Friday, January 16, 2015

Failure... how it relates to my shop and how I view it

I just got done listening to the latest Making It podcast, and as always their jam session on the topic of the biweekly cast hit home.

I'll let you listen to the entire cast, but their topic this episode was Failure. As an artisan, that is a HUGE hurdle to overcome, and honestly one which I struggle to overcome in a major way.  Right now my kickstarter campaign fulfillment has slowed to a crawl.
To my backers, I'll be posting a major update this weekend, once I get some progress made and photos to publish. Not to make excuses, but I've had one really difficult hurdle to make it over and this week I managed to get that accomplished. Now that it is passed I've found it difficult to kick back into gear again.

Overall in my woodworking artisan path, I've had several setbacks, losing my shop space several years back, slowly building my own shop, and even things as simple as a design that just didn't work out.  Bob had a comment where he said the only failure is the one which you just give up on. And it hit me there have been a bunch of project level failures along my path. Their spin on it was that so long as you learn from your mistakes and can manage to not go down that pathway again, you didn't fail, you just took a detour.  I "suppose" that is true if you look at the big picture. I find it hard to let go of some of those mistakes however.

Towards the end of the 'cast they were discussing how craftsmen throughout the ages have made do with what nowadays would be considered substandard tools, yet made incredible pieces. That really hit home for me. My shop is filled with what most woodworkers call the 'starter' toolset.  I've always had to buy just 'enough' tool to get the job done. Is there a better tool out there to do ____ task? absolutely, but Ive always had to finagle and work around my tool and skill-set limitations.  Most of those setbacks are just things I did wrong that I had to work around, some were and are more serious and I continue to cope with the situations that arose. Right now the big issue I'm facing is the power situation to my shop. I've been 'down' for almost a month because I had several circuit breakers which failed. I'm no electrician, and it took me that long with the holidays new job and just plain miscommunication with the company I hired to get the tech in to do the repairs. Now that it is fixed I can turn the lights back on AND run the DC, the table saw and whatnot. For awhile I couldn't do that, I could have light, or tools, but not both.

Another sub-topic they mentioned was that 'we' build or make things for different reasons vs those who went before us. We make things because we want to, vs have to. That is true to a point in my case. I make things, cutting boards, bowls, etc... as a hobby which has turned into a side job. I have made, and will continue to make things for my family which we Need and can't afford otherwise. Ie, I've made beds for all three of my boys as they were growing up, plus my wife's and my own bed. They're not fancy, but they hold up the mattress and haven't fallen apart yet. I'm typing this post sitting at a student desk I built a few years back for my eldest son. He moved out and left it behind, and it is far from fancy. But it does the job, it holds our computer, printer and clutter.  The list could go on with a bunch of things I've made in the house. They're not commercial quality, but they are used every day.  Someday, when a few more bills get knocked down, I would like to redo several of the rough and ready projects I've made, but that's a reflection of my growth as a craftsman vs any inherent problem with the piece itself.

On the personal front, my job which I mentioned in my last post is going great! I've settled back in with the office and drivers at the terminal. I Love what I do, and I'm having a blast each and every day. It has its stressful moments, but that's the Trucking industry for you.  After two years of courier work, which was rewarding to a point, I really feel like i'm back making a difference in what I do.  Currently the shift I'm working on is a bit tough to get shop time around, but that's due to change in a couple of weeks, I hope.  The biggest boon from the job is now set up, my family has health care again after a hiatus because we simply couldn't afford it before even with Obamacare.

OK off to work. catch up with you folks later!

Thanks to Jimmy Bob & David for the spark for this post.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Happy New Year! Change is a good thing, right?

Hi folks,
 I've been a bit busy, between making boards, plus the holidays... plus a career change thrown in for good measure.
 I Stopped in to visit a buddy of mine at the Swift terminal I used to work for and at. (driver, then manager) he mentioned in passing that they were hiring for an ECT or Extended Coverage Team member, which was what I used to do there. I sat down with my wife, talked about it for a good hour or so, and then slept on it.  The next day, I applied... interviewed two days later and started the waiting game.
In the middle of all of that, I managed to mess up the power to my shop, so I'm limping along on my kickstarter... unable to go full bore, but still getting things done a little at a time.

I followed up the following week, calling the terminal leader (manager), whom I had interviewed with. He said they had not made a solid decision yet. It was a week before christmas. I kept on keepin' on and made it through the next couple of days.  Friday rolled around and I had my car in for its all too frequent B-service (LOF/Rotate), as I was leaving I got the call, they were offering me the job. I Stammered my acceptance. Naturally enough the terminal leader was going on vacation ,could I coordinate with his right hand man, come in and do a drug screen early the following week, and oh, could you start on the 29th?  Um, sure...  I guess I will go to see my folks just before christmas, as I know I won't get any time off for awhile once I start.
I also put in my notice  for the three calendar weeks I needed to give the firm so they could replace me with a new contractor. Being the holidays, they didn't manage to get that done, but that's on them, not me.

That monday I popped over to the terminal, got the screening accomplished (studied all night for it) and then loaded my son in the car and headed for Virginia.  Lori had to work, so she held the fort up here in NY.  Pat and I brought along a bin full of board pieces to glue up, which we did throughout the day on tuesday. Wednesday we zipped north again, after a quick but pleasant visit with my parents.

Christmas eve traffic wasn't too bad, all things considered.  We got home just about when my son James, his wife Amy and my granddaughters arrived for christmas visit.

I worked my three runs last weekend, and of course I also had a bunch of computer stuff to do for on-boarding with the company, and then this past monday I went in for orientation and re-fresher on trucking 101.

I worked all week 7-17:00, and on tuesday night I also covered a run for the old job. THat made for one really long couple of days... but I got through it. New years eve for me was a quick hug and kiss for the family.  I crashed about 17:30 right when I got in the door. I got back up for dinner and was back in bed by 20:30.

I shopped out my last friday night run, and am just about to set out on my last courier delivery run of my career there.  I'm looking forward to not doing that job. It fed the family, and paid some of the bills, but it wasnt' a long term job, just a filler until something better came along.

See you on the boards folks, now that that two week span is over, I'll be back blogging again.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Kickstarter: the last few hours of funding

Well, it has been a ride & a half do far . This past month has been an incredible journey for my shop & online experience . I put up the kickstarter fully expecting that today I would be sitting here agonizing over whether or not enough people would like my work to fund my modest project.

Um, yeah , about that? 

I originally Hoped to need to make  , oh , about 20-30 boards . Now I need to make at Least 129, & I know I've got dozens of backers who want multiple boards. 

That is , as several friends have said, a good problem to have . It is, however still a Problem:

It boils down thusly. When I started this, 20 boards and all was easy enough to do in just a couple of weeks. I've made similar production runs in the past to gear up for a show. When I posted my project I was confident , niow I'm concerned. I published my approximate delivery date , but with 6 or 7 times the number of boards, I'm not going to make that at this rate. 

Add to that a non-shop related event which has diverted some of my attention; my parents are 487 miles from me, and their health of late has been a concern. Please keep all of us in your prayers . 

A recent visit to my folks has given me a leg up on fulfillment. I was describing the project to them , and mentioned that I would have to wait until mid December to gety funding, and that was going to delay my purchase of the drum sander I started this whole thing to get. They generously loaned me enough money that I was able to get the sander earlier this week: 

That beast is the grizzly g0458 drum sander. I'd originally hoped to afford a smaller model , which was a 12" capacity  close ended design. This is a much beefier model, which is able to sand up to a 36" workpiece. I'm not going to need that capacity on this project, but it sure is going to be a nice addition to my tool arsenal. 

Even with getting the sander early, so to speak, I have a couple of issues. One us that I need more wood. I've picked up as much as I can afford out of the household budget, but I'll still be making a large purchase once my funding is released in a couple of weeks. 

In the mean time , I'm of course going to be making as many boards as I am able to, so I can dump them into the holidays shipping queue. The USPS Will get the lions share of the boxes, but fedex ground will likely get a couple as well. 

With that much. 'Extra' funding. I've got a bit more expense to cover: shipping. & materials, as well as the sander. I've picked up a few other tools as well: a branding iron , along with two new saw blades , which I suspect were long overdue. 

Thanks to all who supported me on this project. Time for me to get out in the chilly shop and get some boards done! (yes, a new heater is on the shopping list once the funding comes in.)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Kickstarter Project 1 week in

Hi folks,
 I'm in awe of just how crazy this whole kickstarter project has become. Crazy in a good way, as in 'may you live in interesting times'... they're interesting all right.

My backers have absolutely blown any and all of my hopes and expectations away. I truly thought I would fund in 30 days, and I only was asking for $1000. I figured I'd get a small drum sander, pay for some wood to make the boards for the project, cover my shipping and call it even/good.

note how incredibly steep the progression is. I'm on day 9 of 30 as I type this. *gulp*

I keep telling myself that there is no such thing as too much success. This may change my way of thinking by the end of it.

I should say that I'm very happy, bordering on giddy that the project has done this well. I'm guardedly optimistic that this may well be that niche market that everyone hopes to find.

I've been working on formalizing designs for my boards, including several quilt themed boards, my sketchup skills aren't all that great, but this should give my backers (and my readers here) an idea:

This is one that I had in my mind, and this is almost what I thought of. It was my first sketchup model attempt, and things are a little off... When I showed a version of it to Lori, she tore it to shreds... I'm sticking to my guns, this is 'close' to what I had in mind when I posted the reward tier. I call it the 6 block quilt design.
It has a 9-patch, card trick block, a log cabin, flying geese plus two filler blocks I just threw in there. More on the top right one in a bit.
homage to Frank Lloyd Wright

This sketch is extremely early in the design of what I hope to be a very fancy board.  I'm a fan of the great architect Frank Lloyd Wright. and this is my first attempt to pay Homage to his work. This one has a long ways to go.

Flying Geese
This is roughly what I'm planning for the flying geese boards, both the coaster size on the left and the 12" by 12" one.

 This is my take on the classic quilt block the Log Cabin. The darkest wood would be either Walnut or rosewood, the next lighter in, cherry, the center is paduak and then maple and finally butternut on the lower right.

This block was initially just a filler for the 6 block sketch. I threw it in there when my wife shared her thoughts on a really rough sketch. I zapped the bad parts and reworked things, this was one of the designs I came up with. I haven't decided if I'm going to put it on the kickstarter project yet. but I thought I'd discuss it here.

The overall dimensions here are 12" x 12", and the wood progression as shown here would be Walnut in the lower left a mere 3/8 x 3/8" block, wrapped in paduak at 3/8 wide by 3/4 across. that is in turn wrapped with 3/4 x 1 1/2 in of butternut, then 1 1/2 of cherry, 3" of Maple and finally 6" of Ash.

the first three, will be single board widths on end, then from there on it will be a lamination of several boards, especially the ash section. This sketch shows the tonal progression. I think no matter what, I'll be making at least one of these in the future.

Thanks for checking in!

If you haven't already, please look at my kickstarter campaign: Artisan Boards by Ned:
Follow me on Twitter: @Artisanboards
Look me up on Facebook where I run Artisan BoardsofCNY
I can be reached at as well.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Diary of a Kickstarter Project -or how my project has gone ballistic in under 72 hours

I've had a kickstarter project in the back of my mind for awhile now. I would like to get a few new tools, most notably a drum sander. I've made my cutting boards for years using a relatively unsafe procedure, running them through the planer taking very light cuts. This has worked, but it is hard on the planer, and also tears out the trailing edge of the board blank.

Money is always tight, but I decided that I would try my luck and start the campaign. I wrote up a modest campaign, with $1000 for my goal. That would get me my drum sander from Grizzly. It would also allow me to buy wood for the project and cover shipping costs. My labor is not a factor, and my goal was for as close to neutral net as I could manage. I get my tool, the wood is all paid for and rewards shipped to the backers with little or no cash out of pocket once the sawdust settled.

My reward tiers range from $2 as a thank you for your support opener keychain, through a set of end grain coasters, a cheese board, on up to $150 for a 24x30x2.5" 'show' board. for the exact details

Well I finally jumped through all of the hoops, I had my project written up, photos, story, rewards, and the back-end financials lined up. I just had to make the video. Ugh. Really folks? I 'Have to' go on camera? Yes I know that kickstarter campaigns with videos are more successful...  Ok, All right I'll do it.
Folks, I'm a 20 year professional portrait photographer. My line in the studio was always that I was on the correct end of the camera. I have to be in Front of the lens?  I bit the bullet, threw the Nikon on my tripod and made this wonderful creation:

Once I had that, I attached it to the text and photos and put the project up. That was Noon on Friday.

I shared it on my twitter account, and my personal and Artisan Boards facebook pages.

by about 1pm I had my first pledge (Thanks Barb!) as I was taking a snapshot of my first backer, the page updated and I had my second...

My friends were sharing the project left and right on twitter and on facebook. My extended family on got in the act as well.

By dinner time I was 25% funded. By 11:30 the next morning I was 66%. Things slowed down a tad on Saturday and I wound up at about 91%.

Sunday morning found the project close to fully funded... and by 12:31pm  I was fully funded. Just about exactly 48 hours from launch.

That means no matter what else happens, I can at Least get my new tool, make a lot of sawdust and have happily rewarded backers. I set my fulfillment goal for the end of December. My personal goal is to get them done and shipped for the holiday season.

Sunday evening brought steady updates, and as I write this I'm at 164% funding. Of that, I owe about 10% to kickstarter and amazon for their part in hosting and handling the financials. Still and all, that's better than a sharp stick in the eye!

I was online last night adjusting quantities on a couple of rewards (I had set one too low, and a friend's mom wanted that design, I adjusted the quantity so she and a few others could have one as well.)
and I was looking into one particular species of wood I mentioned in my project. Uh oh... my favorite hardwood dealer doesn't list it on their site.

Oh crap.  They Used to carry it... can I even get it at all? WhatAmIGoingToDO!?!?????

toss, turn... up at 7:30 (I work nights, this is way too early and bright out for me to be awake and worrying.
check their website... wait, what's this, they're having an online Auction this weekend?Auuuugh! what if they're closing?!?!?!

Called the yard, they do have Lyptus available, auction? Oh about every 10 years or so, they have an auction to clear out the stuff that piles up...


OK, I'll be up to get some lyptus and other supplies 'soon'.

Now to go figure out which drum sander to get, what's my budget again?

Oh, and I almost forgot, I have 27 more days left on my funding window... stay tuned, this ride is just leaving the station. Keep your hands and feet inside the car, the lift hill is getting awfully steep and the crest is way the heck UP there!