Behind the scenes: Wood Shop
February 25, 2020
Our unique furniture gets people talking, which is why we frequently call these items conversation pieces. But underneath the colorful hand-painted patterns and the upholstered embellishments is a solid wood frame that might have been built by our very own Wood Shop right here in Aurora, New York.
The shop makes about a dozen pieces of our furniture, including a variety of tables (the Marble Entry and Side Tables, the Courtly Stripe Console Table, our Diorama Tables, the Train Tables, and the Tango Mirror), plus birch bases for setting seats, tuffets, the Ridiculous Bench, and the Technicolor Bench.
The shop also repairs furniture, builds prototypes of new products, and, on occasion, does special projects for our retail stores in Aurora and SoHo. One recent project was making candle tables for both locations. The tables, which are used to display our MacKenzie-Childs Glow candle collection, are made of poplar lumber and birch plywood. They’re quite massive, weighing about 300 pounds and measuring 3 feet wide and 9 feet long. They’re supported with oversized hand-painted ceramic legs that we also make here in Aurora.
All these woodworking tasks are handled by Frank Winters, who has been with MacKenzie-Childs since 1991, when he was hired to work with our grounds crew but quickly moved into the Wood Shop. Frank, who had been a trim carpenter before he joined the company, comes from a long line of carpenters, including his father and grandfather. “I’ve been doing this my entire life,” he says.
Frank builds furniture to fulfill existing orders or maintain inventory. He usually works on one product group at a time, building four to six identical pieces in stages, which, he says, is more efficient than building just one at a time.
For example, when he builds Marble Entry Tables, the first stage is to notch the maple legs, which are milled in North Carolina, so that they’re ready to be attached to the scalloped skirts, which are cut here from birch plywood. After the skirts and legs are attached, forming the basic frame of the table, the piece moves to drawer assembly and finally to creating the birch tabletop, which has a 1¼-inch decorative molding on the edges. After a final sanding, the table goes for a quality check, better known as a QC.
After the QC, the table moves to our Furniture Decorating department, where it receives an abundance of incredible hand-painted patterns that include a faux marble finish, stripes, polka dots, our signature Courtly Check pattern, and tortoiseshell. The legs are also decorated with wallpaper accents, and dangling ceramic tassels are added to the top.
Frank’s favorite piece of furniture to build is the Train Table, which has a black and white checked linoleum tile top, ceramic legs, and features cherry molding on its border and apron. Cherry is Frank’s favorite wood. “I like the grain of it and the way it finishes,” he says.
But, really, Frank is quite adaptable to just about any kind or wood or any project that might come his way. “We’ll build almost anything that we have the tools and the time for,” he says.