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…
Had some fun this week making a little display for my next show. I take pride in the fact that my products are well designed with quality craftsmanship. But I also do my very best to limit the amount of waste from my studio. The above graphic is meant to show that off cuts are turned into new products, like end grain boards, and anything not big enough to re-use gets given to a friend of mine who heats her house with a wood stove. As for the sawdust, I compost some of it, but the majority goes to another friend who puts it in her chicken coop. I’ve even been known to reuse the handles off of old paint brushes, and even broken hockey sticks… Why throw it away when it can still serve a purpose?
I was in my parents basement this morning when I came across the above Fisher Price Toy. It’s a Printing kit, judging by some of the paper I found inside the box, I got this when I was 4 years old, making this toy over 30 years old. I have always loved crafty things like this and I grabbed it thinking my five year old would love it as well. As I left I was thinking how I’d need to find a new ink pad likely, and hopefully my daughter would be patient while I figured out if any of it still worked.
To my surprise, the well used toy was complete, and everything still worked. The original ink pad still had ink and the refill bottle was still half full (there was even a form to mail away for extra refills). We had an awesome afternoon playing with it, but I couldn’t help but be blown away that this 30+ year old toy still worked perfectly, and would likely work for another 30 years. This sort of quality is rare these days, and it’s something I’ve been thinking about with my products.
My bird houses for instance, while they look fragile, they are very durable and weather proof. I hung up a pair of them on my back shed for an entire year before I decided to start selling the design. After a year I was satisfied that they were high enough quality. Now going on 3 years, the pair still hangs on the shed, and with no maintenance, they are a bit more grey than before, but still keeps the elements off my feathered friends.
I often get questions about care for my various chopping boards. I always tell people to wipe them with a damp/soapy cloth, reapply mineral oil if they look dry, the usual things for cutting boards. This is certainly playing it safe, and they will never come to any harm with this regimen, but is it really necessary? That’s what I plan to find out. I’m making a couple of mini boards, one maple with colour block and a second plain walnut. I’ll prepare them just as I do all my other boards, but these two are going to take a trip in the dishwasher, in fact 10 trips to be precise. Have I gone mad? Maybe, but if these boards can survive 10 trips through the dishwasher, then they can survive just about anything. Stay tuned…
Mike from BrokenStick.ca stopped by my shop the other day. We commiserated about the lack of available sticks for our projects. I’ve had to turn down far too many orders for hockey stick cutting boards due to lack of wood sticks. We soon also discovered we went to the same school years ago, small world!
Mike was kind enough to give me a couple of his hockey stick bottle openers. I used a similar design last holiday season for bottle openers but used scrap wood from other projects instead of hockey sticks. They were a great seller but a bit mind numbing to produce after a while…
I took a great paddle making class a few years ago, but haven’t had the time since to make another one. My 4 year old keeps growing so she was due for another paddle. She is in love with the colour purple so I grabbed a bit of purple heart along with some poplar and walnut and made her a little paddle for our adventures.
The second paddle was a present to my wife, after many years she was still using some junky old paddle lying around the garage. Her’s is also in the picture above, it’s made from walnut and butternut and is very light. Mainly used hand tools to plane down the blades and shape the shafts, worked out great. Both paddles were finished with spar varnish, wasn’t happy with the product and it smelt awful. I’ve read many people say that poly is better as it is harder, and you don’t really need the uv protection for the limited amount of time it is outside, so on the next one I’ll use some poly instead.
Up next I’m making a paddle for a local kids charity to use for their silent auction. Hopefully it brings in some big bucks for the organization, it will be auctioned off at a canoe fundraiser so hopefully it’s a good fit.
I had some spare time last week and I had just read someone’s post about wooden combs and how good they were and how they helped untangle his 4 year olds hair. Well, I have a four year old, and she has tangled hair, so this seemed like a great project.
I bought some purple heart especially for the project, I like to try new woods and my daughter loves purple, so this seemed like a perfect match. I was amazed at how hard the wood was, and the sanding left a purple mess! In the end, I was quite happy with how it turned out, and so is my daughter. I won’t be making any of these for sale as I wouldn’t be able to charge enough. A fun little project.
I’m away from my workshop this week doing some coaching, so I thought I would share my furniture beginnings…. The picture above is of the first piece of furniture I ever made. I did it in shop class in grade 7 or 8, don’t really recall to be honest! I had finished making all the projects in the curriculum so my teacher said I could make whatever I want. My dad suggested a bed side table, and I think he helped with the design. its made from plywood and maybe poplar? I hated putting finish on even back then so I think my dad put the stain and poly on for me. There was supposed to be a drawer but I ran out of time and while I made the piece for the drawer front, 20 years later I still haven’t made the drawer for it…