RACINE — The craftsmen at Distinctive Woodwork are never lacking for variety in the work that comes into the shop — nor the challenges that come with those jobs.
A recent snapshot of what Distinctive Woodwork, 1747 Deane Blvd., was working on included:
Display cases for the Racine Police Department lobby.
Trim replacement, panels, repairing porch columns and building the back bar at The Covenant at Murray Mansion, a future event and banquet facility planned at 2219 Washington Ave. For a unique look, the back bar will incorporate pipes from the former church’s organ.
Repairing and building a new top for a 19-foot-long conference table at Racine City Hall.
An interior storm window for a Frank Lloyd Wright home that has one type of wood on the inside face and another facing the exterior.
And a wooden cigar store American Indian statue whose papoose had rotted and fallen off.
“We’ll probably use dowels” to reattach it, said Distinctive Woodworking owner Dwight Pedersen, who started the company with his wife, Barbara, in 1994.
Before that, Pedersen worked in the mill shop at Architectural Woodwork, a division of the now defunct Big Buck Lumber in Racine.
‘Just about everything’
Pedersen described the kinds of jobs that Distinctive Woodwork does this way: “Just about everything. Stuff that other shops really don’t want to do. … It’s just kind of our niche, really.”
Everything the business does is custom work. “A lot of one-offs,” Pedersen said.
There are not a lot of architectural millworking shops left anymore that want the smaller jobs, he added.
His is a small shop by workforce size: just Pedersen and five employees. In physical size, the shop is about 10,000 square feet. Before the Pedersens bought the building, the late SC Johnson patriarch Sam Johnson and others rented space there to store their cars.
Pedersen’s small workforce all have 25 to 30 years’ experience in woodworking, he said. Some projects require two men, but he said, “Most projects, one guy will do start to finish.”
And when his men install what they make, “The same guy will install it.”
“They really enjoy what they’re doing,” Pedersen said. “It’s a challenge. There’s a lot of designing here, trying to figure out how to make it happen.”
For example, if someone needs a new curved handrail for their winding staircase, the guys at Distinctive Woodwork will figure out a way to make it.
Doing a $10,000 job is fairly common, Pedersen said. At opposite extremes, they’ve done every bit of interior woodwork for large, gutted homes for the price of more than $300,000. But they’ve also had people walk in the door with a board from Home Depot that they need cut.
Frank Lloyd Wright work
The tradesmen at Distinctive Woodwork are quite familiar with Frank Lloyd Wright furniture, having made lots of it over the years and decades. “We were making Frank Lloyd Wright furniture for Porters (of Racine),” Pedersen said.
Also, he said, “We’ve done a lot of work at SC Johnson,” in the Administration Building. “We made a lot of the desks, a lot of them with arms,” Pedersen said.
Wright’s desks had oval tops, he explained. “When people were getting computers at their desks,” they wanted desks with an arm for their computer.
“We made hundreds of them,” Pedersen remarked.
“The guys in the shop kid me,” he said. “They think I should change the name to Distinctive Woodever.”