Our Outdoor Furniture Story: Cast Aluminum Furniture
Our founder began his entrepreneurial career in 1985 by purchasing home recreation retail stores. By 1996, the growth of the stores and his desire to improve the quality and style of the products that the marketplace had to offer, led him into manufacturing. As a raw material manufacturer, our team designed, engineered and built from scratch many of the finest game room furniture pieces the world has to offer. Quality was paramount in our quest to succeed from the very beginning and we felt that it all started in the design and engineering stages to ensure that the furniture would be built to stand the test of time.
The greatest challenge in manufacturing is the quality execution of the process from start to finish. We followed a few simple rules to help ensure the process could succeed;
Select only the finest raw materials
Gather a team of skilled artisans that take great pride in their work.
Provide the artisans the tools they need to succeed in building the furniture the “old-fashioned” way, with great attention to detail.
Our team’s commitment to our core beliefs quickly made our brand, American Heritage Billiards®, the world’s largest game room furniture manufacturer which enabled us to expand our resources globally to specialized artisans that further enhance our opportunities for greater quality, detail and style.
The entrepreneurial spirit of the team gave birth to a new vision in creating a unique retail experience to enhance consumer’s lives by providing greater inspiration to gather more often in homes with families and friends. To build memories with those we cherish and share more quality time with the ones we love. And so the concept of GreatGatherings® was born in 2005. By 2008 the dream had become a reality in Washington, D.C. with the opening of the new GreatGatherings® retail stores.
As direct-to-consumer manufacturers, we at GreatGatherings® feel a tremendous obligation to continue to design and build only the very finest of furniture. We take great pride in evolving our styles and designs to today’s consumer’s tastes and trends to create a truly unique outdoor/indoor entertaining experience while never sacrificing the foundation of quality of which our company was built upon. All of our outdoor furniture is designed and engineered to withstand the harsh elements of Mother Nature. Like all of the furniture we build, it begins with the selection of the finest raw materials. We have the finest specialized artisans in the world create every piece of furniture with the greatest attention to detail every step of the way. We then provide them with a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility to utilize…..the very same philosophy we have manufactured by for more than 20 years.
Please feel free to read more about our manufacturing philosophy to get to know us a little better.
Take a seat and relax
We have utilized our vast experience in manufacturing millions of chairs and stools over the last 20 years to make our outdoor furniture feel as comfortable as the furniture inside your home. We pay special attention to the ergonomics of each chair, specifically the comfort of the seat buckets and the incline and the curvature of the chair back. So please be sure to take a seat in what we believe to be the most comfortable chairs you’ll find and be prepared to make your next Great Gathering the best ever. As you relax, read more about what makes us unique as a manufacturer.
How it all Begins
Our designs start with a sketch inspired by furniture or architecture from around the world, created by incredible artisans that have left their mark in time over the course of centuries. From there, one of our CAD specialists brings the sketch to life in the form of a 3-D CAD drawing. The CAD then gets tweaked relentlessly by our designers and engineers until all parties believe they have achieved what they were looking for in the design.
The CAD drawing, as scientific as it is, is then interpreted into art. Once the engineered drawing is printed into a full scale pattern, an Artisan carves each individual component by hand, out of wood, to match the original drawing. Each carved component is then masterfully assembled to create an exact, full-scale replica of the chair or table. Once the replica is complete, the design and engineering team jumps back in to make all of the required adjustments to achieve the originally planned visual appeal, comfort, strength and scale of the furniture. Every detail is scrutinized. The model is filled, re-carved, sanded and re-built until every last detail is deemed to be perfect. Then the furniture is deconstructed in order to make the initial casting of the first sample utilizing the wooden carvings.
Our designers, engineers and artisans work in harmony to ensure every final adjustment is made to the furniture prior to creating the permanent molds required for production. Production molds are typically referred to as “match plates” and they are made from steel or resin. The match plates are pressed into silica sand molds (resembling two sand boxes), then lifted, leaving a perfect reference in relief. These “reliefs”, or cavities, are refined in preparation for the casting, covered with talcum powder, and put back together. (There are two sides to the sand molds and the talcum powder keeps them from sticking together when matched back up.) We’re now ready for the aluminum.
When your Goal is to create the Finest Outdoor Furniture Available in the World, You must First Begin with the Finest of Raw Materials
The selection of raw materials is critical to yielding products that meet the high quality standards GreatGatherings® has established and relentlessly enforces.
We have selected A356 Aluminum Alloy as our raw material of choice for all of our cast aluminum collections. This specific material is paramount in creating top-quality Cast Aluminum outdoor furniture. Cast aluminum is without a doubt one of the finest raw materials available today for manufacturing high- quality outdoor furniture for a number of reasons:
Sustainability: It is environmentally safe. Aluminum is one of the few raw materials that can be 100% recycled without losing any of its original properties.
It can be used to create intricate detailing options, enabling the furniture to be designed with a dynamic, yet elegant style and feel.
It does not rust so it is virtually maintenance free; it is rust proof! No more orange rust stains on your patio!
It is light-weight but still very durable. Cast aluminum pieces are substantial enough to withstand high-wind weather conditions, yet light enough to be moved easily when entertaining.
Because of its ability to dissipate heat, aluminum is cooler to sit on than iron. (Aluminum is used in cooling fins on everything from computer hardware to automobiles.)
Its weight-to-strength ratio is remarkable, allowing us to create solid castings with high levels of detail without making the piece too heavy to be handled on a daily basis.
Let's Cast a Chair
Once our molds are prepared, our A356 aluminum alloy is heated to molten temperatures and poured into the mold cavities and left to cool and harden. Once the aluminum hardens, the molds are separated and the aluminum pieces are removed, cleaned and trimmed. Each piece is then filed and diligently sanded by our artisans to remove any blemishes created from the casting process. Next, all of the casted parts are loaded into a precision engineered jig to be welded together into a single chair frame. All welds are 360 degree welds, not spot welds for maximum strength and greater durability. The jig ensures that once welded, every chair is exactly the same. The chair is then removed from the jig and all welds are meticulously inspected and tested for strength. All weld points are then filed and sanded smooth to complete the chairs preparation for its final process.
Our Paint Finish
The last step of the manufacturing process is the just as important as the first step
The finish gives the furniture its beauty while at the same time; it protects the aluminum from the elements. In preparation for the finish, the furniture is sandblasted to “etch” the aluminum, which allows for maximum adhesion of the base-coat. We now begin the “G-Pure” process (Purification Process).
Once sand-blasted, each piece of furniture travels on an automated conveyor belt through 9 different, proprietary, pre-wash baths that clean, etch, and rinse the furniture to remove all impurities from the manufacturing process and human handling. The conveyor then moves the frames through an oven for preheat prior to the painting process. From the oven, the furniture continues its automated travel into the powder-coating booths, where “G-1000” (a specially formulated polyester powder) is sprayed onto the frames to become the finish base-coat. Powder-coating is an electrostatic process, which requires the frame and the powder to be charged with opposite charges. In this case, the furniture is charged negatively while positively-charged polyester powder is sprayed on the furniture. The two opposite charges attract each other and cause the powder to evenly cling to the frame; covering every detail on the piece. Once the powder has been applied, the furniture travels back through the oven for the second time to cure the powder and permanently bond it to the frame.
Once the base paint has cured and cooled, the furniture moves to the hand-finishing department where it receives a second, third and sometimes fourth or fifth coat of paint depending on the final finish color. These coats help create the unique look and style of the furniture and are all hand-applied by our artisans. Each individual coat can take as long as 45-60 minutes to apply, so our multi-color finishes take hours to achieve. But as you can see, it is time well-spent.
The Finishing Touch
The final finish coat of the paint process achieves the luster, feel and durability associated with all GreatGatherings® furniture finishes. Our final protective finish coat is an ultra-violet inhibiting clear coat capable of withstanding wide temperature and precipitation variations, formulated to protect your furniture just like auto manufacturers protect the finish of your car. This final step creates a beautiful finish surface that is very durable and easy to clean so it can be enjoyed for years of GreatGatherings®
Our Fabric Selection
There are many types of fabrics available for use on outdoor furniture, GreatGatherings® cushions are manufactured using only Sunbrella fabrics. They are 100% solution-died acrylics with color fastness that will last for years and years. In fact, the materials are so embedded with the color (dye) that they can be cleaned with a light bleach/water solution. (See cleaning instructions for more detail later in this document.) This material and process is the same that is used on store awnings and boat canvases throughout the world. It can withstand the harshest of environments and can be easily cleaned to look great year after year if properly maintained.
Sunbrella was founded on the belief that fabrics should be both beautiful and functional. They began in the 1960s with the challenge of creating an awning canvas with a substantially longer lifespan than cotton. Sunbrella has become widely adopted for shade structures, marine canvas and upholstery fabric for both outdoor and indoor applications. Their textiles are made with close attention to design detail, and engineered with robust performance characteristics that provide resistance to fading and degradation from sunlight and chemical exposure. The fabric is tactile yet durable, has industry-leading environmental characteristics, is easy to care for and offers long life – wherever it’s used.
Each yard of Sunbrella performance fabric is a product of a global support team committed to producing only the most exceptional performance textiles you can buy.
Sunbrella Sustainability-Sunbrella is committed to the environment.
Sunbrella products are rooted in sustainability throughout the manufacturing of the fiber, yarn, and fabric. Their dedication to quality ensures that you are getting a product that lasts longer and needs to be replaced less often, ultimately creating less waste. In all the markets we serve, Sunbrella products hold their color and strength, outlasting traditional fabrics.
Sunbrella is the flagship brand of parent company Glen Raven, a 138-year-old family-owned company based in North Carolina with operations both domestic and worldwide. Glen Raven specializes in innovative solutions in the awning, marine, furniture, protective, military and geosynthetics markets.
Comfort and the Inner Core!
We think the furniture outside your home should be as comfortable as the furniture inside your home, so we go to great lengths to be certain that is absolutely the case. Designing the correct cushion fit to the frame is where we begin. Not too tall, too short, too thin, too thick, but just right!
Our state of the art cushions are constructed from multiple layers of 100% polyester fiber. Each cushion is hydrophobic (drains and dries more easily), hypoallergenic, antimicrobial, and does not mildew. The defining characteristic is in our dual-core system. The inner core (support layer) is made from primarily conjugated polyester fiber - a three dimensional crimp in the fibers which significantly increases the resiliency of the batting. Due to its resiliency, conjugated polyester batting has taken the place of polyurethane foam in many applications. The outer core is silicone-treated "slick" polyester batting. Sandwiched between the outer wrap and the conjugated inner core, this layer is responsible for the "soft landing" prior to sinking through to the support of the inner core, greatly enhancing the comfort of the seat.
Thank you for your consideration, we hope you enjoyed our quick journey through our manufacturing process and can now make a more informed decision on your outdoor investment.