For Whom I don’t make…

I was finishing up a set of kitchen drawers this past week for a client.  While they aren’t a style I would design myself, they were a big improvement structurally on what they had and it would match the rest of their cabinets in both grain and colour. This is no easy feat as the red oak in their kitchen had darkened with age, so while the rest of the cabinets have a clear varnish, these drawers needed staining to match the rest.  The drawer boxes were made from baltic birch and I was using some heavy duty glides.  I was proud of what I had made and couldn’t help but think how much of an improvement over their old drawers this would be.

Then my mind wandered to  our own kitchen.  Some drawers are had to open, some don’t open at all.  The construction is pretty horrible and they get worse every week.  You see, while I make furniture, good furniture, for all sorts of people, the one person I don’t make it for is myself.  While I’ve made several beds, our mattress sits on the floor.  Do I make tables? You bet! But we use one my parents got rid of 30 years ago.  Desks?  We have a door propped up on a book case.  The problem is at the end of the day, clients pay me to make furniture, I don’t pay myself to make it.  So I’m far better off building furniture for other people than I am for myself, at least financially. The one exception is my daughter.  I’ll build her anything, it might take a bit longer to do, but she has some of the nicest furniture in our house.

Now while this is good financial sense, it does lead to an unattractive living space (some would say college dorm style).  And some days you walk into your room, see the mattress on the floor, and think, why don’t I have a nice bed?

So my new goals are to own furniture as nice as I make.  This means I don’t have to make all of it, but if I buy, it needs to be as good if not better than I can make it.  I think this will give me great practice in trying out new designs on myself, and it will help pad my portfolio to show others what I am capable of.

What’s the first piece?  Either desk or bed, I’m on the fence.  Desk would be faster, but bed would be nicer.  Stay tuned… (although it might take a while)

A new direction…

CCLP 2

It’s been three years now that I started my professional venture into woodworking.  What was once a hobby is now my full time job and so far it’s paying the bills.  The goal was to sell small runs of custom furniture, not one-offs, but limited editions.  For the area I live I don’t feel there is the customer base for bespoke pieces designed and created for one customer alone.  I do think there is room for small runs, enabling me to make jigs in order to speed up the production process but not making such huge numbers that it becomes mind numbing.

Where am I going with all this? Good question.  When I started I decided the best route to get me to my furniture goals was to start with small items, cutting boards, bird houses, wood toys, etc.  These items can be fun to design and make, and selling them at craft shows definitely spreads the word about who I am and what I do.  I also ended up in many shops selling my products wholesale.  This was even better as the sales were guaranteed and much less time me being a salesman (something I hate) and more time me actually making things (something I love).

The only issue is you end up making what you make.  By this I mean if you always make cutting boards, you’re always going to make cutting boards.  Sometimes you need to throw yourself out there and start new projects, projects that might not pay, might not work, but new things.  Making salad servers or iPad stands is a good way to help pay the bills, but I can’t say I’m fulfilled at the end of a day making these items.

To this end I’ve not signed up for any craft shows this year.  I’m doing one last big show in Toronto (One of a Kind) and that’s it.  I’ll still work on wholesaling to shops, custom canoe paddles, and I might try an art show in the fall, but for now I’m going to take some time, time where I won’t be making money, and start building the furniture in my many notebooks.  I have a lot of designs that have never left the pages of my books, and it’s about time I get started on them.  Will they sell? Who knows, but they definitely won’t if I don’t make them!

Stay tuned, this could be an exciting year…

To CNC or not to CNC…. That is the question…

I’ve been dreaming of a CNC for years… I once bought a book on how to make your own CNC and even had some money set aside for the parts, but things got busy in life, we moved a fair bit and lugging around a piece of equipment that size just didn’t seem practical.  Now that we’re settled a bit more, and my woodworking/design business is growing, my thoughts have been led back to the idea of a CNC.

doll crib cnc inventables

I make a lot products that require precise repetitive cuts.  To this point I’ve done this mostly by hand, drawing the parts out, cutting close with the bandsaw, and sanding to the line.  For some items I’ve rigged up a jig for my router, but all of these would be simpler with a CNC.  Some products have tested the limits of my current tools, while others just aren’t worth making due to the amount of time it takes vs. how much people are willing to pay.  While a CNC would have an upfront cost, it would allow me to start it running and then work on other projects while it cut out parts.  Three things have been stalling my purchase so far: 1-cost, 2-know how, 3-man vs. machine.

cnc carved dish walnut1- Cost: Fairly obvious one, these machines aren’t cheap.  I’m used to powerful woodworking tools that have had little change in the last 50 years, meaning my 40 year old Unisaw is the same product as one bought today, except mine costs 1/10 of the price and all parts are metal instead of practice.  There aren’t many used CNC’s around, and they are getting better all the time so newer IS better.

2- Know How: While I was once a computer geek, writing computer programs as a kid, I haven’t done as much of this recently, and it’s a bit overwhelming to figure out where to start, how to use the software, and which one to use.  I see lots of people saying it’s pretty simple and you’ll learn fast, but I’m not convinced so far.

3- Man vs. Machine: I work with both hand tools and machines.  I’m not partial to either, although hand tools are quite and generally make less sawdust which is always nice.  I use the best tool for the job, and the reality is that often that is a machine because time is money, and this isn’t a hobby for me.  But the other day I heard someone saying that if it’s made by a CNC, it takes away from the artistry of it.  It’s an interesting comment, but if we look at painters, no one criticizes them for selling prints of their work instead of one off works of art.  I see a lot of product descriptions of makers stating things are “hand carved”, “hand dipped”, “hand made”, etc.  What is interesting is my wife runs a bakery, one of her best selling products are Macaron.  In order to make these, you whip egg whites, which she does with a commercial mixer.  Would people pay more if she whipped them by hand? Likely not, she’d probably just get huge biceps and a case of tendonitis.  The truth is, my products cut by a CNC would be more accurate than me cutting them, so resulting in a higher quality item for my customer, so it seems like everyone should be happy with this?

x-carve CNC inventible

Where am I going with all this?  Well last night I stumbled across the Inventables website, they just came out with a new product called the X-Carve which is a CNC that you assemble yourself.  They’ve really put some thought into this machine, enabling you to customize size, motors, and spindle all to your liking (and budget).  There are reviews starting to come out across the net and they are very positive.  It’s great to see so many actual woodworkers reviewing this product as it gives confidence to someone like me that I’m just as capable to make great use with this CNC.

It also addresses my issues….  The price is very affordable, especially since you can configure it to your needs, and the testimony from other woodworkers has really helped me to believe this is something I can handle and learn fairly quickly.  As for the Man vs. Machine debate, the more woodworkers I see using this CNC, the more I feel it’s just another tool in my shop, one that has infinite possibilities for my woodworking business.

So am I buying one?  Not sure on this.  While it’s affordable, it’s still a fair chunk of change, and once it arrives I still need to assemble it and start learning how to use it.  This might be a great summer project as my shop is not air conditioned and it gets really hot and humid here, so tinkering is much nicer than sweating buckets while making things.  Summer is generally slower for my shop, so a great time to learn new things.

cnc rocking chair kids

One other thought I’ve had is my 5 year old (seen above when much younger) loves to make things with me.  I think this could be a real fun item for Sunday mornings, she can dream up something, sketch it on the computer, and head out the shop to make it.  Just for that purpose it would be worth it in my books.  I’ll keep you posted what I end up doing…

One of a Kind Show Spring 2015

Things have been busy in the studio lately, getting ready for One of a Kind Spring show in Toronto.  It’s a big step up from any show I’ve done so far in terms of costs and length, so I’m hoping I’ve prepared enough product to last throughout the show, but selling out the last day around 5pm would be just perfect…

Production has been very smooth, with only a couple of machines breaking down, both easy but pricey fixes, and both involving motors wearing out.  Thankfully I was only down a day or two with repairs so nothing to delay me too much.  I still desperately need to do a massive re-org on my studio, but between moving the machines, rerunning the dust collection and electrical, and just general clean up, I really need a week to get it all done.  So far the orders have been quite consistent and I simply haven’t been able to shut the shop down for so many days in a row.

I’m excited to announce a few new products that I’ll be showcasing at One of a Kind. First is a German inspired Breakfast Board.  It’s a walnut board with a slight dish to it and a colour block edge.  Often used to serve breakfast on, it can double as a serving tray or just look nice on display.

Walnut Breakfast board

Next product is a happy accident.  I had a failed glue up and the only part of the larger board salvageable was a tear dropped shape.  I played around with the size and came away with a new walnut serving and chopping board.  It’s got a rounded edge and a hole for easy hanging.

Walnut tear drop cutting board serving

These products won’t be on Craftcollective.ca or on my Etsy shop till April, so if you you’re keen to have them, be sure to come down to One of a Kind, you’ll find me at booth P44F in the Etsy section.

Flat Bread Serving Boards…

vscocam-photo-1

Just before Christmas I had an email from an Executive Chef down in Florida.  He was opening up a new restaurant and was searching for flatbread boards.  He liked some of my other products and we worked together to come up with these 10×14″ walnut boards.  The chartreuse edge was requested in order to match some of the same colour accents in the restaurant.  They’ll be adding some rubber feet to the boards to keep them secure on the tables.

If you’re in Delray Beach, Florida, head over to Apeiro and grab a bite to eat on one of these boards!  Remember that we’re always keen to work on custom orders no matter how big or small.

For non-custom orders, head over to my Etsy Site or my Craftcollective.ca for a full selection of my wood products.

Failure, Redemption, Repeat…

I’m the first to admit that I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and I don’t take failure well, which is a bad combination.  Things are never perfect and I’m rarely satisfied unless they are.  It doesn’t really matter if it’s my first attempt at something, I still expect myself to do it perfectly.  The problem is I’m not perfect and things don’t always work perfectly, which leads to me getting down on myself.

The other day I started work on a small lap desk for my daughter.  My dad made me one of these when I was little, only he made it out of three pieces of plywood and a couple of piano hinges.  My design consisted of bent ply lamination, veneer pressing, and through tenons on the legs…  Were all these aspects necessary? Of course not, but they are all things I wanted to try so why not do them all in the same project?

I started with the bent ply.  First attempt, the 3mm baltic birch snapped on the third of four corners.  Second attempt, same thing but on the fourth corner.  I gave up for the night.  The next morning after some cheering from friends on Instagram, I gave it a third try and the bend worked.  Normally I give up on the first or second try, sticking out three times is a new record for me, and an example of the patience I need in order to improve my woodworking.

This desk isn’t going to be a beautiful piece that people will lust after, but it has taught me some patience as well as improving some of my techniques.  They are far from perfect, in fact some aren’t even good enough to sell, but I’m getting there, and it’s the only way I’m going to improve…

Big News!

Amidst all the Christmas craft shows, custom orders, and everything else going on in life, I applied for the One of a Kind Show in Toronto (Spring edition).  I’m quite new to all these craft shows, but at the big Etsy sale in September I was approached by someone from the One of a Kind Show who raved about my stuff and said she would hound me until I applied for the show.

 

It was a very lengthy and thorough application, and I’m happy to say that I’ve been accepted for the spring show.  So anyone in the GTA can come see me March 25-29, 2015.  More info to follow as we get closer, now I’m off to the studio to make more products… I can sleep next year.

 

Check it out:

One of a Kind Show