Where Traditional Craftsmanship Meets Modern Technology
All of our projects start as an idea, a solution to a set of intersecting problems that our customers are experiencing. Every design we suggest is unique. We’ve developed a process that lets us build a very wide range of different things, from an extensive catalog of materials and techniques.
Building a conference table in our shop is an act of collaboration between different specialist workers and our advanced technology. All of the methods we use are based on traditional ideas of how things go together. This page walks you through the Paul Downs process of building a custom conference table.
Design and Engineering
Our design engineers work with a 3D modeling program called Sketchup. We are able to make very accurate depictions of what our work will look like in the clients’ space. After the project is approved, the Sketchup designs form the basis of a much more detailed set of plans, compiled by our engineers. Those plans consist of detailed drawings of every part of the project, for our cabinetmakers to work from, and a set of files that drive our CNC router. Before any of the plan sets are released to production, there are extensive reviews with the design engineer, the project managers, the engineers, and the shop foreman.
Choosing Wood and Other Materials
The design engineers specify what type of materials we use in our projects, and our project managers send out samples so that clients can see how those choices work in their space, but the final material choice happens on the shop floor. Most of our tables incorporate large amounts of wood. Wood comes from trees, and every tree is different from every other, even when they are of the same species. By the time it gets to us, the wood has been dried and cut to the proper thickness. It’s in a transitional state on its journey from the forest to a finished object. When our cabinetmakers take their plans to the woodpile, they are evaluating the pieces they need to make against the actual characteristics of each board. Color, figure, knots, and other character marks will determine how we use each piece. With our veneer, which is a tree cut into very thin slices, it’s the same challenge. A highly skilled person needs to look at every piece and plan how to transform it into the required part.
There is also considerable variation in the other materials we use. Metals, stone, glass, laminate – even if they come out of the same factory, the individual pieces are never identical. And our manufacturing process will introduce stresses that have to be taken into account when planning material yields. As with wood, our skilled and experienced cabinetmakers work hard to get the best results from every material.
Making Table Parts
In a modern workshop, machines do the cutting and skilled people do the assembly. We use our CNC router to cut parts in every project. It is extremely accurate. We can be sure that all of the parts for a complex piece will fit together perfectly.
We have a variety of other machines to cut, drill, glue, and shape wood and metal. We are equipped to execute hundreds of different manufacturing processes. Many of our machines are designed to do a single process in high volume. Our skilled operators allow us to efficiently do the short runs required for custom work.
After machining, every part is carefully examined for quality and then placed into sets on a cart with the other parts of the same job. These carts are queued until a cabinetmaker starts work on that project.
Machines are great at accurate cutting, but they cannot put things together. Only highly skilled human hands can perform all of the tasks required to fit, glue up, sand, and check our work. We make complicated objects, with multiple sub-assemblies that need to be built and then fit together. Our build process culminates with a complete assembly of each piece. We check that everything is beautiful, smooth, and fits together perfectly. We check the hardware, and any A/V equipment in the project. Our project managers then do an independent quality check so that everything is just so. Then it’s off to the finishing room.
Apply Finishing Touches and Sealant
Wood needs to be finished to protect it from wear and dirt and to bring out the beauty of the grain. There are countless ways to finish a piece. We can choose from a huge variety of different types of finish, and each of these can be applied in multiple ways. We can also color the wood using stains, paints, or dyes. We can finish parts of a piece with one finish and other parts with another, to achieve a mix of textures and colors. All of these processes are performed by our highly skilled finishers.
Final Assembly and Inspection
For the last step in building a conference table, all of our pieces get disassembled after their shop floor quality check and are finished in pieces. After the finishing is done, we re-assemble each piece to check that everything works. Once again, the project managers go over every detail to ensure that all is as it should be. We check the fit of all the parts, and the hardware, and the overall appearance. We also take a lot of photos of the completed conference table for our records.
Packing & Shipping
Most of our clients are located far from our shop. We ship tables all over the continent and the world. Nobody wins if there is damage in transit, so we take a huge amount of care to pack and ship our work. After the finish inspection, the piece is completely disassembled again. Each component is cleaned with a disinfectant mixture. Our logistics specialists, Kevin, Luis, and Greg, perform this step with gloves and masks. Then we wrap each piece in ⅛” foam and encase that with a cardboard outer layer. All edges are reinforced with corner protectors. The wrapped pieces are then placed on a custom made pallet, and strapped together with steel strapping and shrink wrap. Every item on the pallet is labeled, and the overall contents of the pallet are recorded in our database. We photograph the pallet at multiple points in the process. Finally, we add an outer wall to the pallet, leaving the top open.
Our pallets travel the country via LTL trucks. We usually ship to an installer who will receive the pallet and complete the installation. Many of our clients choose to do their own installation. The design engineers and project managers discuss the installation process very early in the project, to make sure that everything goes well from start to finish.
Custom Conference Table Inspiration
If you are interested in learning about how PDC can help with your plans, please look through our gallery of custom conference tables. You can choose any of these designs as a starting point for your project. Identifying what you like helps our designers get to know your style preferences, or you can submit your own designs that we will use as a guide for fabricating your custom table.