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Gilway Makes a Splash with JIT Custom Solid Surace Vanity Tops

Gilway Enterprises has found its niche by manufacturing custom solid surface vanity tops on a JIT basis for a major home center chain.

By Karen M. Koenig

The Weeke Optimat BP 120 is used to machine solid surface countertops, including the routing of sink and faucet holes.
You could joke that Gilway Enterprises Inc. owner Wayne Overton is “tops” in his field.
But the success he has gained in his niche field is no laughing matter. Overton has developed a system for manufacturing and shipping custom solid surface vanity countertops within 10 working days. The vanity tops are available for sale in more than 200 Home Depot home centers throughout the United States.
In addition to the length and width, customers can specify color, faucet drilling, bowl location and edge treatment: roundover, chamfer, thumbnail and ogee.
“I started in this business as a general contractor and had done some work making postformed laminate kitchen countertops. I had an opportunity to make a solid surface display and that got me started in the material,” he says.
Although the Quogue, NY-based Gilway Enterprises continues to manufacture custom furniture, kitchen countertops and prototypes, the solid surface vanity tops compose 60 percent of the company’s business. “We tried to grow the business in an area where there is not much variance; unlike in kitchens where you have to work around appliances, cook tops, etc.,” Overton explains.

CNC Machining Speeds Process

Gilway stocks a variety of colors and styles of 12-foot-long Wilsonart solid surface sheets. Both uncut sheets and offal are tagged and logged on a regular basis.
Sheets are first cut to size on one of two (Colonial Saw) Striebig vertical panel saws, a 12-year-old model and a recently purchased Optisaw 2. Sheets are then conveyed to the machining area.
Until recently, all machining was done by hand. “We typically have 150 projects live on the floor at any given time. Before we had the CNC machine that made for a lot of overtime and a lot of stressful weeks,” Overton says.
Now, routing of sink holes and other machining is performed on a Weeke Optimat BP 120 which the company purchased from Stiles Machinery. “Because of the length of the tops we usually machine one at a time. Since they’re custom, each top has a separate machining program. The Weeke runs through a test, then picks up a tool to chamfer the edge. The auxiliary router then cuts the sink and faucet holes. It’s all done in minutes,” he says.
“Solid surface is a very consistent material to work with. Once you calculate the correct feed speed, there’s no rewelding problem like you sometimes have with other plastics,” Overton adds.
“The CNC machine has also opened up opportunities in other areas, such as partitions. We’re also looking at other areas outside of machining, such as decorating,” Overton says. Carbide tooling is currently used in the machining process, although the company is also looking at using diamond tooling.
In addition to the Weeke, Gilway also recently invested in an Auto V Grooving machine. “When we bought the V-groover, it gave us an opportunity to change some of the options for the line by eliminating some (more time-
consuming) profiles and offering others,” Overton says.
Overton adds that he still has not found a way to automate the sanding process needed to remove any marks made during the machining process, especially once the sink bowls are installed. He says he is still looking, though.
“(From the beginning,) I’ve had to figure out on my own what equipment I needed,” he adds. “You might say I’ve had to start by hand to build a better mousetrap.”

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