewing for many years,” states Robin, who is exploring how to tie the project into his long-term goals to create a woodworking school. “We’d like to create an atmosphere where aspiring craftsmen can spend a week learning the essential techniques of furniture building,” states Robin.
“One of the main goals of the grants program is to provide incentives that help local wood-using businesses manufacture regionally harvested material into value-added products,” states Collin Miller, a Forestry Specialist at WAC. “The more wood that remains in the region for processing into furniture and other products,” Miller says, “means that more dollars stay in local communities and provide local people with local jobs.”
For more information on economic assistance for the forest products businesses of the region or to request a copy of the Catskill Mountain Region’s Wood Products Manufacturers Directory please call Collin Miller, Forestry Program Specialist at the Watershed Agricultural Council at (607) 865-7790.