Milestone Cube/5 year Wood: Speciality Items Created with a Laser
Epilog Laser System Purchase Propels Successful Business into Woodworking Education Network
Peter Pihos Jr., co-founder of Milestone Cube Company and 5 Year Wood, spent 32 years in the research industry and had virtually no background in the laser industry prior to purchasing his engraving system. Twelve years ago he bought an Epilog Laser system and not only established two successful businesses, but also incorporated his passion for woodworking and technology into an education resource highly-sought after by both traditional woodworkers and laser owners alike.
“Having an Epilog has allowed us to design and create products that are exceptionally unique,” Peter said. “Part of our success is certainly due to our design process, but the other part of the equation is that by utilizing the laser we are able to put features into our products that would make it cost prohibited if we’d used traditional woodworking techniques.”
Peter Pihos Jr.
Peter’s unique story started back in 2001, when his father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
“My father is a National Football League Hall of Famer who supplemented his retirement income by playing in NFL-sponsored charity golf events,” Peter explains. “He actually made more money playing in these charity events than he did as a football player,” he said.
“On September 11, he was returning from a hall of fame event when we discovered he had Alzheimer’s,” Peter continued. “This meant the he could not travel by himself and would no longer be able to supplement his income.” That unfortunate revelation was actually the driving factor behind what would become Peter’s first business, Milestone Cube Company. “We had an idea to design a keepsake wooden cube featuring my father’s career accomplishments and pictures, and then sell them online to sports fans,” Peter said. “We did this until he was unable to sign his name.
Along the way, friends started to ask us to design cubes for anniversaries, graduations, weddings and new babies – any special occasion or milestone - and our business grew by word of mouth. People who were given cubes became regular customers, and to date we have designed and crafted 4,029 cubes,” Peter tells us.
As Milestone Cube Company was flourishing, Peter and his partner Terry Lee, were also making other wood products that they sold at their studio known as Wood Alley (which got its name due to its narrow six-foot-six-inch width.)
“It seemed to us that we sold a lot of products made of wood for fifth anniversaries,” Peter began. “A little research on the web indicated that although many stores did indeed sell some wood products - the traditional material for a fifth anniversary - no one was really specializing in it, and that’s how we came up with 5 Year Wood.” he said.
By combining their woodworking and woodturning experience with their laser experience from Milestone Cube Company, Peter and Terry felt they could offer special, more customized product for anniversaries than what was currently on the market. Prior to starting their companies, Peter had absolutely no knowledge of laser engraving equipment. “No experience at all,” he tells us. “I didn’t even come from any of the industries that typically utilize that kind of equipment.” Peter’s first step in the research process was determining what he needed from a laser system.
“We learned enough to know that we wanted to engrave and cut on wood, and we were going to be doing graphics and photos so the resolution and detail was very important” he said. “We also wanted to have painless support when we had a question or needed to make an adjustment.” With easy access to support – both technical and otherwise – Peter and Terry set out to find the right laser for their needs.
“One laser company was hard to get information from and did not get back to us very quickly,” Peter tells us. “The other company was Epilog. In two days, John Ketchem, our Epilog Laser distributor had not only set up a demonstration, but was also able to introduce us to one of his clients who used multiple machines,” he continued. “Our distributor was there for us at the start, and that involvement and level of service has not diminished one bit over the past twelve years.”
As Peter and Terry are both avid woodworkers, woodturners and engraving specialists, they work primarily with wood and also create a lot of inlay designs. “That inlay either is mother of pearl, tauga nut (vegetable ivory) and wood veneers,” Peter explained.
Because of their extensive experience and connection to the woodworking community, after perfecting their laser engraving/cutting techniques, Peter and Terry began to focus on education. Not only by teaching the woodworking community how to utilize exciting and versatile laser technology in their designs and creations, but also by teaching non-woodworking laser owners new techniques to help expand their product offerings.
“A couple of years ago we gave our first demonstration to a local woodturning club to show them how I was able produce the turned pieces that they’ve seen me make and show at the meetings,” Peter tells us. “They were captivated and started to stop by our studio wanting to learn more about the opportunities."
"Then, last May we had the privilege to be invited to exhibit at the prestigious Saville Gallery,” Peter said. “Exhibitors were selected by invitation only, and the entries drew a lot of attention.” It was at the exclusive Saville Gallery where Peter and Terry were able to show other furniture makers and woodworkers stunning work that utilized laser technology in several ways.
“They knew of lasers, but just didn’t realize how to use them in their designs,” Peter said. “Knowing that, it also became clear that the typical laser owner unfamiliar with woodworking was probably missing opportunities to offer some of the processes we are using in our woodworking. That’s why we created Lasers and Woodworking, to assist both groups in understanding what is truly possible,” Peter said.
The incorporation of an Epilog Laser system has allowed Peter and Terry to expand it to a variety of markets. “Having an Epilog has allowed us to design and create products that are exceptionally unique,” Peter said. “Part of our success is certainly due to our design process, but the other part of the equation is that by utilizing the laser we are able to put features into our products that would make it cost prohibited if we’d used traditional woodworking techniques.”