Sunday, February 19, 2012

GWA Site Visit to Pierce and Pierce

One of the activities enjoyed by my woodworking club, the Gwinnett Woodworkers Association, is to visit various businesses around Atlanta that either have woodworking shops or are in the business of producing wooden products. This past Saturday we made a site visit to Pierce and Pierce Architectural Millwork and Moulding on Buford Hwy. I've been to this business once before to price some custom millwork (this was back in the mid 80's and the operation has expanded since then) - of course at the time I didn't get back into the operation. Seems the company was founded by a couple of guys who were having a hard time acquiring the type and style of millwork they needed to build their custom homes for a reasonable price. Like any good entrepreneurs they decided to make what they needed themselves and thus Pierce and Pierce was born.

The showroom had what you would expect - many examples of mouldings both milled and CNC-cut - there was also an assortment of corbels, decorative blocks and other elements available on shelves so you can pick up something without waiting. This company specializes in hardwood millwork, so the softest wood you would normally see here is poplar, with lots of cherry, maple and other hardwoods available. You can either select a pattern that they've already got made-up or have them create something custom. Part of the trade is composed of matching patterns that are no longer commercially available - so if you're trying to make some interior trim that's an exact match to a
historic home, you can come to them and have them create what you need.

We walked into their main millwork area and you're confronted by lots of production equipment, with stacks of lumber to one side. The first area shown to us during this tour was their metal-working shop - this is where blade-blanks are cut into the shapes for their cutting heads, via CNC-machine. It was explained that their technicians first render the shape using CAD equipment, then the file is handed off to their cutting machine for production. Profiles they want to save can be turned into a pattern shape in hard plastic that is then inserted into a machine that follows the profile, much like one of those key-cutting machines you see at hardware stores.

 There were many examples of cutting heads - they have a six-head machine - on tables and along a long wall. He explained that the entire upstairs of the small building (it was 2 stories, built into the warehouse)  was full of knives and patterns for the heads.

There were also a row of old Foley blade sharpeners - you know I like to see stuff like this!

We went back into the production area where we walked through huge stacks of wood - most of this was surfaced, dried and ready to go. I saw tons of poplar, maple, cherry, mahogany, walnut and a few odd species like spanish cedar and sapele.

Quite a bit of the operation relies on equipment to move the stacks around. Our tour guide described the machine that rips their stock based on width and need. Much like a lumber yard, the machine draws what it thinks are the best widths to maximize yield based on the size of the board - lines are drawn with lasers and the operator can improve the yield for cutting around defects.

We were also shown their finishing area - they pretty much exclusively use lacquer. Here are a few shots of some of the equipment, including a large planer and a Stenner resaw 36 inch bandsaw.

Next we went outside where the guide showed us their two large dust collectors (cyclones) - thought you guys would get a kick out of seeing them.

We then went into their special order shop - this is where they produce those fancy doors you see with the curved tops. Lot's of equipment in here so I only took pictures of those classic machines that I like so well. First up is a Crescent 16 inch joiner:

This last images is Hans standing next to a Powermatic bandsaw.

Hope you enjoyed it!

-- John