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A Brief History of The Moulding Industry Stuart L. Brenner
©2008 Stuart L. Brenner All Rights Reserved2 When I was asked to look into the lifecycles of various families of Moulding products, it occurred to me that the origin of the Moulding industry in the United States can be traced back to the first European settlements. Further reflection on the matter reveals that much of what we call Moulding today, can be traced back thousands of years, to the early civilizations of Egypt, Greece and Rome. A Long, Rich Heritage
©2008 Stuart L. Brenner All Rights Reserved3 A Long, Rich Heritage In the ruins of ancient Egypt, one will see decorative accents carved into stone, in applications we now call Crown Mouldings. (fig. 1) Architectural use of Dentil Blocks can be found in the cornices adorning ancient Greek temples. (fig. 2) A common profile for a knife used to mould an S shaped pattern is named Roman Ogee. (fig. 3)
©2008 Stuart L. Brenner All Rights Reserved4 Figure 1 - An Entryway to an Egyptian Temple A Long, Rich Heritage
©2008 Stuart L. Brenner All Rights Reserved5 A Long, Rich Heritage Figure 2 – The Ionic Order of Classical Greek Architecture
©2008 Stuart L. Brenner All Rights Reserved6 Figure 3 - A Roman Ogee bit, resulting profile, and a modern crown mould, WM 68 A Long, Rich Heritage
©2008 Stuart L. Brenner All Rights Reserved7 Form Following Function The purpose of a moulding is functional as well as decorative. A casing is used to seal the gap between a window or door, and the surrounding wall structure. Crowns and beds seal the gap where a wall meets a ceiling. Baseboards protect the bottom of a wall from errant feet, brooms, and vacuum cleaners, while base shoes flex to meet the contours of a hard floor and wall surface in order to conceal any gaps which result from uneven surfaces. Chair Rails protect the wall from the back of a chair being pushed aside after a meal. Coves, noses, half rounds, quarter rounds, scotias, corner guards, drip caps, rakes, aprons, sills, stools, stops, panel caps… All have function as well as decorative value.
©2008 Stuart L. Brenner All Rights Reserved8 Evolving Technologies Fast forward several thousand years. In the era from colonial times up until the industrial revolution, wood Mouldings were produced by hand, on the job-site. The trim carpenter arrived at the site with his raw materials, and a set of moulding planes. Moulding planes resemble a wooden block plane, with the knives cut to various profiles. He would have coves of various radii, roundovers, chamfers, ovolos, ogees, and other shapes to combine for different finished profiles. The more detail one desired in the finished piece, the more passes the carpenter needed to make. It was not uncommon for the carpenter to carry as many as 30 planes of differing profiles, with which to produce unique patterns. (fig. 4)
©2008 Stuart L. Brenner All Rights Reserved9 Figure 4 - An antique Moulding Plane Evolving Technologies
©2008 Stuart L. Brenner All Rights Reserved10 Evolving Technologies In the 19th century, advances in technology, machinery and mechanical power led the moulding industry out of the individual carpenters hands and into the mill. First steam power, then electrical motors were applied to cutter heads with multiple precision ground hardened steel knives. By 1850 the industry was mostly mechanized. The heyday of United States moulding production began in the early 20th century. Some of the west coast mills currently in operation can trace their history back to that period. One such manufacturer, Dorris Moulding started in 1924 in Dorris, California, near the Oregon border. Still family owned, Dorris began as the local General Store.
©2008 Stuart L. Brenner All Rights Reserved11 Evolving Technologies Moulding mills being built in the 21 st century around the globe are at the forefront of technology. Raw material comes from managed plantation forests. Random length and width lumber is graded by laser scanners, and computers optimize the rips and crosscuts to ensure the highest possible yield from the fiber. A modern computer controlled cross- cut optimization line can produce a 3% increase in yield over an older line employing six human graders. The automated line employs one person to monitor the system, as it sorts, grades and cuts the ripped blanks.
©2008 Stuart L. Brenner All Rights Reserved12 Evolving Technologies Today's moulders are highly sophisticated computer controlled devices with multiple cutter heads each with multiple knives. They are capable of producing at incredible speeds of up to 3,000 linear feet per minute. Knives are precision ground from CAD drawings by a CNC operator. Consistency of profiles is assured by virtue that the art of knife grinding is now a science.
©2008 Stuart L. Brenner All Rights Reserved13 Evolving Technologies This long history and tradition continues into the 21st century. Mills in South America, Asia, and the pacific rim continue to displace United States production. These new century manufacturers are as the tradition dictates, close to the forests. Just within the last two decades has the Moulding industry become part of the global economy.
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