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Thread: November Trip to Hancock & Moore Factory

  1. #1
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    Default November Trip to Hancock & Moore Factory

    I had high hopes for my first trip to the Hancock & Moore factory and it did not disappoint. I spent 6 1/2 hours with Phil Brown, the President of the company, and Tonja Morrison, their Director of Marketing, touring the factory and talking shop.

    I was prepared to be a little overwhelmed, but was actually speechless at some points - the work that the artisans and craftsmen are able to do by hand is absolutely astonishing. Phil asked me what surprised me the most during my visit and while it sounds cliché, I had to say that it was the amount of detail that goes into creating one piece of furniture. Approximately 17 - 20 different pairs of hands touch ONE piece of furniture to bring it to life. I'm so used to seeing videos of assembly lines cranking out product that it was quite astonishing to see such high quality and precise work being done by hand.

    My tour started with a crash course in leather education - Phil has been working in the leather upholstery industry for decades and sources all of the leather Hancock & Moore uses. A fun fact for all of my fashionistas out there - the leathers that designer handbags are made out of are from the same leather vendors that fine furniture is upholstered from - except one Chanel handbag can be twice the cost of a H&M sofa! Makes you think twice about splurging on a purse when you could have an entire new sofa.

    Hancock & Moore has one of the largest leather inventories available for fine furniture. They are currently working on a new receiving program to help streamline their leather inventory, and it was pretty wild to see the sheer amount of hides stored throughout the factory. I learned that it takes approximately 6 - 8 hides (depending on how much of the hide is considered quality enough for upholstering) to create just one sofa. There are about 400 leathers available at Hancock & Moore, and they are constantly adding new varieties to their offerings. Right now, they said that greys, taupes, beiges, and blues are their most popular leathers, which is consistent with what we have been seeing in the store.

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: November Trip to Hancock & Moore Factory

    Next, we walked through the leather cutting area. There are two ways that Hancock & Moore cuts leather for their patterns - either by hand, or through their new(ish) CNC leather cutting machine.

    I got to watch an aniline hide being cut by hand - the craftswoman took the leather patterns and was eyeballing it to lay the patterns down in a way to ensure the least amount of waste. While it looked like second nature to her (I couldn't believe how quickly she was placing and tracing the patterns), she said that "every day is a giant puzzle" and Phil agreed that hand cutting the leather is one of the most challenging parts of crafting furniture. Another fun fact, years ago, one of the original owners (Jimmy Moore), installed a dry cleaning conveyer line in the factory to help keep all of the patterns organized, it was pretty cool to see the machine running in real life.

    https://youtu.be/qZbdD1KXQpU

    Video of pattern conveyor belt ^

    About six months ago, H&M installed their CNC leather cutting machine, appropriately nicknamed the "U.S.S. Kennedy" because it looks like a small air carrier. H&M's engineers create CAD files with the furniture patterns, which are uploaded to the CNC's software and shows the machine where to make cuts on a leather hide. While the CNC machine helps automate the cutting process, there is still hands-on work required. Each hide must be inspected for flaws (i.e. a bug bite) prior to being put through the machine, which are circled with a special pen that tells the machine that area cannot be used in the pattern cut.

    https://youtu.be/cwIa_zSw8jE

    Video of CNC ^

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    Once leathers are cut, the leftovers are made into sample swatches and either sent to dealers / showrooms, or mailed out as customer sample requests. Hancock & Moore sends out so many samples that they even have their own samples office, run by Kathy, who is fabulous and runs the most well-organized swatch room I've ever seen. (Kathy, if you're reading this, you better let me know the next time you're in DC! )

    https://youtu.be/fx3V0PQ_EpQ

    Video of leather swatch wall ^

    This video is from the Plant 1 floor and not the samples office, but it really gives you a good idea of the variety of leathers offered at H&M.

    From there, we zipped through the sewing room, which was filled with all women artisans. Sewers typically tend to be women because they have such a keen eye for detail. Check out the craftmanship on this leather panel for a Davenport Dining Chair, which Tonja told me they're selling a lot of these days!

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    Sewing area

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    Leather paneling for Davenport Chair

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    Completed Davenport Chair
    Last edited by sarahc; 2 Weeks Ago at 03:25 PM.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: November Trip to Hancock & Moore Factory

    Next to the sewing area is where all of the cushions are stuffed. There is one craftsman whose job is it to wrangle the cushions into their covers (not an easy feat!) and I got to chat with him about the different types of cores. We get asked a lot what type of core is best for those who are elderly or who have had back surgeries and may be seeking greater lumbar support and I was told that the Qualux Extra Firm or the Spring Down seats are the most appropriate to provide that desired support. You can upgrade to a Qualux extra firm with no upcharge when ordering, and there is an upcharge for Spring Down seats. One thing Phil shared that will stick with me is that he asks customers "Do you want to sit on, or in your sofa?" to help determine which cores are the best fit for them. If they say "on", he recommends spring down, and if they say "in", ultra down seats are the way to go.

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    We then went to the upholstery area, where I wish I had taken more photos. Each upholsterer has a station where they work on one frame at a time, hand stretching the leather to fit the frame and securing it with a staple gun in their other hand. I should have spent more time here watching the process, but each craftsman was focusing so hard on the piece in front of them (for good reason, what they were doing did NOT look easy) I didn't want to disturb them. Next time, I want to see if I'm able to watch a piece being tufted, I can't imagine the concentration that takes!

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    At the end of the first floor of Plant 1 is the burnishing section, where dye is hand applied to the hides to create the unique burnished look that no one does better than Hancock & Moore. Melissa, their master burnisher, has been doing this for years and told me that she will take inspiration on how to treat the leather based on what other materials are being used on the piece. Below are fabric swatches that are going on a hybrid leather and fabric sofa and she burnished the teal leather to match the tones of the fabric. The teal leather swatch all the way to the left is debuting at the April market and we all think it's going to be very popular, the photos don't do it justice!

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    You can see a great example of how burnishing can transform a piece with the iconic American flag chair. The first photo is before the chair has been burnished (and painted, obviously) and the second is what it looks like after. Pretty big difference!

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    More to come tomorrow...
    Last edited by sarahc; 2 Weeks Ago at 04:04 PM.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: November Trip to Hancock & Moore Factory


  5. #5
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    Default Re: November Trip to Hancock & Moore Factory


  6. #6
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    Default Re: November Trip to Hancock & Moore Factory

    Hi Lloyd, when the forum was down, new threads weren't posting, I can't see your post! Would you be able to re-share it? Thanks!

  7. #7
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    Oct 2014
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    Default Re: November Trip to Hancock & Moore Factory

    Quote Originally Posted by sarahc View Post
    Hi Lloyd, when the forum was down, new threads weren't posting, I can't see your post! Would you be able to re-share it? Thanks!
    I simply mentioned your pictures were not displaying. Obviously the site had bigger issues. Glad it is fixed and we can enjoy the photo tour.

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