Creating measurements in special millwork projects

Karl D. Forth,

Measurement system helps millworker recreate radiuses.

Custom Millwork & Display, Inc. isn’t afraid to handle challenging and high-visibility millwork jobs.

“Our main business is custom architectural millwork,” says Jerrel Mead. “We have no production items, and we make very little laminate cabinetry. Our main customers are the general contractors that perform work in Northern Indiana and Southern Michigan. We have provided millwork in the Chicago area, and even did a Tilted Kilt in Missouri.

The South Bend, Ind., company also made an elliptical conference table that was part of the CabinetMaker+FDM Pricing Survey several years ago. And it is one of the few FSC Chain of Custody certified shops in Northern Indiana that can handle large millwork projects.

“Somehow we have gravitated toward institutional work,” Mead says. “A good percentage of our annual business is at the University of Notre Dame. We certainly don’t get all the millwork business there, but we have a great relationship with the university. We have also performed work at Ivy Tech, Purdue, Indiana University, Ball State, Bethel College, Holy Cross College, and Saint Mary’s College, Culver Military Academy and numerous K-12 schools.”

Custom Millwork & Display employs seven people in the 12,800 square foot South Bend shop. “At one point we had three times that many employees, but have found that we can be more productive with less people and buy-out more items,” Mead says.

In the shop, the company uses a C. R. Onsrud Panel Pro CNC router, Mikron Multi-Moulder, three shapers and other equipment including a Brandt edgebander, two-head 42-inch SCMI sander and a Mini-Max sliding table saw.

The CNC router, edgebander and receiving area are at one end of the building. Materials are moved to assembly in the middle of the shop, and then on to the finishing area at the other end.

“We utilize the CNC router for everything possible from cutting cabinets, templates, cutting radius hardwood, and carving hardwood,” Mead says. “We also buy out running trim because it is cheaper than trying to do it ourselves. We make all radius components in house.

Custom Curves

Custom Millwork & Display faced challenges in making mahogany stair treads and risers of mahogany hardwoods and veneers for the Basilica at Notre Dame.

“The altars have several radius areas, and having been built in 1871, the curves were not a true radius, and one side did not mirror the other,” Mead explains.

Drawings that had been provided were never meant to be templates for making this material, only a bidding reference on the project. There are no precise measurements for the 140-year-old building. The entire building was documented by simple field verification by using a tape.

The altar was covered with carpet, and could not be removed until the Basilica was closed for the three weeks of renovation and installation.

“Since the CAD file proved to be not usable, we had to come up with a way to measure with the carpet in place,” Mead says. “If ETemplate was not available, we would have had to manually template every inch of each step.”

ETemplate Systems developed ELaser and EPhoto three-dimensional measuring systems. EPhoto uses photography to develop an accurate CAD-based template from sets of digital photographs, measuring the entire space. ELaser software integrates the 3D laser to import and process the measurement data. It automatically draws the project in CAD as the measurements are being collected.

“Since the bid documents called for the existing nosing to be removed, we measured to each riser. The big challenge was that the top tread had to match up to existing marble with a brass trim around the perimeter. The brass trim was bent around the radius marble, and had several “flat” areas where it was not a true radius. The top tread also had to be planed down to 1⁄2 inches thick (other treads were 3⁄4 inch thick) and receive a rabbet to go over the flange of the brass trim. This necessitated cutting the top tread upside down on the CNC.”

For the riser measurements, Custom Millwork was able to use masking tape as markers. Where the carpet met the brass trim at the top tread, Mead inserted laminate samples every 5 or 6 inches, and shot to those. That worked well.

“They were able to provide us a CAD file with the layout of each riser and the brass/marble existing platform floor,” Mead says. “From there, we deducted for the carpet, added for the new riser material, and the overhang needed for the lighting that was tucked behind the hardwood nosing.”

Mead says that the ETemplate system came through for them in a pinch. “If you look at the pulpit you will notice that it is tucked into a column. There were probably 20 different angles that needed to be cut into the landing, and ETemplate was able to provide a vellum template for the contractor. This helped tremendously because the handrail was not removable, and each post had to also be notched.

For future projects, Mead says he plans to continue to meld craftsmanship with technology.

Custom Millwork & Display has gravitated toward institutional millwork projects.


Big D Metalworks, Dallas, Texas

Construction of the Walt Disney Family Museum , located in the Presidio of San Francisco, required the talents of an experienced specialty contractor that could handle a job incorporating historical preservation and 3-D modeling.

Big D, won the contract to create a dramatic 164-foot spiraling ramp and central staircase that leads from one of 10 galleries to the museum’s main interactive exhibit area. The company’s work was part of a $110 million contract to renovate an existing barrack’s from the 1890s and add 15,000 square feet of exhibit space in the barracks’ rear courtyard. The 3D precision measuring for this complex project was done with ETemplate's digital measuring system.


Erik Fetzer, Fetzer Architectural Woodwork, Salt Lake City, UT

I purchased ETemplate for a major remodel of the Julliard School's Alice Tully Chamber Orchestra Hall at the Lincoln Center in New York City. It cut our field measuring time by 75%. Every component was a perfect fit.


John Leininger, Leininger Cabinet & Woodworking, Lexington, KY
We used ETemplate to measure the remodel of the Watergate Hotel in Washington, DC . We needed no field adjustments; everything fit like a glove.


Ethan Adams, Adams Bros. Cabinetry, Inc., Punta Gorda, FL

We purchased the ETemplate digital measuring system so that employees wouldn’t have to go into the field and manually template a soffit, for example, using cardboard or plywood. The company does all its engineering work in AutoCAD and exports that to Wood WOP which directs the CNC cutting.

When we would go out and template something the old-fashioned way…we had difficulty transporting that information back into the computer to write all the programs we need to cut out all the parts and pieces.

ETemplate allows the company to send one employee to a job site. We know the information is true, it’s accurate, and it’s whatever is actually out in the field. It’s a great time-saver for us.


Chris Morley, Owner, Royal Oak Stair, Raleigh, NC
“.....everything that has been done in ETemplate so far has fit perfect, and saved us lots of time.“


Vaughan Ferguson, ErgoMeasure, Pty. Ltd., Perth, Australia
After 37 years in the business of engineering design and modeling, when we decided to embark on the business of producing templates at ErgoMeasure, the most important thing for us was to assess the products on the market that were suitable for high speed templating. The product that we would finally choose needed to have versatility, accuracy and dependability. It also needed to be user friendly, have a “Point Of Difference” that set it apart from its competitors and be backed by a rock solid guarantee. After exhaustive research there was no question in our minds that “ETemplate” was the obvious choice. Why?

Previously with measuring, there was always an element of trust that was needed between the person measuring and the end user of that measured information. It was also difficult to relay the information and to visualize the real item being measured, as a sketch could not provide this for complex areas measured. ETemplate developers have not only come up with a product that gives the templater the ability to accurately measure flat or complex 2D or 3D surfaces, they also provided all users along the way the ability to visualize the real measured area with their ground breaking “Back plotting” invention. This functionality being their “Point Of Difference” combined with all the other qualities mentioned above as well as safeguarding its templaters in the event of disputes, sets ETemplate apart from their competitors and makes them, in our opinion, the best digital templating product on the market.

Our company, ErgoMeasure, has now completed over 200 templates that included complex bench tops, curved landings and steps, open area measurement both in 2D & 3D and “ETemplate” provided us 100% success with every template when it comes to accuracy. The developers of ETemplate have obviously conducted exhaustive research to remove any inaccuracies via a comprehensive checking and auditing system. The system is so versatile that it gives the user the ability to become totally creative during the measuring process.

The ETemplate software has been cleverly crafted and gives its users the choice of using this advanced measuring technology with their own highly developed “Process Center” or combines it with other CAD (Computer Aided Design) packages on the market to produce a DXF (Data Exchange File) for use with modern CNC (Computer Numeric Controlled) machines. Either way the final result is the same. Amazingly accurate and easy to use!! If you need to develop a physical template, don’t stress, as this can also be achieved by processing this information to a vinyl template cutting machine.

Speed is another consideration in this competitive world we live in when it comes to choosing a commercially viable product. Using ETemplate we have been able to create a viable business that delivers accuracy combined with speed at a very competitive cost for both small and large manufacturers.

Our conclusion is that we feel most electronic templating products on the market are either slow or cumbersome or both in comparison to ETemplate which offers great versatility at a very affordable price.

The friendly staffs at Tri-Tech-Solutions, Inc., developers of the ETemplate products, are always available to answer any queries that arise, and their expert team always has the solutions to any problems that may arise. Need I say more!


Marty Marra, President, Capitol Granite, Inc. ,Pittsburg, PA
“I would not be in this business without ETemplate. They provided the answer for us.”


An e-mail written by Marty to a prospective buyer of ETemplate :

We are sitting here templating another kitchen. The ETemplate system is EXCELLENT! When I said I wouldn't be in this business without ETemplate I meant it. I was extremely skeptical that it could provide the accuracy needed. But the accuracy of ETemplate along with the accuracy of CNC are a perfect match. We end up with puzzle pieces that fit together absolutely perfectly. We have become completely reliant on the data we get and after 60 plus kitchens with ETemplate we have not had a bad fit or error yet. We will always "test" the system by taking several overall measurements with a tape and comparing the taped measurement to the ETemplate measurement and to this day the largest variance we have had was 1/8"!! We usually get 1/8 or 1/16 or zero for the difference, and we tend to think that WE are the ones who have not measured perfectly, not ETemplate. Tech support is also fantastic, but I never call them anymore because I have no problems with it. If you have any questions, I will be more than glad to help you with your decision.