number of cutting and sanding steps
that have been eliminated through the
capabilities of the 5-axis router and
the software. For example, the Bacci
5-axis also allows the company to cut
adjoining chair seats and backs, and
complete all bore holes in one cycle,
rather than the previous four.
“There’s an excitement level here
at Bruex and where we’re going with
our new capabilities,” Johnston said.
“There’s the speed, the accuracy, the
safety measurements that need to be
calibrated – all are done on the ma-
chine. We no longer need to pull people
from one department to finish up a job
in another department. The routers are
doing the majority of this stuff for us.”
Johnston described how one
customer has a standing order for an
X-pitched base for a chair ottoman,
with a certain pitch to it to balance the
assembly. A high level of consistency
was needed because the assembly was
the base product for the ottoman.
Before, Bruex would build the ply-
wood to the customer specifications,
then edge and cut the panel on band-
saws before heading to the saws with
dado blades to notch out the boards.
However, if for some reason the dado
blade could not be used to notch one
of the boards, it would require them
to go back to the bandsaw to cut the
notches. “If my saw wasn’t accurate,
it wouldn’t sit on the floor properly,”
he said. “That increased the need for
more prepping, sanding, etc.”
Now instead, Garcia has digitized
the whole operation on the 3-axis
router. Johnston noted, “The accuracy
is dead on. Every single one of the
assemblies is coming out exactly the
same. He’s making the notches where
they fit into each other. Everything is
consistent and tight.”
Crews now are also free to produce
the side and back rails, and the top back
rails of these furniture pieces. Garcia
added that the next plans are to elimi-
nate the overhead pin router and spindle
carver, leaving just three steps of the
original nine to be done separately.
The company’s radio frequency
division also has helped speed up the
process and allows Bruex to cut more
drastic curves and work with exposed
woods for furniture, case goods, and
Bruex has been able to remain com-
petitive by offering custom flat and
curved plywood frames, as well as solid
wood frames, and by using technology
to optimize the production process.
“It has added another spectrum to our
capabilities. We [will continue to] keep
growing, depending on what we’ve
been able to do with the routers,” and
software technology, he said. ✚
Family history of innovation
Keith Johnston comes from a long line of woodworking innovators. In addition to his father Bruce Johnston Jr.’s endeavors, his grandfather, Bruce Johnston Sr.
patented the process of cold pressing curved plywood.
According to the patent, which was awarded in 1975, the process involves
taking “one innermost and two outermost veneer sheets, each having a grain and
two major surface areas.” A coating of PVA is applied to both major surfaces of the
innermost sheets and one of the major surfaces of both of the outermost sheets. After
assembling the sheets in a pile, they are pressed into a consolidated composite
at room temperature. Part of one of the pressing surfaces is curved. The sheets are
pressed for 18 minutes resulting in plywood panels that are resistant to cracking and
splitting during conventional machining processes.
After perfecting the technique, Johnston Sr. founded Sterling Bruce with a pending patent in 1977, and ran the company until he sold it in 1985; Johnston Jr.,
continued to run the business for the new owners until he started Bruex Inc. in 1991
with business partner Rex Shoemaker. Johnston Jr. became sole owner in 1992, and
eight years later, Keith Johnston took over the company.
This Yance 2 model is another chair style
upholstered by Hunt Country Components,
and which utilizes Bruex seats and backs.