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Reno woodworking company hits the jackpot.

Valley Fixtures was drawn to Reno, Nev., to improve its odds of winning casino projects. Still, its products can be found in countries around the world and on the seas.

People from around the world are drawn to the bright lights, big stars and around-the-clock allure of the action found in America's gambling meccas. What drew Valley Fixtures away from its San Jose, Calif., home to one of these meccas was the lure of increased business opportunities.

"We were doing a lot of business in Nevada," said John Haliwell, owner of the architectural woodworking company. "In 1982 we decided to set up a satellite shop in Reno for service and installation and a little manufacturing. After we were in Reno awhile we found out how much work was out here and wanted to set up a second plant. In 1985 we decided to close the San Jose shop and make the move permanent."

While the company also specializes in public-building type jobs, such as millwork for the Nevada State Supreme Court and the Los Angeles central library, a big percentage of its work comes from the casinos. Over the years Valley Fixture has worked on a number of casinos including the Mirage Hotel/Casino in Las Vegas, Caesar's Hotel Suites and Hotel Cabaret in Lake Tahoe and the Nugget in Reno just to name a few, as well as creating casinos aboard eight Royal Caribbean cruise ships.

Valley Fixtures' work also can be found throughout the western states and around the globe. Its products can be found in hotels and restaurants in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Japan, Panama and American Samoa. All of the work for foreign jobs is done at the Reno facility.

Valley's work at the Nugget showcases the company's versatility. In one of the restaurants in the casino/hotel the company created "everything except the carpeting and the chandeliers." This includes manufacturing the booths, ceiling, and fixtures. Haliwell also travelled to England with the architect to buy the antiques which are featured prominently in the room.

In the same hotel, the company created a colorful reservation area which included a lighted ceiling and "one really big cabinet" -- the reservation desk made up of one cabinet estimated by Haliwell to be about 60 feet long.

If the growth of the U.S. casino industry continues at the same pace as the last 10 years, the casino end of Valley Fixtures business should hold strong. According to recent published reports, casinos in Nevada and New Jersey have seen profits double from $4.2 billion to $8.4 billion from 1982 to 1991. Profits from casinos may grow as municipalities around the country such as Chicago, New Orleans and Gary, Ind., contemplate allowing casino gambling into their towns. Casinos on Indian reservations and riverboat gambling are on the rise.

This explosive growth in the gaming economy has helped Valley Fixtures' sales grow to $8 million a year. But even while the gaming industry was helping the company to grow, Haliwell decided long ago that he did not want to get caught putting all its eggs in one basket.

"Even when we are real busy, we always keep looking for more business," said Haliwell. "When we started the business, we made a concentrated effort not to get involved with just one customer or one line. We always try to find something to balance gaming projects so we are not doing just that type of work."

Stepping ahead into veneering

One of the big steps the company made with an eye to future growth and diversity of jobs is offering veneered products. "We think that the future of veneer is a good one and we think we got into it at the right time," said Haliwell. "Quality lumber is becoming more and more scarce all the time and all the pretty wood is being used for veneer."

When the decision to offer veneered products as a value-added service was made, the company invested more than a quarter of a million dollars in new machinery, said David Becher, plant manager. Within its 36,000-square-foot plant, the company now utilizes a Joos veneer press, a Savi guillotine, a Kuper veneer stitcher, a Black Bros. adhesive roll coater and a Friz veneer wrapper that can wrap veneer around a moulding.

Adhesives for the veneering operation are supplied by H.B. Fuller and are applied using Binks and Graco air-assisted airless spray guns. "You have to experiment with the PVA and the type of species you use," said Becher. "Depending on the adhesive and the species you may get blotches. Cherry is the worst and so is maple."

Haliwell said, "There is a long learning curve with veneering. But if you want it to look right, you do it."

Sanding away mistakes

Wanting its veneered products to "look right" prompted Valley Fixtures to purchase the Butfering AWS 2 C-E widebelt sander to upgrade the surface of the wood product so that it can go straight to the finishing room without the need for further hand or machine processing.

The sander features an electronic pad system which will compensate for difference in workpiece thickness of 2mm. As the panel is fed into the machine, sensing rollers tell the machine precisely where to apply sanding pressure so that boards with cups or bows, irregular contours and cutouts can be sanded. This eliminates the need to pre-calibrate the panel before veneering.

"If the board is not perfectly flat the sander will make allowances for that," said Becher. "We can run tapered parts without worrying that the sander will go through the thin part. It will only sand what is needed to be sanded.

"We do all the handling of the veneered panel before it gets to the sander, so that if the board gets scratches this will remove them," Becher added.

Climate in Nevada

One of the disadvantages of manufacturing wood based products in Nevada is the lack of humidity during the summer. This problem was magnified when the company began its veneering operation.

"We have low humidity here in Nevada and the veneer dries out so fast," said Haliwell. "If you leave it out for two days it will be all splinters."

To eliminate this problem, the company built an 18-foot by 25-foot humidifying room on the second floor of the plant. Veneer including cherry, avodire (a species of Mahogany) and maple is forklifted up to the room.

Because of the humidity problem, the company guillotines, stitches and presses the veneer to the board on the same day. Before pressing, the company acclimates the veneer to the particleboard. The panels themselves can be made at anytime beforehand.

To help control the overall humidity and temperature levels in the plant, the company separates the receiving and loading doors, from the manufacturing area by hanging plastic from the ceiling to the floor. The plastic barriers can be rolled up when needed so they do not obstruct material and product flow.

As humidity and other problems associated with veneering gets solved through experimentation, and the learning curve begins to flatten out, Valley Fixtures appears ready to continue looking for the next step, the next opportunity to next chance to be "unique."

Because, as Virginia Haliwell, wife of John for 35 years and company secretary says, "you either grow or you stagnate. And we don't want to stagnate."
COPYRIGHT 1993 Vance Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Valley Fixtures Inc.
Author:Adams, Larry
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Date:Mar 1, 1993
Words:1225
Previous Article:Charisma by the square foot.
Next Article:Millwork and fixture manufacturers weather turbulent 1992.
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