When Gilles Gaudet, owner of Saint-Georges Doors, decided to
add curved cabinet doors to the company's product line in 1996,
he found that the process was somewhat slower and more
difficult than he thought.
The Saint-Aurelie, Quebec, company's first efforts produced
just a couple of doors during a 15-day period, and early
attempts at working with steam bending produced less-than-ideal
Now Saint-Georges produces dozens of curved and intricately
carved doors with a lead time of only eight days. Their success
is the result of a new production process that integrates
several pieces of CNC equipment and a company-wide lean
Initially, the company tried making curved doors by using a
steam bending process, but found the results were not accurate
and spring-back was common. The process Saint-Georges Doors
ultimately worked out for building curved doors is not
difficult, though it does involve a number of steps and
required the purchase of a number of CNC machines.
First, individual wood planks are cut to length and sanded
on a DMC widebelt sander. Then, the sides of the pieces are cut
at an angle, depending on the radius.
After the pieces are sanded, individual pieces are glued and
clamped together. Once dry, the piece is then placed on a
curved form and run through a five-axis Bacci CNC router with
AlphaCam software. From there the door goes to an Ace four-axis
CNC sander. Final sanding is done by hand.
Saint-Georges also offers curved mouldings, which are
produced in a manner similar to curved cabinet doors. Depending
on the size of the moulding, a number of veneer strips are cut,
coated with glue, then placed in a Protech CNC veneer former.
The veneer former presses the veneer at exactly the desired
radius. Once the pieces have cured, they are sanded.
Non-curved cabinet doors are cut to size using a Celaschi
CNC tenoner and profiled with a Morbidelli router with Aspan
At Saint-Georges Doors no nails are used to hold the stiles
and rails or any applied moulding. They believe using nails
compromises the structural integrity of the door, and also
shortens the life of sanding belts. Instead, all pieces are
glued and clamped until cured in order to allow the glue to
reach its full strength, thus producing a very sturdy door. The
company uses mortise-and-tenon construction, and miters are
Speeding up production has largely been the result of lean
initiatives, and Gaudet admits that going lean has been
difficult. "It's a challenge. If we don't stay involved every
day, within a month we'll have no lean manufacturing," Gaudet
says. "It seems that it's hard and maybe not so natural for
people to learn lean manufacturing. They think if they take all
the orders in oak and process an entire bundle of oak, that
will somehow help the factory."
Despite the challenges of lean, Gaudet says he has a
production manager in the shop who is very committed to the
concept. "He watches the processes very closely so we don't
slip into doing it the old way," Gaudet says.
As part of the lean initiative, all machines in the shop
have a backup piece of equipment. For the newer CNC equipment,
the backup piece is usually the piece it replaced. "If there is
a breakdown, there is always an alternative. Lean together with
a JIT production is very challenging," Gaudet says.
In addition to lean initiatives, Saint-Georges is in the
process of implementing an ERP system. Currently, the shop
maintains a memory book, which operates as a knowledge base for
manufacturing operations. However, Gaudet is concerned that not
everything that happens or gets changed in the shop ultimately
ends up in the memory book, so he's looking to not only enter
the data from the memory book into the ERP, but to also make it
easier for all the updated information to be available to
everybody from the salesmen to the operators.
In addition, Gaudet is hoping that the ERP will help
facilitate an online ordering process for customers that would
go so far as to assist customers in calculating the size and
radius of their door.
When it comes to curved cabinet doors, the biggest problem
Gaudet sees is that he has to convince the users of how easy it
is now to integrate curved doors in their design. "We can
supply a full package including the door, the face frame, the
crowns and the light valance," Gaudet says.
Ease in use and ordering are things Saint-Georges has worked
on extensively in the last few years. There is no minimum
order, and 20 species of wood are kept in stock. Doors can be
built for both frameless and face frame cabinets, and since the
stiles remain flat, the doors don't require any special hinges.
A door with a standard radius can be built and delivered in
eight days. A custom radius takes 20 days.
Calculating a radius is not a strong suit for many clients,
so Saint-Georges compensates for that as well. Orders that come
in are reviewed by Gilles Gaudet's daughter, Helia, who is vice
president of the company and personally handles curved door
orders and oversees customer service. When Helia receives a
curved door order she creates a CAD drawing of the project for
the client's approval. Once approved, the drawing goes to the
factory for production via a shared computer drive.
Saint-Georges offers a large number of standard radius
doors, but it often gets requests for custom radius sizes and
the company takes pride in fulfilling all these special
requests, Gaudet notes. "People who will buy a cabinet with
curved doors are people with creativity, and they want to get
exactly what they conceived," Gaudet says. "Most of the time,
price is not an issue."
At present, Saint-Georges does no finishing. However, it
plans to outsource finishing from a high-end facility and offer
a limited number of colors. In addition, Gaudet wants to
continue his habit of regularly purchasing relevant CNC
"I have many plans to improve our production and make our
business grow," Gaudet says. "Furthermore, since my daughter
and son are getting more and more involved in the company, I
want the whole facility to be adapted to the coming era.
Woodworking is not the same as it used to be, and the
challenges will be different and very interesting."
Gaudet clearly sees more interest in curved doors in the
future. "We've been making curved doors for over 10 years now,
and the demand has been slowly increasing," he says.
"Decorators and designers appreciate being able to work with
curves instead of only straight lines, and they are becoming
more and more aware of the possibilities."