Wilson Quality Millwork offers homeowners a chance to create truly unique spaces.
When John Wilson moved back home to Elkins in 1989 to join his father’s business, the now-58-year-old Frank E. Wilson Lumber Company, he spent some months getting to know the customers. He worked with Amish craftsmen building custom doors and casegoods, then with an architectural millwork firm in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He spent two and a half months working at a retail lumber yard in Washington, D.C.
From the time he was a child, Wilson had watched as sawn green lumber was stacked in his family’s seven steam-powered dry kilns, emerging days later as dry, project-ready boards. But working at these businesses, he saw a different kind of transformation take place. “You really got to see a change in the product. That’s what was exciting—taking a raw board and turning it into a product for the customer.”
Wilson decided he wanted that kind of direct connection with customers, too, and in 1995 he opened Wilson Quality Millwork to make custom moldings, millwork, casework, and more.
The company’s first job was producing molding for a historic bank building in Moorefield. It took three days to grind a bit, or “knife,” that would accurately match the seven-inch-wide, fluted molding already inside the building. Things have sped up considerably since then, and Wilson’s company has supplied work for historic restoration projects including the Graceland Mansion in Elkins and the MacCorkle Mansion in Charleston.
While Wilson has become a go-to guy for preservation work, most of the products that come out of his shop are destined for family homes. The company offers custom doors, hardwood flooring, paneling, stair parts, and countertops. While he admits custom-milled elements are more expensive than what can be found at big box stores, that slightly higher price buys a much higher quality product, since much of the shop’s raw material is Appalachian hardwoods sourced through the Frank E. Wilson Lumber Company. “We have a great product and we have a great price,” he says. “Our middle name is ‘quality’ and that’s what we strive for.”
Plus, it’s hard to put a price on originality. The way Wilson sees it, if you’re going to the expense of building or remodeling a home, you might as well make each architectural element count. “It should be yours. It should have characteristics of you,” he says.
He advises customers not to worry about trends. “if you want a colonial look, you can have that look. if you want a modern look, you can have that look.”
Customers can pick their pattern from a catalog, choose from among the dozens of samples hanging on Wilson’s office wall, or provide samples of their own. Then they pick the species and finishes. If the shop doesn’t have a knife already made for the designs, one of Wilson’s nine employees will make templates using the shop’s CNC machine, which is used to grind the knives. The process is still done by hand but comes to within a few thousandths of an inch of the template.
Wilson bemoans the recent tendency to cover millwork with paint. “There’s a lot of beauty in wood,” he says. In fact, he encourages homeowners to consider mixing different styles and woods throughout their rooms. “You don’t have to have your whole house in one species.”
Some see the lines and whorls of wood grain as imperfections. But to Wilson, it’s natural-born art. “Every piece we manufacture is an original piece. We can’t duplicate it.”
Thirty years after starting his business, Wilson is still amazed by the potential of his raw material. “I don’t think people understand the work and craftsmanship that goes into creating quality products,” he says. “It’s endless, what you can do with wood.” 5th Street Extension, Elkins, 304.636.9096, wilsonqualitymillworks.com
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