Fetzer Architectural Woodwork
Issue Summer 10
Established in 1909 by Kaspar Fetzer, Fetzer Architectural Woodwork in Salt Lake City has a well-ingrained history and reputation for quality work. The company is also known for adapting to marketplace changes. Starting out as a cabinet-building shop, Fetzer moved into woodworking for churches and bar rooms. A significant addition to the company’s work portfolio came when Fetzer was commissioned to add two wings to the renowned Tabernacle organ in the Salt Lake Tabernacle.
Fast forward to present, the company designs and installs custom woodwork, millwork and other wood details for a wide variety of buildings.
“In the early 1990s, we were almost exclusively installing retail store fixtures,” says Erik Fetzer, great-grandson of the elder Fetzer. “At that point, we decided to diversify more into architectural millwork, which allowed us to stay competitive.”
In addition to retail stores, Fetzer ‘s projects include law firms, corporate buildings, performing arts centers, libraries, hospitality and entertainment facilities, and private homes.
“Our craftsmen create very different designs for each project we install,” Fetzer says. “Very rarely would we repeat a design.”
For instance, a courthouse project may include custom wall paneling, judge’s bench, jury walls, running trim in the hallway, reception desk and laminate cabinetry in the back offices. For the Nashville Symphony Hall, the project scope included woodwork paneling, cabinetry and a Makore wood organ case.
Fetzer’s staff is not daunted by large or complex projects. One of the largest projects Fetzer completed was creating the largest woodwork organ for the LDS Conference Center. Paul Fetzer, vice president of design and Erik’s father, inspired by the Tabernacle and Assembly Hall organ designs in Salt Lake City, created a massive cherry veneer organ case with curved acoustical components. Additionally, the company designed, built and installed the auditorium’s black walnut pulpit, Anigre wood veneer rostrum, casework and trim.
Fetzer also incorporates substantial technology into its projects not only to create one-of-a-kind designs, but to improve its quality output. “The Alice Tully Hall was a very unique project that incorporated various challenges,” he claims. Working with the company 3Form, Salt Lake City, Fetzer integrated Moabi wood veneer panels into 3Form’s acrylic resin panels to create a back-lit LED lighting system embedded in them.
“The [hall’s] acoustic design was challenging in itself,” Fetzer says. “The panel designs included curved surfaces and difficult shapes that required 3-D modeling and machining to recreate the architect’s vision.”
In addition to computer-aided design using AutoCAD Inventor and SolidWorks, high-capacity production machinery allows the company to efficiently and quickly create custom moldings, forms, compound curves and specialty paneling systems which translates into savings.
Another cost-saving measure Fetzer implements during the design phase is suggesting alternative wood species that would achieve the aesthetic requirements, yet may be less costly. In a similar vein, corporate facilities for a healthcare company selected a stainless steel/wood paneling combination to convey an official look. Paul Fetzer suggested the use of chemical metal, which “achieved a practically identical look with a more manageable cost.”
Preliminary planning helps its operations tremendously, says Fetzer. “From field measurements, we implement several templating systems to help measure curved and irregular angles,” he asserts.
Fetzer’s company philosophy attempts to create a solid team effort. “We have a very flat management style-we don’t have a lot of layers between me and the shop floor,” he claims. “We feel it makes a better workplace and a more cohesive team.” One aspect that helps the company succeed, explains Fetzer, is the company’s policy toward “hiring people who have good attitudes and not necessarily for their aptitudes.”