What Does Custom Wood Building Mean?

Custom Wood Building

Custom wood building is an art that has been around for about as long as humans. Many of the same terms we see today were used thousands of years ago. On Raymond McInnis’s site, A History of Woodworking, he shares a piece from an article written on Stonehenge:

“…The largest weighs as much as 50 tons. Unique today, Stonehenge was probably also unique in its own time, some 4,500 years ago – a stone monument modeled on timber precedents. Indeed, its massive lintels are bound to their uprights by mortise-and-tenon joints taken straight from carpentry.”

Modern Wood-Building

With the progress in modern technology and industrial demands, Woodworking as a field has changed. For example, the development of (CNC) or Computer Numeric Controlled Machines in 1949 made it possible to mass-produce and reproduce products faster—not only faster but with less waste and the ability to produce more complex designs. Along with CNCs, the emergence of rechargeable power tools sped up the creation of many projects. They also required much less body strength and endurance than in the past. Despite the increase with technological advances, the quality and craftsmanship of custom wood-building remains unmatched.

What Does Custom-Built Mean?

According to the Merriam Webster, custom built simply means, “Built to individual specifications.” Sounds pretty straightforward, however there are many intricate details involved. Custom wood building is more than making a window or door. It requires more than just the right tools and space. These are essential, yes, but custom building also requires a lot of skill. At Versatile Wood Products every project, both big and small, modern or historical, is performed with the utmost quality and dedication.

“Versatile provides historically accurate custom wood sash, cabinetry, doors and millwork using techniques originated by 18th and 19th century craftsmen. We are committed to creating spaces that honor and make history. By preserving traditional ways of building and blending them with modern technologies and performance standards, we design and build solutions that harmonize aesthetics and temperament with function and utility.”

Versatile’s experienced team specializes in balancing period appropriate architectural design specifications with modern performance standards, combining historic techniques and modern technologies.

What does manufactured mean?

Custom Wood Building




Wood is manufactured in a few types, Plywood, particleboard, fiberboard, medium density fiberboard (MDF), and veneer. In addition to the CNC machine, another reason for the increased popularity of mass-produced wood products was the invention of manufactured wood. Manufactured wood products have become a popular choice because they are less expensive to produce. Manufactured wood products are also more readily available at Big Box stores.

Understanding what custom wood building and manufactured wood are is important when starting a project. For example, determining the exact specifications for choosing the right window or door is important. Having the exact build for a particular project is crucial. Not just for the aesthetics, but for long-term quality.

“By hand-selecting tight grain wood patterns and using time-honored techniques our products will last for many years to come.”

How Versatile produces lasting quality

To better understand the separation between custom wood building and manufactured wood, the following Versatile projects will highlight the distinction. In this first custom case study, the restoration of a historical landmark highlights the stunning craftsmanship Versatile (and Arciform) demonstrate. The agility and flexibility accompanied by the great care required shows why custom wood building is essential.

Restoring First Congregational Church

The First Congregational Church turned to Versatile and Arciform to stabilize and restore the wood elements of this feature. Constructed in 1895, the First Congregational Church of Portland is a dominant Venetian Gothic icon. The church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a Portland Landmark. This historic structure towers with its 175’ bell tower at the Southwest corner.

Restoring the Gothic tracery was more than just “replacing parts.” The goal was to retain as much of the original fabric as possible. However, what appeared to be repetitive details in the columns and tracery were in fact unique. This prohibited the efficiency of replicating one element to be reused as a template throughout the entire tracery at similar locations. After meticulous documentation, all parts were mapped and translated into CAD files. Having these otherwise inaccessible components in-house provided the unique opportunity to prepare a custom library of details for First Congregational Church.

All new pieces were made of Western Red Cedar, the same wood species as the original elements. This was to ensure historic accuracy and material performance. Replacement parts were then fit in place for sizing and routed with the cove detailing ensuring the tracery appeared seamless. The final product was delivered in sections for ease of hoisting and installation by Arciform.

Modern Buildings

In these three short project highlights, the breadth and skill level of Versatile is apparent. These again demonstrate custom wood building as an art that surpasses manufactured wood products both in ingenuity and workmanship.


For The Zipper, Versatile and designer Guerrilla Development used simple solid wood frames and sills. They also used direct glazed windows in solid clear vertical grain fir. This helped to create a truly innovative modern design.

The Evo Building challenges were to create custom casements in Douglas fir to match historic photos of the building. It was nearly impossible to replicate a two-toned color scheme in aluminum but was easily accomplished in wood. The hinged casements on the upper floors were a fall-hazard. Versatile used a sash limiter that would open by 3″ to prevent the potential for someone to fall out.










The Albina Yard (which can also be seen on Think Wood) had extraordinarily high flush exterior doors: 142” tall and 108” tall full lite doors. In this project Versatile utilized offset pivot hinges to give massive doors smooth operation and an uninterrupted modern look. The project called for building flush doors in a continuous fir veneer with a matching 34” fir transom panel above. The design challenge was that both the flush exterior doors and full lite doors were extraordinarily high in addition to being about 40” wide.

Architecture: Lever Architecture
Contractor: Reworks Design Build

Custom Wood Building Is Good For The Environment

A report by Green Building Elements provides a wealth of researched information that supports the value of custom wood building. A study conducted by Architecture and Design reports that 16% of all the fossil fuel consumed annually is converted into concrete, steel, aluminum and brick building materials. On the opposite end, wood reduces its carbon footprint.

“When trees are made into building materials, that carbon dioxide remains sequestered in the finished products. When wooden building materials reach the end of their useful life, they are often repurposed or recycled into new products. All that stored carbon dioxide is kept out of the atmosphere virtually forever.”

Green Building Elements also reports a cooperative program between a company called Whole Trees in Madison, Wisconsin and the USDA Forest Service. Entire trees that the Forest Service harvests during routine thinning efforts and discards are used. They are turned into beams, trusses and joists to use in building construction.

Custom Wood Building is good for your Health

Custom Wood Building

Custom wood building is not just beautiful and unique in each design but is also good for your health. Another study by Architecture and Design finds that, “the feelings of natural warmth and comfort that wood elicits in people has the effect of lowering blood pressure and heart rates, reducing stress and anxiety and increasing positive social interactions.” Wood products within a room have been shown to improve indoor air quality by moderating humidity. The study also finds that being surrounded by wood at home, work or school has positive effects. Not just on the body and brain, but also on the environment. It can even shorten hospital stays through reduced recovery times.

Truly, Custom Wood-Building Is an Art Of Craftsmanship

From the use of mortise and tenon joinery dating back thousands of years to our state-of-the-art CNC router, Versatile Wood Products’ custom wood projects are built to last.

Sharing Our Story: A Year in Review

A Year in Review: We’ve been busy here at Versatile. With more than 100 custom sash, window and door projects and more than 50 cabinetry projects completed in 2017 here’s a few we’re most proud of:

A Year in Review: Sellwood Pool Bathhouse Windows
A Year in Review
Clockwise from top left: curved glass cuts are ready for installation, Thor and Tod fit the arched top rail in to the stiles, making sure the joinery fits perfectly. Next step: glazing; the classic arched top window is clamped for 8 hours before it’s ready, the new Sellwood Bathhouse.

The Sellwood Pool Bathhouse was built in 1910. We matched the original windows exactly by bringing the originals into our shop to replicate.

A Year in Review: The Sovereign Hotel
A Year in Review
From left: Sovereign entry door with arched transom window plans and pieces; Transom window being glued; On four of the six sides are murals painted in 1989 by Richard Haas and commissioned by the Oregon Historical Society for $225K. This side shows the Lewis & Clark Expedition.

Built in 1923, the Georgian-style Sovereign Hotel was designed by Carl L. Linde.  We made several solid white oak doors and storefront assemblies with beautiful arched transom windows. This was one of the first forays into using the CNC machine for arched details—making them faster, more accurate and safer to produce.

A Year in Review: Setzoil Door Modification

A Year in Review

Being entrusted to modify an original Leroy Setziol door was certainly a highlight for 2017. We improved the door structure and make it easier to hang in the jamb, removed and replaced the dated veneer on the interior and edges of the door, using clear vertical grain (CVG) fir and teak.

A Year in Review: Hollywood Theatre Doors

A Year in Review

We worked with Arciform and architect, Paul Falsetto to create the updated entry system for the historic Hollywood Theater.

A Year in Review: 30th & Killingsworth Storefront

A Year in Review

This entryway for the  popular restaurant Autentica features double-hung windows and transoms.

A Year in Review: Custom Midcentury Modern Credenza Set

A Year in Review

A Year in Review

We had fun designing these custom pieces in a classic retro style.


Sharing Our Story: The Holiday Party

We’re excited to celebrate another year here at Versatile and this year we held our holiday party at the De Wolf’s new home: The Isam White house. Here’s a peak inside the home and festivities:

The Holiday Party
Product designer, Curtis Nagel and operations manager, Erica Witbeck raise their glasses to the season at the Holiday Party.
The Holiday Party
Shop carpenter, Sarah Isaacs-Meyers shares some quality time with a friend at the Holiday Party.
The Holiday Party
Arciform’s lead carpenter and project manager Jamie Whittaker and field carpenter, Jeff Inskeep discuss the state of the world at the Holiday Party.
The Holiday Party
Clockwise from left, back to front: product design manager, Rex Vaccaro’s partner, Nick, Arciform employee, Dave Thomas with friend, Amanda, Rex, Arciform project manager, Adam Schofield’s wife, Niki and accountant Jennifer Barrow.
The Holiday Party
The tree stood in the basement on the way to “The Chapel” …
The Holiday Party
What happens in “The Chapel” stays in the chapel.
The Holiday Party
Richard and Anne received some wonderful gifts from their team; Oregon Humane Society donation and a brick inscribed with their names in Pioneer Square.
The Holiday Party
Richard speaks to his team; “When I ask you what excites you about your work here each day, I really want to know. What makes you happy?”



Winning Together: Restoration Celebration 2017

Friday, Nov. 10th, 2017: On a rainy evening in downtown Portland, more than 250 people came together. Celebrating Oregon’s historical structures and preservation at Restore Oregon’s most important fundraiser of the year, The Restoration Celebration 2017. This year it was held at the beautiful Sentinel Hotel. The Sentinel was built in 1909 and designed by William Christmas Knighton. Knighton was Oregon’s first architect to use Viennese-influenced Early Modern and modified Arts and Crafts styles in his designs.

Versatile was proud to be the presenting sponsor at the restoration celebration 2017. They welcomed the guests with a toast by Anne De Wolf and Snow Blackwood (below).

Restoration Celebration 2017

So many people make an impact on Oregon’s historic preservation. This became obvious as the DeMuro Awards were given out to the leaders in preservation who are designing our historical structures in a way that makes sense for Oregon’s future.

Below are some photos of the night, courtesy of Side Angle Photography. We hope to see you there next year!

Restoration Celebration 2017
Restore Oregon’s marketing director, Jeannette Shupp and executive director, Peggy Moretti hold up this year’s DeMuro Award which was a beautifully crafted plate designed by Lonesomeville Pottery.
Restoration Celebration 2017
The Jantzen Beach carousel was built by renowned carver, C.W. Parker in 1904. Thanks to Restore Oregon it has been saved from demolition and now just needs a home. This way we can return this beloved family attraction and golden piece of our history to the greater Portland community. Read more
Restoration Celebration 2017
Gorgeous details of the Sentinel Hotel show us why preserving historical architecture is so important.
Restoration Celebration 2017
Karen Johnson (right) of Apollo Design and Rooter Service stands with friend.
Restoration Celebration 2017
From left: Maya Foty and Matthew Davis of Architectural Resources Group, Anne De Wolf of Arciform, Snow Blackwood of Snow B Designs and Jeff Dood of Reforma LLC.
Restoration Celebration 2017
Proud winners of a DeMuro Award for their work on the Overland Warehouse, Melody and Brian Emerick (left) stand with friends.
Restoration Celebration 2017
Let the show begin! MC and auctioneer, Restore Oregon’s board president, Roy Fox, entertained the crowd. He developed the excitement throughout the night helping to raise more than $90K on this evening in support of restoration.
Restoration Celebration 2017
Bill Hart and Anthony Belluschi
Restoration Celebration 2017
Roy Fox, Restore Oregon’s board president, briefs me for my time on stage while Erica stands by
Restoration Celebration 2017
Peggy Moretti honors Karla Pearlstein for her many achievements in historical restoration, most recently the Delaney House.

Erica Witbeck, Versatile Operations Manager

At Swedish restaurant Broder Nord, right up the road from Versatile headquarters, Erica Witbeck took some time out of her busy day managing schedules to share her story with me. Learning about Erica and what it means to be an “operations manager” was not only interesting, but complex.

Erica started with Arciform — Versatile’s sister company — 4 years ago as their purchasing manager and 2.5 years ago she transitioned into the operations manager position for Versatile.

Erica Describes the Difference Between Two Roles

“As purchasing manager, I tracked inventory, scheduled delivery drivers and managed usage of the paint booth facility. Now I manage people more than product.”

Erica has a unique background, having studied sculpture and printmaking at PNCA in addition to art history and chemistry at PSU.

Her father’s doctoral studies and subsequent university assignments lead the family throughout the Midwest. Erica grew up in a variety of towns from Nebraska to Indiana

Erica’s father is a botanist, and currently works in environmental risk assessment. Her mother recently retired from respiratory care, having previously worked and studied in phlebotomy and emergency response.

It’s clear that Erica’s parents have passed on a level of education that plays out in Erica’s career today. She remembers illustrating cell structures of plants for her father’s textbook as an adolescent and realizes, spontaneously, how this is at work in her career today.

“My father had my brother and me do illustrations for his journals. I learned the vascular systems of plants at a young age,” she remembers and then realizes, “I now understand why wood makes sense to me.”

Erica Witbeck has always loved materials. She talks of the different ways wood behaves when it is kiln dried vs. air dried and how different wood treatments or product applications can behave in a variety of scenarios. Her chemistry studies have helped her out more than once in this arena.

A Typical Day at Versatile Wood Products

I ask her about a typical day at Versatile and she says, “It all starts with the schedule. This can last from around 2 hours to the good part of my day, depending on how many hiccups there are.”

She must check-in with the shop, the drafting and design teams and with the sales people. Each department plays an important role in the production of a job. The life cycle of a job can complete in a matter of weeks, or be years in the making. This wide gamut of timelines and people involved is why “the schedule”—or more commonly know in the construction industry as The Gantt Chart—tends to be the driving force in Erica’s day.

Erica must have her finger on the pulse of each job so that she knows when it is time to call a production meeting, facilitate each department’s needs, or help lay out next steps. It is up to her to determine when it is time to call in more carpenters, or to notice if there is an equipment limitation that may hamper capacity; for example, “Do we need to buy more glass cups to take on that huge window job? How many jobs can start milling simultaneously, and how does that affect pacing?”

“It’s not just hours and bodies, it’s activities,” Erica says when she describes how she thinks about each job. “I don’t want to send anyone home and I also don’t want there to be more work than the shop can handle at one time. It’s like playing chess with the people and pieces on the board.”

I can sense the pride and confidence in Erica’s voice when she talks about the historical aspect to Versatile’s work.

Versatile, A Trusted Go-To That Is Fluent in Custom Historic Buildings

“As a custom wood manufacturing shop, we’re not always going to be the first choice for every job. But with our expertise in historical projects, we’re known as a trusted go-to that is fluent in custom historic buildings.”

When I ask what her favorite part of her job is, she says,

“It’s the pride in making. The thought and intention that goes into creating the products that we do is exciting. I like making something tangible and enduring. We have had doors come to us for restoration or reproduction that have lasted 100 years and now we’re making them to last 100 more. There’s something very satisfying about that.”

Erica tells me a bit about her home life with her two children, ages 6 and 9. She compares them to bear cubs and the garden she’s created from a yard that used to be nothing but dirt. “Gardening brings me peace. I don’t listen to music or podcasts when I garden. That’s my time to hear my surroundings. To connect with my neighbors and to feel the dirt.”

Before we wrap up our “Fika” (coffee-time as the Swedish would call it), Erica says, “There’s a 3rd aspect to my job that’s pretty interesting. It’s a surprising part, that I didn’t realize would be so fun for me.”

It’s Data

“What is it?” I’m curious.

“It’s data.”

Using Versatile’s internal project management program, FMYI, QuickBooks and Excel, Erica works to organize statistics from each job into charts that can be used to analyze and provide meaningful insights.

“We may have jobs that feel incredibly challenging. The emotional story may be that the job was terrible, but if we make room for that challenge, the analysis may reveal something different.”

Erica Witbeck recalls the whale watching center in Depoe Bay Versatile worked on last summer and how it was their first time working with salvaged redwood. “We had our concerns, but it ended up coming out really well. It left us with a high-traffic, historic project to put in our portfolio. Through the data I could see by every metric that the job was a success.”

Finding trends and patterns that lead to solutions brings Erica’s analytical mind to the table. I’m left with the thought that analytical thinking may actually be more prominent in artists than we realize.

Jeff Vasey, Versatile Wood Products Jack-of-All Trades

Jeff Vasey of Versatile Wood Products
Jeff Vasey of Versatile Wood Products. Behind him sits a 100-year-old “mortiser machine.”

As a train filled with lumber roars by, Versatile Wood Product’s mill foreman, Jeff Vasey, takes a break from his normal duties to share his story with me. Jeff is the longest-working employee for Versatile and started with the sister company, Arciform, in 2001. Beginning as a field carpenter, he worked with a small team of four carpenters who built the original Arciform building in North Portland off Skidmore Street and Interstate Avenue. The business owned by Richard and Anne DeWolf’s quickly outgrew that location.

Train tracks off North Randolph street, Portland, OR.
Train tracks off North Randolph street, Portland, OR. Photo by Christopher Dibble

“Arciform outgrew the original shop right away,” says Vasey. “So they bought a second building in the industrial area off North Randolph Street.”

The Arciform shop space was originally only ¼ of the size it is today, and much of it was rented to other tenants. “AWOL Dance Studio would have aerial dancers hanging from the ceilings in one part of the warehouse,” remembers Vasey.

Arciform Acquires Versatile Wood Products

Then, in 2011, the merge happened. Arciform acquired the 30-year-old custom wood manufacturing company, Versatile Sash and Door (now Versatile Wood Products). The aerial dancers no longer dangled from the ceiling and Vasey played a major role in the expansion of the workshop.

Jeff’s devotion to Arciform and Versatile and his pride in his work becomes clear to me as he talks about developing the space.

“As a field carpenter, you’re sort of a jack-of-all-trades. This came in handy for me as an employee of Arciform and Versatile. I helped wire the new building’s shop-space and created a piping/dust-collection system. In addition I remodeled, built and moved equipment as our space and services expanded,” says Jeff.

Jeff explains the many types of wood Versatile carries. Versatile holds over 40 different species of wood and grades.

Jeff Vasey’s Story

“I’ve always had a mechanical-type of brain,” Jeff reflects. He remembers participating in the soapbox derby when he was 9 and 10 years old, where he won the awards for best constructed as well as best designed car.

Raised in Fargo, North Dakota, Jeff Vasey moved to Portland in 1985. I learn that Jeff is not only a carpenter, an engineer and a mechanic, but he’s also an artist.

Art brought Vasey to his wife, Vicky DeKrey, as well as to Oregon. Vasey and DeKrey met at North Dakota State University, where they both majored in art. At first living with a cousin in Washington, DC, they finally followed their favorite professor, Jerry Vanderline, who was originally from Portland, Oregon. As a result, when Vanderline moved back to Portland, he invited them for a visit.

“We toured over 11,000 miles of land on the way. Oregon was by far the most beautiful of all the places I’d been.”

It’s a familiar story to me. My own parents grew up in the flat lands of Oklahoma. When they took a road trip to the Northwest they were completely wonder-struck by the tall trees and lush greenness of it all. Perhaps it is a place that attracts artists.

However, once in Oregon, Jeff Vasey painted less and less. He got into photography, created electronic music, hiked and backpacked. He also started fixing a friend’s home in exchange for living there. After a while he learned of Arciform from a friend who worked there.

Jeff’s Work Today

As we walk through the shop, Jeff explains to me what different tools do.

“This one is probably the oldest machine in the shop. It must be over a hundred years old and is built like a battleship.” Jeff says. “It drills this groove into the window frame so you can fit these two joints together.”

He holds up two sash frame corners and slides them smoothly into place. It’s called a mortise and tenon joint.

Jeff is no longer a field carpenter because he has grown into the shop manager at Versatile. When I ask Jeff what his favorite thing about his job is, he says it’s the variety of projects they work on. He likes the details of some of the historical-style carpentry work. He fondly reflects on his days as a field carpenter.

“I miss getting to see the end result of my work as much as I did when I was working in the field. I loved getting to work directly with Anne and Richard on projects, because having the designer or architect so accessible while working on a project is a treat. It’s a collaborative process here.”

One of Vasey’s favorite woods is this quarter-sawn white oak. He holds it to the light for us to see it shimmer.

I learn that Jeff Vasey is known as the resident wood expert at Versatile. Asking him what his favorite type of wood is, he shakes his head and says, “No, I couldn’t choose just one.”

by Snow Blackwood, Creative Director of SnowBDesigns
Photos by Christopher Dibble Photography


Richard De Wolf Interviewed on StreetTalk Podcast

This week, Richard was interviewed by Amy Rosenberg of Veracity’s StreetTalk Podcast where he spoke about his love for vintage structures, the value of mixed income levels in controversial Historic Districts (HD’s) and why it’s important to protect HD’s and why it’s easier to maintain a building than it is to change it.

See the accompanying article and hear the interview on the Veracity website.

Curtis Nagel, Versatile’s New Drafter

Curtis Nagel

After his enlistment in the Navy Curtis Nagel returned to Texas to complete an Associate Degree in Architectural Technology. To begin his professional journey as a drafter. Curtis’ most recent accomplishment was obtaining his Master’s Degree in Technology Management with an emphasis in safety (occupational and industrial hygiene). During each of these degrees, Curtis worked full time as a drafter and buyer for an electronics manufacturing business.  The business developed devices for the disabled community that had limited to no mobility.

You’ve been brought on as one of Versatile’s Drafters. Tell us about what your areas of responsibility will be.

Curtis Nagel: My main areas of responsibility will deal with documenting site specific conditions and applying my knowledge of architectural building systems to assist in drafting technical shop drawings for manufacturing. I will be collaborating with the sales, estimating, manufacturing, and other design teams to ensure my work will be easily understood and of high value.

You have a background in personnel management, avionics maintenance, architectural and mechanical drafting/design, and component procurement. What aspects of Versatile’s work and process are most similar to your previous work? What’s the most different?

Curtis Nagel: The most similar aspect that I can compare is collaboration. Knowledge is not static and must be continuously updated to assist in getting all hands on the same page. With multiple divisions collaborating projects together, we all can gain by learning the experience and knowledge from our peers and clients, working towards an end goal. The most different aspect that differs from my previous employment is with the large amount of individuals involved with each project. When I designed electronic case enclosures, there were only a handful of individuals involved from start to finish during project conception all the way to manufacturing, including principals.

What inspires you about custom manufacture?

Curtis Nagel: I consider custom manufacturing to be hand crafted and of quality work that cannot be obtained at a big box home improvement store. There are many times we “update” our homes with what is readily available but not always of the most suitable choice when seeking quality and period correct components for the project at hand. No matter what restaurant, store, landmark, building, or house that I am visiting, I am constantly looking at the design and building techniques used. I find more enjoyment out of those who take the time to understand the building components and manufacture them to suit the building properly and with quality.

Describe one of your favorite past projects. What were the challenges? What were some of the features that made it memorable?

Curtis Nagel: I was in charge of developing an adaptive switch that would allow users with cerebral palsy to access switch-based communication devices. While there are many types of adaptive switches in the niche market that we served, none were of higher quality. I was able to dissect and study each of the main competitor switches to see what made their switches “special” in their brand. Overall, I found nothing that really set them apart and I focused on designing a switch that was quieter when actuated, was much more durable for the CP user who was rougher on equipment, and that used custom manufacturing techniques that did not require redundant and costly fasteners. I was able to incorporate die-cut sound dampening foam pads that reduced noise when actuated as well as when the switch recoiled.

Designing the switch using a specific blend of plastics that allowed higher impact. And since this switch was only 2.5 inches in diameter with incorporated wiring and mechanics, the use of excess fasteners was reduced by understanding the effects of bonding plastic parts together with certain solvents. The precision design work of multiple components this small was a challenge to make sure they mate properly and did not hinder functionality because that would mean our disabled users would not be able to use their communication devices.

What are the top 3 things on your “bucket list?” 
  1. One of my bucket list items would be to travel to the Pyramids of Giza. I have always enjoyed learning about the architecture of the ancient Egyptians.
  2. During my first year of architecture school I wrote a paper on the architecture in Greece. I would love to go see the Acropolis in person.
  3. A few years ago I used to run competitively and never made it to the marathon level. I would love to leap over that distance hurdle.

About Versatile Wood Products | Contact Us

Nicole Carruth, Versatile’s New Sales Assistant:

Nicole Carruth

Meet Nicole Carruth, one of Versatile’s new Sales Assistants. She has a degree in Interior Design from Portland Community College and previously studied art. Professionally, she has a background in retail and the service industry.

You’ve been brought on as one of Versatile’s first-ever Sales Assistants. Tell us about what your areas of responsibility will be.

Nicole Carruth: As a Sales Assistant, my basic responsibility will be to format sales quotes and estimates; I am also here to support the Sales Team whenever other needs come up. I’m excited to grow in this position and I look forward to discovering what defines the role of Sales Assistant in the future.

You have a background in interior design and showroom sales. What aspects of Versatile’s work and process are most similar to your previous work? What’s the most different?

Nicole Carruth: The aspects that are most similar to my previous work are things like writing specifications and researching materials. The thing that is most different is that I’m working in a sales department that isn’t storefront retail, which is refreshing.

What inspires you about custom manufacture?

Nicole Carruth: Custom manufacture is unique and somewhat of an art form in modern society; and I have the privilege of contributing to that.

Describe one of your favorite past projects. What were the challenges? What were some of the features that made it memorable?

Nicole Carruth: Most of the projects I’ve worked on have their own set of challenges. I can’t single one out, but I know that I’ve learned a great deal from all of them, and that’s the most important thing to me.

What are the top 3 things on your “bucket list?” 

Nicole Carruth: I don’t know about three, but I definitely want to visit Spain someday.

About Versatile Wood Products | Contact Us


Erica Witbeck, First Operations Manager

Erica WitbeckWe couldn’t be more excited to announce that Erica Witbeck has agreed to join the Versatile Team as its first Operations Manager. Her job will be to improve the efficiency of our entire production process to meet client goals and deadlines. To keep Versatile running smoothly. Here’s a quick interview with Erica to give you an idea of who she is and what she will bring to the organization.

  1. Erica, you’ve been brought on as Versatile’s first-ever Operations Manager. Tell us about what your areas of responsibility will be.

Erica Witbeck:

My objective is to be the organizing force for the company. I want to be sure that everyone on our talented team gets to focus on doing what they do best. We have reached a tipping point in scale where processes need to be implemented to make sure it is possible to keep everyone operating smoothly and confidently in their respective areas. We need to be able to create reasonable expectations that we can feel secure about honoring. We need to do it in a way that enhances rather than inhibits information transfer.

Identifying what sticking points there may be, and developing process-based solutions that address the concerns of a growing custom shop, are my biggest goals. This will involve developing and implementing a computer-based sales order/work order system, production planning metrics, and improving internal product flow issues.


  1. You have a background in local custom manufactured tile. What aspects of Versatile’s work and process are most similar to your previous work? What’s the most different?

Erica Witbeck:

The thinking and working process of makers and designers are definite common threads. There are challenges that are unique to custom manufacture, especially as it scales up to a larger production model. Learning how to control the process while never limiting the customer’s ability to have a shop create something 100% custom is a theme that has carried across my career.

The materials themselves are quite different in their behavior and manufacture. But the common threads of shop design and having the appropriate tools and safety measures are the same. The production model I came from was on a larger scale and ran dozens of projects concurrently through production. This shop has fewer projects at any given time, and they generally are made from start to finish in each phase of production before the next order is produced.


  1. What inspires you about custom manufacture?

Erica Witbeck:

There is a great deal of deserved pride taken from creating a thing of beauty from the ground up. I love fine materials and skilled hands and creative minds. Bringing these aspects in to harmony to make someone’s dream into a tangible reality—well, that’s just thrilling!

  1. Describe one of your favorite past projects. What were the challenges? What were some of the features that made it memorable?

Erica Witbeck:

In my past life, there were SO many custom jobs and projects, they kind of blend together now. Looking back, my favorite projects were always “match this damaged old antique item that we love”. With reproductions, the challenges were not only matching the quality of the original design, but getting glaze chemistry to cooperate and make something convincingly old-looking. It was like archaeology and sculpting and chemistry lab all at once! Getting all of our experts talking and working and testing together made for some really satisfying work. Figuring out how to communicate the process (and its realities and limitations), sample it out in a convincing way, and get those experiments scaled up to an actual finished product was always very rewarding. I instantly saw much of the same intrigue at VWP, and knew I would fall in love. And I did.


  1. What are the top 3 things on your “bucket list?”

Erica Witbeck:

  • Gracious! Such a tricky question. I’d say if I were fortunate enough to construct my life in a way to make three wishes come true, they would be:
  • Get my mom to the Czech Republic so she can see where her family came from, and share that experience with her.

  • Dine at French Laundry, just so I’ll know.

  • Write the Great American Novel. It’s all in my head, I swear!