Black Forest Wood Company Implements CNC Manufacturing

When Brad Thomas started Black Forest Wood Company in 1993, his goal was to have a successful business dedicated to making quality products from solid wood with unmatched attention to detail. Now nearly three decades later, with help from his 22-year-old son Dylan, the company is succeeding in something much bigger – changing, educating and growing an industry.

Cliente: Black Forest Wood Company
CIUDAD: Calgary, Alberta
País: Canadá
Product: ROVER A SMART 16

Black Forest initially focused on solid wood doors crafted with traditional woodworking machinery. “We were limited in doing batch production,” Brad said, “which was very tedious. After studying Lean Manufacturing, we realized that implementing CNC manufacturing could triple our production in the same amount of space.”

Brad researched CNCs for about two years and then went to a woodworking event in Atlanta. “Everything about Biesse’s quality and technology innovations drew us to them immediately, and the conversations we had with Cesare Magnani and others at Biesse left us feeling inspired,” he said. The Biesse Rover CNC Processing Center he purchased arrived just weeks before the stock market crashed at the end of September 2008. In addition to making his workplace much more productive and safer, Brad believes buying the Rover was key to helping him get through the recession. When the Canadian economy tumbled again in 2014, demand for the company’s core business, custom solid wood doors, started to fall off, it was time to innovate their product line.

The doormaker found a new niche in live edge tables. Then one day Dylan Thomas, who had started coming in to learn the business at age 14, pitched a cool new idea. “Dad, we have brought a new resin into our business, and you have a pile of burl that’s probably been sitting upstairs for 10 years.” Dylan’s big idea was to take two pieces of burl scraps, make a form for a table and pour resin in the center. “He thought it would be great for generating some content to put on Instagram,” Brad said. “Me, being the old-school father, said ‘Go ahead, waste some more time online, whatever.’”

Long story short, Dylan’s organic social media marketing was a huge hit. In 2016, one of his “little videos” went viral and changed the whole profile of the business. Black Forest’s new “Resin River” tables took off and custom door orders also surged again.

“We’re now in another transition,” Dylan said. “As we’ve made more dining tables, people have started asking for other types of furniture.  Producing new chair designs, custom cabinets, hutches and credenzas with complicated joinery has created a huge increase in our need for our workhorse Biesse Rover again. The machine my dad got when I was about 10 is running full-time to enhance almost every step of our new chair manufacturing process.”

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Dylan said that having a CNC machine has also inspired their workface to learn a new skill. “Like me, many members of our team are in their early 20s. They feel honored to get the opportunity to work on such a fancy CNC machine.” The company can offer a lot of employee growth because everyone gets to work on products from start to finish.

At the end of the day, Brad and Dylan Thomas feel that when they help other people learn new skills and techniques, woodworking as a whole benefits. “Between our educational classes and information we put out on social media, we are growing the industry. That is hugely, hugely important to us,” Dylan said.

“As recently as four or five years ago, if someone wanted a slab for a table, it had to be a perfect piece of wood, 10-to-12 feet long, 4 feet wide, with no voids or inclusions,” Brad said. “Now all of a sudden Dylan’s Resin River concept enables us and others to utilize pieces of woods that have voids, flaws, character and irregular features. A worldwide industry that was scrapping these non-perfect pieces of wood before can now put them to productive use.

“Almost 12-years after we got our Rover, I continue to be awed by Biesse’s service and technical support. I can still pick up the phone, call their technical support line, and get assistance at no charge. I don’t know another company that would take such good care of us. Right now the thing that is holding us back in making the next big innovation in our product development is that we need a 5-axis machine. In our quest to move forward, we aren’t even looking at anyone except Biesse.”

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Brad Thomas Black Forest Wood Products
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