Daniel’s Custom Cabinets

For this months customer focus we spoke to Daniel Flathers, owner of Daniel Cabinets ‘Built by Daniel’. If it can be imagined, it can be built! This is the motto of Dan Flathers from Washington state who loves adding warmth and character to his Yakima Valley clients' homes using his amazing woodworking skills to create custom furniture. Dan has posted a number of his impressive projects on the Vectric forum over the years and this custom project caught our eye as it’s a little different and deserves some attention. Find out about Dan’s unorthodox route into CNC and how he created this unusual project using his skills with Aspire coupled with Design & Make clipart!

Dan, tell us about your experience before finding CNC…

I was a heating & air conditioning contractor but woodworking was a hobby that I always really enjoyed. After a major shoulder injury in early 1995 I decided that it was time to make a career change so I started my own business 'Daniel Cabinets'. In 1998 I was approached by Trailwagons / Chinook (an RV and Truck/Van conversion manufacturer) to head up their new product development so I sub-contracted with them until they closed their doors in 2005. But what a great experience that was! They paid me to learn and design new products, and the exposure I received to new product development was priceless.

How did you get into using CAD/CAM software and your first CNC machine?

I am self-taught and I’m always looking for ways to stay ahead of the curve. I like to learn new things and this is where CNC comes in. In 2007 I started looking for something to help take my business to the next level, so I decided to find an affordable CNC machine and ShopBot fit the bill. The fun thing about all this is that I knew nothing about operating CNC equipment and had little knowledge on the use of computers! It was interesting when my new equipment showed up in a big crate and a manual on how to assemble the machine. It was a bit overwhelming, but as I said; jumping in with both feet is what made it fun. After setting the ShopBot up I decided to look for some user friendly software and whilst looking around, I decided that Vectric offered the greatest ease of use so I bit the bullet and purchased Aspire. All in all it took me about a year of trial and error before I felt completely comfortable with what I was doing with my CNC. The biggest hurdle was realizing that all mistakes were my fault...if you program it, that's what it does. It was quite the learning curve.

Dan, you have a wide collection of custom woodworking projects completed for your customers. Tell us more about your wildlife themed project for your client's reloading room and how this latest project came about.

I was contacted by a local general contractor wondering if I’d be interested working on a unique project. It was an 1800 sq ft room addition / remodel that consisted of a variety of rooms. Rooms for bead work, for sewing and quilt work, home office, reloading room and a few others. The reloading room had a 24 foot bank of cabinetry that needed a little extra attention. I approached the homeowner with the idea of creating something unique, showed him a few photos of custom range hoods and entry doors with wildlife scenes I had created over the years. He liked the idea so I went to work getting a rendition put together. I already had the Design & Make clipart and was able to use and modify it to fit the needs of the project.

The western themed end cabinet was designed and made for the same client. They asked me to create an end table to go with their western style living furniture and this is what I came up with. It was a fun project created for a great client and the back of the end table is the approach to his property. You can’t get more personalized than that!

Wow. That’s a huge project and I bet a lot of planning went in to get it just right as it’s beautifully done and the craftsmanship is superb. Tell us EVERYTHING about how you came to create the pieces, as well as the materials and finishing you used?

Agreeing upon the space to work with, I went back to my shop, played with the concept of looking through a bank of windows, and started laying out the artwork using Aspire software. After about 30 hours of layout, design, and creating tool paths, I had a rendition to show my client. I actually carved a ¼ scale model, clear coated with a high build lacquer and glazed finish to show the client the total scope of the project. What a great marketing tool that was! The final build was carved in 6/4 Hickory doors. I used a 3/8” compression bit for the rough and the 1/8” ball nose for the finish tool paths.

What a fantastic way to show your client by using a scale model! You’ve clearly got a very creative mind to be able to see the possibilities that opens up for your clients. What benefits did you find using clipart for this project and do you use this approach for any other of your projects?

What is great about the clipart is that we can design and make all these fun and unique pieces without recreating the wheel. Using Design & Make clipart coupled with Aspire, you can modify and tweak any of the clipart to get your desired effect in much less time than it takes to model that level of intricacy from scratch.

You have produced an amazing array of cabinetry. What are your top tips for using Aspire and clipart to create such high quality finishes?

Whenever I meet with a new client, I try to find ways to create a unique experience for them. It really makes the project more personalized. Most people don’t realize the options they have. That’s where it’s up to us to educate. We can create limitless designs and present them to the client as a 3D rendition. Guiding us through the design process, from sketch or scanned bitmap to start the design.

What do you enjoy making the most and are there any materials or styles you prefer to work with?

Anything Custom! The more customized the more I want to do it! My favorite wood to work with for my personal projects is brown birds eye maple. Most of the furniture I created for myself has a Celtic theme. I use a custom blended stain on the pieces and it gives the look of being hundreds of years old. I call it building antiques! As far as clients, the more customized the better. There’s nothing more satisfying than creating unique one-of-a-kind pieces. Recently I had a client approach me about doing the dash for his 1940 Cadillac out of Rosewood. It’s a very expensive and desirable wood used for cabinetry, musical instruments and decorative stuff and looks amazing, so after we met and went over options I ended up doing pretty much the entire interior of the vehicle out of Rosewood even the visors!

How has CNC helped you expand your business and what plans do you have for future projects?

My first CNC was a 4 by 8 with a 4 HP high frequency motor I purchased for doing mainly carving and miscellaneous mill work. It got to the point where I needed to increase my productivity, so I purchased a 5 by 10 CNC with ATC and vacuum hold down. This addition has increased my production substantially with increased savings in material and labor. I am always looking at new ways to create unique and one of a kind pieces. I just recently purchased an indexer with the capability of handling 19.5 “diameter by 60” long material which will allow me to design and create full radius. Just adding another tool to the arsenal. I have been extremely pleased with the Aspire software and the Design & Make clipart and I use both daily. Currently I am working on a media room for a client. It consists of a 144” projector screen, a dry bar, 2 Queen size Murphy (wall) beds, fireplace and bookcases. They have 10-foot ceilings, arched cabinetry headers with a lot of fluting and flourishes.

What amazing woodworking skills you have! Thank you Daniel for taking the time out of your busy schedule to let us see behind the scenes of this special business.  We look forward to seeing what you comes up with next!

If you would like to see more of Dan's work, head over to his website www.danielcabinets.net.  You can also find Daniel Cabinets on Facebook and follow Daniel's posts on the Vectric forum by looking out for 'danielbf'.


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