Knotty Ash Woodworking has been successfully designing and fabricating a wide range of high quality furniture – usually bespoke solutions – dedicated to the security, broadcast and office furniture markets.

Based in a group of converted farm buildings in Great Chesterford, just south of Cambridge in Essex, Knotty Ash employs 16 craftsmen creating specific desking solutions and other furniture for a wide range of demanding clients ranging from small businesses to major blue chip operations. Projects vary and include offices, reception areas and boardrooms with specific design solutions to security desking at major headquarter buildings all the way up to bespoke broadcast suites featuring appropriate high performance desking and furniture solutions for a range of private and corporate clients.

With a modest range of classical machinery and hand tools, the company grew and thrived for 13 years coping more than adequately with its customers’ demands. That was until 2009 when the company succeeded in winning four major contracts – which all needed to be completed within a similar time-frame.

Suddenly, Knotty Ash Woodworking was a little exposed and could not foresee how it would cope with four prestigious contracts running side by side. It was ill-equipped to fulfill the projects demands of that calibre. Knotty Ash managing director

Andrew Brewer and his business partner Kevin Peck knew that a solution was needed – it came in the form of an Onsrud Panel Pro 145G supplied by ATA Engineering – located just one hour away in Hemel Hempstead.

ATA had already supplied a small CNC machine to Knotty Ash in 2003 and relished the opportunity to help the company meet its latest challenge once again.

In 2010, ATA Engineering had a Panel Pro 145G machine as a demonstrator, albeit with a 12 x 5ft bed. Knotty Ash needed a flexible machine which was capable of not only meeting the influx of panel-based work from the new contracts – the majority of which is within an 8 x 4ft panel size – but also the capacity to configure the machine as a pod-based system to manufacture guitars. The Panel Pro 145G has the NEMI phenolic vacuum grid convertible table which allows for an easy conversion from panel-based work to pod-based work to the rear of the machine.

The machine was seen as ideal by both ATA and Knotty Ash in terms of capability, performance, footprint and availability and a deal was done. After a well-drilled two-day installation and set-up, in a space less than ideal, the machine was operating perfectly.

The machine has been in daily use since its installation and has proven to be a very robust piece of engineering, nothing overly fancy or flimsy, just good quality engineering – in three years there has only had been minor issue which was rectified without undue delay. The gantry-type design of the Panel Pro – especially with the dual drive solution – is inherently a better, more stable solution than many machines on the market. This design also keeps the footprint to a minimum. The particular model which Knotty Ash is using features an 18hp spindle, a nine spindle multi-drill head and a 12-position rotary tool-changer with a machining speed of 76m/min.

Knotty Ash MD Andrew Brewer says the whole experience has been very positive: “We managed for many years using traditional tools and a small CNC, but the Panel Pro has allowed us to demonstrate our skills in a more effective way and this has enabled the business to flourish with a range of important clients which we would not have been able to service without our Panel Pro. I cannot praise it enough – a superb machine.

“And as for ATA Engineering, they have an excellent team to work from the initial contact through to their service and support – first class.”