Gary Campbell offers high-end woodworking expertise and thoughts on CNC integration in Gary’s Musings.
My son and I own a small 2 man woodworking shop located on a small island in the chain of islands known as the Florida Keys. This chain stretches from the mainland of Florida, south of Miami, some 120 miles to the south and west to its end at Key West. We are about 90 miles NE of Key West and about 50 miles SE of Miami. Since there are hundreds of miles of “Oceanfront Property” in our area we are fortunate, to have as our clientele, those that can afford that type of property. This market niche gives us the opportunity to build many one of a kind custom projects for some very discriminating clients.
In the early 80’s, while living in Sarasota, FL, I took a job as an apprentice to a master cabinetmaker that had served his apprenticeship in New York during the late 20’s. He was never as famous as some, but the traditional methodology and quality of product that he instilled in me has a value that I was never able to thank him for. His poor health and subsequent passing forced the closing of his shop and my employment shift into custom home building.
During the next 15 years I mixed cabinet making and home building in Northern Michigan (The Upper Peninsula, U.P. aka “Yooper”) with a crew of up to 15. We were fortunate enough to work on a number of homes that were published in various home magazines including one in Architectural Digest.
In the late 90’s, with my longing for Florida’s weather and a dozen published homes in my resume, I was able to secure a position as a project manager with an exclusive contractor performing work in the Town of Palm Beach, FL and the Palm Beach Polo Club. We built homes for many Fortune 500 CEO’s and notable sports figures, most between $5M and $40M. This position allowed me to observe and manage some of the finest craftsmen, methodology and products available anywhere. After some years of this, I found that the paperwork, scheduling stress and city driving were not a viable replacement in my psyche for hands on woodworking, which is very relaxing and satisfying to me.
In 2000, after my second oldest of 4 sons moved to the Keys from West Palm Beach, I found myself taking longer and longer weekends in the Keys visiting him. In 2004, my 3rd son, Gary Jr., and I had been working together for a couple years. We decided to move to the Keys and set up shop. We incorporated, and Islamorada Woodworks, Inc. was born. In late 2006, we moved into our larger building in Tavernier. We have used this larger building to add room for additional equipment, the most notable being our PRSalpha 96-60.
Even though I do not consider our ShopBot, or anything else we own for that matter, to be the holy grail of woodworking equipment, it has surely done more to improve our accuracy, repeatability, methodology and expand our capabilities than any other tool in our arsenal. My viewpoint in this column will be somewhat biased. Biased towards using a modern piece of equipment to add accuracy and functionality to our traditional woodworking joinery. Biased towards getting the highest quality cuts possible from the machine. Biased towards using the best materials for a given job, rather than the cheapest or most easily obtained. Biased more towards a professional shop attempting to do profitable work, than the hobbyist. I will, however, try not to let that bias keep even the most casual of ShopBot users from getting benefit from this column