An Austrian master joiner has defied commercial economics simply by converting a small quantity of timber into finely carved products. Fulfillment and financial stability are his rewards.
Behind this is the identification of a niche market which stems from his independence from outside suppliers, his very high grade joinery and the right timber processing kit.
Wood-Mizer Germany, struck by his success at what seems a small level, paid a visit to Josef Leithner in the village of Aigen-Voglhub, near Salzburg to see if his secret could be shared with numerous other Wood-Mizer LT15 operators. The Schletau team found a cherished house which Herr Leithner inherited from his grandfather and where he lives, works and maintains a showroom of fine cabinet making.
The Schienferalm mountain chain on the horizon and a brook meandering through a well tended garden provide an idyllic setting to the Leithners’ enviable workplace. Could this partly explain why in 1994 the master joiner left his job with a large company and set up on his own?
The influence of his wife Elfriede, a multi-talented co-worker explains the workshop’s pristine appearance. Here they produce tables, chairs, cabinets and complete furnishings – including wall- and ceiling-panels – and all with hand-carved ornamentation. Bedroom furniture made of Swiss stone-pine is popular at the moment because this wood is believed to exude essential oils for up to 100 years, having a calming effect and lowering pulse rate.
Most long-term orders are sealed with a handshake. It is Josef Leithner’s approach which makes his work novel. The master
joiner draws an item of furniture and calculates sawn wood quantities and dimensions. The customer brings in logs which Elfriede Leithner saws on the LT15 according to her husband’s drawing. Then the material is stored next to a small shed or at the customer's place for one to three years’ drying.
When they started, the Leithners had their wood sawn by a local sawmill. When this closed in 2002, they bought their LT15, at that time with only manual vertical adjustment. Last year they traded the old machine for the latest LT15 version with ‘Setworks’, electrical up-down and electrical feed.
The Leithners cut barely 30 m³ per year of which 70% is brought in by their customers. The percentage demonstrates that the Leithners have found a niche. As Josef Leithner says:
"It is very important to our customers that furniture is made from their own timber, grown on the place." About 10% of sawn
timber is bought in, the majority cut on the Leithners’ sawmill.
In recent years a reliable group of customers combined and by word of mouth expanded sufficiently for the Leithners’ work over the next few years’ to be pre-booked.
Without the LT15, Josef Leithner states that it wouldn't be possible to work the way he does. He doesn't cut an awful lot of wood but the business depends completely on them sawing it themselves. Perhaps their very independence from outside suppliers explains why they have been unaffected by the worldwide credit crisis.
Optimum use of the material available is very important for them. This is why they bought a €15 000 compactor for the shavings. From a dust extracting system, shavings pass directly to a filling funnel. The compressed wood shavings and sawdust replace half the usual amount of wood burned in their central heating system.
Consequently, no material is wasted from the thin kerf LT15 band saw.
While they share work in the workshop, where Elfriede Leithner is responsible for sanding and varnishing, they also share customer relations where she deals mostly with male customers.
"My wife is the soul of the business," says Josef Leithner.
If she's the soul, he's no doubt the body behind the good life, concluded the Wood-Mizer Germany visitors!