Most woodworkers will agree that woodworking can be a tough way to make a living.
When something comes along that might be outside the realm of what a shop normally produces but has the potential for a good pay day - you just have to take the reins and run with it. That certainly has been the case for Heartwood Carving Inc, of Eugene, Oregon.
Back in 1989, while completing a large carved mural, sculptor and carver Joe Valasek decided that he needed a new carving technique that could help him to replicate the murals he was creating. After a few industry events he began to see what the result of using CNC technology could be and immediately knew that it was for him.
Since being established in 2003, Heartwood Carvings has embraced CNC technology, today the facility is 16,000 square feet with 10 employees and Joe's tool chest includes seven computer-controlled CNC machines, six Multicams and one Precix, some with a bed of 14 x 8 feet. To program these machine Heartwood uses advanced design and machining software from Delcam, ArtCAM (HQ Birmingham, UK).
Joe is fond of saying, "Every classical artist has always used the full range of tools available to them. If Michelangelo were alive today, there's no reason to think he wouldn't be using the most advanced tools in existence." While certainly not meaning to compare himself to Michelangelo, he nevertheless feels very fortunate to be part of the forefront of exciting developments in the sculptural world which combine the lessons of many generations of carvers with cutting edge 21st century technologies.
Formerly most carved artworks and architectural pieces that Joe produces would only be accessible to individuals with lavish budgets, now due to the amount of automation ArtCAM provides he can produce carved doors, murals and accent carvings to add charm and value to any home or business, and to meet a more reasonable budget. Joe says:
ArtCAM is an incredibly capable and easy to use product. It provides me the tools and flexibility that I need to produce extremely detailed work in a timely manner."
Joe first found a niche in the woodworking business early on when Monaco Coach of Eugene, Oregon, began incorporating his exclusive wooden ornaments into their luxury motor coaches. Monaco worked closely with Heartwood on the development of the coaches' interior design and started an exclusive line of carved ornament accents for the slide-out fascia. In addition to creating designs for the fascia, Heartwood also supplies mirror frames and beautiful accessories for window treatments.
As the RV (or Motor home) market reached saturation in the early 90's Heartwood looked to diversify. Since they already were manufacturing hardwood moulding, doors and face-frame materials, the move to residential work seemed like a natural transition. Heartwood continues to produce wood interiors for the RV industry but they also offer a unique line of carved components and ready-to-assemble trim kits for creating decorative casework, mantels, cabinetry accents and furniture.
We're now starting to develop several new markets in response to the difficult economic climate. We're producing finished products like carved folding screens, small cabinets and decorative wall carvings as well as large public art projects. Basically we're headed to a situation where we're producing a broad range of products from $12.00 corner blocks for windows and doors to multi thousand dollar art pieces. None of which could be made without the help of ArtCAM."
Cabinets, mouldings and doors account for a large portion of Heartwood carvings business but their real niche in today's market is customisation- providing customers with a unique blend of master craftsman and productivity.
"The unique thing about ArtCAM is that I can blend my experience as a sculpture with the software so I don't lose any of the personal hand crafted touch that people love and since I have hand carved several projects myself I sort of know what might work and what won't. I can sit down with a customer and right away go into the design stage. This eliminates any pre-cutting before a job is approved. Being able to provide customers' with design ideas on the computer not only increases my productivity but saves on material costs, allowing me to pass the savings onto my customer."
By storing design elements in the ArtCAM program (examples of trees, animals, etc) Joe has the ability to use them again and again, saving valuable time allowing him to go from concept to reality much quicker. Joe adds:
There is no other product on the market that can do 3D relief modeling like ArtCAM. It allows you to combine multiple designs to create an even more beautiful and intricate piece without having to re-work anything."
With one of ArtCAM's other excellent design features Joe has been able to make uniquely textured products directly from 2D artwork or photographs adding dimension to his finished products.
Nature scene in Western Maple
Heartwood Carving is dedicated to creating quality ornamental carvings and architectural details to enhance residences, businesses and luxury motor vehicles. Joe said, "We believe that integral artistic wood carvings and architectural accents in our living and work places contribute daily to our well-being and sense of harmony.
I believe that if I can imagine something in a job I can do it. ArtCAM and my CNC routers not only help me to do it but allow me to do it in a timely and cost effective way."