Interview: Ken Wilcox of the Spectrum Division Talks Architectural Plywood

Ken Wilcox joined Timber Products Company to spearhead the architectural plywood business as part of the Spectrum Division in 2015. Timberline recently caught up with Ken to learn more about architectural plywood and his team.

Plywood at timber products

Timberline: What are the differences between architectural plywood and regular plywood?
 
Wilcox: Architectural plywood products are generally used for cosmetic surfaces. For example, customers typically want a nicer looking piece of plywood on the exterior of their product versus the inside of a cabinet. Because of this, architectural plywood requires more attention to detail to create the same grain consistency in the veneer. Typically, architectural plywood is produced for a specific project. About 95% of the time, the products involved in the project is not an item that is stocked. Instead, it’s something a distributor, architect or cabinet manufacturer would buy expressly for a project. Standard plywood typically uses very few import species. It sticks to grains made of cherry, white oak, red oak, ash, and maple plywood. With our architectural plywood, customers have access to well over 200 species worldwide, both domestic and exotic, which are all responsibly sourced. This expansive hardwood and softwood plywood variety allows customers to achieve the perfect look for their projects.

TL: What are some uses for architectural plywood?
 
W: Architectural plywood is used for projects like residential kitchens, public buildings, law offices, performance halls and even private jets and motorhomes. It can be applied to the interior of yachts using Marine-grade architectural plywood. Architectural plywood is used for reception desks, or in offices that have detailed wall paneling and doored cabinets integrated into the wall. A newer trend is the use of architectural plywood as ceiling grids for a sound-dampening application.
 
TL: What would you say is Spectrum’s biggest differentiator?
 
W: Our biggest advantage is the wide array of products we produce. What this provides for distributors is the ability for us to produce small orders of custom architectural panels. In turn, the customer can combine those panels with a variety of other Timber Products offerings in group shipments to reduce freight cost.

TL: How long have you been in the business?
 
W: I’ve been involved with architectural plywood for roughly 25 years, but I’ve been in the hardwood and softwood plywood industry for well over 40 years. Because of this, I’m able to put a personal touch on every order—which is important when you’re in the custom business. When putting together a custom order, it’s crucial that you ask the right questions—What’s the application? Does it need fire rating? Is weight a factor? Is sequenced matching required? After so long in the business, I can get to the bottom of what a customer needs, and we can value-engineer their project for the best results.

TL: What else can you tell us about the team and products at Spectrum?
 
W: We have a great team. Everybody in the factory is cross-trained on every job, which allows us to produce very high-quality products for our customers because every person is a quality control center. Since our products are so specialized, we often become the lead-in point to Timber Products Company’s entire line. We are able to meet a customer’s specific needs, then help them find other products they’ll require to get their job done.

This article was originally published on the Woodworking Network’s Panel Talk.

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