Behind the Scenes at Shell Lake Woodcrafters

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“The character of a company is based on the top,” said Dan Ringwelski, co-owner of Shell Lake Woodcrafters. Shell Lake has been a Room & Board vendor since 1992 and makes our longstanding Linear collection of cabinets, in addition to Delano storage, Fisher kitchen islands, Graham media consoles and accent tables, and Whitney cabinets.

Dan was referring to his company’s longtime partnership with Room & Board. Heads from each of Shell Lake’s various departments, from the front office to the production floor, had stopped to meet us – four Shop From Home Design Associates who had made the two-hour trip up north to the town of Shell Lake, Wisconsin.

Of course, at Room & Board, we knew what Dan said to be true. We’d seen firsthand our own leaders’ involvement, commitment and passion for great design and quality furniture. “One of the biggest thrills in working for Room & Board is the consistency; the beauty of working with the same people through the years,” said Craig Hanson, Plant Manager. “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. “

Hanson has been with Shell Lake Woodcrafters since its beginning in 1991. “I’ve done everything. There’s nothing I can’t do. I feel most comfortable out here in the plant.”

At every point, from the mill room to assembly, to sanding, finishing and inspection, we were awed by the human component that went into each and every Room & Board piece. We saw Scott, who gave us a quiet nod as he milled the lumber, his skilled eyes hand-selecting boards with special attention to color and grain. We saw the beautiful curved corners of the Whitney collection being hand-sanded. Each Room & Board piece was being made one at a time.

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We met Mark, the Production Supervisor, another veteran employee, whose daughter Emily works in the drawer department. Emily is married to Andy in the building department, the son of Lori, who has worked there since the 1990s. Another family had three generations currently working at Shell Lake.

“It’s about the people, not a piece of machinery,” Craig told us. By the end of the tour, where the finished pieces were being packed up for the journey to Room & Board, our pride over these cabinets and accent tables was amplified tenfold because of just that – the people at Shell Lake Woodcrafters.

Dusk was just setting in when we left Shell Lake in the late afternoon. When we arrived, we liked these pieces of furniture. We admired the beauty and had great trust in the quality. We left with deep respect for the craftsmanship that goes into each piece, for the artisans – the people – behind the scenes in quiet Shell Lake. Seemingly small, meeting and getting to know makers like these has a profound, lasting impact.

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Photos courtesy of Zachary Herbst, Shop From Home Design Associate

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