Meet the Inventor

Perseverance – the keynote of all inventors and Matt Gartland is no exception.

Matt started out as a cabinet maker joiner and three decades later he would say he has achieved his original goal. The intervening years have been costly and time consuming in the many factors of development however satisfaction in succeeding outweighs these negatives.

While not attempting to reinvent the wheel but, when the germ of an idea strikes and you visualise it solving a day-to-day problem or replacing the product on offer in the marketplace, everything falls into place for the person with an inventive mind. You focus on how can I improve on what is currently available.

Matt’s Story:

I identified what I perceived as a problem that prevailed in furniture like products back in the early 80’s. At the time everything was either made from solid wood or low grade solid wood was veneered – not satisfactory where wide panels were required and unstable in use.

Chipboard was just coming on the market for general use at this time and was viewed as revolutionary and therein lay the opportunity to try and produce a decorative panel that would have stability in use – the challenge was to impart a visual effect that would appeal to furniture designers and the general public as an alternative to solid wood.

At the time I believed that if you came up with an idea that the necessary equipment was available, that surely something similar had been done before but, that was the first lesson learned. I realised that the various pieces of equipment I needed for any development, would have to be made in house and in this case that meant some form of a moulding die.

As my first approach to the surface decoration of a veneered panel, was to emboss a design on the face of the panel. This was a simple design as can be seen on the panel marked 1982. While of simple design the metal die was hand worked to achieve the embossed finished panel look, the depth of the emboss was approximately 1mm. The end result was not so attractive and further development just became a must. 

The next ten years involved the development of many types of multi profiled moulding dies, a feat not easily obtained when worked by hand. These were designed to give a moulding depth of approx 4.5mm, this required machining a mirror image into the chipboard panel. This required the development of vertical wood milling machine, that was capable of floating over the panel surface in order to obtain a uniform depth.

All of this development work and expense was a shot in the dark, not knowing if the effort would work or not, as the most critical part had still to come and with it anxious moments, which became weeks, months and years before success was achieved.

This success was the ability to mould a 0.6mm wood veneer down into a closed design machined substrate and over the adjoining flat surface at the same time without fracturing the veneer. Subsequently, a similar feat was accomplished with 50gms paper foil. This has not been accomplished by anyone else to date and this led to sustaining the family business by way of a small scale production.

I realise that to the lay person the panel dated 1992 did not look in any way special but, to me everything seemed possible thereafter. The know how for the manufacture of the multi-contoured dies was sold to both New Zealand and Swedish companies.

As the 1992 panel was less than 600mm in length, I set about creating a number of ornate panels on the same sheet of chipboard or MDF. While I had reached the point of having designed and built the equipment to machine some parts of the necessary dies. A total surprise waited in the form of the expansion and contraction behaviour of the dies when mounted on a base plate and heated at different temperatures. This did take considerable time to overcome but by 2002 panels 244cm lengths with up to 4 designs were possible in both wood veneer and paper foils to a depth of 5mm.

Developments were always ongoing with the later part of 1990 and 2000 focused on achieving a moulded panel depth of 10mm the goal being to replace the conventional cabinet door fabricated in solid wood but instead made from reconstituted wood such as MDF and which would give it global potential. Many years were spent figuring out a way to utilise veneer strips representing the stiles, rails and centre panel and placing them accurately in position when the germ of an idea surfaced. This has led to the updating of vinyl pressed door production, where it is now possible to achieve the visual image of a fabricated solid wood look, which have considerable advantages in manufacture . 

The years from 2000 to the present have been about the environment in every walk of life and this has highlighted for me another area of challenge i.e. a system to minimise the production costs and the environmental impact of present day manufacture of vinyl pressed doors worldwide.

With years of development and the knowledge gained to date, a system has now been developed to fast track a solution to these issues, in the form of a deep-draw moulding process. This system, I believe, will have a dramatic impact on production methods, costs and the reduction of the environmental impact.