Archive for Johan Wiggers

Growth Redefined

Posted in Artisanal, Furniture Making, Woodwork with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 2, 2013 by johnwiggers

Over the past 46 years our custom furniture making business has typically grown in slow, incremental steps. Today for the first time in almost half a century we have made the conscious decision grow our business smaller, and I can honestly say that I am pleasantly surprised at how good it feels.

In 2001 we moved into a large shop in Port Perry, Ontario that measured almost 13,000 sq. ft. in size.

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The vast open space and high ceilings allowed us to create a magnificent facility that at its peak employed as many as 25 artisans working full time to build exquisitely crafted examples of fine quality wood furniture.
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Times change, however, and in recent years it has become apparent that in order to remain viable in a now globalized world of craft it is imperative to radically lower operating costs and overhead structures. With that in mind we purchased a small studio in a rural location and set about to radically restructure our business model.

Thankfully all of our machines were already fully paid for, so the key decisions to be made revolved around which machines we would keep vs. which ones had to go. Over a dozen machines were either given away or carted off as scrap because, quite frankly, there is such a glut of old, used machinery on the market today that the secondary market for them is all but non existent.

Our Holz-her edgebander and SCM sander were sold, but only because we didn’t have room for them in the new studio. It was sad to see them go, because in many ways they had become like old friends.

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Much of our inventory of vintage woods was crated and packed into containers, and moved to an offsite location for storage.

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The best machines we decided to keep, with the result being that our tool collection has now been pared down to roughly two dozen pieces of equipment, ranging from a vintage 1940s Beaver cast iron bandsaw to an old but still productive Thermwood 5-axis machining centre.

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There is no question that moving the machines into a smaller studio presented more than its share of challenges. But even when we only had inches of room to spare it was gratifying to be able to find a way to thread the proverbial needle with tons of heavy iron.
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As you can see we are now officially moved out of our old facility.
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Please note that our new address is:

Wiggers Custom Furniture Ltd.
P.O. Box 518
Beaverton, Ontario
L0K 1A0

705-426-9141

For the next few months it looks like we’ll be quite busy unpacking and setting up the new studio. Photo updates will follow at a later date.

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The 1950s GE Toaster Still Works

Posted in Artisanal, Vintage with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 2, 2012 by johnwiggers

For Christmas last year my son Kevin received a vintage 1950s General Electric toaster as a gift from his grandmother.

It is the very same toaster I grew up with as a kid, and I was surprised to see it still around and in such great shape.

It still works perfectly; the chrome finish still glistens, and aside from a small chip in the Bakelite (from one of the many times me or one of my brothers knocked it to the floor) this thing looks good as new.

This is certainly a testament to how well things were once made.

I remain optimistic that an appreciation for this level of quality is going to come back to America.

Happy Birthday, Wiggers Custom Furniture Ltd.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on January 13, 2012 by johnwiggers

Wiggers Custom Furniture Ltd. turns 45-years-old today.

The company was founded on January 13, 1967 by my parents Ann and Johan Wiggers. Just like today that day also happened to be a Friday the 13th.

Although some consider Friday the 13th to be unlucky, I guess it doesn’t work that way for everyone.

When I was very small I spent a great deal of time playing on my father’s workbench, while he was still working out of the basement of his home.

The first actual workshop wasn’t built until 1968. (Notice the Ford Econoline van parked on the side. Years later that was the first vehicle I learned to drive, complete with standard transmission and three-on-the-tree.)


This is the shop today. It is now approx. 12,000 sq. ft. in size, but still has a number of original tools and machines being used each day.

Although he’s now retired my father keeps himself active which, in turn, keeps him young.

This coming year will also mark my 31st year as a full time furniture maker, and I am amazed at how quickly the time has flown. (I know that it’s a cliche to say that, but it’s true).

My son Kevin is now working with me as well.

Although he’s only 21-years-old he’s already far more skilled and experienced than I was at the same age. What parent wouldn’t be happy to admit that?

It’s great having my father around to teach Kevin things like wood turning and marquetry. Kevin is patient and shows great respect listening to his grandfather.

As an interesting historical footnote it was also 45 years ago today that Time Magazine published the following cover:

Times have certainly changed, because in recent years China has transformed from being an agrarian Communist society into what is now a manufacturing juggernaut – becoming so wealthy in the process that it is now the holder of millions of jobs and trillions of dollars formerly earned in the West.

This certainly wasn’t the playing field that confronted my father and grandfather during their respective eras. Then again, they had Great Depressions and World Wars to deal with. Regardless, I remain hopeful that we as a small business can continue to find ways to navigate forward during these uncertain times.

In the meantime Happy Birthday, Wiggers Custom Furniture Ltd. !