Cover Story

The men of Rivendell can now add “Cover Model” to their resumes after appearing on the front of PROFILES magazine, a publication of the Cabinet Makers Association. We’re honored to be one of the top stories with only three issues being published this year. And while husbands and wives have made headlines before, we’re the first full-fledged family to be featured. The article focuses on our shop’s unique history, from Kanda’s humble beginning as a toy maker to President of the high-end custom cabinetry business he operates with his sons today.

Kanda’s kids have been helping him in the shop since they were little. In addition to being rocking horse test pilots, Nandi and Jeremy remember their first “job” making matchbox cars, gluing wooden wheels on to axles for a penny apiece. Nandi, now Chief Executive Officer, is in charge of customer relations and installation, and Jeremy, the Chief Operations Officer, manages drafting and production. Their younger brother, Kendiah, is the Shop Foreman. The business truly is a family affair with Nandi’s wife Kim working in the office and myself, Jeremy’s wife, Nicole, contributing to the website.

In addition to addressing all that is relative, the article also examines the company itself. It discusses the tools and materials used in projects as well as location and market share. It talks about the challenges that Rivendell faced during a difficult economy and delves into our hopes for the future.

I asked the men of Rivendell to share their thoughts about seeing themselves on the cover of a magazine.
“It’s inspiring,” said Kendiah, “Knowing how many other shops were considered and ours got the spotlight.”
“It’s fun to see our company in print,” Nandi said, “It feels like we’ve arrived.”
Kanda said, “I’m proud of my family.”
Unlike the others, Jeremy just wondered “Do I look fat?”

Kanda was so excited about Rivendell being chosen as a PROFILES cover story that he hired fellow Toastmaster and Business Networking International member, Gurpreet Kaur, proprietor of Kaur Photography, to take some professional portraits.

At the Cabinet Makers Association Meeting

Kanda and Nandi recently attended the Cabinet Makers Association’s San Francisco Regional Event held at the historic Western Dovetail drawer manufacturing plant on Mare Island in Vallejo. Most of the attending members were from the Bay Area, with a few coming from other regions in Northern California, but none traveled as far as Executive Director Dave Grulke, who flew in from Wisconsin to anchor the meeting. In addition to presenting an advertising seminar, he introduced the CMA’s Professional Certification Program.

Venders set up booths and demonstrated their latest and greatest wares, including prototypes. Blum, a premium supplier of Rivendell’s hinges and slides, was on hand to exhibit their next generation of merchandise.

“I’ve been working with Blum products for years,” said Nandi. “I consider myself a whiz with them, but even I learned a couple new tips and tricks!”

After presentations, attendees were treated to a gourmet lunch and full factory tour of Western Dovetail’s operations.

“I want to give props to Western Dovetail for hosting and catering such a nice event,” Nandi said. “It was fun to go on their shop tour. One really cool thing is that they have invented and built a number of their own tools. Rather than taking the route of looking outside for solutions, they looked internally and were able to solve some of their problems by innovating new machines. We’ve done some of that too. I think about how we at Rivendell built our CNC router. Seeing how creative they’ve been with their products is an inspiration for us to continue being creative with our own.”

When asked what had been the highlight of their visit, Kanda replied, “A very valuable aspect of the CMA is networking with other cabinet makers in small shops like ours. We have similar concerns and similar challenges, and can share what we’ve learned and what we know. It was nice to connect with everyone there.”

Nandi agreed, “It was most valuable reconnecting with the cabinet community in this area, talking with and getting reacquainted with everybody, hearing the same stories. They’re going through what we’re going through.”

It makes sense. The Cabinet Makers Association’s mission is to get woodworkers together and share their hard earned knowledge and experience to help one another. They believe that working together is the best way to improve individual companies as well as the industry as a whole. Rivendell believes that too, which is why we’ve been members of the CMA since 2005 and look forward to the benefits of continued membership.

“The CMA is a great organization,” said Nandi. “Every time we go to one of these meetings it reminds me that I want to get back on the forums and be active in the cabinet community. It’s a mutually beneficial, self-supporting club. Members definitely get out what they put in.”

Building a Bigger, Better and More Beautiful Wine Cabinet

When the wine connoisseur saw the outstanding work Rivendell was doing on his St. Helena home, he asked for another piece to be added… a custom built wine cabinet. No ordinary refrigerated unit could house his extensive collection; he wanted a piece that would match his exquisite existing decor, yet stand out as a stunning feature. It needed to be big, with the storage capacity for hundreds of wine bottles, but it would also have to be seamlessly beautiful.

After accepting the challenge, Nandi was tasked with the design and engineering of this special project. For inspiration, he visited several wine country establishments and examined their cases. Disappointed with the cookie-cutter examples he saw with metal or rough timber exteriors, he decided to do things differently. We would construct a modern, functional piece that combined the beauty and grandeur of old-world craftsmanship with today’s technology.

Measuring 13 feet tall, 6 feet wide and 2 feet deep, the sheer size of this cabinet caused logistical concerns. Nandi selected and ordered the materials, including contemporary metal wine racks from a local business to hold and display almost 500 bottles. He helped coordinate the windows, wiring and temperature control, and ensured that the interior of wonderfully finished walnut was insulated with reflective foam. All joints were siliconed to keep it airtight, preventing any kind of condensation or leakage.

In order to avoid exterior end panel seams, Jeremy sequence matched veneer up the entire cabinet’s side and then miter folded it, so that the grain rolled around the corner and across the face, keeping it consistent all the way around.

“Not only is it miter folded, but it’s miter folded and grain matched perfectly from top to bottom… all 13 feet! That’s hard to do, even harder to get right, and we did it really well,” said Nandi.

It took a few three hour commute trips to transport all the finished parts and four guys to get them into the house. During installation, the cabinet was carefully scribed along the floors and high walls to account for variation leading up to the 20 foot ceiling. The crew created a perfect fit, leaving the massive majestic piece with no gaps or visible screws.

The wine aficionado was is awe. He acknowledged Rivendell’s efforts with an enthusiastic endorsement, “Your team did an excellent job and I will continue to highly recommend your product.”

So perhaps we’ll soon be working in wine country again, upgrading some of those cookie-cutter cases with bigger, better and more beautiful custom built wine cabinets!

Open Shop

We held our Annual Open Shop last Thursday, celebrating 35 years of business in our community. In addition to expressing our appreciation to all the customers, contractors, architects and designers we’ve worked with in the last year, we also had a few things to show off. We showcased an enormous wine refrigerator, the tallest cabinet we’ve ever built, as well as a custom kitchen table, built to last a lifetime. The highlight of the evening was our live demo of RivBot, our shop-made CNC, who created illustrations for everyone with a sharpie pen.


Thank you everyone who came out and made this night a success! Here’s our time-lapse recording of the evening’s celebrations.

Introducing RivBot

We love CNC machines, so much so that we built our own. RivBot (as we’ve come to call him) is a 3-axis CNC wood router – or, in simpler terms, is like a printer that cuts wood.

This project started late last year, when I discovered the book Build Your Own CNC Machine by Patrick Hood-Daniel, and learned of a community of hobbyists who use simple materials and affordable electronics to build do-it-yourself CNC machines. Before long we’d constructed our very own, and on Sept. 10th, 2010 RivBot spoke his first words: Hello World!. It took us a bit of time to configure our new tool, but by December we’d learned how to properly control our wily young robot (Hello World! 2).

RivBot is our first introduction to the exciting world of numerical control, and bridges the gap from virtual desktop to physical workshop. This new tool expands our current skillset to include intricate cutouts, complex designs, and even 3D profiling. We’re still discovering for ourselves the possibilities and applications that an automated tool offers. We’ll be posting more reports and project photos as we continue to explore new techniques in 21st Century woodworking.

Stop by our Open Shop (Feb. 3rd, 5-7pm) for a personal introduction and live demonstration!

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