Signs of the Times - August 2017 - 41
personal timber haven in Covington.
A former architect (Christine), fashion
designer (Melyssa) and still-nurse
(Michele is part-time with Grainwell),
the sisters appear to work seamlessly,
due in part to their complementary
skill sets. Melyssa heads up product
design and handles Grainwell's financials; Michele controls customer
service, emails, wholesale accounts
and the website; and Christine runs
all aspects of production, from fabrication to shipping.
Even the name "Grainwell" - derived
from wood grain and their pledge to
deliver quality products - was a collaborative effort. After a brainstorming
session in their parent's basement
spontaneously emitted "Grainwell,"
the sisters parted ways and agreed to
sleep on the possible moniker before
making a decision. "We went back to
our apartments and an hour later we
texted each other and said, 'We like
it. Let's buy the domain,'" Christine
said. "We knew Grainwell was it."
The sisters' father is guided by a
proactive, independent spirit - in
addition to running an auto business
for nearly 40 years, Ron Kirn remodeled
the family home on his own - and his
penchant for personal craftsmanship
passed down to his daughters.
"My dad has always had the mindset
of 'I can do it myself; I'm not going
to pay somebody.' Or, 'I can figure it
out,'" Christine said. "I think that has
made a huge impact on why we make
things ourselves rather than going
out and buying them."
Grainwell's production process begins
with a client meeting to iron out the
"Sometimes they just give us an
idea and let us run with it," Christine
said, "and other times they want to
be a part of every step."
After Melyssa gains customer
approval, she inserts vector lines into
the design using Adobe Illustrator
or Photoshop. Next, Christine takes
over, transferring the data into a DXF
file using Rhino 3D and inputting the
data into their laser cutter's programming. "That way I can inspect the
file one last time before we cut or
engrave the items," Christine said.
Grainwell sands (using a Festool
Orbital Sander, Festool Dust Collector
and/or a JET Drum Sander) and
finishes everything that comes out
of the laser. The products are stained
or sprayed with Sherwin-Williams
Pre-Catalyzed Lacquer (dull finish).
"My favorite finish is when I spray
one or two coats on and let it completely dry," Christine said. "Then I
sand it with 600-grit sandpaper, wipe
it with a tack rag and put the finishing coat on."
Assembly comes next with hand
gluing. If they need resin or epoxy,
Grainwell goes with West System or
Stick Fast. "It all depends on the timeframe we are working with and where
the piece is going," Christine said.
Wood-wise, Grainwell uses birch
plywood, solid walnut, sapele and
white oak, but also acquires other
timber (cherry, spalted maple, walnut,
others) from a local lumber yard.
So what does the future hold for
Grainwell? More employees. A new
facility. Maybe a few stores. "We're taking
it one step at a time," Christine said.