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Moulding Manufacturers and Custom Framers Have Noticed a Slightly Growing Demand for Unfinished Mouldings.

Raw mouldings account for a small part of the custom-framing industry, but they are being used by more and more framers offering unique pieces. Companies such as Los Angeles-Based Foster Planing Mill Co. (323-759-9156, info@fosterplaningmill.com), have seen the demand for raw mouldings grow in the past few years.
“Unfinished moulding is a specialized corner of the moulding industry, but my guess is that it makes up roughly three percent of total moulding sales, maybe less,” says Robert Stanley, company spokesman. “Our customer base is growing, and I think there is an opportunity, especially for frameshops that have both artisans and good salespeople and can produce handcrafted frames and sell to the higher end of the market. I think this is the most creative aspect of the industry. Unfinished mouldings allow unlimited potential for creative designs. And isn’t that what art really is all about?”
Foster has about 150 patterns available as ready-to-ship stock patterns. However, the company also makes many custom patterns designed by its customers, which gives their shops something unique, Stanley says.
In addition to giving framers the freedom to create more imaginative designs, Stanley says the beauty of custom-finished frames is in having something handmade and authentic. “If the frame is cut and joined before it is finished, corners can be sanded to fit perfectly. And after finishing, the miters seem to disappear,” Stanley says. “Or, a framer can use one raw pattern and match the frame color to each work of art that he frames with that pattern. Each frame is specifically designed for the artwork. That is why framers use unfinished mouldings. They do not use them as a way to reduce expenses because the money saved in moulding expenses is probably more than offset by the increased labor that unfinished moulding requires.”
“I personally believe that most frameshops do an excellent job, but custom framers can offer something more – a product that is a work of art in itself,” Stanley says. “It’s a handmade piece of furniture that hangs on the wall.”

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Keeping a Long-Term Frame of Mind

Foster Planing Mill began life as F.D. Butzer Planing Mill in 1922, manufacturing wood molding for home interiors, windows, picture frames and Venetian blinds. John Stanley, father of current owner Bob Stanley, purchased the company in 1963 from one of the original partners. Bob Stanley attributes the firm’s 75 years of success to an old-fashioned formula: loyal employees, high-quality products and good customer service. He was interviewed by freelance writer Karen E. Klein.
Long-term relationships are important at every level in this company. We have customers who have been purchasing from us for decades, some going back to the ’40s and ’50s. We are still buying from some of the same suppliers we were buying from in the ’50s. I find it is much easier to maintain good, long-term business relationships than it is to constantly build new ones.
We produce a very high-quality product, and many of our customers could probably get it cheaper somewhere else. But they know they can trust our quality and, since many of them make museum-quality picture frames, they don’t want to take a chance somewhere else. That’s why I know I have to not only get lumber in here, but I have to get the type of lumber that is going to work for our products and satisfy our customers.
That’s where the long-term relationships come in. Our suppliers know what we need and they can provide it to us. It is the same with our customers. They have been buying from us for so long, they know they can count on us.
I hope that when our customers deal with us, they feel like they are dealing with friends. There is a great rapport that develops when you talk to the same people week after week. Some of these people we have never met, but we have developed friendships with them over the phone. It makes our jobs more pleasant, and it makes it very comfortable for our customers to call us.
The lifeblood of our company has always been long-term, loyal employees. The senior employee has been here 17 years, and he is the son-in-law of an employee who worked here more than 40 years. His daughter took a summer job with us last year.
Having great people who dedicate their lives to our company has been wonderful. But we learned the hard way that we have to prepare for the firm to go on when some of those crucial people leave.