Why postpone your future in profitable shutter sales? The window coverings press frequently reports growth and prosperity among designers and retailers selling shutters. And the consumer media gives testimony of homeowners who recognize the long-term value of shutters and are willing to pay for them. Has unfamiliarity or confusion over shutter materials and manufacturing processes kept you from reaping the rewards of adding shutters to your product lineup? Read on to increase your comfort level and profits.
IT STARTS WITH THE WOOD
Though high-quality shutters are available in different combinations
of natural and man-made materials, many people still believe that
the most luxurious shutters are still made of fine wood. Though
various woods like cedar and exotic species are occasionally used
for specialty applications, the most widely used wood for shutters
today is basswood.
The reasons are compelling. Basswood is a plentiful and responsibly
harvested hardwood that is grown throughout the world. Its traditional
uses are for window sashes and door frames, molding, furniture,
musical instruments and other applications where strength and light
weight are important. Its vigorous growth capabilities make it an
ideal shade tree.
When basswood is made into a shutter the wood’s weight and
strength permits manufacture and installation in much larger sizes
than with a heavier species like oak or maple. Basswood’s
grain is straight and fine with surfaces that sand smoothly and
stain evenly. In addition, it is considered neutral in terms of
odor and minerals content that can surface and cause discoloration.
Perhaps most important, it is stable and resists warping. All of
these clear advantages result in shutters that endure beautifully,
adding value for generations.
Though basswood has a lot of positive natural properties there are
many detailed processes that collaborate to ensure optimal performance.
Compound methods reduce post-installation shrinking and warping
before the wood even gets near a saw blade or a sander. Hand selection
of wood means consistent grain patterns, avoidance of flaws, and
superior structural integrity. Exclusive use of quarter-sawn wood
for louvers adds even more beauty and durability. Engineered stiles
create robust shutter panels. Finally meticulous joinery and hand-finishing
techniques uphold venerable traditions of wood artistry.
If this seems like a lot of discussion and detail about wood it’s
because you’ve got to be mindful of every detail in order
to handcraft a truly exceptional shutter. The way the wood is handled
prior to manufacturing the shutter plays a critical role in how
that shutter will perform in the years to come.
THE PREP WORK
A common complaint about poorly made shutters is warping. To understand
why shutters warp you must recognize that bonding together pieces
of wood, all with different grain patterns and inherent predispositions
to change creates them. Coordinated selection and conditioning techniques
help harmonize the different pieces of wood so that when they are
made into a shutter they will unify and resist their natural tendencies
to warp, pull or twist.
Some manufacturers purchase pre-made wood components from different
sources and assemble their shutters without regard for variation
in the pieces or the final installation location of the shutter.
Their louvers may be from one supplier and their stiles may be from
another, each in a different location with varying levels of pre-production
processing and quality control.
It’s no wonder that assembling divergent components into a
shutter often results in incompatible appearance and levels of durability.
The different pieces of wood deforming against each other create
strong forces that warp the shutter. In these cases the shutter
is literally fighting itself to stay together! It should be no surprise
when these shutters warp, the rails separate from the stiles, the
homeowner calls to complain, and you have to make a profit-robbing
Norman Shutters® employs a number of processes to condition
wood prior to manufacturing. We exercise strict control over the
sourcing, preparation and handcrafting processes.
The first step is Prescription Wood Conditioning™, which reduces
post-installation shrinking and swelling. Wood arrives with various
moisture content levels depending on how long it has been since
harvest. We condition hand-selected basswood at low temperatures
in on-site kiln drying chambers to correspond with the climate of
the final installation location.
If a shutter is manufactured with wood out of moisture equilibrium,
each piece will expand or contract at a different rate. The shutter
that seemed so beautiful when it was first installed will look quite
different when the wood used to make it has all changed size and
shape! That is why Norman Shutters takes extra steps to condition
all of its wood.
The exclusive use of quarter-sawn louvers on Sussex® Shutters
further protects against warping while adding beauty to the shutters.
Craftsmen have long sought quarter-sawn wood to build heirloom-quality
furniture. In order to create quarter-sawn wood, cuts are made parallel
to the wood’s medullary rays instead of across, which give
the wood remarkable strength and stability. Cutting wood in this
fashion is very costly. In fact, quarter-sawn boards are prized
and sell for up to 75 percent more than flat-sawn boards.
PUTTING IT TOGETHER
Another procedure used to ensure stability is Norman Shutters’
exclusive reinforced engineered wood stiles. Since stiles provide
the framework to support the shutter it is very important that they
remain straight. We bond multiple layers of wood together with pressure,
heat and a proprietary chemical formulation. The result is an intense
level of durability and a robust support system for our shutter
panels. This means a lifetime of satisfaction for homeowners, which
is backed by a lifetime-limited warranty on the appearance and structural
integrity of the entire shutter. Manufacturers who do not use engineered
stiles may produce shutters that sag and separate at the joints
due to the intense forces endured by the stiles.
Even the straightest louvers, stiles and rails rely upon sturdy
joints to hold them together. Wood joinery is a time-tested tradition
practiced by craftsmen through the ages. Proper joinery is critical
to the prolonged quality of a shutter. Some manufacturers use less
sturdy techniques that are suited for drawers and other lightweight
Norman Shutters recognizes that the shear and racking forces endured
by shutters dictate the use of mortise-and-tenon joinery. The joint
is crafted out of a mortise cut through the wood and a hearty tenon,
which fits into the mortise.
The finishing touch to any shutter is, of course, the finish. Above
all, consumers expect their wood shutters to look beautiful. Smooth
surfaces and handsome stains or classic paints are a fundamental
requirement. The finish also must seal and protect the wood but
not be so thick that it will yellow or crack over time. Some manufacturers
may save time with “cut-down” or “stock program”
plans that can result in sacrifices to product quality. They may
also forgo hand-finishing methods that are proven to yield superior
The Norman Shutters’ hand-finishing process requires multiple
sequences of sanding and coating with thin layers of stain or paint.
This is the only way to achieve the translucent, deep finish of
our wood shutters.
Now that you understand wood shutters from the inside out, make
sure that your shutter manufacturer always follows the best practices
in advanced processes and hand craftsmanship. The high-quality shutters
you sell will contribute to your reputation as a professional in
our industry and generate referrals for years to come.
Stormy Clements is the marketing manager of Norman Shutters®,
Santa Fe Springs, CA, www.normanshutters.com.