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Red Hill Woodworks- A Family Business Thrives in a Niche Market

Red Hill Woodworking

Red Hill Woodworks is located on a quiet country road in Narvon, PA. Inside the cinder block woodshop next to their home, Levi Beiler and his son Lloyd have been making wooden drying racks for many years.

“My dad started this business in 1974,” Levi tells us. “He started down on the farm and was doing mostly custom work then. But he started making these drying racks when we were still on the farm. Finally we had enough work just doing these.”

Red Hill’s sole business is making the drying racks. Besides Levi and Lloyd, “We have two employees, one full-time, and one part-time.”

“We make seven or eight thousand racks a year, and we ship them all over the USA.” Lloyd tells us.

The workshop has two levels. On the ground level, wooden stakes are turned into dowels. “This machine has an automatic feeder on,” explains Lloyd.  “There's a cutter on each side, and that puts the round shape on.”

Levi shows the carbide tipped blades used in the dowel machine.

“Some dowel machines have a cutter that go around the dowel, but this method makes it smoother and is a lot faster. It’s kind of like a molder,” explains Lloyd.

Dowel cutting machine

dowel machine

A conveyer belt helps move the wooden pieces through the machine, which has piles of sawdust underneath. Across the room shelving holds neatly stacked dowels.

Stacked wooden dowels

On the second story, there’s more equipment including a cut-off saw, straight-line rip saw, several sanders, and a gang rip saw with five saw blades.

Levi shows us a machine that puts a notch in and drills a hole for a screw.

Dowel machine in wood workshop

“The notch holds the dowels and acts as a brace to hold the clothes rack in place. The screw keep the wood at the notch from splintering.”

Notch in wood

Another machine “drills in the holes for the dowels, three at a time. It’s a specialty made machine.”

Machinery

Workshop

Lloyd explains the steps for cutting the wooden pieces. “First, you run the boards though the planer. Then, you cut it to length and then take it over to the rip saw there where it puts a straight edge on. You have to cut a little bit of the edge to get a smooth edge. The last step is sanding the edges. We do that on the small drum sander.”

Woodshop equipment

Most of the machines are highly customized. “They’re pretty simple. If you can build it, you can fix it,” says Lloyd.

Red Hill woodworks uses only soft maple wood. “It’s not a building material,” Lloyd explains. “But some of the pallet shops are starting to use the furniture grade wood because the price of building grade lumber, like pine or hemlock, is sky high. We might have to increase our prices, depending on what happens.”

Finishing drying racks

The pieces are cut in the shop and the finished clothes racks are stored in a nearby shed. In between is the assembly process— but this step is done by others. “We have three people that do assembly for us in their homes,” explains Lloyd. “We actually don’t do very much assembly ourselves.”

Lloyd estimates the total time to make a clothes rack from plank to finish is “a little less than an hour.”

Most of the clothes drying racks are the “floor standing racks” like we sell at Good’s. But the Red Hill also produces a “floor rack” with arms.

Levi tells us the story of what encouraged him to start making the new design. Some people had been telling him about the foldable floor racks, when “We went out to visit my daughter and son-in-law in Wayne County, Indiana. They had a neighbor, an older gentleman who was getting close to a hundred.

“He asked us, ‘What do you do for a living?’

“I said, ‘We make clothes drying racks.’

“‘You do?’ he said and then he told his son to go out in certain shed, and a certain shelf, and get what’s out there on that shelf. The son returned with a drying rack and his father said “You got to start making them things. My wife used to use this.”

So that was what inspired the Beilers to start making the floor racks, first with 12 arms, and now with 16 arms.

When asked for advice on starting a small business, Lloyd says. “It’s a big commitment.”

Levi would advise to work for a similar business. “Learn the trade first. Right now, I’d be willing for someone to come work with me for a while, and then maybe split the business. That’s the way I’d recommend for anyone to start up a business.”

After giving us a tour, the Beilers are ready to turn on their machines again and start working in the workshop with flowers growing beside it. It’s a hot summer day and a sweaty job, but the Red Hill Woodworkers have carved out their niche in the small business world of Lancaster County.

Sawdust bin

Above: the sawdust bin. Local farmers use the sawdust for bedding. "We don't have any trouble getting rid of it."

Water jugs in a woodshop

Man plowing field with horses

Above: a farmer works in the field across the road from Red Hill Woodworks.

All photos taken by Dorcas Lichtenberger

Drying rack

See the Red Hill Drying Rack available for in-store pickup at Good's Store here.


5 comments

  • I have one ton the big racks I love it. Growing up in the city I always hung out cloths out so this is the next best thing

    Ruth Decker
  • Very interesting! We have used drying racks for decades, besides an outdoor clothes “tree”. Thanks and keep the stories coming!

    Mrs Linda
  • Love your business feature stories. Would like to see a picture of the floor rack with 12 – 16 arms.

    Dawn Pilotti
  • I enjoyed the article but thought you would include pictures of the finished products they sell.

    Thank you for these stories. I always enjoy them so much and your Goods Store.

    Sincerely,
    Cap

    Captaino Radley
  • We enjoyed learning about the process and the family’s business. Drying racks are a wonderful practical accessory. We use ours year round, and we gave one as a wedding present.

    Carol and George

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