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True32 Custom Cabinetry

Listing #669   Listed on: 06/03/2008

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WOODWEB Content Editor, Ted Cushman, Interviewed Bob Buckley in September 2008.

Continuous Improvement

There’s an old saying, "Those who can’t do, teach."

If you want to prove that old saying false, look no further than Bob Buckley, of the True32 Custom Cabinetry, in LaVergne, Tennessee. In his state-of-the-art cabinet shop, Buckley and his 3 employees build frameless cabinets as well as any shop in the country — or better. And through the True32 Corporation, Buckley teaches other cabinetmakers to use the streamlined process he developed — boosting both their production and their quality, using advanced machinery, sophisticated software, and a disciplined focus on a systematic management approach called the "theory of constraints." Today, Buckley’s 3-man shop provides half or more of his personal income (producing about six cabinets a day and aiming for a steady production volume of $60,000 a month). Income from training, software, materials, and related support for other cabinetmakers through the True32 Corporation makes up the rest of his livelihood.

Continue Reading about True32 Custom Cabinetry

Assembly Area
Hardware Area
CNC Router
Sliding Table Saw
Company Name:   True32 Custom Cabinetry
Contact Name:   Bob Buckley
Location:   LaVergne, TN  37086
Year Founded:   1990
Sq. Footage:   5,600
Employees:   3
Gross Sales:   700,000

Product Specialties:
    Cabinets - Custom Cabinets

Shop Equipment:
    Brandt - KD-56 Edgebander
    Altendorf - F-45 Elmo-4 Sliding Table Saw
    Other - CNT Motion- CNC Router

Viewer Comments:

Posted By: John Schanafelt     [06/07/2008]
Assembly and hardware areas are outstanding. A true testiment to organization. Two thumbs up.

Posted By: Nathan Barnard     [06/30/2008]
Very impressive operation. Who does your installs?

Posted By: Bob Buckley     [06/30/2008]

Thanks for the compliment.


Thanks for the compliment. We do the majority of our installs ourselves right now, but we have outsourced them in the past, and will do so again when sakes volume justifies it.

Bob Buckley

Posted By: Nathan Barnard     [07/01/2008]
Bob, I've been trying to come up with an efficient cab. construction system (similar to true32) for my one man shop. I very much believe in processes and technology enabling the shop.

Currently struggling with hardware installation, namely metabox screw locations, and was hoping a simple 13 head line boring machine would be the answer. Just wondering how you do it with the Zargen, and if you try to stay away from pullouts (with spacers). Just trying to minimize the "human error" potential... I imagine your CNC router is probably the answer.


Posted By: Paul S     [07/26/2008]
True 32 system really helped me big time. Nathan I really believe you would do yourself a favor and get a Dbl line boring machine. Is was one of my best investments. Really no need for a CNC. Good luck, Paul

Posted By: SCOTT BUSHNELL     [01/25/2009]

Posted By: James     [01/28/2009]
Great looking shop, impressive processes, and sweet results. I want to learn more about you operation.

Posted By: Bob Buckley     [01/29/2009]

Thanks for the compliment. You are welcome to call anytime.

Bob Buckley

Posted By: David F.     [05/11/2009]
How do you keep the dust down? looks very good

Posted By: Bob Buckley     [05/12/2009]

We have a central dust collector with EcoGates on all our machines, and we also make it part of each process to clean up after each transfer batch is machined at each and every station (typically a maximum of 6 cabinets).

Bob Buckley

Posted By: Nathan     [12/09/2009]
Hi Bob, how do you heat your shop, and how often is it in use (5 days a week)? also, what height ceiling do you have/recommend? I am currently designing a 2000sf shop across the border from Maine.

Posted By: Bob Buckley     [12/10/2009]

You asked: "How do you heat your shop, and how often is it in use (5 days a week)?"

The plant is heated with two gas heaters and cooled with two central A/C units, the office/showroom is heated and cooled with a unit that uses our hot water heater.

You asked: "What height ceiling do you have/recommend?"

12' at the walls, 13' at the peak. This has been sufficient for my use, and saves a little on heat and air cost of taller ceiling heights.

Posted By: Bob Schilke     [02/26/2010]
Wow! Very nice shop setup. . Far too neat though. The only time my place is neat is after Frifay cleanup, or once a large project is finished I reset the shop. Very nice place. How much does it cost to heat? & you have AC ? Jealousy reigns. . . Ok, I have too, only use it when it's over 92 inside the shop. Thinking about going "green" for the heat though. I've got 2500 sf w/ 14' ceilings, single furnace (oil) & 2 multi blowers (heat/AC), looking into a furnace conversion & a briquette machine (small) I know of a shop in PA that is the same size & uses 30-40 lbs per day when it's cold. Can't remember which furnace they have though. Well, I digress. Nice shop! Back to work.

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Company Description Continued

Buckley’s path to this point has been a long one. In the 1980s, he was selling machinery, hardware, and software to the cabinetmaking industry. In 1990, he decided to settle down and start his own cabinet shop, in order to have more time at home with his family. "I loved selling the machinery," he says, "I just didn’t like traveling." So when he opened his first cabinet shop, he went whole hog on the equipment. "When I started, my initial investment was $27,500 dollars — which today doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but in 1990 it was a fully equipped face frame cabinet shop. I had the best of everything, really."

For a half dozen years, Buckley focused on efficiency and quality in the face-frame cabinet business. During that time, friends urged him to consider frameless methods as a way to boost production. But Buckley says he wasn’t convinced. One friend in particular — Mark Poole, until recently Buckley’s business partner in the True32 Corporation — was a strong advocate of the Euro-cab movement. "Mark was building in the Charlotte, North Carolina, market, and he had a good niche there," says Buckley. "I looked at the projects he did, and the craftsmanship was meticulous. The fit and finish was perfect." But the simple, spare Euro style wasn’t to Buckley’s taste. "Everything he did was thermofoil — he doesn’t like to finish — and almost everything was white. It just wasn’t what I wanted to do."

But then Buckley went to visit another friend’s shop: Randall Fowler, in Augusta, Georgia. Fowler is one of the craftsmen mentioned as an influence in Buckley’s book, "True32 Flow Manufacturing." Says Buckley, "Randall had converted to frameless several years earlier, and he was integrating all the elements that we were putting into our face frame cabinets: the legs, the Queen Anne feet — all kinds of stuff. And I came back and said, ‘I just need to engineer a solution that every time we do a turned leg we are going do it like this. And every time we do a clip, we are gonna do it like this. And all of that is part of our library now. We’ve got all the moldings that are specific to our system — vintage crown mold, vintage light rail, all those pieces and parts, ultimately we found somebody to machine them for us and stock them, and we drop ship them from their facility. We have a molding manufacturer in Minnesota that makes all of those moldings that are specific to the True32 system; and we’ve been able to get Conestoga to stock the crown and light rail, so that if you order your doors pre-finished, you can get your True32 crown and light rail pre-finished from them. And we did the same thing with Walzcraft. So our west coast guys can order from Walzcraft, and our East Coast guys can order from Conestoga and get pre-finished doors, drawer fronts, crown mold and light rail. There are still some other moldings that are integral to this system, vintage clip, classic clip and transition mold and a few others, that they have to get from us raw and finish themselves, because those companies have not taken those on."

Re-Tooling for Production

Once he saw that he could achieve all his design elements in a frameless cabinet system, Buckley re-tooled his whole shop around frameless production. "I basically re-bought all of my equipment," he says, "and sold a bunch of stuff over the years that I never used again, from that point on. We bought a panel saw and an edgebander and a double line drill, and really didn’t change anything about that until 2004, when we brought in the CNC router – and the only thing we got rid of at that point was the line drill."

A big $40,000-dollar Altendorf sliding table saw is the only legacy machine that Buckley still keeps around — and he says, "It just sits there 95% of the time. You know, there are a few things that we can’t do with the CNC, that we have to do with the saw, but it certainly doesn’t require a $40,000 saw to do those few things. But it’s nice. It is a sweet piece of equipment. I still enjoy using it. It’s a lot of fun to use." Today, Buckley has three table saws in the shop: the Altendorf, a Powermatic Model 66, and "some off-brand of the Delta-type saw." He leaves each table saw set up full-time to handle a specific task — and he only cranks the Altendorf up for the occasional "grain-match" job, where a whole kitchen full of cabinet doors has to be made with matching grain from door to door across the entire room.

In those cases, explains Buckley, "where we’re doing a veneered, MDF-core, edgebanded door, we need something that basically takes out the reveal. The saw has a 3mm blade that is the thickness of our reveal, and when you put all that back together on a wall of cabinets, it all looks like it was done out of one big sheet of material. So the Altendorf is required for that, but it’s probably one in fifty jobs that we do that. It’s not something we do frequently. But in January of this year we will start a new neighborhood of 98 houses, and of those 98 houses, there is a good probability that 20 of them will have grain matched jobs in them."

Panel Handling

In a shop where machinery is fundamental, it’s not surprising that Buckley does not rely on muscle power to move materials. It’s been that way from the beginning, Buckley says — in part because one of his oldest employees has back trouble dating back to before he was hired. Today, employees float panels from point to point using an overhead-mounted vacuum panel lift. "But even before we had the vacuum lift, we were using the forklift to load the saw or the router. There was never anybody ever handling a sheet. It came off the truck with the forklift, it went into the pallet rack with the forklift, it came out and got parked next to the saw or the CNC and then slid onto the saw or CNC." But as the True32 Corporation expanded and Buckley began to receive and ship hardware destined for other shops that use his system, the volume of hardware grew enough to justify investing in the vacuum lift.

On those occasional grain-matched jobs, the vacuum lift also gives the crew the luxury of a power assist for laying out and sorting raw panels. "One of the toughest things about grain matching is that the sheets come to you in a bundle," Buckley notes. "They are not in any kind of order, as far as matching of color and grain type. With a vacuum lift we can spread out all the sheets that we want to use in area in front of the saw and CNC Router, and find the ones that are most similar and use them in that order. We can lay the kitchen out from left to right so the transitions from door to door are similar, and it’s gorgeous. The vacuum lift is awesome for that."

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